Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser wrap-up

Langrisser (ラングリッサ―)
Release Date: 4/26/1991 (PC Engine version 8/6/1993). Mega Drive version released in English as "Warsong."
System: Mega Drive/PC Engine (later remake for Saturn and Playstation)
Developer: MASAYA
Publisher: Nippon Computer Systems
Image result for ラングリッサー PC


  1. Turn type: Player turn/Enemy turn
  2. Maps: Medium to large. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: Each character has a branching class path.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system. At level 10, character automatically upgrades to a new class, although the player can choose which one to advance to. The four "main" characters have secret classes in the PC Engine version.
  5. Party Size: You have at most 9 leaders, of which 4-8 can be sent out on each map. Each leader has up to 8 nameless grunt soldiers under them (fortunately the game has an auto-move system for the grunts if you don't want to move them all individually).
  6. Equipment: Each character can equip one item (which includes armor, weapons, or items).
  7. Game Flow: 20 stages, one after another, no repeating stages or multiple paths.
  8. Saving: Permanent saves only between levels. At least in the PC Engine version you can do "memory saves" during the stage at any point, which go away when you turn off the power.
  9. Death: The nameless grunts all disappear at the end of the stage whether they die or not. In the Mega Drive version, a leader who dies is dead permanently. In the PC Engine version, they are simply removed from the stage with all their grunts.


This game is probably easiest to compare with Fire Emblem, since they came out around the same time and are both the beginning of long-running franchises. I think I probably enjoyed the two games about the same -- there are a lot of rough edges and the storyline barely exists, but it's still reasonably fun. Langrisser is far less frustrating than FE because of the ability to save and load your game as many times as you want during the stage. I believe this is in the original Genesis version as well although I'm not sure. The lack of permadeath in the PC Engine version also lowers the difficulty a bit but not as much as the save/load.

The soldier hiring is a nice aspect of the game and makes it feel more like you're commanding large forces than Marth's band of 20 or so. The use of the "command zone" strengthens the feeling of the squads. The designers thankfully included an auto-move option for the soldiers so you don't have to manually move 40-50 units every turn.

My biggest problem with the game is that I never felt like I fully understood the system. You can see attack and defense stats, but it's hard to predict what that will actually mean when the fight starts. There are modifications based on level, terrain, compatibility of units, and remaining HP. All of that means that I had way too many experiences where I just had to save the game, try an attack, and then reload when I saw it didn't work as I expected.

The next Langrisser game will come up in 1994; I'll be curious to see what changes have been made (although some of the I->II changes were already done for the PC Engine version).

One point of interest is the CD-ROM technology. I've done about 25 games now on PC Engine between this blog and my other one, and there's a wide difference in how companies actually use the capabilities of the CD system. CDs are cheaper to produce than carts/cards and may entice buyers, so there was an incentive to use the system. Games like the Tengai Makyo series made great use of the system with lots of voiced dialogue, cutscenes, and orchestral music tracks played off the CD. Others barely used it at all, with just a token animated intro. Langrisser is between the two -- the music is high quality. There are some voiced cutscenes before each map but the total amount of voice and cutscene is maybe 5-10 minutes (plus the closing credits with the vocal song).

Next up will be another PC Engine game, this time one that was originally made for the system rather than a remake. The packaging advertises the cutscenes and story so we'll see how it compares to this.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser (Stages 16-20)

Scenario 16 - In the Darkness

The dragon from scenario 15 fled wounded, and Ledin chases after him to his cave, to deal the killing blow. This stage is 5 player squads vs quite a few enemies, but many of them start far away from the heroes, and the dragon is directly ahead.
I actually decided not to grind this stage for XP and instead went for the dragon right away -- I still ended up killing about half the enemies on the board. There's a chest that has a Dragon Slayer in it, that works only for this stage. Tyler got it, but Ranger Namu did so much damage it wasn't necessary. And thus the Dragon goes down. A soldier finds a tablet with some old writing on it, that says Bozel tried to envelop the world in darkness but Sieghart, the king of Elsreed, used the power of Langrisser to seal away the darkness in Velzeria. Since Bozel is back, we need to do the same thing.

