Monday, November 18, 2019

Game 347: Mirai (1987)

I believe these characters translate literally as "not yet come," which is as good as any way to say "the future."
     
Mirai
Japan
Xain (developer and publisher)
Released 1987* for PC-88, PC-98, MSX, and Sharp X1
Date Started: 13 November 2019
Date Ended: 17 November 2019
Total Hours: 6
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)

*Various sites have Mirai's releases between 1985 and 1987. I'm persuaded that its earliest release was probably 1987 for the PC-88; some of the other platforms may have followed in subsequent years.
       
When I was compiling my master list, I rejected from the main list any Japanese game that didn't originally receive a western release. This was because I assumed that everything in the game would be in Japanese, and that it would therefore take me too long to translate the text, given that (unlike, say, German or French) I can't even type the characters into a translation tool. Yes, I realize it's possible to use some tools by taking pictures or even scanning over the screen, but none of these are fast or accurate enough to make gameplay truly possible. I tried with The Dragon & Princess (1982) but ultimately couldn't get anywhere without a full translation from helpful commenters.

However, I didn't count on the fact that a number of early JRPGs were in English, or at least mostly so, even in their original Japanese releases. We've had some speculation as to why this was true, but nothing that's ever fully satisfied me. Whatever the reason, I've been slowly re-investigating some of the titles originally rejected, to see if they are in fact playable in English. Mirai was one of those that made the cut, and it recently came up in a more-or-less random sort of my backlog.

The title means "future" in Japanese, which is why it is also the name of a Toyota hybrid sedan and a 2018 animated film about a time traveler. Several sites have translated the backstory that scrolls up the screen in katakana: It is the year 720 in the space era. Because of the destruction of the Earth's environment, humanity is seeking other planets to which to emigrate. Seven planets have been identified in the "Reinbow Nebula," but they are swarming with ferocious aliens. (These aliens are totally not just protecting their home.) Enter the protagonist, a legendary soldier, with his jetpack and power armor.
        
The game's primary RPG credentials are found in its inventory.
           
Mirai is a side-scrolling action RPG. The player begins on Planet 1 with 200 energy, 100 fuel, and 100 cash. The joystick moves the player around, including up and down, expending fuel with every move. Energy is like hit points--when enemies attack, it depletes--but it also serves as an emergency fuel reserve.

Enemies start swarming from the game's opening seconds, and they vary in lethality, durability, and patterns of movement. Mostly they damage you by hitting you directly, though a small number are capable of firing missile weapons. There are frog-like aliens that seem to move around randomly, colorful ships that always attack in a line, making them hard to avoid, and little flying saucers that like to swarm the moment you enter a tight corridor. You have to be quick on both the trigger and the movement keys. As with the recent Deadly Towers, once you fire your weapon, you can't fire again until it hits something or the missiles clear the screen, so it's important to time your fire carefully.
          
Grinding outside a warp center.
           
Killing enemies increases both experience and the "Shoot P" statistic. Each jetpack level has a "warp center." Finding it is a priority. There, you can change your "Shoot P" numbers for cash, then spend cash on fuel and energy (which are relatively cheap), weapon upgrades, and special items. After some grinding on the first level, I went from a "Beam" weapon to a more powerful "Needle" weapon to a "Triple" blaster that shoots three shots in a spread every time you fire.

There are also special items to purchase. I don't know what some of them do. "U_Jump" allows you better jumps on underground levels (more in a second); "P_Barr" creates a defensive barrier temporarily; "P_Hour" stops time for enemies temporarily. The ones I've figured out are useful enough that there's a real incentive to grind for cash.
           
"M_Scan" makes a little minimap of the level.
         
The warp centers are also the only places to save the game. It costs 80 credits to save. I like the idea of having to pay in-game currency to save. Only a few titles have implemented such a system so far.
        
Having to pay to save means the player is encouraged not to save-scum.
       
Levels have occasional boss creatures. When they appear, their names show up in the lower-right screen along with their hit points. On the first level, they were flowery things called "B_ameda" that were able to shoot missiles. (Some of you Japanese-English experts tell me what all the underscores are supposed to signify.) They were also immune to the starting "Beam" weapon, so I had to upgrade before I could kill them.
          
Shooting the "B_ameda" with the triple blaster.
         
Killing boss creatures is necessary to activate various portals between areas of each level. Once you pass through a portal from a jetpack area, you find yourself in an "underground" area where gameplay is very different. Instead of flying around with a jetpack, you walk around, and instead of shooting enemies, you punch and kick them. It looks to me like you're playing a female in these areas, too, although I'm not sure how that squares with the backstory.
          
