Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems wrap-up

 FACTS

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn
  2. Maps: Medium to large. There is terrain that gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: None.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system, with promotion at level 10 with an item.
  5. Party Size: Typically 12-15 units on a map although you get many more.
  6. Equipment: You can equip one weapon at a time, and have 3 in reserve. There is no other equipment.
  7. Game Flow: You play stages 1-20 in sequence, no repeats, and if you fulfill certain conditions you can do the last two stages.
  8. Saving: Between battles.
  9. Death: Permanent.

 IMPRESSIONS

I think that with this remake of FE1 and the new scenario, FE has finally hit its stride. This is the first FE game I would recommend even to Fire Emblem fans -- it's still lacking a number of things that are in later Fire Emblems, but it's playable in a way that the first two aren't.

Part of this is the massive interface improvements, including skippable animations, inventory management between stages, and being able to see enemy movement ranges. The graphics are also of course much better than the Famicom games. The difficulty of this game is a bit uneven, though -- the first stages are the hardest, and the game gets easier as you go on.

The story is still fairly simple, although there is more dialogue and a somewhat more complex plot than the first games.

I mentioned in one of the posts that one thing I really appreciate about FE3 in comparison to other games I've played is the variety in the stages. It's not just "defeat all enemies" and you move your guys through the stage. You have to stop thieves from destroying villages, convince enemies, avoid killing certain things, open doors and chests, and such. 

I still feel that at some level FE just isn't for me. I find the permanent death too frustrating -- the only way I can play these games is to use save states. I generally limit it to one save state per stage so that I'm not just playing casually and resetting any time I make a small mistake. But I can't deal with playing 30-40 minutes on a stage and then having to start over because I made one careless move or one mistake.

It's two years before the next FE game so that will be a while in the timeline of this blog.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (Stages 20-end)


Stage 20

This stage started out kicking my butt. I lost probably 15 times trying to just get through the first corridor, because of all the Worm and Meteor users (distance magic).


The solution is just to ignore this top part. The chest is a Lady Sword, which might provide some minor help in the next stage but is not worth it. I was also assured by people on Discord that the Silence staff is best used in this stage. So I made my way down, using Silence to prevent the mages from sniping characters. I also made use of the enemy thief to open the door before I killed him.


Take out these guys, then get all the chests and move down to the bottom.


Once you enter the bottom area, reinforcements start coming and the enemies attack the captured character there to the right. I had my character with the Mercurius Sword and the Light Orb take him out in one turn and then moved Marth to capture the throne before anything else could happen.

At this point if you didn't get the 5 orbs the game ends. Otherwise, we go on to the final stages. Unfortunately you lose all the orbs now.

Final Stage 1


My main goal here was to move fast, because in 12 turns reinforcements start coming. The stage itself is not that hard; nothing attacks until you get in its range, and the thieves take a long time to cross the mountains so you can take them out with winged units. The main danger is that all of the barbarian units have Devil Axes, so they could kill someone with a critical. This didn't happen to me, and Marth with the Boots was fast enough to get up to the town to get Starlight, and then back to the castle to capture before turn 12.

Final Stage 2 

This stage is composed of three parts.


For the first part I used Warp to get Julian up to open the door, then I had Feena dance for the warp user. He then warped Marth up to the boss. Marth killed the boss, then I used the Again staff (which gives all units who have already moved another turn), and then finished the part.


For the second part I warped my mage with Starlight up to Garnef. He attacked. Then I used the Again staff (2nd of 3 uses), attacked again, killing Garnef. Feena danced for the warp user and then Marth got warped up to the throne to end this part.



For this part you need to either kill or persuade the four priests around Medius, and then kill him. The Earth Dragons get removed from the board every turn, but this still means they get one set of attacks on the enemy turn. Once I had the setup in the above screenshot, I used my final Again staff to give the persuading units another turn (I was worried they wouldn't survive the enemy turn). Then Marth attacked Medius with the Falchion. Chiki went next, and Medius was left with 8 HP. I could have beat him in a number of ways but I decided to have Feena dance for Chiki, who delivered the killing blow.

The ending shows you the number of turns you did each stage in, as well as what happens to each character (just like FE1). One nice touch is that it shows the number of times each character died, even if you reset after the death. My favorite one is my failed attempt to use Doga.


