Thursday, January 28, 2021

Game 49 - Sengoku Cyber (Part 2, last)

Stage 8

Remember how the game encourages you to distinguish between your fighting force and your home team that makes money and items? Well here's a series of four stages where you have to use a specific set of 4 people plus 1 of your choice. You can't change their equipment at any point because that can only be done at the dispatch screen.

Actually it turned out to not be so bad; fortunately they make the enemies fairly week so you can catch your lower level people up. But mine had none of their special skills because I had just been using them to make money.

 Stage 9

My dogs had babies.

This stage is where we're trying to steal guns and fireworks from the enemies. The boss has an annoying move that he randomly uses from time to time to shoot someone from anywhere on the map. There are a lot of hidden and optional characters here that you need to take specific characters to get. And then they're not very helpful, but at least it's more people.

Stage 10

This is a rough stage. We still just have all these predetermined groups and the grunt enemies in this stage are very strong. They also have more of these undefined-range moves that they can use from al over the place. You basically have to make sure that nobody drops too low in HP or they'll get picked off. There's also a secret character you have to reach in 14 turns, although I managed to do it even though I wasn't trying that hard.

Stage 11

This stage is really long. You have to beat all the enemies, plus there are reinforcements (more of those guys from stage 10). You get 5 guys from the hidden village after a while, but it still takes a really long time to beat and has even more of those annoying "hit you from across the map" enemies.


So this is the point where I'm going to give up on the game. It's a shame because it has good ideas in it. There is a wide variety of characters and skills, and the "hidden village" segment between stages has a lot of potential in letting you give your non-fighting characters something to do. But the designers torpedoed everything with a series of bad design decisions. To sum up all the negatives:

  • The cursor sensitivity is way too high. (This is not an emulation issue, it's mentioned on the kusoge wiki entry for the game)
  • The maps are too large for the content, and it's hard to see them. If it weren't for the inset map the game would be nearly unplayable.
  • There's just too little information on the whole. Enemies seem to have undefined ranges for their abilities and you have to be careful because the boss might suddenly use an attack from halfway across the map targeted at your weak healer. With permadeath and no in-battle saves this is a problem.
  • The game encourages you to have your fighting force and then your "village" units. But then they have forced deploys and secrets that rely on using specific characters.
  • Too much content is hidden with no hints. The "true" ending is impossible to get without a walkthrough, and even with a walkthrough it's tough. If you don't move the main character in front of a little shrine on stage 4 (with no hints indicating you should do so), you permanently lose access to all the main character's unique sword abilities. Almost all the equippable weapons can only be gotten by finding them in hidden spaces on the 31x31 maps; there are no clues so that means 961 potential squares. I'm not even sure the instruction manual tells you these hidden items exist.
  • The village part is interesting, but they need to provide more information on what you're actually doing with your choices.
  • The battles on the whole are slow moving. 
  • Apparently there are also a lot of freezes and glitches; I didn't encounter any of these but they're a common complaint about the game.

I said in the last post I was going to make a little guide for the true ending but without actually doing the things myself I can't understand some of the conditions, so I'll just leave the walkthrough site up there. But you won't get the ending following this stage by stage.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Game 49 - Sengoku Cyber

Sengoku Cyber: Fujimaru Jigoku-hen (戦国サイバー 藤丸地獄変)
Released 10/27/1995, developed by Pandora Box, published by Sony

Another Playstation game. This time I am using the Duckstation emulator, which allows for higher "internal resolution". What this means is that the assets on the disc get displayed at a higher resolution than the original hardware allowed for -- as I understand it, this is not the same as upscaling. It's more like avoiding the downscaling that happened on original hardware. It does make a difference, especially in the sharpness of the text and character illustrations.

