Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Game 42: Sorcerian (1987)

"In times beyond memory, people fought for their lives in a world where monsters and magicians held sway in places of power and mystery. In those days, heroic adventurers went forth on perilous journeys to prove their courage against their foes in battles to the death. They were called...SORCERIAN." (I'm not sure if that's a noun or adjective.) 
Nihon Falcom (developer and publisher)
Released in 1987 for PC-88; 1988 for PC-98 and Sharp X1; 1990 for DOS and Sega Genesis; 1991 for MSX; 1992 for TurboGrafx CD   
Date Started: 24 January 2011
I have a confession to make that will probably turn off some of my readers: I hate Japanese animation. Hate it, hate it, hate it. This is nothing against the Japanese. It's not a racial thing. I have known and loved many Japanese people. I just wish they wouldn't try to draw stuff. It's not really even the totality of the animation that I hate; it's mostly just the faces, and hair. I'm talking about this: 
These images make my physically ill. Why? I don't know why. It's not like they all look the same, but all of them are incontestably Japanese (in style, not in ethnicity). It's something to do with the eyes, noses, and chins--and definitely the hair. (Are there no short-haired men in Japan?) Maybe it's because anime characters never really look Japanese: they look like Caucasians drawn by people who don't spend much time around Caucasians. Maybe it's the odd agelessness of the characters, so that female figures you're supposed to be attracted to look uncannily like children. Maybe it's just the fact that no one actually looks like this, and yet there's an entire industry devoted to churning out these images. Whatever the cause, thankfully this paragraph is now long enough that the preceding image has been pushed off the top of the screen and I no longer have to look at it. The one in the lower right is from Sorcerian, so you can imagine that this game--along with scores of others--is going to be a bit of a problem for me right at the get-go. Thankfully, in this case the graphics quality is poor enough that I can't really see the anime influence except in the character portrait. All right. That's out of the way. 
A Sorcerian mission. Those guys jumping on me are called "ouks."
Sorcerian is an odd offering: a PC game that looks like a console game. It is part of the Dragon Slayer series of games developed by Nihon Falcom for Japanese PCs (although some were ported to Nintendo, they are, despite their appearance, originally PC games). The series includes eight games, plus expansion packs, from 1984-1995, but Sorcerian is the only one to receive a DOS or (western) PC release. The original game was made in 1987, but the DOS port comes from 1990. Before anyone has fits at the screen shot above, I should mention that the game is inescapably a CRPG. It might be an "action-RPG," but it has levels and character classes and inventories and experience, and all the other trappings of a CRPG. If I exclude this one, I have to exclude Diablo later. I will allow, however, that action CRPGs, which depend a lot on graphics and sound, don't age quite as well as regular CRPGs, which depend more on tactics and story. In this, Sorcerian shares much with the game I just abandoned after my six-hour minimum: The Seven Spirits of Ra. Both feature combat by mashing down the SPACE bar. In Sorcerian, doing so controls four characters at once, some of whom have swords and axes, some of whom have staves that shoot spells, but it's no less banal in its tactics. 
"Creativity" was my watchword here.
You begin by creating a party of up to four characters, male or female, of one of four classes: fighter, wizard, dwarf, and elf. (This is the second recent game to conflate races and classes; the other was Le Mâitre des Ames.) You are assigned seven attributes: strength, protection, vitality, karma (basically charisma), intelligence, magic resistance, and dexterity, and you can allocate a pool of 3-5 bonus points to customize these attributes. Oddly, the attributes can be negative numbers; my dwarf above is so dumb he actually has a negative intelligence. All characters start at age 16, which would have been cool when I was 16 but seems kind of creepy now.
Those are some steep, pointy mountains.
After character creation, you take your characters to the town to purchase weapons, armor, and shields (fighters and dwarves) or staves, robes, and rings (elves and magicians). Other features of the town that you don't use until after your first mission are the magician (enchants items with spells), the herbalist (mixes reagents into potions; sells potions), the temple (resurrects the dead and allows you to build karma through confession and prayer), the elder's house (identifies magic items), the throne room (advances levels), and the training field (ups your attributes at the expense of years). The "musician's guild" exists, as far as I can tell, only to give you a sample of the different songs in the game, none of which I can get to play through my speakers.
The first quest.
After that, it's a simple matter of heading out on a quest. There are, from what I can tell, 15 different quests to play, organized in three "scenarios." I don't think there's an ultimate "main quest," and thus no way to "win" the game, although I suppose I'd call it winning if you complete all 15 adventures. Still, the lack of an ultimate goal frees me from what I consider any obligation to play through all 15. I'll play it until I get sick of it. I created a fighter (Fai-Tar), a dwarf (Da-War), an elf (Sil-Bani), and a wizard (Wii-Sar) and headed off into the first scenario. I've videoed a bit of it so you can see what it looks like to play:
The quest involves finding the royal scepter from the ouks in a dank cavern. I led my party somewhat randomly through the doors until I found a wounded adventurer named Goran who had been on the same quest. He told me I would need two invisible crystals to drain a room of acid and, later, a jewel to put in the hands of a demon statue. The crystals, being invisible, were a bit of a pain to find, but Goran's clues helped. I then had to find a jewel in one demon statue and transfer it to a couple of others. It was a lot of trial-and-error and backtracking (lots of backtracking).
Taking a jewel out of a demon statue's hands takes guts.
I had to contend with a variety of creatures, escape traps, and solve a couple of light puzzles that involved putting a blue stone from one place into another, and pouring water from one jug into another. There was at least one hidden switch that made a door appear, and a couple of holes that didn't look like doors but actually were, and two hydra-looking things that gave a lot of experience points (alas, they, unlike the other creatures on the level, did not respawn) but didn't seem to be guarding anything more valuable than an herb.
Hydras in the first quest are unexpected.
By the time it was all over, I wasn't entirely sure what I had done, but I had the scepter, a new long sword, and some more herbs. A return visit to Goran's cave found him gone (or dead) but his axe left behind. When you return to town, you get the results of your quest, including items, gold, and experience... ...and much like Phantasie, you divide up the plunder among your party, or sell it. Once I had received my reward of experience and gold from the king, I returned to town and spent some of my loot. I found that the "savory" herb the hydras had been guarding created a resurrection potion, and I was able to create cure and heal potions out of other herbs I had picked up. The elder said that my long sword had a "flame" ability that he could release for 480 gold--way more than I have, so that will have to wait. Finally, I visited the throne room and each of my characters advanced one or two levels. A few additional notes, because I get the impression that y'all like bullet points:
  • Each of your characters has an occupation that apparently he or she engages in when not adventuring. All of them start as farmers, but you can change them based on their levels and statistics. As far as I can tell, the only reason for the occupations is to give the characters annual incomes (years pass quickly in the game), and some of them are mildly amusing. If more were done with these occupations, it could make for an interesting role-playing element. I made my fighter a spy, my dwarf a translator, my elf a dancer, and my wizard an exorcist. I hope there's not a big call for that in the kingdom, though.
By day, he is a mild-mannered "cheese maker"; by night he clears caves of ouks...
  • You don't get experience for defeating enemies until you clear out an entire area of them. But even after this happens, they start appearing again almost immediately. I'm not sure there's any way to completely "clear" an area. In a couple of places on the opening scenario, I was swarmed by rats (yes, rats) that respawned so quickly I was never able to even momentarily clear them.
  • Hit points and magic points regenerate constantly when standing still, and quite quickly, so combat is about the difficulty of individual battles rather than accumulated battles.
  • Enchanting items apparently takes a long time. I had my wizard take his staff in for enchantment, and the magician told him to come back in three years. However, the first scenario took my characters two years to complete, so maybe it won't be so long in real time.
"Morning or afternoon?" "What difference does it make? It's three years!" "Well, the plumber is coming in the morning." Cold War humor. You had to be there.
That's the gist of it. I'll play one or two more scenarios and re-evaluate. I admit to a little impatience because there is some awesome stuff coming up in 1988: Might & Magic II, Pool of Radiance, Ultima V, the first game based on The Lord of the Rings...I'm even looking slightly forward to The Bard's Tale III. But I have to get out of 1987 first.