Scenario 17 - Velzeria, the Forbidden Land

The collected heroes
The collected villains

 Ledin and his forces head to Velzeria to seal the darkness away again. The title of this mission is different from the Genesis version and there seem to be other changes as well, mostly to bring Bozel and his underlings into the story earlier than in the Genesis version.

Nicholas starts by taking over Chris' mind, causing her and her troops to attack us. This stops when we take out Nicholas, so I did that as soon as possible.
There are a lot of flying enemies in this stage that fall to archers. Nicholas and Nyaga are both here -- in general spell casting has gotten a lot more annoying since they can use spells from far away that affect a large range. But I also have Heal 2, Healing, and other spells that make it fairly easy to recover. I've started equipping Orbs on both Jessica and Chris every battle, increasing their MP by a lot as well as their range.

Scenario 18 - Velzeria

Time to invade Velzeria. This is Nagya's last stage -- he has some new Stone Golems he hope will protect him. They are quite annoying and hard to damage, but they don't do much in return. Eventually I managed to have Namu take him out. Other than that I've just been trying to max the classes of my guys -- Chris is now a Princess so all that's left is Jessica's Sage class. The other ones I don't care so much about.

After the battle, an army is massing outside to fight, but Lance decides to stay behind and deal with them while we take on Bozel inside.

Scenario 19 - Illusionist

This is Nicholas' last hurrah. Like the other stages there are a lot of spellcasters in here that do wide damage to a lot of people, so Jessica, Chris, and Ledin's heal spells are effective. Other than that, by this point in the game it's pretty much the same tactics every map. Archers are particularly good, I find.

Scenario 20 - The Seal of Darkness

The last stage, and fight against Bozel.
Same deal as before -- lots of healing to take care of the spellcasters. I divided my forces into two to clean up a lot of the squads, focusing on the leaders when I could. Sadly Jessica did not make her final class, but it wasn't necessary. Bozel went down easily to Namu equipped with the Langrisser. Then Chaos appears. Bozel was trying to bring him back, but of course Chaos wasn't going to be controlled by Bozel and is now fighting us.
As with all other enemies, Chaos has 10 HP. A combination of Namu, Ledin, and various spells were enough to make a quick end of him. Like many RPG villains he says he can't die because he's in the hearts of men, and he'll be back later blah blah blah.

Now as with Fire Emblem, there's a brief section showing what everyone does and their final class.
Jessica doing alchemy

Namu training
Chris and Ledin get married.

Finally there's a vocal closing song, which actually is not that common on the PC Engine even though the technology supports it. At the end, there's a screen that shows your total turns.
So that's Langrisser -- the PCE version is more different from the Mega Drive version than I thought it was, but that's fine. The series will return in 1994 with Langrisser II.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser (Stages 11-15)

Scenario 11 - Dalsis Castle

Barely halfway through the game and we've already reached Dalsis Castle, where Digos is. So obviously he's not the final boss of the game. This map is very different from the Genesis version both in the enemies and the layout. All of your guys start at the bottom of the screen and you basically have to split into two sides.

I tanked the stage at first because I didn't have the right division of units. Once I paid more attention to which units were on which side and assigned my soldiers appropriately, it was much easier. I was still struggling to level up Namu, who had fallen way behind.
Partway through the stage, monsters appear at the top of the screen and start attacking the stage boss. Ledin realizes these are here because Langrisser has been unsealed. The boss doesn't last very long against the monsters, but since the win condition is for Ledin to reach the top of the map we still have to take them out.

Scenario 12 - Twin Castle

Time to beat Digos. His Emperor class is actually not that good compared to some of the other leaders, and his Armor Soldiers are not especially effective. Sort of an anticlimactic end for him.

Getting to him is a bit challenging, though. The two sides of the castle are separated, and you can't control who starts on which side. The enemies are totally different from the Genesis version so I had to start, write down the enemies, then restart and assign appropriate underlings. Once I did that it wasn't very hard, and Digos was taken down by horsemen.

Now we have recovered the Langrisser, but there's still 8 stages left. The Langrisser itself is an equippable item that increases stats quite a bit.

Scenario 13 - The Town of Statues

Ledin reaches a town where Basilisks have turned everyone (including Lance!) into statues. The Basilisks will also stone us. The maps are diverging much more from the Genesis version than before -- from here on out the story is the same, and each map is the same general idea, but the maps almost all have very different enemies, and often different layouts as well.