 Despite the name, this game seems to have no science fiction or cyberpunk elements at all, at least not on the surface. It's based on legendary material about ninjas in the Sengoku period (pretty much anything you see about ninja in video games or anime is based on Edo and Meiji period pop culture and has no historical basis). According to the story, Takeda Shingen was raising a group of people in a hidden village to become super ninja. This includes the main character Fujimaru, who is a typical shonen manga hero -- rude and brash.
The game is considered a kusoge by Japanese players and I see why -- I don't find it unplayably terrible, but it sabotages its own systems with poor design decisions.

The system is a pretty standard one. You move around on a map and use attacks -- each character has special abilities they can learn which are range 1, 2, or the whole visible map(!). Each character has a weapon and 4 items; the items include armor and other stat increases. Each enemy has certain resistances and weaknesses, but there's no way to find out what they are, and the instructions don't even tell you these exist (for instance, some enemies have high defense vs. sword attacks).

One of the major features of this game is that between maps, you spend time in the hidden village. Each character can take one action per 2 hour period you're there. They include developing new weapons and items, earning money, raising stats, and learning new abilities or magics. This is an interesting system because you have a very large party and it gives you something to do with your non-fighting characters. However, there are some bad design decisions that make this more annoying than it should be.

First, the game gives absolutely no information about how this process actually works. You can take an action to develop new medicines. But what does that mean? Is it a percentage chance? Are you building up points? Is there a difference between 3 people doing it twice each and one person doing it 6 times? Does it depend on the character's stat? This is true for every ability, so that you really have very little clue about what the village actions you're taking actually do. The results screen is also confusing and makes it hard to tell what you actually got.

The second problem is that the system encourages you to distinguish between fighting units and non-fighting units, so that you can have your non-fighting people earn money and research items. But then you need specific characters to get the "true ending", and in stage 8 you suddenly have a forced party of 4 characters + 1 of your choice. (The "true ending", incidentally, is impossible to get without a guide.)

Stage 1


You may be able to see from that picture, but the main map is extremely hard to interpret. If they didn't have that inset map down at the bottom left I think this game would be almost unplayable. There's also an annoyance with the controller where the input is way too sensitive and you often find yourself not able to select where you want. I thought this might be an emulation issue but I saw it listed as a major complaint of original players as well.

In the first stage, they come out of the hidden village because some bandits have appeared nearby. Also, there are women who are being attacked by them. Fujimaru doesn't really care about the women, he just wants to beat the bandits. However, if you talk to them during the battle they'll join, and most of them have healing spells so the stage as a whole is pretty easy. I didn't bother trying to beat all the enemies. I think you would have to take some units around to the top right to do that, but it's only a few extra.

The women turn out to be kunoichi (female ninja) trained by Mochizuki Chiyome, another probably legendary figure. They've come to let us know that Takeda Shingen is dead, and that we are now free. The women are also free because Chiyome has died too, and they decide to live in the hidden village with us. The narration informs us that we're free, but now have no idea what to do, and will be the target of other ninja who don't like the idea of masterless ninja running around. 

Stage 2

Here we get a ninja named Kato Danzo coming out with a group to try to defeat our party. He runs when defeated. I just took my characters around to the left.

This time in the village sequence I did actually develop some new medicines and items, and people learned skills. 

Stage 3


The Iga Ninja are coming after us. This time the 3 leaders decide not to fight us, so it's all grunts. I took my guys around in a spiral through the left. After we win, word starts to spread that we beat the Iga clan, which is not great for us.

Kaname can recruit one of the grunts in this mission (at the top right) by standing in front of him (down from him on the map).

Stage 4

The next three stages are a sequence so you can't switch characters. Annoyingly, there's a specific character you have to send out in this stage so that she'll be out in the next stage. Then she can get an item which will unlock a secret stage after stage 22, a necessity for getting the true ending. This is all without any hints at all. The obscurity of this was a complaint about the game when it came out, and I'm going to make a post after I finish listing all the secrets in case anyone wants to play later. (This is far from the worst game design decision, though)

This stage we're up against a bunch of wolves. When we beat the leader, it turns out he was a ninja trained wolf that was set free and fell in with this pack. If you choose to spare his life he joins with his dog girlfriend. You apparently get different characters if you kill him.