  1. I remember seeing this game on the shelves back in the day. It was always bundled with another game, though I can't remember which one. Anyway, to me it looked like a console game, something one might play on their NES, and that didn't interest me, so I never picked it up. Thanks for playing it so I don't have to.

    As far as race as class goes, this could be a hold over from original table top Dungeons & Dragons.

    Also, I share your dislike for anime, so it actually gives your opinions more cred with me.

  2. I tried this about a month ago. An intriguing concept, but a platform-like gameplay combined with jerky graphics wasn't fun enough to keep at it. A better stab at a similar gameplay (only with turn-based combat) was done in freeware indies The Spirit Engine 1 & 2.

    Interestingly, it's been a while since you had a 'proper' tactical party/turn based RPG on menu, and none of the games on your to-do list look like it either. These things come in waves, it seems. I knew there was a dry period between first-person step-by-step RPG's of the early 90-ies and Baldur's Gate/Fallout era of late 90-ies, but I didn't know there was a dry period between 'Silver' and 'Gold' era too.

  3. "This is the second recent game to conflate races and classes"

    This comes from original printings of Dungeons & Dragons, mind you. I kind of like the idea of the Elf and Dwarf being something special in themselves, not just a base race to further flesh out with the common four classes.

    Sorcerian exits by using this 8x8 pixel tile swapping trick to effectively 'fake' scrolling and character movement. There were so, so many Japanese games on their PC-clones and MSX machines that did this. We only got a few of them in the west. We wouldn't see smooth, mario-like scrolling on the PC until iD software managed to get that going with their Commander Keen series.

    Sorcerian's oldschool vibe doesn't stop with race-as-class. That years pass in adventures is a callback to the 'campaign' aspect of original D&D, which was a notion taken from military campaigns in wargames. There are some interesting simulation aspects going on in this game. But it's too early for the PC to have enjoyable platformers. Even Prince of Persia, one of the best games on personal computers (and whose DOS version was the best of the micros, imagine that!) is flip-screen, not scrolling, and it comes in a few years yet.

  4. Oh, also, 1988 should be a big year indeed. I think we also have Wasteland and Pool of Radiance. Can't wait.

  5. Totally agree with you on the artwork issue.

    I'm keen to see your thoughts on those 1988 titles. I don't recognise any of the titles coming up for 1987.

