Thursday, December 13, 2018

Game 10 - Little Master 2 (Part 2)

The last 13 stages of this game were basically as uneventful as the first. The simplistic gameplay makes it tough to sit through the stages -- the main blessing is that they're all short.

This time began with the four elemental planes, which are all the same tiny-style maps.


All the enemies in all four maps are the same; just elemental spirits of the map type. The final map has the Spirit King but he's not much stronger than his underlings. Upon beating him he agrees to open the gate to the Makai world so we can beat Gegazain, but we still need an airship to get there. Fortunately those annoying air pirates that keep bothering us have a ship, so let's go steal it! They're currently up on top of the Babel Tower where they made a fortress.
Unfortunately the Chaos Dragon at the top of the tower can't be hurt at all, meaning that we need to go get a magic sword. This is a repeat of LM1, even down to us fighting "Arabian", the guardian of the sword, who joins the party afterwards.
Let's just ignore the right side of this picture
Now Lim can hurt the Chaos Dragon, though only he can. So it's important to have Tamtam ready to heal. Next up we steal the airship and pilot it to the entrance to the Makai.
The Vampire guy tries to stop us, but now it's time to beat all the bosses we've been facing throughout the game. Vampire begins by using a mirror to summon clones of our characters.
Even so this isn't a hard stage. I managed to fuse a King Koala who is the highest ranking unit in the game -- he has a very high attack value but pathetic movement and not a great defense. Still a pretty useful unit, though. This stage is easy because beating Vampire ends the whole thing.
Next up is two one on one fights, Moomoo vs. Black Moomoo and Lim vs. Skash. The main problem here is the enemies retreating to the heal circles, and managing your own healing. Moomoo was fine, but for Skash I had to purposely destroy all the healing circles but one, then get Skash down to half health or so, heal myself (and get the last heal circle destroyed), and then finish him off. This was the only stage in the game that required unusual tactics beyond just attacking and healing.

Finally, Gegazain. It's a similar stage to LM1.

Here's my endgame party.


Just as in LM1, Gegazain first appears in human form, then when he's defeated, he returns in dragon form (but doesn't get a free attack like in the first game).


It's an easy fight because he doesn't have a heal circle to retreat to, but as long as you didn't let them all get destroyed it's easy to swap out characters and whittle down his HP.


The castle begins to crumble...


But we're saved by the ship!


And we all live happily ever after.



Saturday, December 8, 2018

Game 10 - Little Master 2 (GB)

Little Master 2: Knight of Lightning (リトルマスター2 雷光の騎士)
Release Date: 3/27/1992
System: Game Boy
Developer: Zener Works
Publisher:Intermedia


This is the followup to the second game I played on the blog. It's largely the same, although the ROM is twice the size, allowing for 34 stages instead of the 15 in the original. Characters can now level up to 16.

The monster combine system has also been changed -- now the level of the monster is not factored into the calculation, only the type of monster. This seems to make it harder to get the higher level monsters, and since you can only play most stages once, there isn't as much opportunity for combination. There are also a lot more non-monster characters on your team this time.

I don't think this game is well served by a stage-by-stage post; it would be rather boring since a lot of the strategies are the same. Many of the stage gimmicks are reused from LM1, such as the warp tiles, tornado random warps, "Hell Crab" turning the ground to fire, and such.

The game begins following off the first one. Gegazain, before his defeat, split the Sun Crystal into three parts and monsters are in the world again. King Richard wants Lim to go find the three crystals, one of which is in the Babel Tower, where we head first.


The map graphics are slightly improved from LM1, as are the battle graphics, but they're very similar.. There are some new units, but a lot of returning units as well. Moomoo the faithful cow servant joins along with an assortment of basic monsters. 

The heal circles from LM1 are back, with the same rule that you can use them as often as you want, but if anyone attacks a unit on a heal circle, it's broken. However, in this game we also get a healer ally unit named Tamtam.
She can heal 5 times per map. However, if attacked, she turns into a monster (dependent on her level). This sucks if you still need healing but can be useful if she's out of spells and still want her to participate, since the monster she turns into retains her level. She advances quickly just by healing and can be a useful fighter as well.