Near a portal to the other half of the level.
          
You move around by climbing ladders and jumping from platform to platform, and the rules of both are different in Mirai than any other platformer I've played. You can't grab ladders in the air, for instance. The only way to use them is to start climbing on them from the bottom. When jumping you can move latterly a little distance in the air, but not very much. It's frankly hard to nail down the specific rules.
          
Climbing a ladder, although it looks more like a vine.

         
In the underground areas, all creatures are "boss" creatures, and there are only a few per level. The first one I played featured monstrous mushrooms called "Blueka" and beholder-like blobs "Dminga." A later area had something I can't even describe called "Norm" and little round balls with teeth called "goblins." To fight them without losing too much health, you have to time your approach carefully, trying to punch or kick them from the rear before they have time to react. There are no warp stations in the underground areas, so you need a stock of good gear from the jetpack levels.
          
The freaky "Dminga."
        
There are places where you can get stuck, unable to jump out unless you have one of the "u_jump" items from the store. These effectively double the height you can jump but also seem to make your jumps more maneuverable.

Eventually, after you've passed through enough portals, you meet the level boss. Special items don't seem to work in his presence, so defeating him is a long process of learning his patterns, hitting him while his back is turned, and using jumps to avoid his missiles.
            
The level boss kills me as I take this screenshot.
          
Once I defeated the first boss, I found myself on the second planet. It also proved to be a trade-off between jetpack areas and walking areas, with different enemies and different bosses. Eventually, I got stuck in a small area that has a warp center but otherwise no exits. I thought maybe I'm supposed to grind here until I get enough money for one of the "U_Teleport" devices, but this warp center doesn't sell items. Unfortunately, I saved over the only save slot at this warp center.
       
This warp center has suit shops, but I'm low on cash.
        
Even if there was a way to proceed, it took me about 6 hours (with quite a bit of reloading; I'm not good at action games) to reach this point, and it's hard to see spending another 36 hours, assuming that each planet takes the same amount of time. One level, one boss sounds about right for a side-scrolling action game that barely achieves RPG status.
          
Micro-bosses on Level 2 are "beetles."
      
If you're curious about the end you can see a one-hour LP of the MSX version done by someone who cheated with maximum power-ups at the very beginning and had a map. The levels get more elaborate, the enemies more numerous and quicker, the bosses tougher, but the game remains fundamentally the same. The final boss is named Kariguls. Unfortunately, the conclusion in this particular video is in unpunctuated, poorly-translated English.
           
The hardness of the world the seven two one cosmic century the war of aggression at Reinbow Nebula was brought to the end as a result of an increase in population many war had been over again I think you had a hard time of it in the case human forecast the future feel uneasy and cherish a desire but hope love and peace I wish you happiness.
             
Glad we cleared up. On the GIMLET, I give it:
          
  • 1 point for a bare minimum game world, including a framing story that isn't well-referenced in-game (who is the woman?)
  • 1 point for the most minor kind of character development with no character creation.
  • 0 points for no NPCs
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. I like how JRPGs often feature boss-level creatures that force you to adjust tactics on the fly, but the implementation of that system is at its most basic here.
           
The female hero fights a "mool" on Level 2.
       
  • 2 points for magic and combat. There are some minor tactical considerations in combat.
  • 3 points for equipment, its most developed RPG area.
         
I never figured out the use for some of these items.
        
  • 3 points for an economy that works well, rewarding grinding and conservation of funds.
  • 2 points for a man quest.
  • 1 point for a barely-acceptable interface, mediocre graphics and sound, and sluggish keys.
  • 0 points for gameplay. This is a highly subjective category, but there wasn't really anything I liked about it. Far too linear, far too large for its limited content, and by the second level it was already getting too hard.
         
That gives us a final score of 15. I doubt even players who like side-scrolling action games would find a lot of value in this one. As for me, it's probably my least-favorite sub-genre, and I'm going to want to see a lot more RPG and story elements (like Nihon Falcom's Sorcerian from the same year) before I invest any more time in one.
            
This ain't no soft action RPG.
         
Xain, also known as Zainsoft and Sein-Soft, published only a handful of games in its short history in the late 1980s. It is best known for Tritorn (1985) and its two sequels, which are also on my backlist and are also side-scrolling platformers. The company's last title, 1990's Valusa no Fukushū, is also a side-scrolling action game, but I don't think I'd call it a "platformer" anymore.