And that's FE3.







Monday, September 2, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (Stages 15-19)

Stage 15

Marth returns to his land. The main difficulties are just knowing when things will happen (e.g. the reinforcements) and not getting in range of the Shooters.


Est is captured there but the General inside won't attack her so she's fine until the cavalry arrives. I sent Marth around the side to visit the towns and had everyone meet up at the bottom. Abel joins our group and then we kill the boss.

Stage 16

Now we're inside the castle. This stage reminds me of a book 1 stage with a lot of treasures but it's not as hard. I lost a couple of times on the left side (just as I did in FE1) but once George can convince Astria, the stage gets a lot easier. I had Marth take out most of the enemies on the left side.

Fortunately in this game, thieves that steal treasure boxes will drop that treasure once they're killed. So it's a lot easier to deal with them in stages like this than it was in FE1.





Stage 17 

This is a simple stage because over half the enemies run away from you since they belong to the Gura kingdom. I didn't get a screenshot, but as long as you don't kill any of the Gura troops, the boss will join being persuaded by Marth, and then she can persuade the unit next to her.


Stage 18

This is yet another stage where most of the units don't attack you. It looks bad at the beginning:


Fortunately all of those paladins and horsemen move to the top and don't attack, otherwise this stage would be considerably harder.


This is the main force, and is fairly small. The shooters can cause some havoc but with Armor Killers and Rapier it's not too bad. There's a secret shop that I bought some promote items from.

Stage 19

Oh god this stage sucked. I think I had to reset close to 20 times.

This center area is full of shooters and bishops with Worm magic. You have to take some of the forces through a pass to avoid them, and then go up and around. Then it's a challenge to beat all these enemies without anyone dying. Do not approach the castle because if you step on a square next to the castle, reinforcements start coming out of all the forts.

I made a save state once I had gotten up on the right and most of my state loads came after that, trying to break into the center area.



Chiki and Banutu work differently in this game than they did in FE1. They transform into actual dragons, which makes them much more useful.

Next update will hopefully be the last.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (Stages 8-14)

Sometimes the game design of an SRPG can get a bit lazy -- every stage is "kill all enemies" and the enemies have a predictable AI, so the same basic strategy works on every stage. FE3 does have the same goal on every stage (capture the castle/throne) but the designers put a lot of details into the stage to increase the variety. You often have to prevent thieves from destroying towns or stealing treasure, and you aren't always meant to kill everything. That makes the game harder but also forces you to think more, which is always good.


Stage 8

This stage is a good example of what I said above. The reinforcements that come from the bottom are very difficult, and while I imagine some enterprising players have probably defeated them, it's better to just finish the stage before they can reach your guys. This is complicated by the village to the right where you get Banutu. I sent Marth over there and then used Rescue to get him out. The boss can be persuaded.


I did beat those Generals coming in from the right with magic and Armor Killers; one has a Manual (stat up item) which is good incentive to try to take out some of them.

Here's what the bottom of the map looked like when I finished the stage:



Stage 9



This is a big desert map, sot he move is annoying as usual. This has the same issue as the previous map where you have to move up quickly to get away from the coming reinforcements -- but not too quickly or the mages and dragon knights will overwhelm you. Add to that the chests and the items a bunch of the enemies have and this is a busy map.

Finally, I made sure to buy a bunch of stuff since this is the last shop for a while.


Stage 10


This is an interesting map. You don't have to kill any units to win. Marik starts out up near the boss, I warped him out to make sure he didn't get killed or kill Elrain (the boss) accidentally. Elrain will then chase after you, and convincing him with Wendell gets him on the player side. The rest of the enemies then do not attack you.



As long as you don't kill any of the Sisters, a thief will come out with a Silver Card. the Cards are much more useful in this game than they are in FE1 because when you buy things they can go into storage (in FE1 you could only buy what you could carry).

Stage 11 

Ugh. An all desert map with lots of buried treasure for the thieves to find -- this is not a hard stage, but it takes forever. There are also dragons that can screw you over if you move wrong and they come and get you, since the breath has no defense against it. Minerva came with a Dragon Killer which is helpful, as are Silver Bow archers.


