Monday, February 16, 2015

Game 175: The Black Onyx (1984)

 

It didn't take very long for Japan to develop its own subset of the RPG world. The first commercial RPGs in the U.S. came out in 1978, but it arguably took until 1981, the year both Wizardry and Ultima were released, before they got good enough to be worthy of international notice. After that, Japan only lagged by a year: the first Japanese RPG is generally given as Dragon and Princess (1982), essentially a text adventure with tactical combat. (I tried to play it but couldn't get past the language barrier.) 1983 brought eight titles that we know about, including Bokosuka Wars (perhaps the first strategy-RPG hybrid), Dungeon (an Ultima clone), Panoramah Toh, and Poibos Part 1: Dasshutsu (Japan's first science-fiction RPG). From what I've read online, while these games all have their admirers, they very much feel like a country finding its RPG legs.

1984 seems to be the first real banner year in JRPGs, bringing Dragon Slayer, one of the first action RPGs, and progenitor of a line that lasted through 2007. Hydlide, another popular action RPG, seems to be the earliest JRPG to eventually receive a western release. In the Psychic City is often listed as a landmark sci-fi RPG. Finally, there were two first-person, multi-character RPGs inspired by Wizardry: Lizard and The Black Onyx.

The Black Onyx is the earliest JRPG that I'll be playing, and it's only possible through a fan translation (we'll talk more about that later). Given this, it's somewhat ironic that its developer was a westerner: Henk Rogers, born in the Netherlands and raised in the United States. In late 1970s, according to several interviews, he "chased a girl" to Japan and ended up staying there for almost a decade. (He also ended up marrying the girl, so that turned out okay.) At some point, he was exposed to Wizardry and noted that Japan had nothing like it; although the game would grow hugely popular in Japan, it wasn't translated and sold there until 1985. Sensing an opportunity, Rogers decided to reverse-engineer the basic experience of Wizardry. He did it in nine months despite not speaking Japanese (his wife helped him with the translations). After a slow start, The Black Onyx went on to become the best-selling Japanese computer game of 1984.

The Black Onyx isn't as good or complex as Wizardry, but it's fun in its own way, and you can see how it inspired a nation that didn't have much to compare it with. It distills RPG mechanics to their bare essentials--fight, get stronger, fight harder foes--but in a way that does a good job balancing difficulty and length, and it has a few fun innovations to its credit.

Unfortunately, the fan translation doesn't come with a translation of any documentation, so I'm not sure of the full back story. From what I get on web sites, it takes place in Utsuro, a town under a curse of eternal night. The party is seeking the legendary Black Onyx, which will somehow break the curse.
     
Where most RPGs have you select race and class during character creation, this one has you choose from among a ridiculous number of hairstyles and outfits--none of which matter once you get some armor and helmets.
          
The party consists of up to five characters. They can be created by the player or recruited from among the townsfolk. I don't know how to get back to character creation if a character dies, so I think perhaps recruitment is the only way to replace lost characters. All characters are warriors--there are no magic or thieving systems in the game--and character creation is solely about choosing their names and appearances. The game rolls values for strength, dexterity, and health behind the scenes, but you don't find out what your characters got until you add them to the party and embark on your adventure. The game warns you to "Beware the Beast!" as you set out.

The characters start with no equipment and a little money. The town offers four shops--weapons, armor, helms, and shields--and each shop has a selection of goods that progressively increase in value and effectiveness. As you arm and dress your party, their little icons change to reflect their equipment, which is perhaps the first time we see this in any RPG.
    
Buying a mace. Note that my little portraits now have leather armor and shields. Chester on the far left is holding a mace but the other characters all have knives. You may have to enlarge this to see.
           