Although side-scrolling action with platform elements isn't what most players would later think of as "JRPGs," it's notable how many early Japanese entries featured these characteristics. The earliest was perhaps Xanadu: Dragon Slayer 2 (1985), although there are quite a few 1984/1985 games I haven't yet investigated. Later ones include Sorcerian (1987), Zeliard (1987), Castlevania II (1987), The Scheme (1988), and parts of Zelda II (1988). The sub-genre is virtually unknown outside of Japan. [Edit: I worded that poorly. I meant that development of such games rarely occurred outside Japan, not that players in other countries weren't aware of such titles from international releases.] But of course Japan had also led the way with non-RPG platformers (Donkey Kong, 1981) and side-scrolling platformers (Jump Bug, 1981, and most notably Super Mario Bros., 1985). It makes sense that some developers in that country would try to attach RPG elements to a successful template.


59 comments:

  1. I also thought it was a woman there, but then I got to thinking it looked a bit like a taller Astro Boy.

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    1. The cover also features both a man and a woman, so the assumption they're two different characters is reasonable

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    2. I think if that woman on the cover stood up, she would be a foot taller than the man and most of her height would be in her legs, which are five inches thicker than the rest of her body.

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  2. (1) There are a very large number of Japanese games (and some Western ones) in this "action game, but with stats and shops" format, and I wouldn't have thought they inherently counted as RPGs. I suppose there's not much difference in principle between this and the Ys franchise, but Ys at least calls itself an RPG (even if it's really more of an action game with level-ups).

    (2) The underscores appear to be being used as abbreviation periods - i.e. to indicate the letter before them represents a longer word. You'll see enemies throughout JRPGs with names like "G. SLIME" (green slime) or "L. GOBLIN" (large goblin).

    In this case P appears to be POWER and U is perhaps UTILITY. (I initially assumed that "powers" are consciously triggered abilities and "utilities" are passive buffs, but "U_TELEPORT" doesn't sound passive...)

    In case it's not obvious (though surely it is, based on other things you've played) the intent to make the text fit into a defined character limit (appears to be 10 characters). This is common throughout early games in the West too (particularly console games) but it's a particular issue in (Western localisations of) Japanese games, because katakana and hiragana take up significantly less screen space, so localisations face the challenge of fitting an English translation - usually requiring many more characters - into a screen space allotment based on more condensed Japanese script. So abbreviations are common to see.

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    1. For my console blog I developed three criteria for an action RPG vs. just an action game with RPG elements:

      1. It has to allow some sort of exploration, not just successive stages.

      2. It has to have some sort of safe areas like towns.

      3. There have to be more statistics than just life/power and magic points.

      (Of course, the usual "inventory for more than just puzzle solving" applies as well).

      This is fairly arbitrary and it took me a long time to develop -- my goal was to exclude games that didn't "feel" like ARPGs to me, particularly Zelda and the Castlevania games like Symphony of the Night. But it's all personal.

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    2. The underscore is functionally an abbreviation period, exactly as GregT said.

      But as there is no space in Japanese writing (the kanji signal the new words), they had to use something to separate the English words. In most cases they use • (just like on the title screen), but sometimes they use something else. For example, in Golden Axe they used = for the names. (The name Death=Adder was left in some western versions and people didn't know what that supposed to be.) My theory is that they used the underscore here mostly to signal the start of the new word, but to the English reader it works as an abbreviation as well.

      Also, the question of why did they used so much English: 1) it sounds good (or even cool) for the Japanese ear 2) the development environments of these early Japanese computers used exclusively English programming languages.

      If you look into old magazines like I/O or Micom Basic, you can see that they used BASIC on PC88, on MSX and on all the other platforms. BASIC didn't have kanji-compatibility for ages, nor hiragana or katakana in those years.

      When they switched to consoles, they then had their Japanese-made dev tools, and that's why there are much less English-texted games on Famicom.

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    3. Kurisu, good post. I was just thinking about asking what qualifies an action game as an action "RPG"? Because just having some stats that can get better doesn't seem sufficient. That's going to cover a lot of games that feel more like an arcade experience than an RPG experience.

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    4. The "sidescrolling action RPG with shops" genre was started by Xanadu, which was created by Nihon Falcom just like Ys. Between Xanadu and Ys, Falcom pretty much created the action JRPG genre. (The Western action RPG genre had different antecedents, but it's fair to say Diablo and Ultima Underworld are the urtexts for the majority of the genre.)