 I made sure to buy several Dragon Killers in the secret store here for the next few stages.

Stage 13

Lots of fire dragons and barbarians. I went after the barbarians with Cecil armed with the Lady Sword, and the Fire Dragons were taken down by various units with Dragon Killers, and silver bow archers.



The only trouble here is the reinforcements, but once the dragon reinforcements stop coming the barbarians can be dealt with easily.

Stage 14

This is a trickier stage than the last one because all the Frost Dragons except the boss head for your guys immediately. As long as you can manage to deal with that initial assault without losing anyone, the rest of the stage is not hard; there are Frost Dragon reinforcements but they come out slowly.


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (Stages 3-7)

I've been making slow progress on this game -- it seems harder than the previous games.

Stage 3

This stage has 10 dragon knights but it's not that bad. The 6 near the boss don't move unless you're in their range, and the 4 on the mountains don't move unless you go to the store (for some reason).

Paola arrives, and I had her immediately take care of the thief and then sit on a base and deal with the Social Knight reinforcements while I sent Marth all the way around the side to get Julian in the top right town. Meanwhile I had Paola and Kachua fight the DKnights on the mountains with some gold lances.

One oddity is that there are no axe users in this game so the town gives you a silver axe and just tells you to sell it.

After getting Julian, I used Warren's gate key to open the drawbridge and then sent people at the other enemies from both sides. Machis can be convinced with Julian; fortunately he has a Javelin so he'll often be attacking from 2 spaces and thus won't get a counterattack. The boss is fairly easy to beat with Linda's magic, and I made sure to get the hidden item with Julian around the castle before finishing the stage.

Stage 4

No Dragon Knights!

This stage basically divides into two parts and the enemies are mostly axe users. The main challenge is on the right; Ogma can immediately convince Sirius, who can hold off most of the enemies over there. Meanwhile I blocked the town with the kid mage. The thief has a Devil Sword, which is always a trap if you're not careful. One odd thing about this game is that you only get items that are in the enemies' inventory, not equipped. So there are many enemies in this game that have an equipped weapon, and then a second copy of it in the inventory so they can drop it when beaten.



Sirius and Ogma can probably take out the enemies by themselves (using the kid mage to beat the boss); Marth can move quickly enough to get through the desert area but it may make more sense just to leave the rest of the party to the left, picking off the reinforcements if you feel like it.




Stage 5 

I had to reset a lot on this stage even though it seems rather simple. Marth has to run up to the top right to visit the town, but that requires drawing out all the Dragon Knights from the mountains and killing them -- I kept making wrong moves and messing this part up. The thief is easily killed with a pegasus knight.


Once that's done, the rest of the stage is not as bad, although I did have some difficulty at the bottom with the Social Knights that come. You can sit on fortresses so it's not too bad. The boss is easily beaten with Armor Killer + magic.


Stage 6

This is the first interior stage. I lost a few times until I tried a different strategy. Initially I was trying to head off the reinforcements at the bottom like this:


After a few losses instead I tried taking everyone up to the top right.




This worked much better. I used archers to take out the bishops behind the walls -- the one with Worm is especially nasty, but the Libro guy sucks too. After I cleared out all the reinforcements and armor knights, Julian went down to get the chests, and then it was time for the boss.


Armor Killer + magic.

Stage 7

I forgot to get screenshots for this one. It's an odd little stage -- the main things to do are beat a whole bunch of thieves, and then get a dragon that comes out of a cave to the left. The dragon, even though it seems to be walking, does (maybe?) take a lot of damage from bows? Or maybe not. In any case he didn't do enough damage to kill anyone in one turn so everyone could gang up on him.

Meanwhile you have Navarre and a new class, the Dancer, who can use her "cheer" command to give someone an extra turn. I lost a few times because the thieves attacked her and she died, but once I moved her in the right place the rest wasn't bad. I ignored the rest of the enemies.

The boss does have a Thunder Sword so he's not a total pushover, especially when mages with Elfire are coming from the west, but I manged it.