Stage 5

More Iga ninja battles. This stage has an oddity where you take a guy we recruited in the last battle and move him in front of every enemy until we find his sister. For some reason his sister has been turned into a ninja or something, and begs us to kill her. If you do, you get a memento.

Stage 6 


Yet more Iga ninja. One of the bosses has a really annoying attack that hits everyone on the board, including the weak dog girlfriend who kept dying from full HP. Finally I managed to not have him use it (I'm not entirely sure how) and I did win.

Stage 7


This is annoying. Fujimaru decides we need to go after the Iga clan, and you're required to take everyone but 5 people out. The remaining 5 people then have to defend the hidden against another ninja tribe that comes to attack. I tried this a number of times and was unable to beat it, so I used a cheap trick -- I left just one person behind, Gokuraku (who has the highest movement). I just moved him away from the enemies as fast as possible and waited until turn 11 when the stage ends.

I wouldn't say this game is terrible, but it's not great. I hope it doesn't take me too long to finish but I still have 18 stages left, and the game is not easy.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Game 50 - Farland Story 2 (Stages 14-25)

 Stage 14

By diverting a stream to flood the area, we manage to disarray the forces of the Empire and save Parakel. The legendary summoner Aldenarra joins, although his power is only half-awakened. He does suggest that Shifil ride on Rikid, and he's now a dragon rider. Now on the suggestion of the king of Parakel we head north to a village that supposedly has a remnant of Sarena's people -- if they tried to use her Dance of Destruction for their own ends, they'll surely try to go after the village.

Stage 15

Unfortunately we're too late -- the Empire has already destroyed all of Sarena's people, leaving only the spirit Shunare behind. After clearing away the Imperial troops, a voice calls out to Sarena and the party is drawn into a tree.

Stage 16

Inside the tree is Linus. He tells Sarena that she was sent to the Empire as a child with no memory so that they would have someone to survive the Empire's attack which they foresaw. He tells Sarena that if she can defeat the Chimera, all will be revealed.

Sarena dances the Dance of Destruction to defeat the Chimera. Linus tells her that the dance is capable of destroying the entire world and restarting from the beginning, and that their people is charged with using it when the world becomes unbalanced between dark and light. As he dies he tells Sarena to use the dance wisely. The group sets out for the Empire.

Stage 17

This stage has a bunch of elephant riders, and Barnasus again. He tries to run away when he gets attacked, but the whole party makes fun of him and he decides to stay and fight.


Stage 18

Riad and company arrive at Lowdos Island to try to get support for their fight, even though Lowdos is currently having a civil war. Weiss the sharkman shows up to have the final showdown with Riad. Even though Riad was too weak for me to face him, the game still acts like Riad was the one who killed him.

Stage 19

We use a tunnel to enter the Empire secretly. Unfortunately Gibegora, who is the advisor to the Emperor, knew we were coming and placed Ark (controlled by magic) to fight us. But we beat him and turn him back to normal. He frees all his companions and goes back to Farselia while we continue on.

Stage 20

The final showdown with Zoldin, who fights us because he's an Imperial general. But when defeated, he gives the Breakstone to Riad and tells us to beware of Gibegora.

Stage 21

This stage is the worst example of the too-large battlefields that this series is plagued with; it took me over 20 minutes just to move up to where the fights could start, and that's with speeding through the enemy turns.

A dragon guards the gate to the palace, the same one that killed Rikid's mother. But he's easy. This is the last stage with shops so I spent all my money on stat up items. Once we beat the dragon, a huge force shows up, but fortunately Ark and the various kingdoms we've passed through show up with reinforcements to deal with them, so we can move on to the palace.

Stage 22

Riad's older brother, the Crown Prince, is lying in wait, although he's suffering from some kind of illness. After beating the enemies, he tries to take on Riad, but Sarkrus (a winged woman on our team) intervenes and dies separating them. It turns out she was a spy for the Empire, because she loved Riad's brother. Riad's brother stops fighting and tells them to save the Emperor their father, and the only way is to kill him. Ever since the Queen died, he has longed for a world without war, and this allowed Gibegora to use some kind of magic to influence him. He won't listen to anyone else any longer. Zoldin tried to find out who Gibegora really is but they never could.