  6. Awesome, Sorcerian is a great [or at least unique] game. I have videos of the first four games uploaded on my Youtube Channel:

    Dragon Slayer [PC-88]
    Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu [PC-88]
    Dragon Slayer Jr.: Romancia [PC-88]
    Dragon Slayer IV: The Dragon Slayer Family [MSX2]

    @Molnar: The other game packaged was either Thexder, Fire Hawk: Thexder the Second Contact, Zeliard, or Silpheed. Sierra bought the rights to those [Game Arts games]. It could also have been Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen, the other Falcom game Sierra bought the rights to.

  7. I have to agree about the anime thing. I like it well enough in small doses, but something about it has always irritated me...
    Part of it is as you said, the characters all look odd in a similar way. Part of it is the slightly odd feel of the dialouge, how things that strike me as weird pass without notice, but things that seem normal get extensive attention.

    I also hate, absolutely hate, that thing they do when two characters are talking and one of them starts doing the whole "Ahhhhhhh...." thing before the other one finishes talking. I really, really hate it.

  8. With you on the anime / japanese drawing style thing. Can't stand it. Sucks, because the Japanese are perhaps the only mainstream company still attempting AAA turn based RPGs. Their storylines and art styles are too annoying for me to handle though.

    I did make a couple exceptions though, for games like Shiren and the Etrian Odyssey games for the DS.

    Anyway... looking forward to you plowing through the next few games and getting into some of the classic games that start to come up very soon.

  9. I had played this game long ago - probably the early 90's - but couldn't remember its name, or really anything about it other than that it had 4 players controlled at once. I finally figured out that it was "Sorcerian" earlier this summer, and I gave it a whirl again. That little adventure was short lived... it has not aged well by any standards.

  10. I played this game when I was a kid. I hated it then and from watching that video I remember why I hated it. It was boring and ugly even back then.

    Thanks for suffering through that fur us.

  11. It will be interesting to see how you will react to Knights of Xentar with its crazy haircuts and colors, loads of super-sized boobs etc., come 1994.

  12. Another hat in the ring of 'me no likey anime.'

  13. I feel kind of indifferent to anime... I have enjoyed a few(mostly emulated console) JRPGs, but I think I've avoided the worst offenders.

    On the subject of age, the whole "teenager saves the world" thing felt wrong for me when I was in my teens.

    Perhaps it was because of my enjoyment of the Ultima series, in which the protagonist has (by U6 at least) his own house and it is assumed a job etc.. It felt more serious in that respect, less like a teenage fantasy.

    Even more recent games seem to forget that there are a lot more older gamers now, one of the stranger aspects of NWN2 is if you try and RP as an older adventurer, since you start out being treated very much as a child (in fact the default human age is 18).

  14. Glass2099 Said...

    I myself am an anime fan (sorry, but from DBZ on I have had a total love for the Japanese use of building up their anime heroes as bad-asses),

    BUT I very much understand where you are coming from (ie, too shiny, too ideal face and body curves, big hair and hyper-expressive eyes, embrace of cartoonish and more-realistic artstyles fusion). Though, even for someone who doesn't like Japanese animation, Akira, is worth a watch as its artstyle is very true-to-life, and the story (not to mention the action and SFX) were quite impactful for me.

    Heh, keep up the awesome work. You and Paul Tassi from are my two favorite writers on the net.

    PS. I heard such good things about Pool of Radience from many other rpg articles that I tried it out on a NES emulator. Despite my great anticipation to hear what you have to say about it... I don't know between the brown character portraits and the banalties of moving my characters around in the battle screen, I couldn't go for more than one combat before deciding that I would never play it again.

    A translated Japan-only SNES rpg whose use of strategic combat (albeit limited) that I think you should atleast give a watch to a let's play of on YouTube is Live A Live (I pronounce the second Live with a capital I). The battle system is quite exciting, easy to get into, and sometimes unexpectedly challenging.

    If you watch any of my two suggestions what did you think?


  15. Doh, it cut out my web address for Paul Tassi.

    It's unrealitymag.com


  16. I don't like anime either, but this game is hard to look at for a different reason. Those tiles are a real eyesore. Yuck.

    Based on the video, the sound is annoying, too. Good luck finishing this one. I'd had enough of it at about the 1:03 mark.

  17. I actually like the looks of this game. The '15 seperate quests' thing is very interesting, kinda reminds me of Temple of Apshai which was a lot of fun :)

  18. Fortunately for you, most of the Final Fantasy games were never ported to PC. Unfortunately for you, two of them were. It'll take you a good long time to get to them, though.

  19. It's interesting how loosely the term RPG is sometimes applied. Even looking at the upcoming games, I see Zeliard. As I recall, Zeliard was more of an arcade platformer with some combat and the ability to upgrade your sword (I think). There's no character creation, naming or anything like that so far as I remember. I never thought of Zeliard as an RPG (only about as much as games like Rastan and Golden Axe). I guess we'll see.

    I'm also excited about some of the upcoming games from '88 and '89, though I've had some fond memories about a number of the games you've already played. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Bard's Tale III is much better than Bard's Tale II.

    If Zeliard is what I'm thinking then yes, it could be booted off the list.