I have a bunch of promotion items now so I can finally upgrade some guys.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Game 21 - Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (SFC) (Stages 1-2)

Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblems (ファイアーエムブレム 紋章の)
Released 1/21/1994
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
 
This is the third Fire Emblem game, and the first of three on the Super Famicom. It's the game that really began Fire Emblem's popularity. Originally it was going to be a sequel to the first game, but they decided to add a remade version of FE1 to the beginning. I'm only going to play the second new part, not the remake.

The system sticks fairly closely to the original game (the weapon triangle won't appear until the next entry). The biggest change is the introduction of the "mount" and "dismount" system, where Social and Pegasus knights can get off their horses. This lets them use swords rather than spears, and the terrain costs change. They also have to dismount for indoor maps.

Because a patch is available I'm not going to give detailed story summaries.

Stage 1

The story is much more detailed than either FE1 or Gaiden, something that will continue with SRPGs in general I think.


Jeigan has retired to become the advisor so now Alan is our Jeigan character.


The interface is also much better -- you can trade items between maps, see the enemy movement range and stats, and other things like that. The animation skip is new but it's not perfect; you can't see the unit's stat gains on a level up if you skipped the animation.

The first stage is not very hard but has an annoying choke point in the middle.


Most of the units can't get through that fort area, or if they can, very slowly. Eventually I just had Marth sit on the fort and take everyone out. There's no boss because you talk to the boss and he kills himself.


Stage 2

Phew, this one took a while. I think the difficulty of Part 2 is based on the idea that you did part 1 first. There are a lot of difficulties here, but the prime one is defeating the thief with the Lady Sword, who runs towards the NW. This wouldn't be so difficult except for the Dragon Knights (including the boss) who have a huge range and will move if you move into their range. The boss has a Knight Killer, which affects the majority of your team.

The Lady Sword thief

Another frustrating thing I found is that the thief's movements are not predictable. From what I saw, he had two basic movement patterns. The first one allows you to defeat him with Alan without getting in range of the boss, but you will have to get in range of the left DKnight. The other one does not allow this, and the only thing I could see to defeat the thief on this version is Kachua with a Javelin.
The extreme range of the boss

Even once that's done you still have troubles because of the three Dragon Knights, including the boss. One of the enemy archers (Warren) can be convinced by Kachua, leaving you 3 of them to fight the DKs. But they move very slowly through the forest, and you have to be extremely careful not to lure the boss down before you're ready. I found Marth was the best unit to lure him down because he's not a knight. He can't stand up to the 3 archers all fighting him at once.
One of my failed attempts
That stage had 3 DKnights, the next one has 10. So we're in for some fun next time!

Monday, July 15, 2019

1993 wrap-up

1993 had six games:

Albert Odyssey
Ogre Battle
Shining Force Gaiden II
Super Robot Taisen 3

Shining Force II
Sword Master

In terms of new developments, Ogre Battle is the first real-time SRPG on my list. Along with Super Robot Taisen 3, it also brings in the multiple paths and endings that become more common with SRPGs as we move forward. 1993 has the first Super Famicom game and the last PC Engine game.

Choosing a game of the year is tough here -- I know that a lot of people would pick Shining Force II, but as I said in my review I was somewhat disappointed with it. Ogre Battle would be another popular choice but once again I found it frustrating. For me, I think I would have to go with Super Robot Taisen 3. The branching storylines, multiple endings, and large cast list are a huge advance on SRT 2 and I had a lot of fun with this game. It's difficult until you figure out how to manage the system, though.

In addition to SRT 3, I would recommend Shining Force II, Shining Force Gaiden II (better to play the CD remake), and Ogre Battle. Albert Odyssey is not a good game. Sword Master has an impressive story and visuals, but the gameplay is not especially good.

1994 is all Super Famicom and Mega Drive games (the last 3 MD games I'll be playing). Fire Emblem 3 is probably the biggest and best known game on the list, but I'm interested in Hioden, which is another real-time game that has SFC mouse support.

One other thing that I'm going to try to do going forward is make at least one video for every game, even ones that I'm skipping because I've already played them or they're ports. A lot of these games either have no videos, the videos that exist are short and of poor quality, or you won't find them unless you search the game name in Japanese. At some point I would like to go back and make videos for the games I've already done but that's not a priority.

Games of the year:
1990: Fire Emblem
1991: Langrisser
1992: Just Breed
1993: Super Robot Taisen 3