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(NTSC-U, PAL / 1993)
This title is also sometimes written as Techno Clash. In a world full of magic, a mysterious portal opens, and forbidden machines start pouring through. To stop the ensuing war between magic and mechanics, the wizard Ronann, along with apprentice Chaz and mercenary Farrg, must venture through the portal into the machine world to find the “Machine Man,” who apparently lives somewhere near Las Vegas. This action RPG is similar to Chaos Engine in perspective as well as gameplay, where players must pick a bodyguard and have a limited number of spells similar to ammunition. After each boss fight, health will be upgraded. It’s got some pretty graphics, and some difficult gameplay, partly due to the large levels. The sound effects get their point across, though the canned screams do get old after a while. If you want an action RPG that’s way more on the action side, look into it.
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The Faery Tale Adventure
(NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
Three brothers lose their father to a necromancer that has stolen a talisman protecting their town. The father’s dying wish is for his sons to seek revenge, and they do so gladly. The Faery Tale Adventure is an interesting game, ported from the Amiga originally. It keeps many of the traditional concepts of RPGs, but twists them. Instead of experience, you gain bravery. A high luck will bring a fairy to resurrect you upon death. A high kindness stat lets you talk to animals. To play each brother, all you have to do is let the current brother die and the next takes his place, though all three have different stats and focuses. The gameworld is huge, claiming to be 300 computer screens both wide and deep. On the downsides, the music is limited, I find the game pretty ugly, and there’s no save feature, just passwords. Also, due to its size, you may want to track down the instruction manual, since it offered a mini-walkthrough.
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Rings of Power
(NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
You must find the twelve Rings of Power to create the Rod of Creation, defeat the evil Void, and bring about the Golden Age. This game is incredibly open-ended, allowing the player almost immediately to explore the full world, with hundreds of NPCs to interact with, a day/night cycle that affects gameplay, and a combat system entirely reliant on magic spells. There’s a lot of meat to this game, including various random events and sidequests, though the game itself lacked any kind of quest journal, and while it did feature a map, it didn’t mark locations. Still, the game came packed with a paper map, so if you can find it, cool. The game also utilized the isometric view, albeit on a playing field that was cut to look like it was presented on a scroll. That’s all well and good, but it makes the gameplay feel cramped and claustrophobic to me. It also doesn’t help that this game is pretty hideous, and the music is pretty bland.
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(NTSC-U / 1991)
I sometimes see this title written as Battle Master. This game starts with the player picking a one of 16 leaders spread across four races. Each leader has different stats and a different party following him, ranging from no followers to four others. The plot of the game has you attempting to find the pieces of an ancient crown to become the Battle Master, as told in an ancient prophecy. To do this, you’ll have to traverse the world, wandering from point to point on a big world map and duking it out with the inhabitants of each locale. It’s typical high fantasy, so expect dwarves, elves and the like. While it’s not the most attractive game, the music’s actually not bad for its release date, and lading a large squad into battle can be fun.
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Might & Magic: Gates to Another World
(NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
This Amiga port of the second Might & Magic game can be a little intimidating, what with the instruction manual having over 100 pages. It’s an unforgiving, brutal, and frankly pretty ugly dungeon crawler by the console’s standards. But what it does offer is an enormous world, numerous quests, lots of spells and even more weapons and armor to find. It picks up directly after the first Might & Magic, with your party of six adventurers and two NPCs having to find the Orb of Power and the four Elemental Talons for it to save and restore the world. Characters must pick up various skills along the way to manage the adventure, while fighting off large hordes of monsters. And don’t take too long, as characters age and die of natural causes around age 75. If you like dungeon crawlers, are a fan of the series, or just want a challenging game, this one’s something to try. Just turn the sound off. Trust me.
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Maten no Soumetsu
(NTSC-J / 1993)
Sometimes called only Maten, this should not be confused with Maten Densetsu for the Super Famicom, as they’re totally different animals. This is a typical fantasy-based JRPG in almost every sense, with the only real innovation coming in the form of a day-night cycle. It keeps all the usual trappings of its subgenre, though there is a day-night cycle built into the game. The plot follows a nameless boy found in the woods by a warrior named Zafan. When the boy turns sixteen, Zafan dies, but tells the boy to visit the king and follow the way of the warrior before he expires. So the boy decides to do just that. Visually, I wasn’t really impressed with the overworld, but monsters and battlefields are very well drawn. The music is also somewhat hit-or-miss, with certain tracks coming off very well, and some simply grating on the ears.
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(NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1992)
Known as Sorcer’s Kingdom in Japan, this is a JRPG with strategy RPG combat, with the battlefields taking place wherever the party is currently walking. Once again, you play a young man sent out by the king to find why more monsters are appearing in the land and threatening the people. While it’s not a very pretty game, it’s got some great music, and the spell effects aren’t terrible for an early Genesis RPG. Also, keep in mind that only one party member is allowed a round per turn, versus all of the monsters. Sure, it isn’t fair, but it makes for a much more challenging game, and considering how powerful certain characters get at the end of the game, you actually kind of need the limitation.