The town itself is fully explorable (unlike Wizardry, it must be said), and in addition to shops, it offers a hospital, a jail, a few pubs, and an inn--although since there's no crime, food, or sleep system in the game, the latter joints are simply occasions to encounter NPCs. A cemetery area offers a few mini-dungeons where you can encounter skeletons and the like. There are a few oddities in the town, including a single wall panel standing in the middle of an open area, labeled "The Wall," a tailor shop whose owner says they're out of business, and entrances to an arena, a temple, and gates out of the city, all of which say I can't go there yet.
     
The town level. Rogers clearly didn't feel enslaved to symmetry the way many developers did in the early 1980s.
           
The hospital includes an "examination room," and paying 10 gold pieces there is the only way to see the character sheet. In the southeast corner, there's a zone of darkness with crackling lightning that seems ominous.
     
I have to pay to see these facts about myself.
         
A well lets you descend about 8 levels before you're destroyed by a Kraken. Finally, a building in the center of the city offers a stairway down to the main multi-leveled dungeon.
          
The well offers an unwinnable combat against a Kraken. Perhaps I'll be able to defeat him later, when I'm more powerful.
        
You navigate all of this through a 3D interface that looks like Wizardry with color. As in most of these early 3D games, you can't actually see enemies and NPCs in the environment; they just suddenly appear in front of you when you step in the right (or wrong) square. The interface is quite simple and consists of the number pad to move, the arrow keys to go up and down, and commands to check how much gold you have and drink some medicine. There's no way to see a character sheet or inventory, except oddly the option to take your helm on or off. I'm not sure why that exists. You can save anywhere, but I honestly don't know how you reload. I've been using emulator save states.
          
The town has numerous fixed and random encounters with parties of NPCs, for which you have the options to fight, talk, or run. Talking sometimes produces "Good luck finding the Onyx," but usually the NPCs just attack. Maybe they're supposed to be rival adventuring parties. Combat with them produces a modicum of experience but no gold. If you're short one member, you have the option to ask an NPC to join you or rob him; strangely, the option to rob NPCs doesn't come up when the party is full.
          
A character I created died early, so I got this NPC to join us.
          
Combat is an extremely basic affair. You only get to choose what enemy to target, and in between rounds you can choose to flee. There's no parrying, magic, or use of items. You and your foes exchange blows and watch your respective health meters drop.
          
Battling a group of kobolds in the dungeon.
           
Combat is also highly predictable. Enemies and your own weapons do an amount of damage fixed within a very small range. Daggers always do 1-2, clubs 2-3, maces 3-5, and so on. There are some signs that some monsters are able to resist some weapons more easily than others. Occasionally, you get a "good job!" message indicating a critical hit, which seems to always do 50% more damage than a regular hit. The only real strategy is to study your enemies' hit point bars, guess how many blows it's going to take to kill them, and concentrate (or spread out) your attacks accordingly.
           
These skeletons require about three hits a piece to die, so I'll concentrate three attacks on Skeleton B and two on Skeleton C. Hopefully in the next round I can finish off C and kill A.
          
So far in the game (the first two dungeon levels), I've encountered skeletons, bats, kobolds, goblins, lions, wolves, zombies, and Aztecs--an odd but original inclusion. No one seems to have special attacks like poison or paralysis. Successful combats reward you with experience, and a status bar under each character's name tracks progress to the next level. When it reaches the right-hand side of the screen, you automatically level up. Leveling up produces a modest increase in the maximum health bar, and it may cause more combat damage (I've only leveled up twice, so the effects are subtle). You get gold rewards in about half the combats in which it would make sense for the enemy to have gold (i.e., not bats and wolves). A neat touch is that you get both experience and gold even when enemies flee.

Leveling up. Since experience is shared equally among party members, everyone created together levels up together.

The sound is more tolerable than a typical Apple or DOS RPG of the era. You get a 7-note tune when an encounter appears, and other brief motifs play in particular areas (e.g., a haunting minor theme in the cemetery). Crunches and swooshes accompany combat.
        