  21. I kind of dig the graphics - they look like something you might see in an early Genesis game.

    It's too bad you don't dig the anime/manga style. I'm personally a great fan of it, both thematically and aesthetically. Good thing you won't be covering much in the way of JRPGs on this blog.

    First time commenter, btw, but I've been reading through your posts for something close to two months now. I really enjoy the blog in general.

  22. Fartarget: seriously! I'm really jonesin' for a good multi-character game. Phantasie III just didn't cut it. And there are so many good ones coming up. With Sorcerian finished (second post later tonight), Bard's Tale III is now on the "upcoming" list. After BT2, I was a bit worried, so thanks for the advanced review, Jason.

    Helm, thanks for the info about the first D&D. I never played it, so I didn't realize that was how it was done. Thanks also for the technology info; I am not in any way a graphics/graphics engine guy, and I appreciate the tutorials you all have given me.

    Karnov, I also appreciate the videos. I somehow assumed that all of the games in the series would be of the side-scrolling variety. It looks like they're actually all quite different. I'm not sure what makes them a "series," really, since they all have different stories and gameplay.

    Good thoughts in the anime discussion.

    Glass, I'm sorry you didn't like PoR. I hope it lives up to my memories, because I'm almost giddy with anticipation for it. I'll try to at least look at your suggestions, but my (so far unstated goal) is to hit Game 50 (without cutting any corners) by the one-year anniversary of my blog on February 15, so it might have to wait a little while.

    Taylor, I have to admire your cheerfulness. You "like the looks" of Sorcerian, and Temple of Apshai was "a lot of fun..." Not that there's anything wrong with either opinion, but are there any CRPGs you DON'T like?

    Sean, I actually have no idea how Zeliard got there. Not even MobyGames calls it a CRPG. It's gone. Although its replacement is likely to throw some people into fits.

    John, thanks for reading and commenting. My list actually has quite a few JRPGs on it--the genre doesn't really take off for PC/DOS until 1990, and then it seems like half of the ones on my list are Japanese. I am a little wary about both the aesthetics and the availability of the games, but we'll see when I get there.

  23. CRPG Addict, they all share the same game designer. The chronology gets confusing because each game in the series has its own sequels, usually without the series guy's involvement.

  24. You might be interested in this interview with Rebecca "Burger" Heineman. She was a co-founder of Interplay and basically wrote the original Bard's Tale engine and Bards Tale III. She has some interesting and critical comments on BTII and its designer.


  25. I'm a lifelong JRPG addict who has just recently crossed over into CRPG's so maybe that has something to do with it :)

    From the 6 CRPGs that I've played so far, I think Ultima II was the only one I didn't like. It wasn't too different from Ultima I, which was a lot of fun, but the few things it did change really hurt it. Dungeons were made pointless, Lord British was difficult to get to, towns were too big, grinding on a pirate ship wasn't fun, etc. It was only a day long though, so I think it was still worth it to not skip any of the games in the series.

  26. While I do like the manga art style I am increasingly negative on what that art is used for these days. But enough of that.

    Glass 2099: You played the NES Pool of Radiance?

    You made a mistake.

    See this was a funny thing in the 80s, On 8 bit machines every computer RPG brought to consoles was either cut down ala NES Ultima 3-4, or turned into a pile of suck. (Pool of Radiance, Bard's Tale, Ultima 5)

    Which was funny because for the NES, action games like Castlevania and Contra suuuucked hard on the computers of the day.

    The horsepower to do amazing action games even better than the mighty Amiga could, but not 8 bit CRPGs.

    Something sad to be said there.

  27. You are not the only one who dislikes anime. I seriously look forward to your take on Pool of Radiance.

  28. Sniff, Zeliard gone.. I loved that game (played it in 2000, thanks to Home of the Underdogs) but seriously, yeah it didn't belong in there.


  29. @Kyle: Thanks for the link to the interview. I didn't realize there was so much drama going on. I don't entirely agree with Burger's assessment. Bard's Tale II problem was not the difficulty but that the author seemed to be saving all his interesting ideas for the snares, leaving the dungeons a boring slog. Also, she slagged Centauri Alliance (just because it didn't sell?) but it came out pretty well; not a PC game though.

  30. I think this game is mostly remembered nowadays for the music, which was created by famed composer Yuzo Koshiro back when he briefly worked at Falcom. Shame you couldn't get it to work (although I imagine that it would sound different, and probably worse, on an IBM PC rather than the Japanese PCs.)

  31. Zeliard is in Wikipedia's Chronology of computer role-playing games. It has some RPG elements though I agree it is mostly an action/adventure.

  32. Bollocks. I thought I had re-checked Wikipedia and it wasn't there. I guess it's back on the list, then. Thanks for the heads up, Arcanum.

  33. I wanted to like anime and JRPGs(*), but after exploring both extensively while in college around a decade ago I decided neither was as good as they were cracked up to be. Either something was consistently lost in translation, or there was a fundamental cultural divide that I just couldn't fully surmount.

    I think it's mainly the writing that I have a problem with: in the case of anime, I really only got into Robotech which was apparently a frankenstein series made up of western writing and voice acting superimposed onto footage from 3 unrelated Japanese anime series. On the JRPG side of things, many 8-bit and a few 16-bit JRPGs seemed decent, but it went downhill rapidly as the ability of systems to hold more inane dialogue and nonsensical side-quests increased.