I was getting annoyed by the Basiliks turning my guys to stone so I just beat their leaders as quickly as possible.
There are ants as well, and slimes. The ants go down fairly easily to archers and the slimes are the last hurrah for the Guardsmen, who I gave to Jessica.

Lance joins the team afterwards, although he vows to even things with Ledin afterwards, if they both survive.

Scenario 14 - Wolfpack

This stage has probably the biggest divergence from the Genesis version I've seen -- as with the Genesis version there are a lot of werewolves in the stage attacking the townspeople. But there's also a guy named Nagya with some skeletons who seems to have some control over the situation.

I used Monks for the first time in the game to deal with his skeletons. The werewolves made it to the church where the civilians were hiding and started killing them, but it takes too many turns for them to kill them all so there was never any big concern that they would die. Even though you can only send out 4 squads here it's not that hard.

Scenario 15 - The Cry of the Dragon 

Nagya is back again here, guarding a temple where the Efreet will come out to fight against the Grand Dragon, who is your main opponent here. Fortunately the civilians flee to the bottom left of the screen so they're in no danger.
Once again, only 4 squads. I tried Monks again but they were ineffective against Nagya's troops so I tried again with 3 archer squads and Ledin with Griffons. The archers were quite effective (especially Chris -- I don't understand why her underlings are always so good). The enemies come in off the lake but I hid in the mountains.
Once Nagya is defeated, the Efreet comes out and starts fighting against the Dragon. But he refused to come in from the water so I had to go out and fight him. I finally got Ramu to her secret class, the Ranger. Rather unusual class; she has good stats but can't have any troops. Chris was also able to rank up to Princess. Now the only major character I have left to rank up is Jessica. She had fallen behind but I was able to get her up to High Priest in this level. Rather odd that for the secret classes, Chris has to go to Archmage and Jessica to High Priest -- you would think it's the reverse.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser (Stages 6-10)

I got so into the game sometimes I forgot to take screenshots...sorry.

Scenario 6 - Attack on Baldia Castle

After burying Volkoff, Ledin comes back to retake his castle; King Ilzack is presumed dead, so it's sort of a hollow victory

The team gets split into two sides, so it's important to have a balance of units in this stage to take care of the Dark Elves (archers), Soldiers, and Horsemen. In the end I didn't find this stage very hard. Even the Lord on his throne doesn't have much against the whole team -- this tends to be true in these games, that once you get control of the battle by beating most of the units, the last few (even a boss) aren't very hard. I've found that a lot of times you can beat a boss just by throwing all your underling units at it because even if they die, as long as they do at least a point or two of damage it reduces the boss' effectiveness and makes it easier for the succeeding troops to do their jobs.

Chris is surprisingly effective as a direct fighter. One of my biggest problems with this game is that I feel like combat is unpredictable in many ways. There are some general guidelines as to which units are good against other units, but sometimes I think I'm going to do well and get my ass kicked, while other times I assume I'm not going to do anything and have a huge victory.

Scenario 7 - The Hero of the Fort

Ledin decides to chase the units fleeing from Baldia and try to fight them all the way to Digos.

Albert the Knight is defending a fortress against attack. From what I saw in the Genesis version you do actually have to go quickly, but for me Albert never even came close to being under threat of dying (which loses you the stage). This was a hard stage, though.
Albert defending the castle
The most difficult part of the stage for me is the Lizardmen. They're quite powerful -- in the water I had trouble even attacking them with Tyler (Crocodile/Serpent Knight with Mermen). If you lure them onto the land they're still formidable opponents, and you have to cross a bridge to get to the main area. They don't necessarily like coming towards you until you start crossing the bridge.

A useful spell is Zone, which cast on a leader, removes the bonuses they give to their units. These bonuses are often quite substantial. Unfortunately Zone can fail, but since you can reload the save, you can just keep trying it.

There are also reinforcements of Lance and another unit, all with Horsemen. I had Ramu with Elves, which are not very useful on the stage as a whole but once the Horsemen come out they can do good damage.