I don't yet know if there are any special encounters in the dungeons. So far, it's just been twisty corridors, doors, and combat. I haven't mapped the dungeon levels yet, but I probably will have to eventually, as I found at least one secret door on the town level. On the first two dungeon levels I explored, there were 2 x 2 patches of darkness that seemed to correspond with the one on the town level, which was kind of interesting.
         
The game probably sounds a bit banal, and it is, except the sense of character progression is relatively strong. At least in the early game, about 15 minutes spent in the dungeon produces enough gold to buy everyone one equipment upgrade, and the effects of that are immediately detectable in the next series of combats. I've found that I can forgive a lot of deficiencies in a game if it offers relatively rapid leveling and other character development. Ultimately, the length of the game will determine whether I thank or curse Onyx's English translator: LordKarnov42.

The price of the best equipment suggests that perhaps this will be a long game.

LordKarnov42 is or was an avid gamer with his own YouTube channel. He used to comment a lot on my blog--enough that I named a Pool of Radiance character after him--but we haven't heard from him in about two years. His channel has been quiet for a few years, too, and he hasn't posted to Reddit in over a year. I hope he's okay. Anyway, Karnov translated the PC-88 version of The Black Onyx several years ago and was kind enough to e-mail it to me, along with Japanese versions of Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, Genesis: Beyond the Revelation, and Hydlide. I had less trouble learning the PC-88 emulator than I've had with a lot of western PC emulators.
         
This gives us three active games that offer very little story, featureless towns and dungeons, and repetitive combat. Which I play next is anyone's guess.

Time so far:  2 hours
Reload count: 5 (after every character death save the first one)

67 comments:

  1. Aztecs? Next you'll be fighting Englishmen!

    I think Hydlide got an English computer release.

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    1. Hydlide was only released on Japanese PCs and the NES/Famicom, but as far as I know there isn't any in-game text that isn't in English in every version.

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    2. The first Hydlide was released outside of Japan for MSX systems, and I think a remake version was unofficially translated.

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    3. I always forget about the MSX ports of Hydlide, the first one had a limited release in Europe for MSX2 right?

      Hydlide II was released on the commercial European MSX emulation service woomb.net, now long gone. I've heard the translators are looking into bringing their releases back as translation patches but so far nothing. Hopefully one day.

      Hydlide III has a built-in hilariously badly translated English setting, and the Genesis/MegaDrive version came to the US/Europe as Super Hydlide, as well as Virtual Hydlide on the Saturn.

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    4. Ah, I didn't know there was an official non-Japanese computer release of Hydlide either. Does that mean it's on the Addict's list? I guess it could go either way -- it semi-fails the third of his criteria, though there's a healing item that's not plot-dependent.

      BTW Virtual Hydlide is its own game, no? Or at least, I thought it was a sort of procedurally-generated 3D mishmosh of ideas from all three of its predecessors.

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    5. Yeah, it's it's own thing, for what it's worth. Interesting ideas, average execution. It's no worse than the King's Field games though, and look at where that led.

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    6. I just assumed that a Japanese game released only in Japan wouldn't be written in English. This qualifies Hydlide for my list, then, if it really is an RPG.

      Does anyone know of any other JRPGs that didn't receive a western release but are all-English in the Japanese versions?

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    7. Dragon Slayer I has virtually no text, but what little there is is 100% English in all versions. It's kind of fun in the right mindset, but beware that there are monsters who, instead of reducing your HP when you attack you, reduce your EXP or attack power.

      It does enough unconventional things (like having your EXP be the same as your natural max HP, as well as having it be your defensive power) and should be short enough to at least try (once you figure it out you can beat each phase in a couple of hours, tops) that I'd like to see what you think of it.

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  2. It's not often that we get graphical representation of what our characters are wearing in the '80s. Also, this is the first game to let you choose your own hair and stuff. I know it doesn't matter when the character wears a helm but... lots of Skyrim players would like to disagree on that.

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    1. So this is the first videogame with graphical character creation?

      Are there more early games in other genres with this function?

      If not, its great example of inovation that was forgotten, and later reintroduced.