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(NTSC-J / 1991)
This is a science fiction JRPG, meant for US release under the name of Star Odyssey but never to see distant shores. Apparently the plot has you playing a boy named Miyabi who must travel throughout different planets in the Galaxy Union Empire, doing good deeds. The Blue Almanac in question is apparently a record of his travels. The game’s got some interesting features, including enemies that level with the player and spoken names for the force effects in the game. Graphically, the game’s pretty bland, though cities look ok. Building interiors are pure drivel. The audio is a mixed bag too, with some music tracks I genuinely like, and some sound effects I can’t stand. My favorite part of this is probably the intro, where an alien “reads” out loud from the Blue Almanac in what I can only guess to be alien speech.
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Sword of Vermilion
(NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1989)
This was Yu Suzuki’s first console-only game. In the game, players control the nameless son of King Erik V, who must save the world of Vermilion from the wizard-king Tsarkon. It utilized four different game modes, a Town Mode reminiscent of JRPGs, Battle Mode similar to an action RPG, Dungeon Mode like a dungeon crawler, and Boss Mode, a side-scrolling action RPG. The game is pretty(especially the boss sprites), the music is good, and the game came with a 106-page hint book. But with a vast array of palette swaps backing a small number of enemy sprites, poor AI, and combat actions that are, frankly, pretty dull, the game just doesn’t live up to the hype it built upon release. Sega-16’s review had the greatest line to describe the game ever: “Well, It looked good, but it played like a cardboard saxophone.”
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(NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1989)
This is actually a port of Hydlide 3 for the Famicom and MSX. Fairyland is rocked by a sudden explosion as enemies suddenly invade, and it’s up to the hero, Jim, to save the day. The game’s also generally panned because of the poor graphics. It offers tiny sprites, limited animation, and a presentation that likely could have been offered on the Famicom(and was). The game also incorporates an alignment system for monsters. Killing good monsters drains your MF stat, with rewards for keeping it high and deadly traps appearing if it reaches zero. There’s also a weight system, and the player is required to eat and sleep, which is pretty amazing for an action RPG of the era. There are a lot of people who hate this game, so you might want to give it a try before purchasing.
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(NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
Also known as Shi no Mekyu, or Labyrinth of Death and originally released in 1990 via Sega Meganet, this is a roguelike RPG with poor visuals, but decent music. There is almost no plot, just a man entering a tower with 30 levels(and no save function) to recover a chalice from a dragon. The game features a food system(you can both starve and die of overeating), poorly chosen sound effects, and little animation for monsters. Enemies move when you do, and defeating monsters will earn higher titles, resulting in higher health and defense. And while levels are supposed to be random, there’s a limit, so after a few runs you’ll likely recognize some of the maps. And then there’s the gold, which serves only one purpose: the more gold you have, the nicer your funeral when you die. Seriously.
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Tiger Hunter Hero Novel
(China / 1994)
The title of this game is actually Shuihuzhuan, though it is often referred to as Tiger Hunter Hero Novel. It’s a Taiwan-only strategy RPG, based off the book of the same name, sometimes known in the west as Water Margins or Outlaws of the Marsh. In this game, 108 heroes band together to defeat the corrupt Song Dynasty, in the 12th century. Towns and locales can be explored, though the majority of the game is composed of large battles. This game is also absolutely gorgeous, it’s just a real shame that not much is known about it in the West. It should not be confused with the beat ’em up Shui Hu Feng Yu Zhuan, which was apparently never released.
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Heroic Legend of Sealing Gods
(China / 1996)
Once again, this is a Taiwanese strategy RPG, sometimes known as Fengshen Yingjiechuan, with gorgeous artwork and some nice magic animations. The plot follows a legend from the Shang Dynasty, where Emperor Zhou fell in love with the goddess of Nu Wa. When he ordered his soldiers to capture her, they informed him of a mortal woman with beauty to rival Nu Wa’s, and captured her instead. Unfortunately, she had been possessed by a fox spirit, and this has lead to corruption and problems in the ruling household. To save China, you must rebel against the royal family. You start as the hero Lin Yuan, and must find the other 8 heroes to help you on your journey. The game focuses entirely on combat and story exposition, with a little travel on the world map thrown in. Once again, it’s a shame so little is known about it in the West.
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Ya-Se Chuan Shuo
(China / 1995)
This one’s a Chinese JRPG, again with some quite nice graphics. The title is also often spelled Yase Zhuanshuo. It’s based on the Arthurian legends, though they provide more of a framework than an actual plot. Some kind of evil force has infected King Arthur’s castle, infecting many of the inhabitants and slowly spreading to everyone in the kingdom. You play a young boy named Dilo, whose father goes missing one day. It’s up to you to find out what happened to him. Once again, not to much is known about this title. Expect the usual fair of turn-based combat and top-down exploration.