Scenario 8 - Pursuit

I found this to be a pretty straightforward scenario; a mix of units to deal with the varieties of enemies, and I was fine even with Lance and his reinforcements.
Scenario 9 - The Rapids of Warus

This scenario is annoying. The top and bottom half are separated by a large water area that most units (Tyler excepted) cannot cross at more than a square or two at a time. You first have to deal with lizardmen that come towards you -- it's frustrating to me that Tyler is unable to fight them directly with his Mermen. Instead I just had to draw them on to land and take them out with Horsemen from other guys.

What Tyler is good at is taking out enemies that charge at you across the water, which in this stage is mostly just Lance's reinforcements. Other than that, it's a matter of taking out the Lizardman and the reinforcement Kraken, then taking everyone over the water at a snail's pace, and finishing off the guys at the top.

Scenario 10 - Castle on the Lake

At least this time they give you a bridge to cross. There are Elf and Soldier reinforcements so I left some appropriate units behind. First job is to draw the Lizardmen onto land, although only one group will come at the beginning. The others will sometimes attack on the bridge and sometimes not; it's hard to tell what influences that.
After reaching the castle itself, it's the same basic enemies as the previous stages.

Ledin reached his hidden Hero class, so this is my team now:
Ledin - Hero
Chris - Bishop
Jessica - Bishop
Namu - Lord
Tyler - Serpent Knight
Albert - Knight
Thorn - Grand Knight

Namu is seriously falling behind in power so I need to work on her. She, Chris, and Jessica have the hidden classes (Ranger, Princess, and Sage respectively). I still have 10 more stages to attain those classes.

I'm not saying a whole lot about the story because up to this point there really isn't much -- Ledin escapes the castle, recruits some troops, comes back and retakes the castle, and goes to beat Digos. There's little dialogue beyond what you are doing next, and not much character development.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser (Stages 1-5)

OK, let's get this started.

Scenario 1

As the introductory story indicates, Ledin begins in the castle Baldia, under attack by the evil forces of Digos. The goal is simply to escape the castle with Ledin. I feel like this should have just been a cinematic scene rather than a stage -- it's odd to make the first stage one where you basically can't do anything. There are entire walkthroughs on GameFAQs for how to actually beat the enemies, but I didn't want to start out using that much help so I just stuck around for a few turns to let Jessica get some Xp and then left.
Ledin, buying soldiers

Your other character is Volkoff, who is the Jeigan character of this game. He's very powerful but cannot gain any XP or class change. Rather than trying anything fancy I just bought no soldiers and escaped.

Scenario 2

Namu the fighter leads us out of the castle while Ledin's father the king stays behind. Ledin vows to come back and rescue his father later, but he soon meets Chris (Kurisu, a mascot for this blog apparently!), a priestess who is on a pilgrimage.

The stage might seem tricky because you have to protect Chris, who tends to head towards the village at the north. But from what I could tell she's basically unkillable -- her priestesses will get slaughtered but the enemies had trouble doing much damage to her, and she would almost always heal on her turn if she were hurt. I imagine multiple commanders targeting her at the same time could have taken her down but that never happened.
That being said, I did a lot of resets. There's a "memory save" that you can make anywhere that lasts as long as the power is on, so I reset as often as I needed to to make sure that Ledin got most of the kills. Even giving Volkoff the weak bowmen, he still could often kill everything in one hit. But in the end I was able to get Ledin enough xp to level him to 10 and class up to a Lord.
Hawking and Thorn will come from the top left to steal your XP but I was able to get up there soon enough to at least get the leaders. Hawking recognizes Ledin as the prince and offers to help him recruit troops to take back Baldia castle.

Scenario 3

But that night, the town comes under attack by the same bandits that attacked in stage 2. So this stage is in the town, with a lot of NPC units and townspeople to protect. I probably was too cautious in this stage -- I was worried about the townspeople dying (since that loses you the stage if they all die). I killed some troops with Volkoff and didn't get Ledin as much XP as I could have.
Chris heads into the church and the townspeople follow her there. I think that even with the reinforcements that come in near the church, the doorway chokepoint would have protected enough of the civilians that I could have taken my time and gotten over there to get more XP with Ledin. But it's not easy when there are 5 hero groups on the map, 3 NPCs, one Volkoff who can't get XP, and then Ledin. I would have liked Chris to get more XP but all she does is run away.

Scenario 4

An interesting scenario; Ledin is heading back to the castle. Namu has met him in the town and told him that Baldia has fallen, and the King rode out alone to fight the enemies. Ledin decides they need to go through the Spectral Forest to get back in time.

