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Exhuminator
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On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Exhuminator Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:25 pm

I've been on a 16-bit action-RPG kick lately.

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I'm simultaneously tackling Ys IV: Dawn of Ys and Alcahest (interesting games, both). It's got me wondering what you fine folks consider to be noteworthy 16-bit action-RPGs (yes the CD-i counts)? Got any favorites? Are there any you think are overrated junk? Howabout hidden gems (like PCE or X68000 stuff)?

Also, I was thinking about checking some of these out that I haven't played much of yet:

SNES:
Brandish 2
Dragon View
Holy Umbrella
Lagoon
Popful Mail
Secret of Mana 3
Super Ninja Boy
Spike McFang

Genesis:
Arcus Odyssey
Beyond Oasis
Crusader of Centy
The Faery Tale Adventure
King Colossus
Landstalker
Light Crusader
Rent A Hero
Super Hydlide

If anyone has thoughts on those.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by ElkinFencer10 Thu Dec 08, 2016 4:43 pm

I have Super Hydlide, but I haven't actually played it yet, so I'd love to get some input on that one from someone who has.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Sarge Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:05 pm

Exhuminator wrote:SNES:
Brandish 2
Dragon View
Holy Umbrella
Lagoon
Popful Mail
Secret of Mana 3
Super Ninja Boy
Spike McFang


Of these, I've played Dragon View, Holy Umbrella, Popful Mail, and Seiken Densetsu 3 extensively. I've dabbled with the others to varying degrees. If I had to choose my absolute favorite in that mix, it's Dragon View. The overworld is certainly flawed (so slooooooowwwwww!), but it's also got a really solid Zelda-esque progression, almost as if that game were more of a belt-scrolling brawler. Such a great hidden gem.

Holy Umbrella really surprised me. It's almost like a more limited Metroid-style platformer. I'd recommend giving it a shot, and it's not terribly long, either.

Popful Mail is hilarious. It's also very Falcom-y, but it's got that Working Designs veneer over it as well, with all that entails. I don't think they messed with the difficulty much, though. I'd definitely give it a thumbs-up. It's worth saving before dialogue sessions just to hear what each character will say! (Sven T. Uncommon is also hilarious, despite the dated Schwarzenegger references. Because really, those are classics and will never actually be dated. ;) )

Seiken Densetsu 3 is basically Secret of Mana dialed up to 10. It looks fantastic. It plays well enough, although again, it's not as consistent with hit detection because it's running a sort of Mass Effect-style hit/miss percentage in the background like SoM does. So you could "hit" but not hit at all. Still, it's totally worth playing.

Also, Kevin is brokenly powerful. (I didn't use him in my run, though, I had Duran, Angela, and Carlie.)
Genesis:
Arcus Odyssey
Beyond Oasis
Crusader of Centy
The Faery Tale Adventure
King Colossus
Landstalker
Light Crusader
Rent A Hero
Super Hydlide

Of these, I've beaten Beyond Oasis, Crusader of Centy, King Colossus, and Light Crusader. I've also played a sizable amount of Landstalker.

Beyond Oasis is fantastic. It's so much fun once you get a handle on the combat. I love how you've got a sort of lightning-kick move, somersault slashes, the whole deal. There are some decently interesting puzzles as well, although nothing on the level of Zelda. Definitely recommended, though.

Crusader of Centy is solid enough. It's closer to Zelda in structure, but not quite as good. But it's still worth a play. You do a lot more sword-throwing as opposed to up-close combat. And it's got an odd plot, one where you lose your ability to talk to people and can only talk to animals.

King Colossus I beat earlier this year. Here's what I said about it then:

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So, this was one of those games that wasn't in the original plan. Not that I have a plan, mind you, but still. I wanted to give it a go after not being very impressed with it a while back. It was a translated action-RPG we never got. MIJET did a superb job with it, it's one of the best localizations I've seen from a game of this era.

Anyway, the game is pretty dark looking and rather moody. And to match, there are some pretty dark story beats. But overall, it's the usual "revive evil god" shtick, and you're the hero. I won't go into much more detail, but none of it is surprising.