    Sorcerian in particular I wanted to like, since I loved Thexder and Sierra. I never got around to really trying it until around 6-7 years ago, and I felt that I hadn't missed out on much. The race-as-class thing grated on me even then, and the gameplay felt ridiculously underdeveloped (holding down jump, fire, and left/right ad-nauseum to plow through the dungeon got boring quickly). Had I played it when it was new, when I was around 10 years old and had an 8MHz 286 with an EGA monitor, I may have enjoyed it more (Captain Comic with stats!), but I think purchasing Thexder instead was a better deal.

    I also discovered a few years ago that Sorcerian was part of a larger series (as has already been mentioned). I was surprised to find that Faxanadu (played as a kid, good platformer with RPG elements) and Legacy of the Wizard (included in an eBay lot purchase) in my NES collection are set in the same universe and part of the same Dragon Slayer series, respectively.

    Some people have mentioned Zeliard: it's a great little platformer with light RPG elements. I never had the patience/determination to play it all the way through, although I did come across some level maps at one point that might make it easier to traverse some of the more maze-like levels.

  34. Heh, heh. I thought I was the only one who hated those anime graphics - that big-eyed, child-like, overly cutesy style. I guess it's good to know I'm not alone in that.

    And I'm definitely looking forward to some of the games coming up, those I actually played - and loved - years ago.

  35. Count me in the anime-dislikers circle. Glad too I'm not the only one... Addict, see, you were right to make your coming out!

  36. Jesus Christ -

    It's quite possible to be simply put off by the style of something - I can't get into anything remotely approaching the cardboard Hanna Barbara style of the 70s, whether it's animated or in comic book form. Same goes for helmet-hair 1980s anime (Bubblegum Crisis, etc) -the stories and storyboards may be great, but something about the LOOK just doesn't hold my eyes.

    Of course, it's also become quite trendy to hate anime and be very vocal about it. It's even more trendy to tell people just how creeped out you are by anything remotely approaching kinky sex in games or other forms of media ("EW GROSS A 14 YEAR OLD GIRL INFATULATED WITH A 22 YEAR OLD? THAT'S ILLEGAL!!!"), and let's face it, anime doesn't respect American sexual taboos - I'm not talking strictly about hentai either, I'm talking about sexual themes that go deeper than pre-adolescent "oooh let's hold hands, you're my knight in shining armor" stuff - so the two trends go hand in hand and tend to feed off of one another.

    It's curious, since the vocal anime hate seems to have only really came to the forefront around 2004-05, which is about the same time when anime fandom became less exclusively upper-middle-class.

    It's hard to tell how much of this is just twentysomethings vocally distancing themselves from their high-school years, and how much actually is classist / cultural issues, but I'm disinclined to say there isn't at least some sort of mix of the two.

  37. A couple minor additions and clarifications to my above post:

    1) I should probably have chosen less of a blanket term than "kinky sex" - really, 90% of it is the distinctly American refusal to acknowledge sexual psychology of human beings less than 6570 days old, no matter what the context (no doubt partially fueled by media hysteria).

    2) When I say "pre-adolesecent", I should hasten to add "psychologically" - that is to say, "psychologically pre-adolescent". Even full-grown adults in American media tend to have very pre-adolescent sexual development, with relationships typically portrayed as two objects in bi-directional possession of each other ("you cheated on me!? that's NOT FAIR, you're MINE"), as opposed to mutual partnerships ("you slept with someone other than me? How come? Frustration, boredom, just 'one of those things'?"). It makes for dramatic advertiser-friendly television, with characters having emotional meltdowns at each other that can last for entire story-arcs; unfortunately it keeps people somewhat sheltered.

  38. I honestly wouldn't have imagined that a couple of paragraphs about anime would produce a) such vitriol, and b) such in-depth analysis of meta-sexual issues.

    JCS, if you can get so worked up about someone expressing a dislike for a certain animation style that it moves you to paranoid rantings and obscenities, I'd just as soon you didn't read my blog.

  39. I must also be a massive racist as I also dislike anime. :nods:

  40. Wow, I was going to post something super-belatedly about anime characters, but now it seems a little tasteless. Whatever, I am tasteless.

    Anime characters only "look caucasian" to caucasians. IME, people who are Japanese think that anime or manga characters look Asian. Should Japanese artists draw Japanese characters with western signifiers of Asian ancestry?

  41. I appreciate your comment. I muddied the waters by saying that they "look like Caucasians drawn by people who don't spend much time around Caucasians." That clearly isn't quite right. I was trying to talk through why I have such a visceral negative reaction to anime, and I was doing a bad job of it. I still don't really know the answer.

    Japanese artists should draw whatever makes them happy, but I'm free to not like the style. I don't like a lot of animation. If the animation style of South Park showed up in a CRPG, I'd complain about that, too.

    1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2012/jan/06/south-park-rpg-screens

  42. This reminds me of how bad it was here in Chicago last pres election year. People seriously believed that anyone who did not vote Obama was racist. I am not starting a political debate but if your whole argument is vote for the guy I like or your racist then you automatically make me not want to vote for who you are pushing.

  43. Heh one more NOT-FAN of anime and all that.. I really find annoying the graphical style of them (and not only that too).. BUT, if it's about a good game, I will play through it, no serious problem.. Even though, I also consider JRPGs to be completely a different kind of beast than western, ones, which are of my taste..