All the monsters are slimes, and your guys can barely damage them. So I sent out the three leaders with no underlings and ran away. In 5 turns, Chris and another dude come in with "Guardsmen", who apparently use some kind of fire attack that's effective against the slimes. They're NPCs as usual, but they can chew through all the slimes. I got a class up for Chris to Bishop.

There are multiple class paths for each character; I'm just going to take the one that leads to their secret new class.

Scenario 5

On the way to Baldia, we meet Lance's army. This is the first stage that has no NPC player units. All five of the leaders (Ledin, Volkoff, Namu, Chris, and Thorn) are under my control. Thorn has limited class up potential so I want to use him less often.

There are a lot of horsemen in the enemy forces, so I made sure to send Volkoff and Ledin out with Light Elves (who are effective against horsemen). I split my force, sending Ledin and Namu up to the top, and Chris, Volkoff, and Thorn to the right. This is the first stage I really used magic -- Chris' "Zone" magic removed the huge bonuses Leon granted to his troops, and Ledin's Shield magic helped Namu fight a bit, although I was not able to get her class up.
The idea in that picture is to weaken the enemies with Volkoff's troops and then kill them with Chris. It worked a lot better than I expected.

After the battle, Lance tries to attack Ledin but Volkoff gets in the way and takes the hit...this looks like the end for Volkoff but we'll find out next time.

Friday, August 10, 2018

List of games

Someone asked for a list of games in a comment. Here's a link to the rough list I've been working on as a google doc.

It's complete through 1999. In the "Notes" section:
  • Question marks indicate I'm not sure if it qualifies as an SRPG or not. I'll make final decisions on these later.
  • "RMK" means "remake" and two stars mean that there's a remake of that game. 
  • An "x" means that I've already played the game so I won't be replaying it, though I will make a post on it. 
  • The greyed out games are ones I'm not even making a post about, either because I've decided they aren't SRPGs, or because I've played another version of the game (e.g. Langrisser for Mega Drive is greyed out because I'm playing the PC Engine version.)

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Game 4 - Langrisser (Introduction)

Langrisser (ラングリッサ―)
Release Date: 4/26/1991 (Mega Drive), 8/6/1993 (PC Engine)
System: Mega Drive, PC Engine, later remakes on Saturn and Playstation
Developer: MASAYA
Publisher: Nippon Computer Systems

The PC Engine instruction manual

This is the first game in a series that encompasses five main games, and then some spinoff games and later titles (including one currently in development). The series is known for its branching storylines, although that didn't enter until Der Langrisser (the Super Famicom remake of 2). Since I have not played any of them, I will just introduce the first one. It originally came out for Mega Drive, but I will be playing the PC Engine port. It added CD-quality music, short animated sequences and some voicing, and some gameplay changes. These changes seem to me fairly minor, and I'm not sure what they all are. The magic system is apparently more like Langrisser II's, and each character has a secret class upgrade.

The instruction manual gives the background which is also in an opening cinematic. The titular "Langrisser" is an ancient sword, said to give great powers to whoever wields it. It has caused many wars over the centuries, and is now protected by the Baldia royal family, descendants of great heroes.  But Emperor Digos of Dalsis has decided to attack Baldia in order to acquire the Langrisser, so that he can rule the world (mwahaha).

The next page of the manual introduces most of the characters.

The person at the bottom left is Kurisu, so I now have a mascot for my blogs.

The gameplay is distinct from Fire Emblem, the best precedent MASAYA would have had for development -- they seem to have been influenced by other types of strategy games. These are some of the features of the game:
  • The characters are leaders, who you assign troops at the beginning of every stage. These troops are associated with the leader and get certain benefits from being in the leader's command area. Any kills done by those troops give XP to the leader. The troops all go away at the end of each stage, so there is no particular downside to losing them. If a leader dies, they are permanently dead. [EDIT: I have confirmed that in the PCE version they do not permanently die. From what I've read this is a change from the Mega Drive version.]
  • When a leader reaches level 10, they can upgrade their class. There are multiple class paths you can take. The manual claims that levelling up increases a character's combat effectiveness, but as far as I can tell this is not reflected in any stat changes or anything visible. But the combat is fairly opaque so there may be a hidden calculation involved.
  • Enemies also have leaders, and beating a leader kills all of the troops under it as well.
  • Each leader can have one item. Some of them increase the stats of the troops, others the leader.
  • Leaders can heal themselves with a command. Troops that are adjacent to the leader will be healed a bit as well.
  • Some classes can use magic spells, which can target at a range. There are defensive, healing, and attack spells.
Next up I'll start stage 1.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that the Mega Drive version of the game was released in English under the title "Warsong". I don't know much about how accurate the translation is; I know they changed many of the names (for instance "Chris" is "Mina" and "Jessica" is "Sabra"). This was commonly done in early localizations when the Japanese versions of games would have names that didn't sound "high fantasy" enough for Americans. Xenic Reverie did a playthrough of Warsong on his blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Game 3 - Super Robot Wars