The gameplay itself is a bit of a mixed bag. Your sword is very difficult to use effectively, being very short range, and the hit detection is consistent, but very, very finicky. You're going to have to be very accurate to score hits without getting hit yourself. And this stays true until...

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...you start picking up other weapons. Weapons come in five different flavors: swords, axes, bows, lances/flails, and rods. Axes seem to be a bit longer range. Lances have even more than that (and later ones have some cool effects at the end of stab). Flails rotate around you (and one of the early ones has some really strange physics), and rods can great for distance attacks, particularly if you can get it to burn on top of an enemy (excellent in the coliseum). Then there's the bows. Oh, the bows. An absolute godsend in a game where you're a bit of a glass cannon. You can snipe away at enemies with impunity. There are times where it makes more sense to swap back to the sword (the most powerful one is useful in the final area, and very powerful when jumping and attacking), but most of the time, you'll want to use the most powerful bow you have. Particularly against the bosses, because despite being weaker, I could detect very little, if any, difference in actual damage done. So stay away from them!

Also to go with this are shields which block shots, armor upgrades, and random other stat-boosters. I went with the one that bumped my attack power up by 25, makes the bow that much more useful for a while.

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The game itself is probably somewhere between a 7-10 hour experience. You could do it faster, if you know where to go and what to do. I was playing without a walkthrough, and only referenced a set of videos that really didn't answer much for me, so lots of wandering and killing stuff. Which means I ended the game at level 29, and I suspect 30 is tops.

Honestly, it's just a solid action-RPG, nothing mind-blowing, but it certainly would have been received well had it come out back in the day. It almost reminds me structurally of Ys, with a small smattering of Sword of Vermillion's atmosphere on top. Minus the bump combat of course for the former, and no 3D mazes from the latter. If you're out of stuff to play from that era, it's a good one to give a shot. I'm glad I did.


Landstalker is cool, but those controls can be pretty finicky sometimes. The isometric part certainly doesn't help, but the lack of shadows can make things even worse. It's certainly not unplayable, just realize that your depth perception might be off a bit on some jumping puzzles.

Light Crusader is one of Treasure's weirdest games. It feels distinctly un-Treasure-like. Here's a writeup I did on it for GameSpite Journal.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Xeogred Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:32 pm

Seiken Densetsu 3 has the best ARPG combat system of all time. I see some of you guys bringing up the hit detection being an issue in this and Secret of Mana? I actually find it really easy to exploit it (it's incredibly easy to stack attacks/magic for them to hit like Ultima). Anyways, if you didn't like the charging in Mana or Evermore, fear not for it's not in SD3. You just build up a tech bar with attacks. The game has six playable characters that you choose to assemble a team of three, three different story paths depending on your lead, and a branching class system (permanent choices) at the mid and late points in the game. The game also opens up in a FFV/FFVI kind of way in the second half, allowing you to tackle key required bosses in any order you wish. So the replay value is maximum. This game has about 10 different boss battle themes. Find me another SNES JRPG that did that at the time? Probably can't list anything else, I love that about it. It is technically, easily one of the most impressive and advanced SNES games out there and frankly destroys many PSX games in its path (Legend of Mana included). This has traditionally been the very first game I put on a new computer whenever I got one over the years, from my ancient desktop, to a laptop, then Win7 machine, to this new one I built... SD3 is a required game to have ready to go. There are some aesthetics I prefer with Secret of Mana, I like the more colorful sharp graphics in a way, and I like the way the music sounds more... but I'm not complaining about SD3 at all. Also I bet it still has one of the most active GameFAQ's board, as it always has throughout the last decade and a half. We may have never gotten it, but the fanbase is pretty strong for it.

I'll defend SoM forever, but I can understand some frustrations with it. But anyone with any beef for SD3 is just simply doing it wrong. The gameplay is literal perfection. 8)

Alcahest' music is godly.