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    5. Isn't Gateway to Apshai a bit earlier than Diablo? Or Faery Tale Adventure?

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    6. Guess it depends on what you call ARPG. In the early 00s "action RPG" became synonymous with Diablo clones.

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    7. I typically stay away from any sort of abbreviation, as I was told (by a Professor in Ireland) that they are poor writing style. Indeed, I consider them confusing and unnecessary.

      Let me see:
      * Japanese role-playing games can be abbreviated "JRPG", but...
      * American role-playing games cannot be abbreviated "ARPG"!
      On the other hand:
      * Computer role-playing games can be abbreviated "CRPG", but...
      * Consolle role-playing games cannot be abbreviated "CRPG"!
      And more:
      * Personal computer can be abbreviated "PC"
      * Player's character can be abbreviated "PC"
      * Playable character can be abbreviated both as "PC" or "NPC" (if not controlled by the player since the beginning of the game)
      And also:
      * Non-playable character can be abbreviated "NPC"
      * Non-player's character can be abbreviated both as "NPC" or "PC" (if he/she can become a playable party member)

      This sounds very arbitrary and confusing to me.

      My favourite was when Chester blogged about a party that attacked enemies throwing Role-Playing Games at them. It was so surreal! I then learned that "RPG" can also be "Rocket-Propelled Grenade". What a letdown! :D :D :D

      Years ago, I found this (wonderful) blog when I tried and abbreviated "Consolle role-playing games", following the stereotype (please forgive me) that Americans are "abbreviation-maniacs"...

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    8. It is a matter of learning the jargon specific to a profession or industry (or hobby). There are probably abbreviations and expressions used by fans of First Person Shooters (FPS) games that most of Chet's audience would not be familiar with either.

      When I send an internal e-mail to colleagues at work, it is littered with abbreviations and acronyms that would render it incomprehensible to an outsider, but it is perfectly understood by the intended recipients.

      Obviously I write much differently when I am doing so for a non-specialized/external audience.

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  3. "Later ones include Sorcerian (1987), Zeliard (1987), Castlevania II (1987), ... and parts of Zelda II (1988). The sub-genre is virtually unknown outside of Japan."

    Of course, for such an obscure genre, all the quoted games above were quite relatively well-known outside of Japan; Castlevania and Zelda are huge, long-lived franchises, while Zeliard and Sorcerian were localised and republished by Sierra (of "King's Quest" fame.)

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    1. There's virtually no examples developed outside of Japan until much later, though. In part this is probably because of the massive dominance Japan had on the console side of things where platformers fit in better. Since they were making so many platform titles, it is only reasonable that they started looking for gimmicks to stand out.

      On PCs, the platformer genre was much rarer for many reasons, and by the mid 1990s there were so many new genres available that there wasn't so significant a need to experiment in any single one.

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    2. I'd argue that it isn't an obscure genre at all. Ys and Seiken Densetsu are household names among the people that grew up in the 16-bit generation, and even today we have more action games with RPG elements than without.

      As for the review itself... while I appreciate getting to hear about another undiscovered curiosity (especially this one, since it appears to take quite a few cues from Sega's Quartet), especially one on the PC-88, I do think it's unfortunate that your experience with Japanese games on this blog has been almost exclusively limited to either action games or rapey eroge. If only Nihon Falcom's Dinosaur had an English fan translation...

      Speaking of Nihon Falcom, I noticed that The Legend of Heroes II was on your list, but its prequel was not. Not only is the First Legend of Heroes also a turn-based RPG, it's also the only one of the two available in English.

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    3. The "rare genre" being discussed isn't "action RPG" or "action game with RPG elements". It's specifically "side-scrolling action with platform elements". Seiken Densetsu and Ys are both top-down titles in the Zelda style (and Japanese), while most modern action games with RPG elements are third-person brawler/shooter type games. And those have always been a rare breed except for Japanese developers.

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    4. Ah, I see now. I'll concede to that, then.

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    5. What you're describing is essentially the 'metroidvania' genre, and they've exploded in the west recently with nostalgia releases like 'Shovel Knight', 'Chasm', 'Rogue Legacy' and the remastering of 'Wonder Boy 2'.

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    6. Wonder Boy 3? Or did 2 get a remake as well.

      3's remake is fantastic (and it's a great example of the 'platformer with shops' ARPG).