Super Robot Wars (スーパーロボット大戦)
Release Date: 4/20/1991
System: Game Boy
Developer: Winkysoft
Publisher: Banpresto
「スーパーロボット大戦」初代はパイロットはいなかった ...
Super Robot Wars is one of the titans of the SRPG genre, with around 60 titles in the series and more still being released. However, SRW will occupy a strange place on this blog, because I have already played all of the SRW games from SRW 2 up through Original Generations 2 (that's 44 games!) and I have no desire to play them all again.

What I am going to do instead is take this opportunity to post some commentary I made on the srwg-w.org forum while I was playing them through. These commentaries are not necessary fleshed out and polished, but the majority of my commentary posts disappeared in a forum crash (I have them all saved locally), so this seems like a good place to put them.

The exception is SRW 1, which I never played. It's really a black sheep of the family, and in some case almost doesn't qualify as an SRPG by the definition I'm using here because it doesn't have a developing story. It's basically just a series of maps with the end goal of defeating Gilgilgan. So I've only played the first 2 stages of it and this is the only post I will make about it. It's much closer to the Compachi Heroes franchise and seems to have been made in imitation of the Daisenryaku games (which are not SRPGs).

To me this is barely recognizable as a SRW game although you can see some of the seeds of what comes later. You start off by choosing between Gundams, Mazinger, or Getter Robo and you start with only units from there. You can convince other units to your side, but it's much harder to do so if the units are not from the franchise of the convincing character. Unlike most SRWs there are no pilots; the mechs are animate by themselves. Seishin exist, but only your leader can use them, and each stage it randomly selects three for you to be able to use. The game has permadeath, unlike every other SRW. The weapons have no bullets or energy, so even the range high-damage weapons like the Vesper and Fin Funnels can be used as many times as you want. You find hidden items in each stage which include additional weapons for the mechs.

Anyway here's my experience with the first two stages.

Stage 1

I chose the Gundams, and F-91 as my leader. So I can put points into attack, HP, speed, and Charisma (which helps with convincing units).

The units are F-91, ZZ, 100-shiki, Z, Gun Cannon, Nu Gundam, and original Gundam. The enemies are a mix of enemies from the three franchises, with a Garada K7 (from Mazinger) as the boss.
The battle scenes are simple, and just attack-counterattack (unless the unit is out of range). I don't like the seishin system because it's too random -- you can get good ones like Friendship, or you can be stuck with ones that only affect the leader. I'm also not sure how to heal. I tried to convince a unit but it failed.

Along the way there are towers that give items, and then the boss. I had Friendship so I didn't lose any units here.

Stage 2

The boss here is Elmeth, from first Gundam. Texas Mack is also there. In both stages, the enemies all rush you except the boss and a couple of units around it, so the hardest part is the middle when the enemies can all gang up on someone. I managed to convince a Kapool but it immediately got killed by the enemies.

