Monday, February 24, 2020

Game 30 - Power of the Hired wrap-up


  1. Turn type: Player/enemy turns.
  2. Maps: Medium. Terrain gives bonuses.
  3. Character Customization: None, although through the summon monster system each character can have their spells on an ad-hoc basis (see the introduction post)
  4. Character Development: Standard XP level system.
  5. Party Size: Max 4 summoners, each with 2 summons (12 total).
  6. Equipment: None
  7. Game Flow: 18 stages, no alternate paths, no repeating.
  8. Saving: You can save between battles, and make one in-battle save.
  9. Death: If the summoned monsters die, they just leave for that battle. If any of the 4 human characters die, it's game over.


I feel like this game had interesting ideas, but didn't quite implement them as well as they could have. I like the idea of the summoned monsters increasing the stats of the summoner and contributing to their magic. But requiring them to be adjacent to the caster limits the use of magic a lot, especially since you can't move and cast, and most battles have something pushing you forward in the battle. I can understand the designers not wanting you to just sit and cast spells, but the MP are already relatively limited. Perhaps making some of the spells not quite so powerful could have helped there.

It would have also been nice if the monsters themselves had some additional powers or skills; as it is, all the monsters are basically the same except some can attack from two spaces away. 

The story is just an underdeveloped tissue of cliches. I know most RPG plots are, but this seemed especially derivative and lazy. There's supposed to be a whole empire attacking, but the Emperor just appears in a field to fight you for no clear reason. The main characters are way too quick to forgive Alef, who has killed innocent people to the point where everyone knows him as the Bloody Fang.

The game is playable and no aspect of the game (other than the story) is bad, but I just feel like there's so much more they could have done with the concept. Some of the stages have good ideas, like the dragon charging up his breath, or the octopus with the tentacles. More of those would have been appreciated.


That's it for 1994! 1995 has a lot of big names -- Front Mission, Der Langrisser, Tactics Ogre, Arc the Lad, etc.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Game 30 - Power of the Hired (Part 2)

Stages 6-18 will be covered in this post; the rest of the game. One thing I realized after the last post is that it's better to look at which types of magic each character is good with and pair them with summons that increase those types, so that you can cast the most powerful attack and healing magic.

(I think I accidentally deleted my screenshots of levels 6-8)

In stage 6 we're still going after the main character's brother. This takes place in a graveyard, with necromancers bringing weak undead out of the ground. The graves will run out of bodies after a while, leaving just the mages left to be killed.

Stage 7 requires you to defeat Alef; he starts running away after a few turns so you have to hurry up and get him. A common strategy for me in this game was to sacrifice the summons so that the summoners could survive long enough to get close to the boss and use all their attack spells to kill it. Which is what I did here.

Stage 8 is the last stage of chasing Alef. Like an idiot, he's being used by the Emperor, but once the Emperor comes in and tells him that he apologizes and joins our side. Of course that makes everyone completely ignore all the innocents he's killed, but that's usual for anime/games.

Now we have to chase the emperor. Stage 9 is vs. a dragon:

But we don't have to beat the dragon. All we have to do is get one summoner to the top of the screen by turn 6, which is not too hard.

Stage 10 is a castle with nasty spirits hiding in the walls that come out after us.

On Stage 11, the Emperor just appears for no reason in the middle of a field with not very many troops, and he's not very hard. The game does generally a poor job of making you think that there's an actual empire you're fighting. This stage is surprisingly easy.

It also follows a pattern that many of the later stages do. The essential strategic difficulty in this game is that using magic takes your entire turn. So you can't move and use magic, but most of the stages force you move in order to win (as in this stage, where the reinforcements are endless and the Emperor won't come chase you). So you have to slowly move forward.

In Stage 12 we're heading home and we come across a village where monsters are attacking; strangely given the Emperor is dead. So instead of going home we decide to head for Brozen mountain, where the monsters seem to be coming from. Stage 13 is on our way there; of course the Emperor is back. He's trying to open a magic gate to bring forth a demon that he can control to rule everything.

Stage 14 is against this huge octopus thing with tentacles. The game gets much harder from here on out.

Basically you have to beat all the tentacles first (which is not easy) and then take turns moving in to kill him, with some attack buffs.