I couldn't really get into Beyond Oasis. It has that enormous sprites on screen thing going on.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Sarge Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:50 pm

The only reason I bring it up is that, like the first Mass Effect, a lot of folks think it's a skill-based system. Like when you swing your sword in Zelda, it always consistently hits. In Mana, there are "dice rolls" underneath it all that are determining whether it actually hits or not, on top of the actual swing/hit detection. In the first Mass Effect, combat appeared to mirror a first-person shooter, but even if you had the crosshairs centered, you could still miss, because it was still doing D&D-style stuff under the hood.

It's not necessarily "wrong" or "bad", it's just different; if you adjust your expectations accordingly, it will greatly improve your enjoyment.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by SNESdrunk Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:04 pm

Most recently for me it's Kuusou Kagaku Sekai Gulliver Boy for Super Famicom. Very short but super fun. Top down viewpoint, a forced wait time between attacks similar to Secret of Mana, but switching characters at will instead of having them follow you around and leaving them at the mercy of the computer AI.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Xeogred Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:07 pm

Sarge wrote:The only reason I bring it up is that, like the first Mass Effect, a lot of folks think it's a skill-based system. Like when you swing your sword in Zelda, it always consistently hits. In Mana, there are "dice rolls" underneath it all that are determining whether it actually hits or not, on top of the actual swing/hit detection. In the first Mass Effect, combat appeared to mirror a first-person shooter, but even if you had the crosshairs centered, you could still miss, because it was still doing D&D-style stuff under the hood.

It's not necessarily "wrong" or "bad", it's just different; if you adjust your expectations accordingly, it will greatly improve your enjoyment.

Makes sense.

The older Elder Scrolls did this horribly. :P
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by CFFJR Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:19 pm

The sega cd version of Popful Mail is awesome, and I definitely recommend it.

I can't speak for any other version though, as they're all in japanese, but I'd be surprised if they weren't good.
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:51 pm

Huh, I was actually contemplating starting a thread like this. Now I don't have to! ARPGs are my favorite type of video game and I tend to gravitate to those released during the 3rd and 4th generations. It's very hard to find one that I don't find at least somewhat enjoyable.

On the topic of games that have been mentioned,
Popful Mail is aight. I think it is one of Falcom's weaker efforts though, or at least the Sega CD version is. The difficulty has been tweaked and increased. Not to the point where it feels super difficult, but it is more awkward than it needs to be. Some serious cringe dialogue and voice-acting as well.

Ys IV (PCE) is lovely. Playing the first four games back-to-back on a PC Engine Duo = orgasmic.

Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Exile, and Terranigma are god tier games.

Hidden gems? Oh yeah I gots some.
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First thing that comes to mind is the Xak series by the unparalleled Micro Cabin. These games are very similar to Ys with the same style of bump combat. They originally appeared on computers and were ported to the Super Famicom and PC Engine CD. The games have that old school hand-drawn anime look, and the music is insanely good. Also worth checking out is the spin-off Fray, which is kinda more shmup-ish than RPG-ish.

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Also essential - the two Legend of Xanadu games on PC Engine CD. These combine overhead exploration with sidescrolling Ys III-like combat. Developed by Falcom so you know they're glorious.

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Makai Hakkenden Shada is a derivative Ys-like game on PC Engine. Some hate it (it was featured as "weekly kusoge" on HG101), I think it's pretty enjoyable if you can get past how generic it appears. Some rad boss rights. Cheap game too, and on a HuCard which is a pleasant change of pace.

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War of the Dead is a creepy atmospheric horror ARPG on PCE. It's way better than the computers versions but be warned - the passwords are INSANE.

if you delve into the Japanese computer ARPG scene you're bound to find some delicious "Ys clones" like AIZA [New Generation] and Fall (which has pr0nz)......
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Re: On the subject of 16-bit action-RPGs

by Gunstar Green Thu Dec 08, 2016 11:22 pm

BoneSnapDeez wrote:Some serious cringe dialogue and voice-acting as well.


I love cheesy old voice acting from Working Designs. That kind of stuff instantly transports me back to the 90's.

I'm not the biggest fan of the gameplay but I really like how silly and lighthearted it is. It's similar to the Monster World games in a lot of ways, those definitely shouldn't be forgotten.
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