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Which game should I start with?

Poll ended at Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:19 pm

Emerald Dragon
1
13%
Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu
5
63%
Monster Maker: Yami no Ryukishi
1
13%
Sol Bianca
1
13%
Momotaro Densetsu Turbo
0
No votes
 
Total votes : 8
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:19 am

Yeah, It's not always an easy series to keep track of. I have played a fair amount of Xanadu, though. Except, I played it on the Saturn, and that version is apparently more like Revival Xanadu than the original version. Either way, it's an extremely difficult game, without a guide, but it at least has a number of redeeming qualities, unlike Romancia.

I kind of wish more people who have played the Souls games would play Xanadu. I have a feeling they might be somewhat similar experiences. I guess I could just play the Souls games, but that's a lot of time that I could be spending playing the PC Engine.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:20 pm

I couldn't really help myself, and just had to start on this. So, without further ado:

Captain's Log

Day 1, Game 1 - The Legend of Xanadu

When starting a game on the Prologue option, the Legend of Xanadu opens with a tale of a peaceful land of Ishtaria, from a century ago, that was beset by a great terror in the evil dragon Dardantis, that descended from the world of darkness. The evil dragon was in possession of the Stone of Clayne, a stone with an unlimited supply of magical energy, and used it to raze the beautiful lands of Ishtaria to the ground. The people lived without hope until a hero appeared wielding a holy sword. That hero's name was, Aineas. He did battle with the evil dragon until after nine days, he struck the dragon between the eyes with the holy sword.

The people of Ishtaria were overjoyed, and elevated their savior, Aineas, to the platform of their king, beginning 400 years of prosperity under the Astel reign. The Stone of Clayne was placed atop the castle, spreading it's light out over all of Ishtaria. Without any particular training, the people began to gain the power of magic. Agriculture, construction, travel, and everything in between was transformed through the proliferation of magic, and the burdens of life were eased tremendously.

A thousand years passed, and numerous dynasties fulfilled their cycles of rise and decline. The story of Aineas became buried in the sands of time, and relegated entirely to that of legend, if not for the bones of the evil dragon, holy sword struck into the skull, sitting out in the edge of the world at the peaks of the Salanda.

During most of this story there's a fairly nice remix of the main theme of the original Xanadu playing, even though this story is unrelated to that game.

The intro continues by showing the narrator reading from a book, in front of a warm fireplace, with the hero, Areios, sitting across the table with slightly watery eyes as the door behind him swings open. The manual reveals that Areios is secretly a descendant of Aineas, working as a knight of the royal army. He is known as the 100-knight Captain, and is the only captain in the royal knights who still fights in the outlands of Kuloros against the invading monsters. The person in the doorway tells Areios that the monsters have come, and preparations are underway for the decisive battle. My memory of this wasn't quite correct. The old man narrating is an elder of the descendants of Aineas, and tells Areios to go protect the vulnerable people of Makrea, and fight the invading monsters. Areios joins his trusted lieutenant, Daimos, at the cliffs of the outlands. The battle commences, and eventually Daimos, and Areios are surrounded, with great losses to their troops. Finally Daimos tells Areios to leave, and survive the battlefield in order to continue the operation, before he charges into the oncoming hoard. As he does, and Areios screams dramatically in the direction of Daimos, a mystery person knocks Areios unconscious with a shot to the gut. Areios comes to on a boat as it's reaching a small island that this mystery person--a purple haired man in knight's garb, that the manual refers to as Noys (seems to be pronounced like "nous")--is about to strand the hero on, after telling him that he has a much more grand role to play than to sit around in the outlands fighting monster hoards, and something about a "Wind of Legend."

All of that sounds pretty interesting, right? Well, put that on hold, cause it's time to investigate this wine country here on this little island. I've made a couple passes at this game before, and always got stuck at the point where this kid, Nicola, goes missing. For some reason I could never find him, even after going over the whole island several times--or so I thought, at least. Turns out he was right at the entrance to the first of the two feuding towns. I have no idea how it's possible that I could have missed this, two separate times, even. Leaving that aside, basically, what's happening in this intro chapter, on the small island, is there are two towns named after a pair of brothers from some arbitrarily long time ago. The two towns have a serious rivalry over booze: One town uses apples, the other uses grapes. They compete over who's alcohol will sell the best when the merchant ships come in, which they do very seldom, and the last one to show up was about half a year before Areios arrived. There's also some aristocrat kids vacationing on the island, but they kind of suck.

The apple town (I don't quite remember what the towns were called, so I'm just going to call them "apple town" and "grape town") "developed" a new drink that will knock people's socks clean off. In actuality, it was something that the young brewmasters of each town worked on together, in secret, but was found by the apple town, and brought the tension between the two towns to a fevered pitch--or something. I didn't really care about any of this, because it's just not important. Anyway, there's a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing going on between Teo, and Marina. This grape town kid, Nicola, is locked up by the apple town for stealing some of their brew out of the barrels in the cave at the north end of the island. Areios works as a mediator, and gets Nicola released with a bit of help from Teo. When Nicola returns to the grape town, some other youths take it upon themselves to get revenge by smashing the barrels in the cave. This awakens some dormant master of the caves, sealed away by the two brothers long ago (each town basically perceives that it was just the work of their founder brother that sealed away the monster, though). Areios goes in, commandos the hell out of everything, and peace is restored. Ultimately Areios is helped off the island by the aristocrats' kids for saving them from the caves.

That's about as far as I went. I went around part of the town I was dropped off into for the start of this first real chapter, but not really anything else. It seems Diamos is off in a cave somewhere, fighting of monsters still. So, I'm still looking for someone who will take Areios back to Kuloros.