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    2. I might be prejudiced, but choosing your hair sounds like a very JRPG thing to me.

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    3. I suspect you're more likely to play choose your hairventure at the beginning of a western rpg.

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    4. Hm, I dont remember any NES, SNES, PSX or PS2 JRPG with character creation...

      mpx

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    5. I think the original Final Fantasy had character creation, but that came out around 1987 or 1988 IIRC.

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    6. I'd say Final Fantasy had character selection, but not creation. You couldn't modify their abilities or appearance to suit your tastes.

      Final Fantasy III was the first one to let you change the characters' classes at will, but the series as a whole has never really been about character creation.

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    7. That's a good point. I guess I was contrasting the FF character selection process with the Black Onyx process.

      The entire Final Fantasy series (and most JRPG series that I'm familiar with) have always been more about a tighter narrative structure rather than open-ended character creation / emergent gameplay. Perhaps it's a cultural issue?

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    8. Final Fantasy I had class selection, but no character creation.

      Here are original classes

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/fi/d/d1/Final_Fantasy_Classes.PNG

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    9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    10. @Vonotar

      As I understand it, it is (at least partly) a cultural phenomenon.

      JRPGs traditionally tell a particular story about a particular person, there's pretty much a continuum between novel, interactive fiction and JRPG. Keeping the player on a particular path allows the game to explore aspects of 'the hero' and their relationships which would be much more difficult within an open-ended approach.

      Western RPGs tend to take a more dynamic approach and say to the player: 'Go my daughter, make your way in the world'. Rather than telling a story about a particular character, the focus is on letting the player be the hero they want to be.

      Plenty of high profile western RPGs take the narrative-driven approach though, Mass Effect, Deus Ex etc.

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    11. And games made in Eastern Europe are depressing, grimdark affairs full of hopelessness and struggle. Much like living in Eastern Europe. French games are just weird and British games haven't been coming across the pond in a big way since the ZX Spectrum was retired.

      Video games are extremely cultural and I'm surprised no one has done an in-depth study of it.

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    12. http://www.academia.edu/428738/Hero_Myths_in_Japanese_Role-Playing_Games

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    13. @Tristan

      The Western RPGs that are narratively driven, like Bioware games, still have some level of player customization via skill point allocation. This seems to be lacking in the JRPG's that I've played, although the only one I've played in the last few years was Persona 3.

      Thanks for the discussion. It can be difficult for me to tease out what the true cultural differences in games are from what my stereotypes are of games from other countries.

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    14. JRPGs are still pretty linear up to this day. There doesn't seem to be any desire to change it any time soon either.

      Nowadays, JRPGs:
      1) have a preset Main Character (主人公) - meaning you cannot change any of his/her/its (say all you want, they may be preset but JRPGs do have some really innovative/weird characters) attributes.
      2) don't even let you select classes as there probably does not even have any classes for you to choose from. Each character in the party, however, will have something unique to bring to the table.
      3) are rather linear. Any openness to the game is a farce as there are checkpoints/bottlenecks to clear for you to reach the next chapter of "the story".
      4) have their story to tell. Unlike most western RPGs that lets you, at least have an illusion to, create your own paths. For instance, my Commander Shephard is an Anarchic hardcore lesbian with a penchant for blue mind-shagging alien but your Shephard might be totally different. However, my Squall Leonhart or 'Nameless Silent Protagonist With Outrageous Hair' will always have the same story.

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  3. LordKarnov42 here,

    Saving the game just dumps your characters and their equipment to the Character Disk. Reloading (and adding newly created characters to your party) is as easy as going to the main menu, picking "Enter Black Onyx Town", and typing in their names.

    The "zone of darkness" is the big black tower you can see rising from the town if you sit at the title screen for a few moments before pressing [F1].

    The Helm button is for... well, I don't know. Maybe to show off your characters' awesome hairstyles.