After a few stages, we find a guy named Skash unconscious in a town that has been attacked by the monsters, but he joins our party afterwards, and we get a new foe: Black MooMoo, who arrives on a big airship.

Skash is a useful ally. The goal of this first part is to get to the top of the Babel Tower, where the crystals are. But we keep getting blocked and having to go on side missions to find things to progress. But finally we make it to the top to the crystals!




Only to find out that Skash is actually a traitor -- he's the son of Gegazain trying to resurrect him with the power of the crystals. This succeeds.
Now Gegazain is back again, sending us scrambling back to the King. Unfortunately, Skash and the vampire from LM1 are there before us, and manage to kidnap the princess.


Now Richard the King joins the party, and we set out to find the Spirit Mirror, but this will require visiting elemental planes and eventually defeating the Spirit King in order to get the Mirror. This is where I am.

It's a pretty slow-moving game that's not all that fun. I wouldn't recommend it. I'll finish it for the blog (I have 13 stages left) but hopefully Little Master 3 will be better.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Streaming (twitch/YT plan)

One thing I've been frustrated by in searching down games for this blog is how many of these games, particularly the older ones, have almost no information on them in Japanese or English. Videos are also scarce in many cases; sometimes there's only an intro, or a minute or two of gameplay.

I've been hesitant to set up a Twitch or streaming youtube (for either of my blogs) because I can't commit to a regular time, and without that I'm not sure I could get consistent viewership.

What I would like to do is for each game, stream my first session (1-2 hours) so that at least there's a video for each game with a basic explanation of how the game works, and footage that includes both story sequences and the gameplay.

I don't know exactly what form this will take or how I'll do it, but I'll try to decide that in the next few days. Little Master 2, the game I'm playing now, has a full video playthrough on youtube so I'll wait until the next game, probably.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Game 9 - Shining Force wrap-up

 FACTS

  1. Turn type: Speed-based system, although each unit only acts once in a round.
  2. Maps: Medium. There is terrain that gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: Promotion of units at level 10.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system.
  5. Party Size: 12 on a map.
  6. Equipment: 4 items for each character, one equippable weapon, one equippable ring.
  7. Game Flow: 30 stages, all in order, no repeats (although you can leave a battle and try again, retaining all XP.)
  8. Saving: Only outside of battle.
  9. Death: Revive units at churches; very affordable.

 IMPRESSIONS

I remember this being a widely liked game when I was a kid. Since most of the SRPGs were not localized, it wasn't really until Final Fantasy Tactics that there was an SRPG that got as much recognition as this one (and its sequels and spinoffs). 

One thing that may have contributed to its localization is that it's not very hard, relatively speaking. Not only is death not permanent, it's not even really that bad. The revive cost is incredibly cheap, and with easy retreats from any battle, as long as you keep your main character alive it's easy to try stages, get some XP and levels, and then come back if you need to. 

It seems that later on when Fire Emblem became more known among Western players, this came to be regarded as just an FE ripoff. I don't really think this is fair to the game -- while there's clear influence from Fire Emblem, the strong RPG components are original to this game, and the speed-based turn system is a significant difference. The storyline also seems much more indebted to standard RPG storylines than the usual political/empire conflicts of the SRPGs.

But is it fun? More or less. There are some frustrating aspects to the game. The promotion system is one of the biggest for me. When I promoted Zappa (Zylo) and Bleu, they became so weak that they were essentially unusable. They did 1 damage to everything and died in one hit. Of course I could have fed them kills and replayed maps until they caught up, but promoting a character shouldn't gimp them that hard. I really hope this is something they improve in future installments. 

The other problem is that the speed-based system makes it easy for characters to get stuck behind groups of other characters, especially on maps where the movement is slow because of terrain.

That being said I still did find this a fun game. Sega really went all out with Shining Force because there are three more SF games soon after this one. I'll be playing the GB game Little Master 2 next, but then it will be back to SF for the first Gaiden game.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Game 9 - Shining Force (Chapters 7-8)

Before I get to the last two chapters, I forgot to upload some pictures from the manual. First, the game comes with a large map (pointless), but the back side which gives all the weapons, magic spells, and characters, is useful. The map came with yellowed, cracking tape probably 25 years old.