I have a couple concerns at the moment. I'm probably going to end up making a lot of comparisons between this game, and Dragon Slayer: Legend of Heroes, just because they feel very similar, even though the gameplay is quite different. The default text font is also the exact same as the one in the Mega Drive versions of Legend of Heroes I and II, so that also contributes. I really liked Legend of Heroes, and at the moment I'm a little worried about how The Legend of Xanadu will stack up. I did like that it seems like The Legend of Xanadu will have the same kind of humor, poking fun at a bunch of genre conventions. Specifically, in the grape town, going up to the town chief's dressers, during the day, and trying to investigate them will get Areios reprimanded by the chief about his choice of passtimes. Come back at night, when everyone is a sleep to examine the dressers, and Areios polishes them up, saying that it was really bothering him earlier. I really like this for how much it fits Areios' character to this point, as well. Another funny moment was in talking with the servant of the aristocrats' kids, when he's bed ridden. One of the girls said she lost a really important earring while they were picnicking up in the caves. Going to talk with the servant, he complains about having "nervous ulcers," and says that the doctor he met with told him he had two holes that opened up: One at the end of his throat, and one at the end of his intestinal tract--. Yep. Anyway, he still complains about the pain, so Areios offers to go get the earring in his stead. Inevitably it turned out that the girl had just forgotten that she left the earring in her jewelry box.

That last bit really has a lot to do with my main concern about the game right now: the pacing. Oh my god was it slow and tedious going back and forth between people, trying to figure out where the next person to talk to to advance the events is, or who even it is. On three separate occasions the game lead me to believe that I needed to do something in the cave, only for me to find out that whatever it was wasn't there, or that I just had to go back out and talk with someone. What's worse is that the events on the island just felt so detached from the setup of the game, and I was really just disinterested. I'm hoping this is solved a bit over the course of the game, but I'm also a little concerned about the fold out poster included with the game. Most games of this vintage would have a bunch of equipment/item/spell information on something like that, but this game has a map of the 51 screen dungeon in the final chapter on it. That feels a little ominous to me.

I'm also a little confused by the music. It's not that it's bad, or anything; It's generally fine, but it's not redbook audio. It seems like there's a bit of voice dialogue, but it sounds fairly low quality. It's just that, while on the island, there's basically only two music tracks: one while on most of the island, and one that plays when inside the cave. That's it, until the master of the caves wakes up, and then those two tracks change to two more with a bit more of a feeling of tension. That one background track that plays on the island just gets really repetitive after a while. I just really hope there isn't both a lack of variety in the BGM, and only wavetable synth, because that will probably affect my enjoyment a bit.

My last concern is the side-scrolling segments. They look fantastic, and I would think they would just be great, on their face, but actually playing them gives me some less flattering impressions. It's really zoomed in, and it makes visibility feel rather poor. It's not an issue for stationary enemies, but for stuff that comes in off screen, I found it really difficult to time sword swings to actually hit them before they were right on top of me. There's a bit of range, with a short, semi-projectile on sword swings, but it's still difficult to time it, for me. The other issue is enemies that fire from off screen, though. Those just have to be dodged, which can be pretty difficult when there are waterfalls that keep Areios from jumping. It's still early, though, and I'm hoping these get a little better. (I actually just remembered that there may have been more tools that I could have used in that section, and took another look at the manual. There are a number of things I didn't uses: Pretty much everything that wasn't jump, and slash, which includes things like slide, guard, downward thrust, charge slash, etc. Those could help.)

I'm also not a huge fan of bump combat, but it's serviceable. I kind of like the equipment system, at least. Essentially each piece of equipment will have a base proficiency when it's purchased or acquired for the first time, which provides a base attack or defense rating. As the equipment is used in combat, the proficiency increases, which increases the attack or defense up to some maximum value at 100% proficiency. It's pretty easy to abuse, though. For swords, anything that takes more than one hit to kill will increase the weapon's proficiency. Armor just requires being hit by enemies that can actually do damage, and shields require the same, but I think just frontal attacks. Once the enemies stop doing damage, they make this 'tink' sound when they attack, and immediately try to flee. The slimes that inhabit the island will run off somewhere, and basically kills themselves, making a sort of popping noise as they perish. It's a little funny. In a similarly FF II way, taking damage, and healing appears to increase HP, as well. That's really all there are for stats.

End log.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by marurun Sat Aug 04, 2018 8:54 pm

Love that Falcom wavetable synth
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:18 pm

It's good music, for sure. Certainly as far as wavetable synth goes. Some tracks remind me of stuff from Megami Tensei II, and Akumajou Densetsu on the Famicom, so that's cool. There's just only so many hours of this one I can really stand before I'd potentially break. Also, it's a little disappointing to not get another soundtrack like Ys III on the Turbo. The variety is there, though, and I'm liking "Black Light," right now.


Captain's Log

Day 2, Game 1 - The Legend of Xanadu

I need to make a bit of a correction: Daimos is apparently a General. I completely glossed over that bit in the manual, I guess. Realizing this threw me off a bit, though, because Daimos is supposed to be a subordinate of Areios'. I also started to realize that 'Hyakkichou' isn't exactly some special title, separate from his rank. It feels like it's used that way in the game, but I decided to do a bit of research. It turns out that 'Hyakkichou' is a military rank that draws its roots from old Ainu military ranks. The Ainu originally had somewhat simpler ranks (that included Hyakkichou) but later expanded the titles in the 1700s, but in either form it would still roughly refer to a Captain, in most modern military ranks. I'm not big on military history, or understanding how military ranks work, or what's typical procedure for soldiers/knights, but I had this sort of implicit understanding that Areios outranks Daimos, yet Daimos is loyal to Areios. It isn't really clear to me whether or not Daimos is actually a general of the royal army, though. Areios is explicitly hailed as a knight of the royal army--. Anyway, I'm going to leave it at that, and stop spinning my wheels trying to make this make sense. At least for now.