    And the Temple, Arena, and Gate areas were blocked off for future sequels. The area beyond the Temple doors was added in 'The Fire Crystal', which also adds a magic system. The area beyond the gate was intended to be added by the second sequel, 'The Moon Stone', which was in development for several years, restarted a couple of times, and ultimately cancelled. By then Henk was making the big bucks with Tetris so the series basically vanished. There's a strange even-more-arcane remake on the NES and a remake of the first game (with the Arena added) on the Game Boy Color, but otherwise it's dead.

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    1. Cool icon! I remember playing Mother 1 & 2 which seems to have this character...

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    2. I remember throwing him at people in Smash Bros.

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    3. BOING! Everyone who likes Earthbound should play Mother 3, which is casually brilliant in ways you do not see every day. It's very likely the best videogame I've ever played, and of course there are Mister Saturns (Misters Saturn?).

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    4. "LordKarnov42 here"

      Marc, after the Addict's ominous post, I'm genuinely relieved that you're OK and still around. Thanks for all your good work.

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    5. Haha, no problem, just moved on to a different username (LordKarnov started as an in-joke, I actually hate Karnov!) and haven't been visiting as often. Addict shot me an e-mail last week and asked me some questions about the game, so I was watching for the article.

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    6. I was genuinely worried as well, and felt a surge of pleasure when your name showed up! Too bad you've moved on (stay anyway! :) ), but we understand, don't we? Guys, don't we? Guys?

      Glad to see you are okay!

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    7. Marc, sorry about the "hope he's okay" paragraph. Obviously, you and I had corresponded by e-mail before this was published, but I'd already scheduled it and forgot to go back and edit it.

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    8. Haha, no problem, I enjoyed my obituary.

      Also, keep your Character Disk safe! 'The Fire Crystal' is definitely an expansion; you can't roll characters on it, you just use your Black Onyx character disk.

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  4. Here is great The Black Onyx making of article

    http://goo.gl/rKcLn3

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  5. Hmm, Aztecs and Krakens... could it be you're somewhere in the Caribbean Sea? Maybe at the mexican coast? The german Wikipedia page tells me that onyxes can be found in Mexico, the english one doesn't, but it says that they can mainly be found in Brazil.

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  6. Is there non-black onyx? This is like naming a game, "The one-horned unicorn".

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    1. Yes.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onyx#mediaviewer/File:Red_onyx_-_Handicraft.jpg

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    2. There are sapphires that aren't blue and diamonds that aren't clear as well.

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  7. Ah, yes, Hydlide. Considered by many to be the very worst NES game released upon the western shore, it was woefully out-dated when it came to the US in 1989. With no explanation of how the game works or what you're supposed to do it is nearly unplayable. The superior Ys 1 was available on the Famicom a year earlier, but never made it over to our shores. Pity, that.

    Bokosuka Wars is more of a proto-RTS than an RPG, at least by the standards of this blog. It is a vaguely charming game that I wanted to get a cartridge made up of, but its one of the Famicom games that cannot be used on the US NES.

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    1. Hydlide was so poorly regarded among kids who owned the NES that when one of my friends stole a copy from his cousin, it was passed around school like a hot potato until finally someone threw it onto the school's roof during recess.

      Years later I obtained a copy as part of a huge lot of games I bought on ebay, but didn't like it any better. Eventually I donated it to a NES blogger who was only missing a handful of games before his library was complete.

      I remember it being very, very poor.

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    2. I'm not going to try to claim that Hydlide is a good game, but I found beating it with a walkthrough--which is easy enough to do and doesn't take long--a strangely enjoyable experience.

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    3. Yeah, Hydlide was a dated release, but probably unfair to compare it to the legitimately terrible games on the NES (of which there were many).

      The worst game I've played was Urban Champion, but even that was head and shoulders above, say, Dragon's Lair (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00xIvTOLrYA).

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    4. Urban Champion is a game that's best played with a friend when you're both high/drunk/both. At least in that setting the game becomes entertaining. Hydlide is never fun.