Stage 23

Riad arrives at the throne room, where his father and Gibegora are. Gibegora leaves, and the Emperor turns into a demon. Riad tells him that his brother is dead, but the Emperor says he no longer needs an heir because he's immortal. He asks Riad to join him anyway, but he refuses. Once you kill the Emperor, he comes back to his senses and asks Riad to guide the kingdom in the right way, the way his mother would have wanted.

Stage 24

We continue through the palace. At the end of the stage, the summoner Aldennara tells us that Gibegora and he are the same race; they're the final beings created by the gods, with some of the power of the gods themselves. But Gibegora has become drunk on his own power so Aledennara was sent to destroy him. Since his power still isn't fully back, that's up to us instead.

Stage 25 

Gibegora absorbs the party into his body(!?). Aldennara is not there, and tells us to take out the heart in order to defeat him. We succeed, and Sarena dances the Destruction to defeat him (since it's in a separate universe, like the dream world from earlier, it doesn't destroy the real world). Riad becomes king with Sarena as his queen, and everyone else returns to their lives.



My review: Do not play this game unless you like having a useless main character and spending over half your time in the game just moving each unit one by one up to where the battles are. Just don't play it. Don't waste your time, it's too valuable!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Game 50 - Farland Story 2 (Stages 1-13)

Farland Story 2: Dance of Destruction (ファーランドストーリー ~破亡の舞~)
Released 12/22/1995, developed by TGL, released by Banpresto 

This is the second (and last) Farland Story game for the SFC. Since it came out within a year of the first one it's probably not a surprise that there's not much advance on the previous. Unlike the previous game which was a remake of several PC games, this is a completely original game following off the first one, taking place maybe 20 years later.

I skipped the first one because it was so bland and boring -- this game is also bland and boring but I guess it was just slightly better enough for me to play it. They did make a few advances on the gameplay of the first one. By equipping different items you can do some different attacks -- some people can heal or attack, others have a range or close attack. They also abandoned the hex map of the first game. But ultimately this game still isn't very good.

The main problem is the balance. Throughout most of the game, enemies can kill your characters in 1-2 hits. This isn't a big problem because any healer can bring them back to life (you can heal again to immediately use them, or wait a turn and they'll be at full HP). But if Riad dies it's game over. So he's largely unusable. I also found that characters who fell behind in levels became useless as well.

The maps are also way too large, and you spend a good deal of your time just moving your units one by one at very low movement rates until you encounter the enemies. I just recommend skipping this game.

Stage 1

The main character Riad is the son of the Emperor, but he stays away from the castle hunting, with no interest in war. But his father wants to use his childhood friend Sarena to do the secret "Dance of Destruction", which can destroy kingdoms. Riad instead takes her and runs away, with the Emperor sending troops after.

This is actually a tough starting stage; the enemies hit hard and you only have two dudes. I got one game over and thought I was going to die against the boss but managed to squeak it out. There are shops but they didn't seem to sell anything useful.

Why can't you turn off the battle animations? This is 1995! 


Stage 2

Riad reaches a port city that is supposed to be free of war; nobody fights there because it would disrupt trade. But the Emperor is so desperate to stop Riad that he attacks. Riad is now joined by a wolfman friend Klaus, as well as a demon Varacana (also a friend). The enemies are basically the same strength as stage 1 so this is much easier. 

Afterwards, they head to Felsaria, where King Ark (from the first game) rules. They hope to find shelter there and a place to hide.

 Stage 3

The Emperor's men have reached Felsaria before Riad, and they spread rumors that Riad had attacked and burned villages there. Kai, a knight, refuses to believe this and is also branded a traitor. The captain of the ship we took also joins us (Altaba). The bad stuff seems to be done by Barnasas, a demon.