Stage 15 is the toughest one in the game. All the enemies start in range. You only need to kill the vampire to win, but it's hard to survive long enough to do that (since any magic user dying is game over). Movement on the first few turns is important, as is Sleep spells and such. If you can survive to the second or third turn the stage can be won, but it took me several tries. Making sure that Alef and Lim (who start in the middle) can cast attack magic is a good thing.

In Stage 16, you have to have someone reach the cave entrance. This seems really hard at first because of the sheer number of monsters, but the important part is that the volcano eruptions on the stage hurt them as well as you, so a lot of them get killed or waste their turns healing.

Stage 17 and 18 are very similar. Both have a boss (Vampire for 17, Emperor for 18) who starts very far away, with endless reinforcements. So as I said above, you have to proceed slowly, keep your summoned units alive so magic can be cast, and then at some point abandon the summons and make a mad dash for the boss. I thought 18 was easier and managed to keep most of the units alive.

After the Emperor is beaten, the gate closes, and we all return home to our lives.

This is a game with a lot of good ideas but not great execution; I'll say more in the wrapup.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Game 30 - Power of the Hired (Super Famicom)

Power of the Hired (パワー オブ ザ ハイアード)
Release Date: 12/22/1994
System: Super Famicom
Developer: Nihon Computer System
Publisher: Masaya

The final 1994 game is a rather obscure game published by Masaya for the Super Famicom. The name is kind of strange, but refers to the "hired" (summoned monsters) giving magical powers to the summoners. It seems overall like a fairly short and light game.

The backstory is that the main character (Kurisu as usual) is from a village of monster users, who are distrusted by others. Kurisu's older brother Alef and his friend Rim are leaving for the capital of the kingdom, and the first battle starts while seeing them off.

This is sort of a prologue battle because there aren't any summoned monsters yet so you're just attacking (although Kurisu can use a few spells). The goal is to save the villagers from the monsters, which isn't very hard. After this, the story jumps forward a few years as Kurisu leaves the village herself. Word is that summoners are working for the kingdom, which Kurisu finds unacceptable -- they're supposed to stay neutral from politics and wars. So she sets out to see what's going on. The first real battle pits her against a group of thieves, who have set fire to the area (which slowly advances).

Before each battle, each character selects two monsters. Which monsters they can select are determined by their level.

The monster select screen

Each monster, in addition to their stats, has  獣魔法 numbers at the bottom. In this case, the Wolfman has 4 in every stat. If the monster is adjacent to the summoner, these numbers will be added to the summoner's own numbers to determine what magic they can use. The monsters can level up themselves and gain stats. If a monster is defeated, they leave for that battle. If a summoner (any summoner) is defeated, game over.

Since there is no equipment or items, that's pretty much the game system. The summoners gain MP back each turn, so using the magic is fairly free although you have to use it before moving. Many battles force you to move to complete the mission objectives, so that does limit the ability to use magic. For instance, in this second battle the fire will engulf your troops if you stay in one place for too long.

Every attack is followed by a counterattack (if the defender is in range).

Using magic
Dino comes in after a while, he's more fighting oriented.

So on stage 3 and after I tended to give the more magic options to Kurisu and let Dino have the others.

Stage 3 has us trying to defend a town from some monsters attacking; and it turns out that Alef is in command of them. Rim is hesitant to attack Kurisu, but Alef is now working for the kingdom, and anyone in his way will be defeated. He leaves before we can actually reach him, and there start being reinforcements on this stage. There are also enemy summoners with their own magic, which can be nasty. There is a heal command that everyone has, though, that restores a bit of HP to themselves. It can't be used post move.

On Stage 4 we continue to chase Alef across a bridge, but he breaks the bridge down. One segment crumbles behind you every turn so you have to move forward. The first time I was too quick and got a game over from being swarmed; the second time I just made sure I stayed ahead of the bridge and did fine despite two waves of reinforcements (again, Alef and Rim leave).

On Stage 5, the goal is to protect an allied commander for 15 turns. He gets endless reinforcements, as does Alef, and Rim blocks our way upwards. I found the commander didn't really need that much help, and I thought the enemies were too strong for me to defeat Alf, so I just waited out the 15 turns defeating whatever soldiers got near me.