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Conquering the World 3
(China / 1995)
This is a Chinese JRPG from Hong Kong, available in both traditional and simplified Chinese. You play as Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei as the three attempt to conquer ancient China, roughly around 200 AD. That’s right, if you’re a fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Dynasty Warriors, you’ll have an idea as to what’s going on. Gameplay is similar to Lufia II in terms of combat, with fights only beginning when you run into an enemy. The game relies heavily on palette swaps for enemies. Combat itself is apparently reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI, though with some glitches like damage numbers appearing behind sprites, making them unreadable. The soundtrack is generally pretty good. There’s a few other bugs, but the game is still highly playable.
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Barver Battle Saga
(China, Russia / Unknown, though likely mid- to late-1990s.)
This game is sometimes subtitled as The Space Fighter or The Space Soldier. It’s a JRPG with some nice music and graphics, likely because ultimately it’s a port of Breath of Fire 2 that’s been hacked to Hell and back, with sprites and art from other games thrown in. If you’re really interested in the game, the entire thing can be watched in a 55-part speed run on YouTube. The Russian version is known as Barver Battle Final Fantasy: Russian Version.
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For one reason or another, these titles just didn’t make the cut to be put into a list of RPGs. That doesn’t mean that these are bad games whatsoever, just that there’s some kind of discrepancy that led to their being put here.
Pier Solar (Universal / Not Yet Released)
Ok, yes, this one’s definitely a JRPG. I’m just putting it here because, as of this writing, it has not been released yet. Frankly, it looks absolutely amazing, with some incredible audio to match. To improve the music further, the game will release with am audio CD for Sega CD, providing even higher quality tracks. I don’t know details of the story, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to reveal them anyway, since it might spoil the surprise. But take heart and keep watching their website, www.piersolar.com. And if anybody from the Water Melon team read this, we’re looking forward to your game and keep up the good work.
Crusader of Centy (NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1994)
This is a pretty cute game, reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. And much like Link to the Past, I consider it an adventure game, not an RPG. That said, it’s pretty and the music is nice, and it features an interesting system of using animal companions to help the player get on with their quest. The story involves monsters showing back up in the world after several hundred years of being stuck underground, and they’re rightly a little bit upset about it. Unfortunately the game’s not too difficult, and it’s pretty short, but if you’re a fan of action RPGs and looking for a fun little romp, this might be a good one to check out. The game’s also known as Soleil
Chiki Chiki Boys (NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1992)
It’s a shame this Capcom game has been lost to time, as this is a direct port of a great side-scrolling action title. King Chiki Chiki, ruler of Alurea, is happy to discover his wife has given birth to twins. Unfortunately just a short while later, his kingdom his crushed by the invading army of the evil clown Riepohtman. The king takes his family and hides away for several years, allowing his boys to grow old so that they can take back Alurea and take the clown down. The game allows the player to pick which of the two boys to play, and with both are similar, one’s better with swords while the other enjoys magic. The game is obscenely cute, with extremely bright visuals as well as sound effects and music to match.
Spiritual Warfare (NTSC-U / 1994)
This is a direct port of the NES version of the same name, which was ultimately a clone of The Legend of Zelda(and again, an adventure game to me). And direct port is correct: nothing was updated, so expect NES-quality graphics and sound. Also, it’s a Wisdom Tree game, so expect having to convert pagans and answer Bible questions. You play a soldier in the Army of the Lord, sent to acquire all the pieces of the armor of God. Truth be told, I enjoyed the NES version(there’s a scene where you have to wander through a gang war that I always liked), but not for the Genesis. This just feels lazy to me. Also, the game is saved with a password system, so even that feels a bit tedious.
Starflight (NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
This was a space-based strategy game, originally designed for the computers of its age and ported to the Genesis later. You must discover the secret of the Crystal Planet, a large object moving through the galaxy that causes stars to flare and destroy entire solar systems. To do this, you have to recruit a crew of aliens, complete various investigations for the Old Empire, and travel through space doing various kinds of jobs. Also, you can upgrade your ship, engage in dogfights, explore the universe, and even colonize planets, which you can ride around on in an upgradeable ATV. As far as space games from the era go, this one’s a real winner, so if you’re looking for something along those lines, find a copy of Starflight.
Syndicate (NTSC-U, PAL / 1994)
This is a real time tactical game, not quite on the scale of an RTS but definitely getting there. The player is in charge of a corporation interested in completing such jobs as rescuing captured friends and employees, finding scientists and civilian workers to serve it, or conducting assassination missions while killing the agents and destroying the resources of other corporations. Yep, it’s cyberpunk alright. To do this, you lead a team of four cyborgs, armed to the teeth and in possession of various mechanical upgrades, through an isometric cityscape. The graphics had to be toned down a bit from its computer brethren, but the game’s still an enjoyable title, definitely worth looking into.
Wonder Boy in Monster World (NTSC-J, NTSC-U, PAL / 1991)
Similar to Chiki Chiki Boys, this is a side-scrolling platformer with heavy RPG overtones, little plot beyond “save world from monsters,” little animation, and poor sound effects. Yet the visual images are wonderful, and the soundtrack does a good job of matching up each locale. There’s also a handful of items to help you fight, including a shield you actually have to pull out to use, and the game’s apparently quite fun. It’s also pretty short, so don’t expect a major time sink, which is nice for all of us who have other things we should be doing.