I've reached Chapter 3, and to open that chapter, the game greeted me with the opening animation! Hurray! Wow, that's kind of late into the game, but at this point I'm headed back to the Kingdom of Ishtaria. In Chapter 1, there was a bit of a Robin Hood scenario, where Areios was trying to get a boat from the sort of Duke-like dude in town, who was busy trying to keep a rogue by the name of Lykos from continuing to steal from him by soliciting information, or Lykos himself (dead or alive), from the townspeople in exchange for monetary rewards. He squeezes the old people of a nearby town with unfair taxes, and Lykos has been stealing it to give back to the people. This distraction makes it difficult for Areios to get an audience about borrowing a ship in order to get back to Kuloros, until he meets a young man named Volf, a traveler who has taken up work as a goat herder in the nearby town. Volf tells Areios that he can help him get a ship, and to meet him that night in an alley by the church. Volf's plan involves stealing the ship, which Areios objects to vehemently. Eventually Volf, still wanting to help Areios, gets him the ship he needs by revealing himself as Lykos, and turning himself in as if Areios had been the one to catch him. With this act, Areios gets passage to Kuloros, and eventually finds Daimos trapped in sort of a peculiar way, that requires the help of the forest sprites, which only the nun in Kuloros knows how to contact. She's nowhere to be found, though, supposedly staying behind at the church in Kuloros when everyone else evacuated. Areios heads back on the ship, and happens to find Volf sitting back in the old people's village, which is a bit puzzling, especially because the "Lykos" who is locked up is shouting that he doesn't know who he is, but definitely isn't Lykos. Yeah, he traded places with some bum who hangs out around the mansion, but apparently that guy wanted to be locked up, and for some reason he gave him something that would temporarily screw with his memory. All right, fine. Anyway, Lykos finds where the nun is hiding, gets into a fight with the forest sprite, and is just kind of a general pain in the ass, but he seems to be smitten with Areios, so I guess he's with me for the long haul. Daimos is rescued, and his captor is defeated.

On to Chapter 2, which takes the three to Makrea. This area is kind of large, and mostly involved a bunch of running back and forth between towns after getting in the middle of a bunch of castle politics with the pencil pushers. Basically there's a bridge that's out, and the inn nearby is booked full. Turns out that this one jerk in the castle accepted a bribe by the owner of the inn, and was basically trying to make sure it didn't get fixed anytime soon, until Areios put the screws to him. Essentially, Areios is trying to drum up more troops to take on the monster hoards, but the general in Castle Makrea can't get an audience with the king to make the request, partly because the queen ran away, and the king is a big baby. Eventually she comes back, but their son, Prince Leon, was kidnapped by the leader of the monster hoards, demanding Areios in exchange for the kid. So, Areios goes in, smacks him around, and everything's great. At which point Areios decides it's time to return to the kingdom, and of course Lykos is still going with them.

Presumably during all of those events, the city is cast into shadow, and the Stone of Clayne is no longer giving off its light. The king panics, and lets an old man, who says he knows how to restore its light, into the chamber with the stone. Surprise! It's Dardandis, the evil dragon of legend, come back to claim his property.

I'm having a lot more fun with the game now that I'm past the introductory chapter. Now events have actually been relevant to the main story, and the pace has been a bit more brisk. There's still just a bunch of running back and forth between a few places, though. The side scrolling areas are also more interesting now that I can get support from one of the other characters, and the two most recent of those areas that I've been through have been more interesting in general. There is still a bit of an issue in the jumping physics, but it's mostly manageable. For the most part, I think my initial concerns will not be issues with the game as a whole.

Just as sort a side note, I think it's interesting that the game actually makes Areios knock on people's doors, and not just allow him to always access anyone's home. Often he'll just be greeted at the door, but not actually let inside. It reminds me a little bit of Shenmue, really. I just think it's kind of a neat touch in how they thought about bucking a trend in the genre that often doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:35 am

Captain's Log

Day 3, Game 1 - The Legend of Xanadu

I have progressed to Chapter 7, I just haven't updated my progress until now. I'm feeling much less charitable toward the game by the chapter. Almost everything about the game play feels like it's just implemented to make things more frustrating, annoying, and time consuming, even though there are a bunch of items, and options to technically speed things up. Really those "helpful" things still aren't enough to save what is one of the most dreadful gameplay formulas I've seen in an RPG. There's a very simple progression structure: Get sent to a new area by the nuns at the last town; Buy new equipment; Grind equipment proficiency, or money if needed to buy equipment; Do a bunch of menial back and forth traversing of large areas of mazes, impediments, and probably some monsters; Repeat the last step about 15 times; Maybe go through a dungeon area; Stop exploring the dungeon, because there's a blockade or something that otherwise halts progress until an NPC is talked to back in some other part of the chapter; Finish the dungeon; Switch to a sidescrolling area; Fight the boss; Do it all again in the next chapter.

Repetitiveness isn't the whole issue, though. I can do repetitive, to an extent. Magicool was a fun game, with similar progression through separate chapters, but there was something much more palatable about Magicool, and it may have just been that it didn't have bump combat, but it's probably also a because it didn't feel like a giant waste of time all the time. I mean, I often feel like slamming the controller into something when I get to a point in the chapter, like layers deep into a dungeon, and I just have to stop, and go back to some crazy person's house on the edge of the chapter area, but also not near the single church in the chapter that I can warp to with the Wing item. Then, once I get the thing I need there, I got back down to where I was in the dungeon, do the thing, then have to leave again, to go to some other town in the area, also not near the church!

That seriously happened. It was Chapter 5, and it was terrible. That chapter is one of the worst things I've ever had to go through in an RPG. It was so bad, I'm going to try to actually recount what I remember of all of the inane flags that have to be triggered in it--at least what I haven't blocked from my memory due to the trauma.