  44. I don't have a lot of experience with them, but in general, I agree. I found both Lost Odyssey and Final Fantasy 13 to be far too linear and repetitive.

  45. Damn... will you be playing Cobra Mission as well?

  46. I wonder about the quality of the translations being done by your -9 INT Dwarf were any good. How did he get the job, was his uncle running a translation shop and forced into giving his nephew a job because no one else would hire him?

  47. It'll be funny reading your articles of Final Fantasy 7 or Septerra Core... oh, in about a decade or so.

    1. Who knows. By that time he could grow fond of this style of game. At least they are somewhat turn based when it comes to battles.

    2. Septerra Core, yes, but Final Fantasy was never released for PC.

    3. Several of the Final Fantasy games were released for PC: 7, 8, 11 and 14.

      I've checked CRPG Addict's list and FF7 and FF8 are on it. FF11 and FF14 aren't on the list, but that makes sense since both are MMORPGs.

  48. I've always preferred anime artwork in RPGs, especially compared to the mutants who generally populate some of the bigger western RPGs (like the Oblivion games).

    1. To each his own, of course, but I'm not sure what you mean by "mutants" in Oblivion.

  49. Since I've touched on the MMORPG topic and I understand you won't be playing those, I thought I might give you a heads up regarding a few you've put on the Master List.

    When I checked to see if FF7 was on your list, I noticed Asheron's Call is in there too. That's definitely an MMORPG. I did a quick check of a few others I could think of (I don't play MMOs myself) and Asheron's Call 2 is in there, so is the original Neverwinter Nights (1991), Lineage. There are also a couple of MUDs - DragonRealms, Gemstone. Of course, I didn't do a thorough check of the list, so there are probably others.

    1. I appreciate it. When I went through the MobyGames list, it wasn't always apparent which games were MMORPRGs and which were single-player, so I erred on the side of including them all. I've heard conflicting reports as to whether there are single-player options for some of these games, so I figured I'd deal with it when they came up.

    2. Could they have meant Gemstone Warrior? I have a picture of it on my blog, though it wasn't released for PC, and was from 1984.

      To quote Amy K "I looked up Gemstone Warrior (from 1984!), and it wasn’t released for PC. Also, MobyGames has it listed as a platformer, though the screenshots don’t give me that impression."


    3. I should've been more precise. The game I was mentioning is GemStone IV (no. 462 on the Master List), a MUD that's apparently the latest incarnation of a game that started out in 1988 as Gemstone ][ (at least if we give MobyGames any credence, because their information can be pretty iffy on more obscure games).

  50. I love the intro theme of the game. :)

  51. I distinctly remember this game being my first successful "figuring out an exploit (sort of)" in a game, as I found a place where monsters (probably ouks) came pouring out of holes at you exclusively in front of where you were standing, and if you just put something down on the space bar and left the room for a few hours you could really make some progress. That I stopped playing the game a few days later anyway spoke well of how much this did not help the experience.

    You know, Sorcerian and Zeliard both shared that interesting problem where the townsfolk decided that a giant hole leading to monster-filled caverns being 50 feet away from someone's house did not seem to be a big concern.

    Also I imagine you skipped Zeliard, given that it is far less CRPGy than this game. Too bad it is also a much more fun game, including some fantastic music too!

  52. It is absolutely important to be vigilant about (c)overt racism on the Internet. But are you actually attempting to make the claim that pedophilia is not a substantial theme in some manga/anime? Because you are lying if so, just to remind you.

  53. Well, I am a bit disappointed. Not because you don't share my taste, to each his own as you said, but I was hoping for a fair review for those few JRPG who made it over to the pc, by a person who could appreciate them. Guess I have to look elsewhere ;-)

    Also really think you should've skipped those if you have so hard feelings for japanese manga art. Also now I think there is a chance that the comment section of those turn into a sh*tstorm caused by certain people who...how should I say...take a liking to express their anti-japanese/manga/anime sentiments everyhwere on the internet when they get the chance. I already noticed glimpses of what to expect in here. I think I will just skip these then whenever you review a jrpg.

    1. I got the manga thing out of the way right at the beginning and never mentioned it again. I don't think you can argue that the rest of my review of the game was biased.

    2. Sorry, I just thought that it would be hard for you to review the graphical aspect of these games from your point on a neutral basis. No offense meant.

  54. Hmm... I think in those days games weren't yet complex enough for the "action RPG" genre. Combat was yet too simple. The game looks like a jump'n'run with horrible graphics.
    Regarding manga graphics, I admire the Japanese for developing their very own spin on western pop culture. The Japanese have more originality in their modern culture than any other "first world" country. In our circles, Japanese culture is a "cult" phenomenon, it looks weird to the uninitiated, and creates strong feelings in both supporters and opponents. I get why CPRGAddict doesn't like it - it's like the difference between Christopher Nolan's Batman and Joel Schumacher's. The first one is gritty/realistic, the other one comical/childish. So far, I got the impression that the Addict likes high fantasy, because if you're playing a game, it should at least be "serious" playing. Manga sometimes looks over-the-top or infantile and that ruins the immersion. Playing a 16 year old character goes into the same direction...

