Thursday, September 27, 2018

Game 5 - Lady Phantom wrap-up

Lady Phantom (レディファントム)
Release Date: 11/29/1991  
System: PC Engine (Super CD ROM)
Developer: Shin Nihon Laser Soft
Publisher: Nihon Telenet


  1. Turn type: Some sort of speed based system, although it's not obvious how it works. Characters will sometimes get 2 or even 3 turns in a row, while other times it seems like their turn doesn't come up for ages.
  2. Maps: Medium to large. Standing on terrain gives no bonuses, but if there is certain terrain between you and an enemy, it reduces hit rate or stops the attack altogether.
  3. Character Customization: You can pick 2 of 3 (later 4) weapons for each character before the stage.
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system, with all awards given out after the stage is over.
  5. Party Size: 5.
  6. Equipment: None.
  7. Game Flow: 10 stages, one after another, no repeating stages or multiple paths.
  8. Saving: Only between levels.
  9. Death: A defeated character will come back the next stage, and will not get the small XP bonus for stage completion.


This is very close to just being a strategy game rather than a strategy RPG, but overall it's decent. The case boasts an "expansive" story but as you may have seen from reading the posts it's pretty flimsy, even for 1991. None of the characters get more than a slight amount of development and the game is so short there's not much content there. The decision to make the story scenes only in the cutscenes, with no other dialogue, limited the amount of story they were able to include. The cutscene graphics are also underwhelming, although they're average from what I've seen in other PC Engine games.

The gameplay fares better. Overall I thought it was fun, although a big problem is (like Langrisser) that the battle system is hard to figure out. It seems like any hit can potentially do anything from missing to automatic kill, and it's not easy to see how the various stats are used to calculate what happens. Weapons have hit rates like "45", but what does that 45 mean? Percent?

The automatic kill (yuubaku) is a big problem because it adds a huge amount of luck into the game. This is particularly true of the last stage, which is much longer and more difficult than any of the previous stages. Getting your characters to survive through that level is frustrating because of the randomness and the sheer number of enemies you have to fight.

Overall this is not a great game, but it's short and playable, and I did have fun with it, so it might be worth trying if you want to play a retro strategy game.

Next up is Ninja Burai Densetsu, which is another short, difficult, barely-an-SRPG game.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Game 5 - Lady Phantom (Stages 7-10)

One note about this game is that there are no bosses or unique enemies; the villains like Makyuras appear only in the cinematic scenes so at times it's hard to know what they're actually doing. Even the final stage doesn't really have a boss.

Stage 7

Erioche is not happy with Makyuras for his repeated failures, and once again says that neither Solon nor Vat really matter to him -- he's just trying to relieve his boredom as one of the immortal survivors of an ancient race. Meanwhile, Lady Phantom gets its next mission -- defeat the enemies at the fortress of Sanmartanmyu.

There's nothing particularly hard about this map; you get the special units again that give you an "extra life".

Stage 8

Lady Phantom's action puts the enemies in disarray. Commander Denai has failed in his attack, but his failure increases when Captain Spahn shows up. Spahn lets Denai know that Spahn and his wife were on the civilian ship Denai destroyed, and then kills Denai.

Meanwhile there's a fanservice scene on the Lady Phantom ship.

But it's time for the next mission -- defeat an enemy force that's heading near the fortress at Curlint.

This stage is very small, and once again not too difficult. The "hit all enemies" weapons come in handy here given the small area.

Stage 9

One of Captain Spahn's men comes and asks Lady Phantom for help -- they're suspicious, but when something destroys the man, Jennifer decides to help them out.

This is another short stage. There are new enemies that are quite strong, but there are also NPC units (Spahn's guys) that soak up hits for you, so it's not all that hard.

Stage 10

Captain Spahn tells Lady Phantom that these new enemies are pawns of Erioche, who is really just claiming the leadership of Vat -- he's not native to Vat and is just using Vat and Solon for fun. Of course the Lady Phantom people are pissed off at this, but fortunately Spahn knows where Erioche is. Lady Phantom has no orders to go there but they decide to break off from Solon and try to defeat Erioche.

On the planet's surface, Jennifer reveals to Spahn that they actually aren't in their mechs. Instead, part of their spirit enters the mech while they stay on their ship and control things. They warn Spahn not to die protecting them (because they won't die even if their mech explodes). You do get to control Spahn in this final stage.