  1. Rykos has come through here earlier, leaving a note with the nun saying that he's probably in some trouble in the cave to the north, if Areios is reading his letter, and that he's left markings for the party to follow his trail.
  2. Go to the cave to check for Rykos, and run into a door that won't open, with a note from Rykos about some pillars in the square room to the south being the key to opening the door. Noys shows up again (the purple haired guy from the opening), already standing at the door, and saying that he already checked for the pillars, but couldn't find any.
  3. Daimos, Noys, and Algos (a cool female yeti) stay to look around in the cave while Areios and Pyrra (a red haired, magic girl) go back to find out more at the church.
  4. Head nun won't tell them anything because she told Rykos, and Areios not to go into the cave. I can't remember if her understudy helps them out at all at this point.
  5. Either way, Areios heads back to the door in the cave to check on Daimos and company, who are nowhere to be found.
  6. Go back to the nun who scolds them. I think the understudy tells them to try to talk with the head of the nearby town that's been made inaccessible by the loss of magic due to the change in the Clayne Stone. Says there's an old underground route that hasn't been used in centuries.
  7. Can't get through because the paths are blocked by debris.
  8. Find out there's a guy who makes fireworks way out to the west of both towns.
  9. Can't get to his house because there's a bunch of debris that people are saying was kicked up by monsters.
  10. Understudy in the church says to talk with a weirdo geezer in town who can clear the path. (It's a maze of dirt, but to even get into the maze, there's one rock sitting in the way.)
  11. Talk to the old guy who extorts 20000 gems out of Areios by making him pay off his bar tab before he'll help.
  12. Go find that the old guy has cleared the way, and walk through a winding maze to get to the old pyrotechnic's house.
  13. Find out that the guy tried to blow a way through the mountains to the second town, but didn't know how to make a fuse, because he's never blown things up without magic. This is apparently what created the maze of dirt and rock around his house.
  14. Go back to the first town to get a vale from one of the people on a religious pilgrimage, after Pyrra suggests getting some cloth to make into a fuse for the explosives.
  15. Go back through the maze of dirt, and mountains, to get back to the pyrotechnic's house. Have explosives made.
  16. Go to the cave leading to the town enclosed by mountains, and clear a path with the the explosives.
  17. If you're like me, realize that you only had one explosive, and that it will take more to get through the cave. Go back through the maze of dirt while praying that you don't have to do this for each explosive--you don't. Then mash the 1 button for about 30 seconds to fill up on explosives. Probably 25-ish are needed throughout the whole chapter.
  18. Go back to the cave leading to the second town. Blow stuff up. Get to the town, where everyone is dying of hunger.
  19. Go back to the first town to tell the head nun about their situation.
  20. Go back to the second town, through the cave that leads to it.
  21. Talk with some of the townspeople to find out that the head of the town is at the aristocrat's summer mansion.
  22. Go find out that the aristocrat is on his deathbed. Finding Daimos is put on hold in order to help him.
  23. Go back to the first town to talk with the head nun about a way to help his injuries. She gives you a silver bottle and tells you to look for a sylph in the maze of trees to the north (on the way to the first cave).
  24. Catch the sylph in the forest.
  25. Take it to the aristocrat to cure him. He starts talking about his resistance army that he wants Areios to lead, and asks him to go back to the first town to recruit people.
  26. Go back to the first town to find out that monsters attacked it, and everyone but the head nun fled.
  27. Run around the entire chapter area (including the two caves) to find the seven townspeople in all manner of annoying locations.
  28. Go back through the cave to the aristocrat's home, where he essentially says, 'To hell with your friends, do my bidding, and march on the capital! The weaklings you recruited will look for your friends.'
  29. Go back through the forest maze, and maze of mountains to get back to the first cave, where you can open the door, now that the head of the second town told you about the trick, where the pillars will only show up during a certain time of day.
  30. Go to the room where an event plays out with the old guy whose tab you picked up arguing with Areios, and Pyrra loses her patience, pressing all the buttons, and falling into a giant pit. She teleports back up to say that she found Daimos and company below.
  31. Go back around to the door, which is now open, and continue through the dungeon.
  32. Open a puzzle door, after which you're forced to blow up a bunch of treasure chests, but the explosives won't blow up the tree/pillar/thing at the end of the hallway.
  33. Leave the cave, and go back through the maze of dirt to get to the pyrotechnic's house. He's been working on a new super explosive, and just gives it to you, even though the game sort of jests about being made to go get something for him first (haha, real funny).
  34. Go back through the maze of trees, and the mountain maze to get back to the first dungeon. Go back through the dungeon to where the blockade was. Blow it up with the new super explosive, and find Daimos, et al, stuck below a cliff.
  35. Leave the cave, and go back through the cave to the second town to grab a tool from the lumberjack there.
  36. Go back through the tree and mountain mazes to the first cave. Go through the dungeon again, back to where Daimos was. Make them scale the rock face with the tool. Noys leaves to talk some things out with the aristocrat, and put him in his place, presumably.
  37. Continue on through the cave, until reaching another puzzle door. Brute force it, if you're like me because you don't want to leave to talk with Noys about the solution like Daimos suggests. Eventually Pyrra gets fed up and uses the new super explosive on the door. (Incidentally, this also unlocks a door to the west that leads to a room that kind of reminds me of the original Dragon Slayer, because it's a field of 99 chests, all filled with hourglasses, except for the center one, which has an elixir in it.)
  38. Reach the god awful side scrolling action section of this chapter, that has Areios falling down a continuous slope, while fighting stupidly annoying enemies. Then fight the most broken boss I've about ever seen in any game. This action stage was easily the worst I've seen in the game.