    1. I don't know about that; there is some pretty dark manga and anime out there. I can't really name any super dark ones off the top of my head (It isn't my thing) but lets see: Legend of the Galactic Heroes has some nice cute moments, but also is the only fiction I've seen that really portrays the arbitrariness of death in war; lots of people winning battles, surviving seven things that should have killed them, then getting hit by a stray bullet while leaving the battlefield and such).

      There are a lot of creepy horror ones as well.

      I think it is more that the general perception and art that we see are mostly cute and cuddly.

    2. It could be that I was mainly exposed to "tame" manga, i.e. the stuff that runs in the afternoon on german TV. However, I also watched the Akira movie, which was pretty dark, but also featured very young characters. I watched a couple of Miyazaki movies and enjoyed them, but the monsters there look more cute than scary... Also, I'm a big fan of Takashi Miike who likes to go over-the-top with violence.

    3. Yeah, Miyazaki is on the very light side; a lot of his stuff is for kids. One I remeber that wasn't cute at all was elfen lied, though I've never seen it. I saw Neon Genesis Evangelion, which I hated with a fiery burning passion, but it sure wasn't cute even though it had very young (creepily young) characters.

  55. "I made [...] my dwarf a translator [...]"
    The guy with negative intelligence? :-)

  56. I know I'm commenting way late on this post but I'd like to say that I am a big anime and jrpg fan. Love the art, love the themes, except some of the sexual themes bother me, especially dealing with young people but I tend to ignore these. With that said in reading your review of this gane and others, I don't think you were biased in your opinion any more than you were with any review since they are your opinions. Also, I can't see how this post could have been taken as being anti japan, to me it clearly seems just to be anti anime, which I understand because my wife has the same reaction ss you, and cant watch it with me. That's all I wanted to say.

    1. Meh, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I like manga and anime. A lot of anime adopted western novels and many have themes rooted in western philosophy. That said, someone else could hate it and I could still be great buddies with that guy.

      It's the same as having a BFF who is allergic to cheese while you're a cheddar aficionado.

  57. "I don't think there's an ultimate "main quest," and thus no way to "win" the game, although I suppose I'd call it winning if you complete all 15 adventures. Still, the lack of an ultimate goal frees me from what I consider any obligation to play through all 15. I'll play it until I get sick of it."

    There is actually an ultimate goal in this game. Once you beat every scenrio (all 15 stages) you unlock a "Fight Dragon" option in the bottom-right corner of the main menu.

    This is the final boss fight in the game, however there are multiple bosses in this fight.

  58. I am little late for the discussion here, but I must say that from the groups here, I belong to the camp of the people, who don't mind anime style or who even like it.
    I have nice memories for Knights of Xentar and I also like Septerra Core, even if I was not able to finish it because of some bug.
    What I remember, I haven' t play any other JRPG, but in time maybe I will be able to check some of them, because I have a collection on GOG :o)

  59. Yeah, nobody looks like the characters in anime and manga. Do you want to tell me that people in disney cartoons look realistic? What about characters in these black-and white shorts made in the 30s? Japanese animation was mainly inspired by western animation, mainly the movie "Dumbo" where the main protagonist is an elephant with big blue eyes. I think both children and adults a like can enjoy animation without comparing it to the real world, considering most of it is made to take us to the land of fantasy, where anything can happen. Next time would be better to just say "I don't like it" instead of making not well thought out excuses.

    1. This post is almost 8 years old. I wrote it very early in my blogging career, before I'd had much exposure to Japanese games, and before I learned to be a little more open-minded about certain graphical and thematic elements. People are of course free to comment on old entries, but this one hasn't aged well and is not representative of my current attitudes.

    2. You have nothing to apologize about. Even if your opinion has evolved your criticism of anime/manga is a legitimate one that too many weaboos take way too personally. I grew up with anime like Robotech and Fist of the North Star; Japanese animation and art hasn't really evolved much beyond selling itself to a much younger audience (where as Robotech and FotNS were aimed at older teens and adults).

      As you rightly pointed out in 2011, Japan has an entire industry of pumping out tons of anime much of it built on depicting young nubile female characters that borders on creepy paternalistic sexism.

      There's a reason there's an entire generation of young men whose online personas are symbolized by young anime vixens, because they were conditioned to admire and fantasize about these Japanese sexist stereotypes.

      Maybe it makes the weaboos uncomfortable since their entire worldview is based on fetishizing Japanese culture but it is absolutely legitimate criticism; Japan is not above criticism.

    3. To be honest, I like anime and manga but I think a lot of the "popular" anime and manga out there is pandering garbage, for exactly the reasons you list.

      I think the problem people have (at least, it's the problem I have) is that Chet seems to assume any game with any kind of Japanese influence is either kiddie garbage or Rance-style creepy sex fantasies. When Chet recently wrote "Chrono Trigger just looks like a bunch of kids running around," that'd be akin to me looking over Chet's shoulder and saying "Pool of Radiance just looks like a bunch of math for nerds." It completely reduces the entirety of the genre's history to a quick take laden with bias from past experiences.

      It's ironic that Chet hates cartoon graphics as well, given that the never-ending push for realism is why gamers are so picky and whiny about graphics nowadays.

    4. Eh, you can be stylized without being cartoony. You can go for a realistic look without having state of the art 3d graphics.

