Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Game 14 - Just Breed

Just Breed (ジャストブリード)
Release Date: 12/15/1992
System: Famicom
Developer: Random House
Publisher: Enix

This is the last Famicom game on my list. It came out around the same time as Dragon Quest V and Final Fantasy V, so it didn't get as much respect as it deserved at the time it came out. Apparently it was in development hell for a long time, but it ends up looking and sounding much better than most Famicom games. It's one of the largest Famicom games (only Metal Slader Glory and Kirby's Adventure equal it, among licensed games). It even uses some kanji in the text, which Super Famicom games were not doing at this point.

There is a fan translation so I won't be as detailed in covering the plot as I have been on some other games that have no translations.

The backstory is basically that there were seven kingdoms associated with seven gemstones, but they were all destroyed at once for an unknown reason. There's a prophecy that when the seven gemstones are reunited, the followers of righteousness (the "just breed") can defeat the evil again. At the beginning of the game, the main character (a captain of a guard unit) has his girlfriend captured, who was the Priestess of Sapphire. He takes her tiara and then goes out to find her.

The character and monster designs were done by Takada Yuzo, best known for the manga 3x3 Eyes.

Like Shining Force, this game mixes RPG town exploration with outdoor battles. The graphics are similar to Dragon Quest.

Feris captured
When you leave the first town, the first battle begins. The game doesn't really have numbered battles, but for convenience I'll just number the fights I had.

Battle 1

This is an easy stage to begin with. The game works based on squads. You pick the leader (Kurisu in this case) and then can move and attack with all the units under the leader. I have two bowmen and two fighters who can use swords and spears. A nice feature is that XP is shared among the entire squad, so there's no need to distribute kills.

The battles end when you either clear out all the enemies (getting a victory screen), in which case you can explore the map freely.

Otherwise, the battle ends when someone moves into a town or house. Even if you "complete" a battle, the monsters will respawn if you leave the town or house. There are items and spells that can warp you to locations, though.

After the first battle, Kurisu's squad gains a magician. Kurisu himself can cast some spells -- just heal at the beginning, but that's a big help.

Battle 2

The frogs on this map can spit to hit us at a distance. This stage also introduces monster lairs (the circle at the bottom left). They generate monsters throughout the battle. If you can get a person next to the lair they can destroy the lair, but no one can go across the river here. Killing all the enemies also ends the battle and stops the generation.

Battle 3

This is the first battle that actually presents a challenge. In addition to the frogs, there are snails that tank, crab-like things that cast spells, and more inaccessible monster lairs. The new magician's spells help a lot, as does buying a bunch of Herbs for healing.

Battle 4

More new enemies -- Skeletons. They also have large HPs. I also got a new cleric who is her own squad, but later she is joined by Rolan and his troops to make my second real squad! This is sort of a two-part battle since first you head to the top right to get Karen (the cleric) and then leave and go down to the bottom right to the next town.

This is a pretty good game so far; we'll see if it maintains its quality throughout the game.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song wrap-up

Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
Release Date:
PC Engine
Masaya Games
Nihon Computer

  1. Turn type: Player turn/enemy turn.
  2. Maps: Small to medium. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character customization: For some characters, you can choose between two mechs at certain upgrade points, but the choice is permanent.
  4. Character development: Standard XP/level system. At certain levels, the character's mech upgrades, sometimes with a choice between units.
  5. Party: You always get to use all your units in each map. In addition to a number of named characters, you get a decent number of nameless enemies that can level up and stay with you for the rest of the game.
  6. Equipment: The game has no items or equipment.
  7. Game flow: 29 stages, one after the other. A code can be used to repeat maps if necessary.
  8. Saving: Any time.
  9. Death: Not permanent

I believe this is the only Macross franchise game that will appear on this blog. Macross appears in a number of Super Robot Wars games, but this is the only SRPG for Macross alone. I'm afraid that Macross fans will not find a great deal to like in the story. The story elements are mostly borrowed from the original Macross series and Macross II, and the format of the game makes the characters underdeveloped. 

On the other hand, the story is pretty good for a 1992 RPG. Masaya used the same technique as in Lady Phantom (and that they'll later repeat in the PCE remake of Langrisser) of using one short voiced cutscene before each stage. This is followed by a description of the situation and stage, and then some pre-battle dialogue. The crucial thing missing is dialogue between the missions, which would have fleshed out the characters more -- but once again, few games have that in 1992. The use of the vocal song (Ai Oboeteimasu ka) near the end of the game is a nice touch. 

I wonder why the only characters from the original series to appear in the game are Britai and Exsedol. 