That's really not even as terrible as it actually was to play. Partly, I didn't reiterate a lot of the backtracking that would still be required if one weren't buying wings from the store in order to warp back to the first town all the time. Fortunately Chapter 5 was easily the most egregiously unkind chapter that I've played so far, but Chapter 6 wasn't a whole lot better, and what I've played so far of Chapter 7 may be starting to break my resolve.

Crossing my fingers that I can finish the game of swiftly.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:52 pm

Captain's Log

Day 4, Game 1 - The Legend of Xanadu

I'm on the final chapter of the game now. The last three chapters (8, 9, and 10) were actually pretty good. I actually got kind of sucked into them, playing them all in basically one sitting. It didn't start out well on Chapter 8, just because the early segment of the chapter makes the player run around in a small town where pretty much no one will talk with Areios, until Rykos gets pissed off, and starts telling people who Areios actually is. The entire time, I'm practically screaming at the TV every time someone shuts a door in his face because he won't do the thing he's had no reservations at all about doing up until that point. It was a really lazy way of trying to somewhat maintain that running around between mazes in earlier chapters, and I did not appreciate it. Fortunately, the areas in those three chapters end up being a lot more conducive to a more linear progression. There are still times where the events of the chapter make the player go back to the town to talk with people, but there's not as much junk in between that makes the travel to and from those locations feel as daunting, or like as much of a hassle, which is good.

It's unfortunate that Chapters 5, 6, and 7 were SO bad (especially Chapter 5). I honestly can't remember right now what even happened in 6, and 7. The only reason I really remember Chapter 5 is because it was the worst chapter by far, and one of the least fun things I've seen in video games. Chapter 4 is still no great shakes, but at least by that point it doesn't feel quite as repetitive, and fruitless. My main issue is how much the middle of the game does not respect my time, making me do inane, and inconsequential things to arbitrarily progress the events of the chapter. They're basically making me roleplay an errand boy in those chapters, instead of some last great warrior of the lofty bloodline of legend. (Oh, I just remembered what happened in Chapter 7: the prison--. That place was really heinous, too; Just running back and forth between opposite sides of the map, through all kinds of cliffs, and constantly being blockaded by guards, and crap. Just terrible.) I kind of feel like even the development team lost interest in those chapters, which is probably a bad sign. Really, the game should have been trimmed down a bit, with those three just being one chapter, or something.

Probably the real nail in the coffin for those three chapters is that there's really no challenge in any of it, either. It's not just that there's a bunch of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but there's really no push back from the game other than making the player run between a handful of points over and over again. (Oh, and I just remembered Chapter 6. I guess it wasn't too bad, aside from the dumb maze right in the center of the map that had to be passed through every time after leaving the town.) The game in general is not difficult at all, except for in one way: the side scrolling, action stages. The problem there is that they're difficult for all the wrong reasons. Actually, while the last three chapters I played were pretty effective in redeeming the game to me, the action stages were really not very good at all. The issue is partly in the controls--they just aren't good. They're not horrendously bad, but they're one of the main contributions of difficulty, and only because they aren't better. Even the simplest of jumps feel a little bit harrowing, even though bottomless pits just throw the player back up into the play field, after being assessed some damage. That's the other point of contention for me, is that it's just really easy to get stuck in damage loops upon mistiming an input, and I want to reiterate the relatively poor controls for these segments. In the early game, the main healing item, that's infinitely abundant, and inexpensive, heals all of Areios' HP on death with just a single one of them, until probably Chapter 6 or 7 (for me at least). This means there's very little danger as long as one keeps those items equipped, with a decent supply. In the later chapters, where health starts to crank up to the tens and hundreds of thousands, these items start to not quite cut it as much. On death, the game will use as many of them as it takes to heal Areios' health to full (if they're equipped to the item slot), until the supply runs out. Otherwise, it takes elixirs to heal to full, which are pretty limited. Basically, what I ended up doing for the more challenging stages (because I never wanted to dip into my elixir supply) was save before these action segments, and just reloading if I couldn't make it through on a full stock of 99 Proteias. I don't think I had to retry any of them more than four times or so, but there was a lot of relying on Sophia's (slow) healing on Chapters 8, and 10. Fortunately Chapter 9 didn't have one of these sections, as such, but had four boss fights, that were still just battles of attrition. I mean, the sloppy design can be overcome, but it just feels like they should be a lot better with how nice they look (much better than the normal portions of the game). I potentially could have used some of those elixirs without worry, since I am able to buy them now that I'm in the final chapter, but they're 500,000 gems each, so I'm also kind of happy that I was able to get through the other chapters without using any. (I'm actually kind of curious where the counter stops for money, because I thought it might end up at 999,999 gems, but then it rolled over, and changed the numbers from white to yellow. Then I rolled it over again, over 2 million gems, and it just stayed the same color, but it definitely counted them past 2 million, since I was able to buy four elixirs with that money. So it's at least a 22 bit counter, potentially 3 bytes, which is a fair amount to shove in and out of memory just for money.)

The manual recommends sleeping at the church with a mushroom equipped (and has kind of a funny couple of comic panels about it) for anyone who 'isn't great at action games,' which I find to really just be an excuse for how 'unrefined' the action segments are--normally when used, mushrooms increase Areios' HP, but equipping it while resting at the church, with some amount of damage taken, will increase his max HP more than if one just healed without a mushroom equipped. I never really bothered to do that at all, but I feel like it kind of wouldn't matter, anyway, since everything in the action stages does massive damage, even though I've always had maxed out equipment in each chapter, which makes all of the regular enemies unable to even hit Areios. Something about the planes shifting makes the enemies go Super Saiyan, I guess. Who knew a change of basis vectors could seemingly create energy.