I realized on this level that if you equip Sarena with the Heal Ring you can have her heal party members on her turn instead of attack. This game also has the same shop system as last time, where you can buy things if you start your turn on a shop. It does not seem to have the treasure chests/spots, though.


Stage 4

Kai agrees to escort us to King Ark, but on the way we come across Eria, who Kai knows, being pursued by enemies, so time to save her. Kai's dad Docati is actually leading the enemy troops, but once we beat him, Sarena's dance makes him realize what's going on. 

Barnasas is here, but I don't think he can be beaten; he's way above our levels and runs away after one attack.


Stage 5

King Ark believes our story of course, and goes on his own to meet with Riad's father, which doesn't seem like a good idea. Meanwhile a fake Riad attacks (he's the one who had been besmirching Riad's name). Ark's son Shifil joins, as well as Docati from the last stage and a wizard Neiful.

There are enemies in various places here so I split up my party. Fake Riad was moving too quickly towards my forces so I just had Varacard buy all the equipment that the whole party will need, and I will distribute it next stage. I also have a bunch of items I've gotten from killing things that I need to do this too -- of course this is all the way back to Fire Emblem 1 level of interface where you can't manage items except individually in battle.

Stage 6

Ark has gone off but not returned, and now Imperial soldiers have arrived at Felsaria. Riad decides to try to get back to Felsaria; unfortunately Ark took their magic ship so they'll have to find their own way. After beating the Imperial troops, they learn from one of them that Ark is probably shut up in a fortress, and the Imperial army is trying to convince a white dragon to work with them to attack Felsaria. So that's our next goal.

This map has a secret shop that sells "lucky" weapons. I'm not sure what they do, but I bought a lucky sword to find out. 


Stage 7

Barnasas, the demon, has convinced the white dragon that we're the enemies. His father pledged to King Ark 15 years ago to protect Felsaria. But when Rikido (the white dragon) smells Shifil, he recognizes him as Ark's son and realizes that Barnasas tricked him. So now we have a dragon on the team, and continue to try to find a ship. 

Stage 8

The ship turns out to be Silent Moon, the magic ship that got us here in the first place. So we're really not stealing anything. Along the way we pick up Doris, a summoner. This game has one advance on FS1 in that characters do have multiple moves -- Doris, the dragon, Sarena, and a few others. But it's done through a cumbersome manner. You have to "equip" either the tail or the breath attack. You can freely change weapons but it seems like they tried to graft a multiple attack system onto the FS1 system and this was the only way they could implement it. 


Stage 9

On their sea voyage, the heroes are attacked by a fleet led by Weiss, a sharkman who studied under the same sword teacher as Riad. But now the teacher is a general in the Imperial army who has ordered Weiss to defeat Riad. When you attack Weiss the first time, he does something to blow everyone off the ship. 


Stage 10

Everyone wakes up in the land where Zoldin rules; he's the sword teacher of Riad and Weiss. Some of the party members are gone, and Riad has lost his memory. But he regains it for no reason at the end of the stage, and Zoldin leaves after a single battle. 


Stage 11

Shifil reappears here, but other than that we just learn that the Empire is attacking Troy to the east, so that's our next destination. The General here was the strongest boss yet, but as long as Riad doesn't get killed it's not very hard. 

Stage 12

King Paris fears the Empire and so isn't interested in cooperating with Riad. But when Riad uses a Trojan Haniwa trick to get into the castle, Paris agrees to help on one condition -- we go north to Ginebia and eliminate the Imperial force there. 

Stage 13

This stage is way too large, like too many of the maps in these games. There's a flashback here to when Riad first befriended Varcana (the demon). He was a thief but after Sarena danced for him he turned good. In this stage several new people appear -- Seiren, a magician who was being used by the Empire, and Snow, a snow spirit. The king of Parakel tells us that revolts have been happening all over thanks to Riad's actions, and he now wants us to go help Parakel. This happens to be Sarena's home country, so of course they will go.