From a gameplay standpoint, they did a good job of integrating the 3 forms of the Valkyries into the game. The idea that the plane fighter form has the lowest evade rate doesn't really make sense, but I found that all three forms were useful at different times. The level-based upgrades also add some interest and give you some new things to play with as the stages progress. The stages also have a huge number of NPCs, and they become part of the strategic calculations in each stage even if they die quickly. The decision to give you permanent grunt units is interesting as well; even though they are way behind your main characters in ability, they can actually accomplish a fair amount.

My main criticism about the gameplay is the lack of variety. This is to some extent dictated by the franchise, but it gets a little boring to fight the same Zentradi and Meltrandi units for 29 stages. Your player characters are also mostly the same. At least the win conditions and nature of the maps are distinct, so it's not just "kill all enemies" in every stage.

Of course the visuals and audio are great; this is the period where the PC Engine could run circles around all the other consoles when it came to graphics and sound.

Overall I had fun with this game.

Next up is the last original Famicom game on my list -- Just Breed, which has a recent fan translation.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 21-29)

Stage 21

The enemies are somewhat strong, but they're weak enough that area-effect grenades tear them apart.

Stage 22

Nothing too tough here. There's a wall of NPCs in front of you but just advancing slowly and taking out the units squad by squad is easy.

Stage 23

You can either beat all enemies or have Quamzin's ship escape to the right. I just let him escape; it takes a while but then it's not necessary to beat all the enemies.

Stage 24

I finally got Misty's final unit in this stage, where she can send out two funnels. The funnels don't do a lot of damage, but they are basically impossible to hit and their low HP attract enemy fire, so they're incredibly useful. Getting Misty and Kiryuu to level 18 as quickly as possible makes this game much easier.

Stage 25

Kiryuu's funnels came here. This is the first of a few inside maps; the Prometheus can't move from the initial spot but it's still not too tough. The funnels have such high move that even if the reinforcements surprise you, they can distract them enough that the ship won't get taken out.

Stage 26

Quamzin's new mech is the target; with most of the upgraded mechs this wasn't that hard.

Stage 27

This stage is fairly challenging. You have 20 turns to survive, or beat the enemies. I started off by moving down and sending the funnels up. This distracted the enemies enough that I could clean up the bottom of the map and then move up and take out the rest. Brittai shows up but is no help.

Stage 28

I believe reinforcements are endless on this stage so all you can do is head to the right and get the Prometheus to the right side of the screen. 

Stage 29

For the last stage you only get Kiryuu and Misty, which would be bad if they're not in their final forms. The funnels can distract the enemies long enough for you to beat Quamzin, which is the real goal. I got confused because after you beat Quamzin, he appears again in a weak grunt unit, and you have to kill that to finish the stage. I didn't notice this and just headed up to where the supposed boss is, but there's nothing you can do there. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 11-20)

As I said in the last entry, this is probably the only time I will do a full stream playthrough -- in the future I will stream one or two sessions and the blog the rest.

Stage 11

They keep increasing the number of grunt player units you have. They're not great, but they can take some hits, draw enemy fire, and often have one or two shots of a decent weapon they can fire off. Using them well can make the stages a bit easier.

The Meltrandi in this stage are tough, but Misty comes in to help out after a while.

Stage 12

One interesting thing about this game is how few of the stages are just your guys vs. an enemy force. Most of the time there are NPC federation units, or a double enemy (Meltrandi and Zentradi, fighting each other and you).

Stage 13

This is another stage where we have to prevent the enemies from getting to the town. The enemies are somewhat strong, but overall the mission was OK.

Stage 14

This is more fighting against Lyle. It's a short mission because all you have to do is get Kiryuu to the edge of the map. I killed some of the units but then just bailed out when things looked bad.

Stage 15

Now Misty has officially joined the team. She and Kiryuu have the best final upgrade mechs at level 18, but that won't happen for a while. Incidentally, this game gets much easier when people get to their final upgrades (particularly Misty, Kiryuu, Guy, and Grey). A lot of people have Armored Valkyrie as a final upgrade choice but they're not very good.

Stage 16

Another relatively easy stage, with both Zentradi and Meltrandi.

Stage 17

This is it for the Meltrandi, another three way fight with tons of NPC units. Not a hard stage because of everything going on.

Stage 18

The traitor Lyle is back to fight us again. Maria has joined, a daughter of Max and Milia. I think she may have been in the previous Macross 2036 game; there's really no development of her character at all.

The video also contains a failure of stage 19.