I know I've sounded pretty hard on the game, it's just that it's been difficult for me to reconcile being put through some of the lowest low points I've possibly ever seen in an otherwise good game. I really did enjoy the last three chapters that I played though. One of the best things they did was actually give the town areas their own BGMs, separate from the rest of the maps. They really brought my feelings on the game up from it potentially being below average, back to solidly above average. The writing feels pretty good, like Legend of Heroes I and II. I don't think it's as good as either of those games, but it still has similar charms, and it's fairly enjoyable outside of some of the really dull chapters around the middle of the game. It's a little sad to me that it feels like the game has a such a glut of underutilized characters. Pyrra and Daimos in particular feel pretty lost by the second half of the game. Part of this is the game tries to shuffle characters around a bit in the storyline, to make sure there's never more than four (in rare cases, this does become five) characters in the active party, but it really does get in the way of developing all these different characters who are almost never seen, like Media. I like Pyrra, and Daimos in particular, so it's a little annoying to me that they feel so abandoned in the latter half. Then there's Noys, who might be interesting, but kind of comes and goes from the focus, even though he's probably one of the most well-defined side characters. Rykos is similar, but I don't care about him as much just because I find him to be pretty annoying. I wish Algos were a character I cared more about, but she's really like having a huge, bipedal Lassie in the group. So, to be clear, I don't think the characters themselves are the issue, just potentially the number of characters, and how they're used.

I have kind of wanted to keep spoilers to a minimum for the second half of the game, just because I know there could potentially be more people playing this game, with the English fan translation out. Hopefully without saying too much, I will just mention that I feel like the antagonist that popped up in Chapter 6 is a bit of a weird decision. His actions are sort of manic, and it's really unclear how he expected to achieve his goals, considering his actions. I could reason a couple of the actions he took, but they also don't entirely make sense given his character. I kind of feel like they were trying to have their cake, and eat it too, with him.

Anyway, I'm in the last chapter, which seems like it will just be a group of city folk huddled into shelters below a 51 floor dungeon. I'm going to attempt to go at it without consulting the floor map included on the back of the poster insert, but we'll see if I can keep that resolve throughout. I ended up having to actually consult a walkthrough for Chapter 10, because I just completely missed a side path about four different times. In my defense, it was pretty early on the trail for that branch of the dungeon, and it ends up funneling the player to a dead end. Effectively 60% of that branch is completely irrelevant to any events in the chapter, and can be completely avoided, unless one wanted to grab some more Wings. (There may have also been a Pendant item, for increasing body armor proficiency, but I don't recall.) In any event, it was frustrating, and it was also getting a bit late (or early, depending on one's perspective) at that point.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:36 pm

Captain's Log

Day 5, Game 1 - The Legend of Xanadu

Oh-- mah-- guwawd--! That final chapter was-- AWESOME! It was actually only 31 floors, not 51 (no real clue how I misread that but, whatever), and I didn't end up needing to look at the floor maps at all, but I can kind of understand why they included it. There were a number of times, especially on the upper floors, where I wasn't totally sure where I ended up, but I just persisted, and made it through. Once I got the final piece of armor, I also stopped scouring each floor quite the way I had been on the previous 23 or so floors. That tower really felt like Dragon Slayer to me. It's that feeling of working through something like a puzzle box, where everything is masterfully interwoven into something that could feel haphazard, but is actually really organically orchestrated. That's something I really enjoy about a lot of the Dragon Slayer series, so it was cool to see that pop up in The Legend of Xanadu. I will say that it does feel a bit strange to have the last chapter feel so different from the previous 11 chapters, but it fit my preferences, so I guess I can overlook that. It also is a good chunk more involved, in terms of time to complete the chapter, compared to the rest of the game, too. I didn't really get stuck anywhere for too long, but there are plenty of places where it could happen, and then that would just consume even more time. It's not the 'what are you even thinking' kind of obscenely weighted deal that something like the Tower of Babel[I am totally off my rocker apparently] Darm Tower was in Ys 1, but it still does have a similar feeling to that. The other thing I would have to pick at is that it doesn't really make sense how this tower is the way it is, and why it houses some of Aineas' legendary equipment. I mean, it could kind of make sense, if I filled in some blanks for myself, but the game sort of glosses over it.

Another great thing about the final chapter was that the action section was actually awesome too. Oh momma, those backgrounds and such were so bootiful I nearly wept. Also, they decided to finally make a stage that wasn't full of crappy platforming, and monsters that can easily rip Areios' face off. It almost swung entirely in the opposite direction, in terms of difficulty, compared to the previous action stages, but that felt kind of welcome to me. The downside here was the last phase of the penultimate boss, though, which was just a bad idea from the start, and just an exercise in trying to stay on the platforms. Honestly, the threat isn't even in getting hit by the boss' attacks, it's just trying not to get stuck bouncing out of the pits and falling right back in repeatedly. The final, final boss was also kind of strange, although very cool visually, and thematically. I'm not sure it's even possible to lose at that point, and holy crap, the strobing flashes. Also, from a story perspective--
It's kind of cool, the way Areios throws the Dragon Slayer into the ground before confronting the Clayne Stone, but at the same time all of his friends are gathering around him to support him in the fight. Sophia's spirit resides in the Dragon Slayer, though. So it's this weird scene where his friends are kind of acting as this symbol for his words about people finding their own strength, without relying on crutches that rot and pervert people, like the elites of the kingdom were by the magic bestowed by the Clayne Stone, while at the same time he's essentially casting off the person who seemed to mean the most to him of any of the characters he met on his journey. It feels like that scene ends up sort of subverting itself with that detail for the sake of changing how the final fight plays slightly (Rykos ends up throwing Areios' a dagger I guess, and he fights the Clayne Stone with that).