This is the last stage, and it is much more difficult than any of the preceding ones. You have to make it through three levels of a base, with large numbers of the new powerful enemies. Yuubaku (automatic deaths) are frequent, and at least at the levels I was at there was a fair amount of luck involved. I actually ended up using a save state after each level after my first failure, although I don't remember whether I actually had to load one or not. Because of this stage, you definitely want to level your guys as much as possible in the previous stages and not take any shortcuts to completing the stages.

However, since XP is only awarded at the end of a stage, the enemies here don't give any XP (I think this was a bad game design choice). So it's OK to bypass some units here.
The last map is the hardest one; I don't have a screenshot of it but one good tip is that you can snipe at the enemies near the stairs to the next level from your starting point. The green mech is particularly good for this. Since all your units will be revived before the final map, as long as you get one unit down the stairs you're fine.
The group confronts Erioche at the end. He's happy to see the heroes useless fighting, and has two more units for them to fight. They are Royal Guards with high HP, but for me they died in a few hits to Yuubaku (automatic destruction).

The ending is slightly different depending on if Jennifer, Spahn, neither, or both survived the last stage -- there's barely any change. If Spahn survived them Erioche kills him to set up the next scene.
 Erioche kills Spahn (or he was already dead)

Spahn reveals the truth to Jennifer, that he's her father. He thought Jennifer and his wife had both died and so joined Vat to get revenge on whoever destroyed their ship. Jennifer tells him to hang on, but he dies.
 Now Jennifer gets angry, and in an unexplained turn says some sort of magic incantation to call down spirits to vanquish the evil before them. This destroys not only Erioche but the entire planet. As far as I could see there's nothing in the story so far or the instruction manual to explain or even hint at why this could happen.
And thus Lady Phantom leaves Galdoba, and the game ends.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Game 5 - Lady Phantom (Stages 2-6)

Stage 2

In the opening movie, a being called Elioche is talking to her servant Makuras, who is one of the Vat. He wants to control Galdoba, and tells Makuras about the Solon troop movements. He then grants Makuras his power and wants him to fight against Solon.
Lady Phantom is resting and playing games, but a new mission comes in: to protect a fleet of supply ships being attacked by a pirate gang under Vat command.
Not a hard mission. Only one troop ship has to survive so you can let them soak up some hits (you do get a bit more XP for each one that survives, but not that much). One thing I didn't mention about the battle system last time is 誘爆 -- that's an automatic chance for any hit to kill anything. The higher a unit's BL score is, the less likely that is to happen. Great when it happens for you, not great when the enemies get one.

Stage 3

Captain Spahn, leader of the Galdoba Pirates, is talking to his prisoner Princess Sophia. She wonders why he's being kind to her, and he tells her he wasn't always a pirate. Meanwhile the Lady Phantoms have a new mission -- to infiltrate the fortress Neo Kyuraso and stop the development of new weapons, and also save the princess.

The new units are attachments to the regular units; they have their own weapons and when your HP go to 0 the unit goes away and you're back to the regular mech. An easy stage with the extra "life" -- one annoyance is that when you run out of weapons with the new units, you can't choose to jettison them.

Stage 4

This is essentially part 2 of the above mission. The cinema sequence has a flashback with Captain Spahn.

A green haired child, who could that be? Yes, it's our main character Jennifer. This is Captain Spahn when he was "Christopher". He's remembering when his ship was attacked by Vat troops and destroyed.

This stage has three floors. Each floor you either have to visit all the X spots to plant bombs, or kill all the enemies. I found the latter easier, even though you don't recover HP between floors. This could be hard if you get unlucky and your guys get destroyed, but that didn't happen to me. You can hide behind the computers and desks to block the enemy shots.

Stage 5

Captain Spahn is ready to confront Lady Phantom but when he notices Jennifer's necklace he gives back the Princess and leaves. Several days later, they have a new mission  -- protect trucks holding new weapons.

The mission is basically the same idea as Stage 2; just move ahead of the trucks and kill all the enemies.

Stage 6 

Captain Spahn is at a party with other Vat luminaries. They're criticizing him for losing the fortress to 5 girls, but during the talk he's able to figure out that Commander Denai was the one that attacked the civilian ship he was on so they couldn't notify Solon about what was going on in the battle. Meanwhile Lady Phantom gets their next mission -- destroy supply ships so that they can't reinforce the enemy.