So that's all I played and it really didn't seem like that good of a game. But you can try for yourself because there's an English patch on romhacking.net.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Game 2 - Little Master Wrap-up

Image result for リトルマスター ライクバーンの伝説


Little Master: Legend of Likebahn (リトルマスター ライクバーンの伝説)
Release Date: 4/19/1991  
System: Game Boy 
Developer: Zener Works  
Publisher: Intellimedia
  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
  2. Maps: Small. Terrain gives bonuses. Gimmicks on each stage.
  3. Character customization: None.
  4. Character development: Standard XP level system. Max level is 8, but monsters can be combined at temples to change to better monsters.
  5. Party size: 7 is the most you can send out on a map; I'm not sure what the maximum size of your party is. You can get additional monsters from buildings on certain maps.
  6. Equipment: The game has no items or equipment.
  7. Game flow: Most of the stages can be repeated. No exploration. No alternate paths or secret maps.
  8. Saving: Any time. There is something odd (or perhaps glitched) with the saving though; sometimes it will restart you at the beginning of the level if you reload, but with your XP intact. If you get a game over, you have to reset before you're actually returned to the world map or it will auto save you there and you'll have to do the stage again. 
  9. Death: When a unit reaches 0 HP it is removed from the map and loses all XP (but retains level).


Games for the Game Boy were always "lesser" than games for the home consoles -- not that the games were automatically less fun on the portable system, but they tended to be less ambitious, smaller, easier to play, and shorter. Some of this is due to the limitations of the hardware, but sometimes it's simply developer laziness or the audience perception. This game has only 15 small stages compared to Fire Emblem's 25 medium-to-large ones. Little Master 2, which came out a year later, has 34 stages, so it would not seem that the developers were hardware limited here.

This game does have some interesting features. They tried to differentiate the maps by putting gimmicks in (like tornadoes that randomly move characters, or graves that spawn zombies). The monster combination system has a lot of potential. The main problem with it is that unless you repeat stages, it's hard to build your monsters up to the point where you can combine them to make a lot of different units. And it's not really necessary because Moomoo and your hero are strong enough to beat the majority of the game (maybe the whole game) themselves. This does increase the replay value and length, something I would have appreciated as a kid when I only got a few games a year. I can see having fun playing the early stages repeatedly to level my monsters and make the most powerful ones. But it's not necessary.

In 2018 there's not much reason to play this unless you're a huge Game Boy fan. Even if the gameplay seems appealing, I have a feeling that the 2nd and 3rd games in the series are better, but we'll see shortly. There is a translation patch for this game, however.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Game 2 - Little Master (Stages 11-15)

The last five stages actually have some element of storyline, though not a whole lot. My goal for my units was to get some dragons -- by the end I managed to get one, and two cyclops, which was enough to help out a bit in the missions.

Stage 11 - Dracula Castle

Dracula is hanging at the back but the boss is actually Medusa. There are hidden mines on the floor that hurt anyone stepping on them (including enemies). When I saved and reloaded my save later, all my units were back at the beginning (but with their XP intact and the enemies defeated) and all the mines had been sprung. A bug, I guess.

Afterwards, Dracula takes the princess and flees.

Stage 12 - The Flame Mountain

The trick in this stage is that all the flame squares do 5 damage a turn until you beat the Hell Crab on the right.
Once the hell crab is gone, Dracula is the boss at the top left.

Stage 13 - The Dragon Cave

This stage has a sword that the Hero can get, after beating the Sword Guardian, who then joins your team (his name is "Arabia", you can see him in the picture below). The sword then makes the hero always critical hit and do a lot of damage, so he's obviously the most effective fighter for the rest of the game.

The boss is a Hydra. This has to be the most pathetic looking Hydra I've ever seen.
Afterwards we reach Gezagain's Castle, and he sends a Demon out to fight us.

Stage 14 - Castle in the Earth

Finally we're at Gezagain's castle. But seeing that he's hiding behind another boss, we know he's going to run away. This castle has warp tiles that send the units around to different places. If a unit is standing on the tile the warp would take you to, it has no effect, which makes the stage somewhat annoying.

Afterwards, Gezagain runs up to his cloud castle.

Stage 15 - Final Battle in the Sky
All the monsters in this stage are dragons, but there are a lot of hexagrams so it's not too bad. The final boss has two forms.
The problem is that if you beat the first form on the enemy phase, it screws you over. He immediately gets a free attack in his second form, then for some reason it's back to the end of your phase again and he gets another attack. So I had to make sure it wasn't the Hero who beat him, so that whoever did beat him could die without game over.
Gegazain's second form is a big dragon. Once he's defeated, the game ends.

Our hero saves the princess, and returns to the castle.

So that's Little Master. I'll say more in the wrapup but basically, it's not really worth playing now but I can imagine it was a fun game to take on the road with you in a time where there weren't a whole lot of RPGs (and no SRPGs) for the platform.