Anyway, overall, the last few chapters, and the final chapter especially, brought my opinion of the game way up, and I actually do really like it overall. There was, however, a point during a few of those middle chapters where I was thinking, 'Holy crap, Magicool is probably a much better game than this one.' The nice thing is that after finishing the game, it unlocked a Premium Mode which allows me to access a field of sign posts to the right of the port in the intro chapter, anytime I start a new game (as long as I don't delete the extra save file the game saved to my save RAM). These sign posts act as 'warps' to any of the animated cutscenes between chapters, any of the action stages in each chapter, as well as to the beginning of any chapter. There are also a few other sign posts that give access to the intro, and opening cutscenes, as well as a movie mode through all the cutscenes, and gauntlets through all the action stages, and maybe bosses. There are three signs that kind of describe what's up with this unlocked mode, and one of them mentions that this mode is really just meant as a fun bonus, and there's probably a bunch of ways that it could break, but what I tested, albeit in a limited capacity, worked well.

The last thing I really feel like saying about Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu, is that the story feels a little problematic to me. At face value, it seems pretty okay, but on the whole, it seems a bit confused. It feels like it's being pulled in so many different directions at all times, without any of the threads really being seen to the end. I get the sense that the writers were talented, but that the final product ends up feeling like there were too many cooks in the kitchen, perhaps. I don't feel like there's a particularly strong narrative theme, and while I like the characters for the most part, some of them end up feeling a bit extraneous. I think there was just too many plot elements that were used to make things convenient for the game as a whole, and large parts of the story are a bit weakly supported by underpinnings that are never really given their due. I actually booted up the sequel, and went through all the intro stuff again, now that it actually means anything to me, and it feels like the mere existence of the sequel is just an attempt to fill in a lot of the holes left by the first game. Just going by the intro stuff, though, it feels like they only made things worse. I'm not really excited about playing the sequel: no Kiya on staff; direct sequel that feels like it has no business existing; super drab colors.

For a final score, I'd give The Legend of Xanadu a B+. It's hella good, and the final chapter is like a huge reward, but I still can't really forgive some things about the story, or the annoyances of the middle chapters.





That's one game in the books. I'm going to move on to Sol Bianca because I am super excited to get into it. The back of the case boasts that there's something like seven stories, with events changing based on how one plays through the game. There also seems to be a 'multi skill system' for customizing character growth. Those sound great, but obviously the devil is in the details. It will really all come down to how those things are executed, but I am very intrigued at this stage. Hopefully I won't be let down.
Last edited by pierrot on Wed Aug 29, 2018 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Thu Aug 23, 2018 11:59 pm

I'll be getting back to this soon, hopefully. I just haven't been able to play much recently, for various reasons. I tossed Sol Bianca in last week, and played a little bit of the first chapter, but didn't get especially far, I don't believe. I really wanted to go with this game next, because I was sort of craving that kind of far flung future, space traveling setting, but I was a bit thrown off by the voice over dialogue being absurdly low in the the audio mix, and some really dark, and somewhat unpleasant graphical presentation. I read through the @wiki games catalogue entry for the game, and still feel like it probably has some redeeming qualities, but a lot of the things I was excited for aren't really what they initially appear. I was wrong about the chapters: Apparently there are just five standard missions, and two missions occur randomly in between those five. Seems like the sales pitch on the packaging about being able to influence events was a bit of a stretch of the truth too.

I hope to be back for a proper progress update before long.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by pierrot Thu Aug 30, 2018 1:04 am

Before I get into Sol Bianca, there's just something about Kaze no Densetsu Xanadu that has stuck with me since playing it, and that has to do with something Areios says at one point in Chapter 4. There's this chain of afflictions around an archipelago-like area (get it; 'cause an archipelago is a "chain" of islands--). People are being put into eternal sleep, and an old lady, who follows the mostly forgotten goddess of the lands leads everyone to believe that it's a curse brought on by the goddess' displeasure. So the first person put into this sleep was taken to a tiny island, and left alone on a stone dais all night. In the morning, she appeared to be back to normal, but there's obviously more to it. Anyway, skipping ahead a bit, Areios and co. have mostly figured out what's actually afoot, and the old lady has already warped herself to the goddess' temple, which is behind a barrier. Areios doesn't see any other way to get to the temple (for various reasons I won't really get into) other than afflicting himself with the "curse"; So he has a town fisherman, whose sister was also put to sleep earlier, take him to the little island with the dais, and plans to wait to be carried off after being reposed. That fisherman asks Areios if he shouldn't be thinking a bit more about another way of getting around the barrier.

So the part that I keep periodically thinking about is Areios' response to the fisherman's concerns, which was: 'While thinking of a plan, act first.' It's kind of an interesting sentiment to me. I mean, we have the saying "look before you leap," which is like the antithesis of Areio's mantra here. It has sort of forced me to think a bit about the nature of action, and failure. I've seen a lot made of the benefit of action, lately, and I think there's some truth to it. Personally, I've found acting blindly to be a very good route to failure, but the articles I've seen lately have really been talking more about how things tend to simply get done when ideas are acted upon. So, in terms of failure, there tends to be this idea in STEM (well, particularly in engineering, but maybe in physics and math, too) that failure is the quickest route to success. I hate failure, but really, as long as it's not catastrophic, there aren't many better opportunities to learn. Lately I tend to sort of repeat Areios' mantra, perhaps in a way to (so far, unsuccessfully) convince myself that it's my mantra. I have at least convinced myself that there is probably something to this idea of acting often, and possibly often failing unspectacularly, being perhaps better than not taking action at all. At least that's how Areios sees it.

That was a little self indulgent, but I feel like I meant to mention it in one of the earlier updates, and I just haven't been able to forget about it.

On to Sol Bianca.