      @GeoX
      I probably had the same strange sense of enjoyment when I beat Deadly Towers.

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    5. I wouldn't say that Hydlide is *that* bad. It's outdated, but I wouldn't list it as a bottom tier game. Next-to-bottom tier, however, seems about right.

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    6. Next to bottom is just right. If it were bottom tier, it would have suffered the fate my friends usually bestowed on truly vile cartridges: dousing in someone's sister's hairspray followed by total immolation. Sometimes the cartridges made a strange hissing noise as they flamed out, which seemed appropriate, as if the death gasp of something truly evil.

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    7. I played (and beat) Hydlide not long after its US release, after playing Zelda and Dragon Warrior, and still enjoyed it quite a bit. I beat it again just last month, for the first time since then.

      It's got its share of frustrations, but the puzzles aren't that cryptic if you're used to computer gaming. And it offers an instant save/load function to RAM that encourages experimentation.

      The music wears out its welcome pretty quickly, though. That's one thing the Genesis version of the sequel did much, much better.

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    8. I think the Hydlide thing is blown out of proportion due to modern-day looking back and everyone piling on. People just invent stuff because they heard it was a bad game. Sort of like E.T. I played Hydlide back in the day, and I thought it was all right. Not super, but a decent enough game. The music did grate, and Hydlide was the first game to disappoint me with a zero-effort ending. I won the game and that's *it*?

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    9. Hydlide's Famicom port is weird in general: it tacks on the (awful) music from Hydlide II and lacks the scrolling from the original's Sharp X1 port. The game itself remains tough going, but I've heard worse about Dragon Slayer from that same year. Tokihiro Naito programmed and designed the game largely by himself at T&E Soft; he recently asked Twitter followers to retweet him and convince his current employer M2 to make a game in the same vein. Zelda 1 definitely shows Hydlide's influence, which is one reason why people compare the two.

      Speaking of bad ports, Bokosuka Wars's difficulty balance was ruined in the Famicom version. The PC-88 original starts you off with a small army to fight the earliest waves of enemies, but the console port gives you nothing to start with but the general you directly control—you have to attack trees and convert them into soldiers! No surprise opinions are mixed on the game, since few of us have played the original.

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  8. The Dragon Slayer series is still active today, a correction I make only because it's entertainingly ridiculous. The main series puttered out at 8, but Dragon Slayer 6: Legend of Heroes got a bunch of sub-sequels. None of them were particularly successful or notable, until Dragon Slayer 6: Legend of Heroes VI: Trails in the Sky became a huge hit. So, of course, it has its own set of sequels.

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    1. Hey now, Legend of Heroes III-V were a pretty legendary trilogy in Japan. It even made it to PSP in the US, albeit with a pretty rough translation..

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    2. Also, most of the Dragon Slayer games have their own sequels. It's ridiculous. You'd almost need a family tree.

      So I made one.

      http://i.imgur.com/tFZ2R5Q.png

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    3. Holy cow, that's one hell of a genealogy record. It's like the Hapsburgs of video gaming.

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    4. Hah, I actually played one of those games - Faxanadu on the NES. Wasn't a bad 8-bit ARPG but nothing on Wonderboy 3

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    5. You've probably played another one as well. Dragon Slayer IV came out in the US as Legacy of the Wizard on the NES.

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    6. I heard that Legend of Heroes III was titled as one of the most poetic RPGs ever made, so I'd be interested in playing it, but the PSP translation seems like an unfortunate experience.

      Don't Nayuta no Kiseki and Ys vs Sora no Kiseki count as games in the series? I get the latter might be discounted because it's a crossover.

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    7. Thanks for that genealogy. Legacy of the Wizard, Faxanadu -- games I grew up with, and remember fondly. For some reason the games they localized for the US seem to be the ones that didn't spark a series of their own.

      I played Romancia for a while a few years ago and enjoyed it at first, but that game had a real mean streak and liked to put you in unwinnable situations. Not good.