Then there is the usual section with art of all the characters -- as I've said, this is helpful in these older games where the graphics don't always tell the full story of what the characters are supposed to look like.

Although in this case I think the in-game graphics do a good job of translating these pictures.

Anyway, last two chapters.

Chapter 7 - The Lost Civilization

Prompt is a place where the people intentionally act stupid, but they're really working on figuring out how to open the Shining Road.

There's a hidden character, Musashi. In the English version you investigate a sign on a wall but in the Japanese version there's no sign.







The same is true of the Hanzou bush in the next chapter.


Battle 22



Here we have an upgraded Zappa and Bleu, who will be useless for the rest of the game. Musashi is along for the ride now. A lot of people move very slow over this terrain and the monsters are tougher -- particularly the Bolt casting Belials. But it's not too bad.

Battle 23



This map is not so bad either, although I think I had to escape once or twice. The new robot-like enemies do a lot of damage. The boss is like Mishaela in that only one guy can attack him at once (plus flyers) but he's a lot easier than Mishaela.

Now I get Alef (mage) and Torasu (priest). I left Alef in the HQ but switched out Chip for Torasu since he has Aura. Cain also sacrifices himself to save me, and we head on to Metafa the lost civilization.

Battle 24

Looks like I forgot to get a screenshot of this stage. The beginning is tough; there are a lot of monsters coming for you and it's easy to get overwhelmed. I had to escape a few times and retry before I managed to get control of the battle. Once Chaos is left by himself, it's not too bad.


Now we combine the Sword of Light and Cain's Sword of Darkness to make the Chaos Breaker, the strongest weapon, and head on to Runefaust to try to stop Darksol.

Battle 25

Another forest/mountain stage.



The armed skeletons are annoying, but overall I didn't find this map very hard.


Chapter 8 - Rise of the Ancient Castle

In Runefaust I bought the best equipment for my main party and still had 250,000K gold left over. Hanzou joins here too, a good replacement for Zappa the Wolf Baron failure.

Somehow I have few screenshots until battle 29, I guess I got lazy.

Battle 26

This was another one I had to restart multiple times -- there are a lot of flying enemies that can get you right from the start, and I kept losing weak units or even the strong units would get overwhelmed. Once I got control of the battle, though, it finished fairly easy.

Battle 27

Time to take down King Ramladu of Runefaust!


 The walkthrough says he can heal himself but I never saw this. He does regenerate, but without a strong area effect spell it's easy to surround him and beat the crap out of him.

Of course Ramladu was being controlled by Darksol, who is the only foe left. Kurisu uses the Chaos Breaker to make the ancient city rise from the sea, and we head in there for the final conflict.

Battle 28

This is another stage where the initial enemies can quickly overwhelm you and I had to escape a few times before I figured out how to place my guys to not get rushed. Once this is done the rest of the stage was not so bad. Colossus the boss is tough and has to be beaten twice to win the stage.

Battle 29

Here is the two-part final battle. Any dead characters in this stage will not be revived in the next one.

There is my final party. Other than Bleu, who is completely useless, they all contributed.


Darksol is the main difficulty of this stage, but with surrounded by Gort, Gantz, Musashi, and Hanzou, he went down pretty quickly, especially since he chose a few times to attack rather than use his high damage area spells.

Now Darksol uses his own body to revive the Dark Dragon.

Battle 30 

Dark Dragon has three heads, each with 250 HP -- 750 HP is more than the total HP of all the units on many stages but somehow this isn't as hard as that makes it seem. 


I moved two guys on the squares where the enemies respawn to block them, and then focused on the main head. He has high damage spells but with a few Auras I was able to beat him. At this point I was out of cure MP but the other heads are nowhere near as difficult. If I had really wanted to I could have just used Lyle to beat both heads without taking any damage.



Once Dark Dragon is defeated, Kurisu reseals him with the Chaos Breaker, but has to remain there to hold the sword while the castle crumbles. He warps everyone else out with Return but stays in himself. The game then tells you that all the characters go back to their homes (no extended treatment like in Fire Emblem).

After the credits, there's an epilogue showing that Adam and Kurisu actually did survive the final battle.