Captain's Log

Day 6, Game 2 - Sol Bianca

Well, in actuality, I've put about three or four sittings into the game so far, but progress is not nearly as voluminous as it was in KnDX. I'm on the second chapter of Sol Bianca now, which has been much more of an active scenario than the first. I mentioned it in one of the posts above, but I wasn't really sure about this game when I first fired it up (I played around with the game a little bit when I bought it, and for some reason none of the issues with it really struck me in that time). The first big thing that is immediately apparent is how low the characters' voiceover audio is. I have to work super hard to hear it at all. I was looking at some info on the game after that first sitting, trying to decide whether or not I really wanted to continue with the game, and that audio issue is apparently not a minor one for a couple of the chapters. Supposedly there are some pretty key details given in a few of the later cutscenes, and it's common for (specifically, Japanese) players to get stuck because of it. One of the things that drew me to the game in the first place was the all female cast. The game features five protagonists, all basically named after months of the year: Jarny (is this January in a language I don't know?), Feb, April, Mayo, June. They're a band of space pirates (known as "Sol Bianca"), traveling the stars in search of the shiny shiny. It seems this is actually a licensed game, and pulls the last chapter of the game from an episode of the OVA property. Unfortunately, the focus is not at all on these girls, and interactions are really just your average 8-bit RPG fare. That isn't to say that they don't have any personality at all, it's just that there's not a whole lot to go off of, and so far they are very one-dimensional characters as well. (Part of me feels like I should be watching the OVA instead, but who knows if that's actually any good, anyway.)

I do like a lot of the music, but that kind of leads into another issue with the gameplay. This has been less true in what I've played of the second chapter ("Astro Race"), but most of the first chapter ("Hunting") was just grinding, grinding, and a bit more grinding. So, here's the weird thing: In particular, in "Hunting," the field BGM, and the battle BGM are both really good, but the intro sections really belie the amazing compositions that the BGMs turn into after a certain amount of time. The field BGM really takes off after the first seven seconds or so, and the battle BGM really gets rocking after maybe 30 to 40 seconds. Unless you're standing around on the field, you will never hear the field BGM get really good, because the game will basically never let you go more than 10 steps without an encounter (it will flag an encounter in as few as two steps, and this range is pretty consistent anywhere there are random encounters in the game, so far). It's possible for combat to be drawn out long enough that the BGM gets around to the really good part, but generally the game kind of requires a ton of grinding, because until the party can completely overpower the current threshold in enemy encounters, any subsequent steps in enemy strength (in walking to another section of the map, or entering dungeons) is liable to overwhelm the party in only a handful of encounters. Healing is often inadequate (costs a lot of MP, without much of an MP pool, and doesn't heal much), and inventory space is very limited (8 slots per character, shared with equipment, and key items) so leveling up to the point where standard encounters can be ended in one or two turns is pretty critical. Anyway, while there is some dud music, like the town BGM, the soundtrack in general so far has been quite nice.

Graphically, things are pretty rough. It's not very interesting to look at, and really dark too. Even the battles just take place over a star field, with the stars whipping into the screen (which is better than just a black screen, I suppose, but--). The info I was looking at mentioned one of the better things about the game being the variety of enemies, and it's certainly true that there is just a massive number of enemy types in this game, none of them are really that interesting, or memorable (aside from the Hiyo-corn, which is a baby chicken with a unicorn horn). They mostly sort of blend together, and that's also because none of them really require different tactics, other than the bosses. There are "animated" cutscenes, but it's hard to enjoy them, because of how much I have to focus on the audio and try to hear the dialogue over the BGM. Sadly they aren't drawn all that well, in most cases, though, and there's really not much animation to them, either.

So, while "Hunting" was mostly a chapter about grinding (I was actually a little worried about having to start each chapter over from level one because I had gotten to level 27 by the end of it, and there are only seven chapters), there was a bit of a scenario to go with it. The girls of the Sol Bianca hear about an imperial barge ship that crash landed on a nearby planet that is also known for its "hunting" (thus the chapter title). They basically shuffle around the planet, talking with a bunch of researchers who talk about this "Psyonic Beast" that took out one of the research facilities, and how deadly they can be. I don't know, there's not really much that actually happened in the chapter. The girls found a dead body of a researcher that had gone to find a way to get into a temple of the ancients, and they pocketed his diary. They found a crystal where that researcher was returning from, which fit into a cutout in a statue in that ancients temple. There they found a device that let them talk with the Funbaba (basically orangutans, but only the ancient people could talk with them). Got a golden armadillo skin from one of the Funbaba in order to appease this weird boat captain who said he didn't want to charge them anything monetary to use the boat, but also couldn't let them board for free--. Then when he lets them use the boat, he tells them this weird story about how he saved this guy during the war, that he's somewhere on this planet, and if they see him, just tell the guy he saved, "hey." Turns out that dude he saved was hanging out in a second village of Funbaba. One of the Funbaba there actually saw the barge off to the northern sea (up until this point, no one really knew what the hell the girls were talking about). They get to the ship, and it turns out it's just full of a bunch of defense robots. So they have to fight one, and otherwise turn up empty handed.

There's a much more interesting scenario going on in "Astro Race" (still nothing really special, but definitely better), but I'll probably mention more about it once I've actually finished the chapter.

Well, it's unfortunate that this is really a much more average affair than I had initially anticipated. It's not bad, but the combat is a lot more routine than I had expected, and there's just not much that really sets it apart from anything else in the genre. It feels like the first chapter was just the worst one they possibly could have started the game with, too. (This was somewhat confirmed by the @wiki Games Catalogue entry I was reading.) If the scenarios continue to actually get more interesting, then it could turn out fairly good. We'll see.
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Re: The Great PC Engine RPG Excursion of 2018

by BoneSnapDeez Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:20 am

Damn son this is some phenomenal chronicling.
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