Stage 19

This is the hardest stage so far (I'm up to 26 now). The problem is that there are a lot of tough units in the initial set, and then there are reinforcements with tough units as well. Getting Kiryuu or Misty to level 18 before this stage would help a lot. As it is, I stayed near the center of the map and fought the units as they got close. This let things go slowly enough that I was able to use all my PC grunts to absorb hits and do a little damage, and even though I lost some units, I did win in the end.

Stage 20 

Lyle has now joined the team. He's the best unit after Kiryuu and Misty, and also gets a nice upgrade at level 18. Those three can usually be sent into the middle of the units and they'll be OK.

9 more stages.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Game 13 - Macross: Eien no Love Song (Stages 1-10)

Macross: Eternal Love Song (マクロス 永遠のラブソング)
Release Date: 12/4/1992
System: PC Engine
Developer: Masaya Games
Publisher: Nihon Computer

Another game from Masaya. This one is developed by both Masaya and Big West. After Studio Nue did the original Macross, Big West followed it up with Macross II and a few games (including this one), before Nue returned to Macross production with Macross Plus. So this is a non-canonical game.

I have been streaming the stages for this game, so I'm going to link the videos and then just briefly summarize them -- in the future I will probably only stream once for each game, to introduce it, and then just blog post the rest. But let me know what you think I should do.

 (The microphone audio starts off too low, but I fix it within the first 8 minutes or so).

Stage 1

After an opening scene that just summarizes the original Macross, we start with two main characters -- Kiryuu and Letradi, who are test pilots for new Valkyries. Of course Zentradi attack and we have to take them on.

The Valkyries can change into three forms, just like in the show.
  • The plane fighters, which have the best movement but crappy stats in everything else (even dodge, which is odd)
  • The Gerwalks, which have medium stats and do not take movement penalty for terrain, and get terrain bonuses
  • The Batroids, which have the best stats, and are affected by terrain for both movement and the stat bonus.
The game does a pretty good job of making the various forms useful. The fighter is definitely the least useful form, but it's sometimes necessary when you have to move far. It can't be relied on at all for combat, though.

The first stage is easy as long as you go to Batroid form and sit on the base.

Stage 2

Kiryuu and Letradi are now part of an actual squad, and they have to go after some Zentradi. They try the Minmay Attack (song) but it doesn't work.

This is a tough stage! Our squad is very small, there aren't many NPCs, and there are a fair number of enemies. I actually thought this was one of the hardest stages of the first 14. Beating the ship will finish the stage. I used the mothership a lot.

Stage 3

Qwamzin from the original Macross is back, on the enemy side, although he's not the commander. They're trying to use the Minmay Attack to take over the galaxy, and have developed a defense.

This stage is much easier than the last one. Meltrandi appear and help you out with some of the Zentradi.

This game takes from Langrisser the idea of changing classes on level up, although in this case it's changing to different types of units. This makes a huge difference. 

Stage 4

One interesting aspect of this game is that you often have a lot of NPCs on the stage, and they aren't completely useless. They often soften up or even kill some of the units before you get there. Not a hard stage.

Stage 5

In this stage there's a time limit, but it's extremely generous. I had no trouble beating it in the time given. We also meet the Meltrandi pilot Misty, who is occupying the role of Milia from the original Macross (she's the one on the cover image).

Stage 6

Misty enters the battlefield for the first time here. She's tough, and I had to restart once because I moved my guys forward too aggressively. I was not able to beat her -- I had to rely on NPCs, unfortunately.

Stage 7

Vs. Meltrandi. Once again there are a lot of fairly useful NPCs, and we also start getting some grunt units that actually stay with the team and can level up. Misty goes into the human towns to spy, so we know what that means.

Stage 8

I actually got a game over in this stage because I took the Prometheus too far forward and got it killed by a bunch of enemies who all attacked it together.

This stage has a lot of useful NPCs but they can't all die or it's game over, so this is somewhat tricky -- what makes it doable is that the goal is just to beat the enemy commander's ship, which can be done before everyone dies even if you hang back at the beginning and let the enemies come to you.

After this stage I started getting the chooseable upgrades. Usually there's one unit with a short range weapon and then missiles or grenades (so you have to go back to the ship a lot to resupply) and the other one with a beam weapon that lasts longer.

Stage 9

Misty and Kiryu have a date.

I was afraid this would be a hard mission because you lose if enemies enter the city, but it takes them a long time to get there and I don't think it's a big concern.

Stage 10 

This is not a hard stage because the NPCs are so effective. I actually restarted once to try to get XP from Misty for my own guys, but I couldn't do it on the second try either.

So far the game's not bad for 1992; it compares favorably with the Super Robot Wars games that were out around this time (at least SRW 2).