      A lot of early 3D games have stylized but realistic graphics. Look at something like Tomb Raider or Thief, they are too low poly to be called photorealistic by any means, but they still go for a realistic style rather than cartoony. In RPGs, good examples are Gothic and Morrowind. Morrowind especially looks very exotic and alien due to its artstyle, and the low poly visuals contribute to that even further. But the overall style is definitely realistic, not cartoony.

      Same with most 90s 2D games. Does Realms of Arkania look cartoony? No, it has very realistic looking character portraits and city textures. Even the old Monkey Island games, known for their cartoon style humor, go for a realistic artstyle and only use cartoony effects sparingly, and it enhances the vibe of surrealism the games got going for them.

      I also prefer realistic artstyles over cartoony ones. I really don't mind games looking dated, I have no issues with 90s and early 00s graphics. But all those mobile games with their cartoony arstyles really put me off. A lot of indies go for cartoony because it doesn't have to be as detailed, but you can go for abstraction and lower detail without making your game look like a cartoon, as 30 years of low poly/low res non-cartoony games prove.

  60. "A lot of indies go for cartoony because it doesn't have to be as detailed, but you can go for abstraction and lower detail without making your game look like a cartoon,(...)"

    This implies that realism as a style is some ultimate good that every game should be striving for. Just as Baldur's Gate wouldn't work as an anime, I can't imagine Mario being very popular if they made him look like a real-world overweight plumber. Undertale would be nowhere near as endearing if it were about a "real" kid and "real" monsters as opposed to cute little cartoon characters.

    The only point I have to make, and the only part that I don't believe Addict really agrees with, is that art styles are only a tool. They can be used correctly to resonate with a game's ideas or evoke certain feelings, or they can be used incorrectly and create tone clashes and stories that don't feel right. It was a lot easier to believe the Avatar was literally you when he was just a stick man, and not some guy with a centaur stripper poster on his wall--although the latter is objectively more realistic.

  61. There's a couple of mentions in these comments on the origins of "race as class" in early d&d - I'd just like to add some detail. It's generally believed to have originated in Basic D&D, which a lot of people these days forget even existed. In 1974, the very first version of D&D was released. In 1977, an updated version called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was released. The terminology is often fuzzy around serieses that end up numbered but didn't start that way. Pretty much all modern D&D traces its lineage through 1977's AD&D. I mostly see the 1977 edition referred to as 1st edition, the 1989 edition referred to as 2nd, and so on, with the 1974 edition being relegated to a pre-numbers state, sometimes just called Original D&D (OD&D).

    However, in addition to the AD&D line most people are familiar with, a parallel lineage started in 1981, with Basic D&D. This 1981 edition is generally credited as the origin of race as class. It had a series of successors and/or expansions. At first, Basic only supported dungeon crawling. Then Expert D&D was added, which supported wilderness hex crawls. Then, they released a revised version of Basic/Expert, done by different authors (the distinction is sometimes made between Holmes Basic and the later Moldvay/Cook Basic/Expert, on the basis of the authors). They then expanded it to high level play with strongholds and domains, epic level characters and eventual godhood, with the Companion, Master and Immortal releases. Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortal were generally considered one edition, sometimes called BECMI, or Rules Cyclopedia D&D (after the eventual compilation). This product line (spanning 1981-1991) is the one where race as class was generally found. While I'm on the subject, the combination of the implied world building in the rules around godhood and politics, plus the accumulation of details in the official adventures, gradually led to BECMI having its own setting, initially called the Known World setting, then renamed Mystara.

    All that background aside, my own belief (which I have evidence for but have not quite been able to confirm) is that race as class actually originated in the Caltech Warlock rules. Starting in the late 70s, students at Caltech used their own heavily modified D&D ruleset, called Warlock. We know Holmes (original creator of Basic) was familiar with and influenced by Warlock. I don't have the citation on hand but I recently read an analysis of some confusing initiative rules in Basic that demonstrated that they were basically lifted verbatim from Warlock but without the appropriate supporting rules - the discussion included a quote from Holmes about having read Warlock. Additionally, the earliest version of Warlock I've been able to dig up does include Race As Class (in a ruleset that otherwise is more aligned with original/advanced than basic). However, I haven't quite confirmed the dates in such a way as to conclusively show that Warlock did it first.

    Actually, now that I think about it, I believe the way I first heard about Warlock and started googling it was from Corey Cole mentioning it by name in the comments on this very blog. As a huge QfG fan I was interested in the version he used to play, and I believe it was by looking into that that I ran across the initiative discussion.

    Anyway, that's my understanding of where race as class comes from - either Holmes Basic or Warlock. Sorry for the essay, I get carried away on areas of particular interest to me. Oh, also, this is all from memory apart from looking up the exact years of editions. I apologize if my longwindedness gives an impression of authority, and if that impression renders any errors more grating than they might otherwise be. I'm not an expert, just an excited nerd.

    1. Snark: This is correct. The version of D&D from 1974 (The 3 white books) has each races counting as one of the classes (So dwarves fight as if they are fighting men, and elves choose to be fighting men or wizards)

      The AD&D1e version lets you pick your class, but Dwarves can only be thieves (or assassins) or fighters.

      The BECMI editions are the ones that have dwarves and co get their own experience tables and abilities as they level up.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.