You get new weapon options in this stage. Several people get weapons that hit everyone in range, or everyone in the hexes around the target. With this I just went straight for the supply ships -- after playing the rest of the game I think this was a mistake because you want your characters to be at as high a level as possible in stage 10, which is far more difficult than the first 9 stages. But we'll get to that in the next post.

The story is pretty light since all the development comes in the short cinematic scenes before battles.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Game 5 - Lady Phantom (Introduction and Stage 1)

Lady Phantom (レディファントム)
Release Date: 11/29/1991  
System: PC Engine (Super CD ROM)
Developer: Shin Nihon Laser Soft
Publisher: Nihon Telenet

Next up on my list is another PC Engine game, although this time one that was originally made for the system. The PC Engine is an interesting console because it was a big seller in Japan, competing with the Famicom, Super Famicom, and Mega Drive. In the US it failed, though, and so most of the PCE games were never localized. This game is probably a simulation game rather than an SRPG, but it does meet my two criteria (developing story and named characters who level), so I'll give it a go.

The Wikipedia article points out that it came out when there were a number of "girls in mechs" series coming out, most notably the Bubblegum Crisis OVAs. The game box emphasizes that they were trying to make something that was "faster" than typical strategy games -- primarily this means the limited cast size (only 5 units on each map) and a speed-based turn system rather than player/enemy. Enemy turns could be extremely long and slow on strategy games (and SRPGs) at this time.

The person who sold me the game on Ebay included a page torn from an old Gamepro magazine that described the game. It has some errors but it's interesting to read an a nice piece of history that I didn't expect to get (it's a big image so click on it if you actually want to read the text)

Because there aren't any English walkthroughs, I wanted to give at least a little idea of how to play the game -- it's not especially hard but there are some potentially confusing menu choices.

The backstory as given in the instruction manual: The war between the Solon Federation of Planets and the Vat Empire suddenly ended in peace. Project Siren, which developed weapons during the war, continued, and resulted in the Lady Phantom squad. The five girls in the squad have been sent to the Galdoba area, which was on the front lines of the war. This area lost trust in both Vat and Solon and has become an unstable neutral area.


The Lady Phantom squad is relaxing after a mission when their superior (I guess) from Lezas Command tells them their next mission: on Megumes in the Galdoba area, there's a resistance group that wants to overthrow the government and join Vat. We need to stop that from happening, so it's time for a direct attack on the base.

The five characters are Jennifer Sylkis (green hair), Dora Langenkamp (red), Ramia O'Niel (blue), Cindy Matsunaga (brown), and Elene Myer (yellow). At the start of the mission, the first thing you do is choose weapons. Each character can bring two weapons except for Ramia.
I find the default weapons are fine; typically if you just look at the MG part (which is number of shots) it should give a decent idea of the weapon. RG is the max range and BS is the recommended range for highest hit rate (although I don't know whether it means exactly 4 or less than 4). RF is the number of shots per attack, PW is the strength, and ST is the hit rate. The manual claims it's a percentage but 45% seems low for what I've seen actually playing so there must be other numbers involved.

Once you finish choosing the weapons, hit 作戦実行 at the bottom and the mission starts.
The game has a speed based turn system, although it's a rather confusing one because people often get multiple turns in a row for no clear reason that I can see (I've seen as many as 4 actions in a row for one of my guys).

Each unit has five options:
They are:
  • 移動 (move)
  • 攻撃 (attack)
  • 進撃 (advance)
  • 狙撃 (snipe)
  • 警戒 (caution)
Move and attack are paired -- if you do one, you have to do the other. So if you only want to attack or move, you have to pick the "advance" (move double distance) or "snipe" (attack with higher percentage) actions. Caution is defend.

Who you can attack depends on range, but also which way you're facing and whether there are obstacles in the way. The game has a lot of walls and objects you can hide behind. There's also increased hit rates for attacking from sides or back. If someone is defeated, they exit the stage and earn no more XP for that mission. At the end of the mission, each unit gets an automatic XP for finishing the mission, another 3 if they survived, and then XP for each unit they defeated (individually).
AT and DF should be obvious. AC is speed, PT gives you a better chance of counterattacking, and PR "affects various things" according to the manual.
These battle screens can be turned off

Some stages, like the first one, have multiple maps. Anyone destroyed in the first map doesn't come back for the second one so you have to be careful.
Attack range

That's more or less the gameplay -- it's relatively basic but I'm finding it reasonably fun so far. I'm up to act 5 now so I'll make another post later in the week covering the next few stages.