Wrap-up in a few days.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Game 9 - Shining Force (Chapters 4-6)

Chapter 4 - The Great Fortress of Balbazak

We come to the moving town of Pao, which is a carriage or train that moves around from place to place. The story borrows (perhaps) from Fire Emblem in having Elliot, an enemy commander who hates Darksol but still supports Runefaust, so we have to fight him.


Battle 12


Elliot is the hardest boss so far, but he wasn't too bad. I think in general bosses that have no area-effect attacks or other annoyances can't stand up to the full assault of your forces (a similar problem happens in a lot of SRPGs).


Battle 13


There's my part at this point. I decided to only promote units that needed to promote for equipment, otherwise to wait until level 20. This was possibly a mistake -- one thing I don't like about this game is how much of a stat hit units take on promotion. I basically could not use Zappa (Zylo) or Bleu after promotion because they were just too weak and I didn't want to have to do the acrobatics that would be required to level these guys doing 1-2 damage a hit and getting instantly killed by most attacks. I really hope this aspect of the game is tempered in the sequels. I also decided to use only at most one of each class (Gort is promoted here).

The battle itself is easy; having flyers like Kokichi and the wing unit help a lot.

Battle 14 

Now we are at Uranbatol for the ship. Of course, there's a fight at the docks.


There are the usual challenges here of protecting all the guys from the flying units. The hardest part is probably those three artillery units above the Dark Priest. But as usual losing a couple of guys isn't that bad. I ended the game with 250,000 gold and even at the end of the game it was costing about 250 per person to revive.

The boss won't move even if you use distance attacks, so you can guess how hard he is.

Now we have a ship!

Chapter 5 - Gateway to the Hidden Shrine

The ship gets beat up a lot by successive ship battles which always send us to a place we don't want to go.

Battle 15


Still the same party. And a really easy stage.

Now a mermaid invites our hurt group to Waral.


And I decided to promote the Hero, giving him a new face.


Battle 16

The Mermaids and the other people who live on this tourist attraction need us to solve their problem, so while the ship is being repaired let's do it.

Still no party changes.


The skeletons are somewhat stronger but my party is still pretty good so no big issues.

Battle 17

Back to the ship....which gets attacked again.

Same party. This is an easy battle but I actually had to retreat the first time because I charged ahead too much. This is (I think) the first stage where new enemies appear during the battle. The reinforcements aren't hard, but if you're too far down the stage dealing with the initial enemies they might cause problems.

Chapter 6 - Descendant of the Sacred Dragon

We end up in a strange town where children seem to control most of the place, and learn about a friendly dragon that we have to go save.

Battle 18


Finally a new party member, Lyle. I subbed out Diane for the mounted archer. Still mostly unpromoted. Arthur is a very poor unit that I'm trying to build up because people say he's the best centaur knight. Ultimately I will ditch him because he just doesn't advance fast enough.

The main annoyance of this battle is the terrain, and making sure your units don't advance too quickly and leave the slow ones behind.

Battle 19



And another new party member, Bleu (or Baryu in Japanese). He starts out pretty good. Unfortunately once I promoted him he did 1 damage to everything and died in 1 hit, and I never even got him to promoted level 2 even though I used him in every battle.

The main difficulty here is Cain, the hardest boss yet. I guess I got lucky because his insta-kill "sword of darkness" never worked, and he tried to use it about 3 times. Those free turns were very useful given his fast regeneration.

Cain had been controlled by Darksol, but now with his help we can open the Dragon shrine to try to protect the book of secrets...of course Darksol was just waiting for us to do this so he could steal the book himself. Mean. Now the only option left is to find the Chaos Breaker to deal with Darksol and the Dark Dragon.

Battle 20

Another tough terrain map. Same party, not really that different from last time.

Battle 21 

We go to Mishaela's castle. This is one of the toughest battles in the game, I think. The difficult part is Mishaela herself, who is at the empty spot in the center below.


Only one short range fighter can fight her at a time unless they are flying. She has a large HP regen, does pretty strong damage spells, and has an unusually high defense as well. This took me several tries and some lucky criticals to beat.

Two chapters left! I already beat the game so the next post should be up Saturday and then the wrap-up soon after that.