I also got access to some new monsters -- the gargoyle thing and the Shadow.

There are 18 stages so the game is not very long as a whole; I'll probably have it beaten in a few more days.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Game 29 - Albert Odyssey 2

Albert Odyssey 2 (アルバートオデッセイII 邪神の胎動)
Release Date: 12/22/1994
System: Super Famicom
Developer: Sunsoft

When I created this blog as an additional project to my Super Nintendo one, I intentionally did not make rules about how long I would play each game. My list of games right now has over 500 games -- a good chunk of those are remakes/ports that I won't be playing, but that's still a lot of games. Too many for me to suffer through a game I don't really want to play.

This is the direct sequel to Albert Odyssey, a game I covered before. I didn't like the game all that much. What makes this game stand out is the decision to have the entire world map be an SRPG-style dungeon. This wasn't the only problem with the original game, but most of what was bad about the game stemmed from that. Although AO2 solves some of the issues with the original game, the "world map is one big battle" idea still basically ruins the game for me.

The game begins by repeating the sudden ending of the previous game, and then switching 10 years later, with a princess named Yuna and her mom running from the Lukrenan kingdom, pursued by dragon riders. She crashes near where the main character (Kurisu) is training with Wiseman. The Queen soon dies, entrusting her daughter to the care of the king.

The next day, the harbor town Maurina is taken over by Lukrenan, and a general comes to the king to ask for Yuna back. The king refuses, and we need Albert's help. Kurisu goes out to his hometown to find him.

Right off the bat there are three big improvements made to the game:
  • The item and shop interface is much better than in AO1. AO1's manual actually tells you to save before you buy things because you can't tell who can equip what.
  • The map no longer rotates constantly while people are moving.
  • In AO1, getting into a town was frustrating. You had to move each person into the town individually, and it took forever. Now, the main character just has to move to the town (when no one else has taken a turn) and everyone moves in.
The battle system is basically the same as the first except MP have been added (in AO1 you could use any skill as many times as you want), and hit rates are much lower. Each character attacks twice, although counterattacks can happen as well (cancelling the attack). It's rather unpredictable.

Kurisu learns that Albert has gone on a journey to find a way to cure Sophia (who is in a magical sleep), so Kurisu heads out to free Maurina from the invaders. Meanwhile Yuna is captured so we then have another task ahead of us.

Morse, a priest, and Claire, a magician, join to fill out the team. But now we go to Maurina and there don't seem to be any invaders -- I'm not sure exactly what happened there. Instead, the characters hire a captain to take them over the sea to Bekutora. From Bekutora, we fight through to the city of Akos. Now there are two routes -- an optional dungeon to the north and a shrine to the south. I went to the dungeon first, which has treasure chests. The keys for these chests have to be purchased in the town, which used most of my money.

A useful mini-map
The dungeon levels are very small, meaning you quickly get overwhelmed. I did beat all the enemies on the first floor and recover the chests, but Wiseman died. I wasn't too concerned because revival is cheap at churches, so I headed back to Akos (moving just Kurisu, it took 2-3 minutes). No church in Akos. So I headed back to Bekutran (another 2-3 minutes). No church. I had the captain take me back to Maurina, where I could revive, and then headed back to Bekutran. Some enemies had respawned, so it was going to take another 20 minutes or so just to get back to the dungeon. AO1 had items that could warp you back to towns, but they seem to have been removed from this game.

And that's where I stopped. As I said above, the "world map is one big battlefield" concept just doesn't work, at least in the way Albert Odyssey has implemented it. I'm not aware of any other SRPGs that do this, and playing AO and AO2 it's easy to see why. Even Sunsoft abandoned the concept, and the next time we see Albert Odyssey is the "Gaiden" game for the Saturn that Western players are more familiar with.

 I'll be curious to see if any other title does try this at some point. But having to spend 30-40 minutes to revive a character is ridiculous. I could probably power through this game because it's not all that long, but with 500+ games ahead of me it makes sense to move on.

Here are two other very negative reviews of the game, one from RPGGamer, and the other from GameFAQs.

Next will be the final game of 1994, an overlooked Masaya game called Power of the Hired.