      Too bad the Genesis versions of some of these games haven't been fan-translated. Sorcerian looks like a mess, but I'd still like to play it.

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    8. If you played the NES version of Romancia, it's a lot different from Falcom's original PC version. They added a lot more combat and made it generally a lot longer. The original game is literally 30 minutes long maximum because you have a timer, so getting stuck isn't a big deal, it's more of an adventure game than anything else. There are fan translations of the MSX and MSX2 versions if you're curious.

      Here's the PC-88 version:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcM3vIBFMf4

      And the MSX2 version:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kgmx37xHyM

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    9. "Monarch Monarch"? Am I being trolled? :P

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    10. Hah, nope
      http://i.imgur.com/mwLoUPY.jpg

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    11. Monarch Monarch is a name, yes. The game itself looks fun, a mish-mash of puzzle and RTS. Wouldn't be a bad idea to cook up a menu translation...

      Legend of Heroes III through V—the so-called "Gagharv" trilogy, named after the mysterious chasm separating the continent Tirasweel into sectors—is highly regarded by those who have played the PC originals and PSP ports in Japanese. Tom @ XSEED Games has stated an interest in localizing them, but I bet fans are gonna translate it before XSEED can get around.

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    12. I don't know what the hell that cover is supposed to be. It's even worse than the title "Monarch Monarch".

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  9. I'm glad you're discussing the early Japanese RPGs. A lot of them like Black Onyx are mostly derivative of western works, but some like Bokosuka Wars and the Dragon Slayers are super influential. Dragon Slayer 2: Xanadu provides much of the blueprint for the original Legend of Zelda, although it gives players a lot more freedom when it comes to traversing the game world.

    Also, I have no idea why so many people namedrop In the Psychic City as a classic RPG. It's absolutely terrible! I chronicled my short experience with it here: http://jawshplaysgames.blogspot.com/2014/04/diary-entry-24-roaming-streets-of-hotbs.html It was made by a company called HOT-B, who later published a remake of the game for the Famicom called Stargazers. They're mostly known on both sides of the Atlantic for the prolific Black Bass series of fishing games, with the occasional sequel still being developed to this day by HOT-B's successor company, Starfish.

    Hot-B made several other RPG's, most of which are utter trash. The NES game Shingen the Ruler is my personal favorite, a grand strategy title that plays like Nobunaga's Ambition with a trashy but fun tactical battle system. The only thing I couldn't find by them are the Kaleidoscope games. If anyone knows where I can get working pc88 images for those, please let me know.

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    1. Oh, man, Stargazers -- aka one of the worst games (and certainly worst RPGs) from the Famicom's early years. Invisible cities, nonsensical topography, hideous backgrounds, malformed dialogue boxes, etc.

      I tried playing it for a little while, but the partial translation patch by KingMike is too buggy and incomplete to work with, and the game is completely screwy anyway.

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    2. I'd say the biggest influence on Zelda was Hydlide, with a bit of Xanadu's castles. It has Hydlide's overworld, flip-scrolling, action-rpg combat, and fairies and all that.
      Plus, just look compare their intros:
      http://i.imgur.com/6qCdniX.png
      http://i.imgur.com/KGsAuwl.png

      Star*Fish is still making Wizardry-style games too. They were doing the Wizardry Empire series at least until recently, and it sort of spun off into their own Elminage series. One of which is on Steam.

      And, regarding Kaleidoscope: Shoot me an e-mail. ArstanNeckbeard, gmail.

      Delete
    3. Re: Kaleidoscope, don't get your hopes up too high. Kaleidoscope seems to be broken (where you can actually walk on the map doesn't seem to correspond with the visual map itself..) and Kaleidoscope II seems to just be a song with a picture.

      Delete
    4. Kaleidoscope II is still more of a game than anything by David Cage.

      Delete
  10. Sounds like this predicts Knights of Legend's Paperdoll by a few years.
    Though Knights of Legend does look better.

    ReplyDelete

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