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    7. As a guy who grew up with a PC and played tons of platformers on it, I'll have to say that calling platformers a rare genre on PC isn't entirely right. Yes, it had a rockier road establishing itself due to some hardware issues (making a PC platformer with smooth scrolling was Carmack's first big achievement in engine coding, while on consoles this had been commonplace a that time already - Commander Keen prided itself on being a PC platformer that plays as smoothly as Mario Bros), but in the early 90s there were plenty of them around. Just look at Apogee's catalog.

      Commander Keen, Bio Menace, Duke Nukem, Cosmo's Cosmic Adventure, Realms of Chaos, Crystal Caves, Secret Agent, etc etc.

      But on the PC in the west, nobody had the idea of combining the sidescrolling platformer action with RPG mechanics.

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    8. The misnamed "Metroidvania" genre usually doesn't have much in terms of RPG mechanics, though. (The game that inspired the term, Symphony Of The Night, did, but most games in the genre are more inspired by Metroid than by any -vania.)

      Regarding Western PC platformers, this is a case where "Western" and "PC" both don't quite give the level of detail necessary. The Commodore 64 and Amiga had many platformers, often of the puzzle-room variety (Jet Set Willy, etc.). They just didn't have as much market penetration in the US, where the IBM PC and NES were both more successful than in Europe.

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    9. There were plenty of PC platformers in the 90s. Apogee was certainly the marquee publisher of them. I remember a lot of Amiga ports too. Shareware CDs were packed with them. Standard 80s hardware wasn't up to the task, but they were everywhere once it was.

      Speaking of western side scrolling action-RPGs, the very earliest concept of Quake was one with a hammer wielding hero. It would have been ID's (still all caps then) game after the initial Keen trilogy but was never finished for whatever reason if it even got past the planning stage. It got picked back up after Doom II but started evaporating all the RPG trappings until just the general atmosphere remained.

      If the original concept had been released, that would have been the kickstart the genre needed in the West.

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  4. The original manual is actually scanned on archive.org. I'm just skimming it, but I don't see anything there explaining who the female character on the cover or in the underground is either. Sometimes Japanese isn't all that clear about gender or singular/plural, but in this case the backstory does pretty clearly refer to the soldier it's talking about as 彼 /kare/, "he."

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  5. Xain Soft fan here.

    Tritorn 2 is basically a clone of Zeliard.

    There's also Herlesh in English,which plays like Ys.

    It's not an RPG,but DIOS is my favorite game of theirs.

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  6. "The sub-genre is virtually unknown outside of Japan."

    Almost. Side-scrolling actions with the adventure elements were pretty popular, starting with the Dizzy series on the ZX Spectrum and like. But for some reason, RPG elements just wasn't added to the mix until much later. Now we have games like Dex.
    https://www.gog.com/game/dex_demo

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  7. Japanese players have also commented on the absence of the woman character. The general consensus seems to be that she was just drawn on the cover for eye-candy purposes.

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    1. Now that I look at it, that cover looks suspiciously like the poster for Star Wars.

      https://www.originalfilmart.com/products/star-wars-40x60

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    2. Hardcore Gaming 101 has an extensive compilation of game art that was lifted from movie posters and the like, for those who find this interesting. They actually include Mirai, but suggest that the woman's pose is lifted from Leia when she was enslaved by Jabba:

      http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/tracing/tracing4.htm

      I'm not sure about it myself. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Frazetta painting they lifted, though.

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    3. Then theres always the NES Metal Gear/Terminator movie poster ripoff:

      https://www.giantbomb.com/contra/3030-4350/forums/what-the-hell-is-up-with-the-cover-482018/

      Looks like this rabbit hole is pretty deep.

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  8. Good decision to leave out games with lots of Japanese text. The sheer number of meanings each syllable/kanji can have makes this language one of the hardest to translate from, unfortunately, not to mention other aspects of the language, like goroawase for instance. This is in part the reason why many early translations suck, and quite a few fan-translators can do a better job nowadays, with the currently available tools. Interestingly, some consoles like Genesis had very few JRPGs, whereas for instance PSX or even SNES had tons of them. Guess it boils down to whether a given console was popular in Japan or not.

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    1. Not just that it’s naturally a very nuanced language, but also translating natively in the games is next to impossible due to how compact the Japanese language is compared to English - even with hiragana/katakana it’s one character per syllable instead of the multiple in English. So there’s just not the real estate or ram to hold the translations in English. Which is why we usually have so much abbreviation in translated games as well as very, very basic language going on.

      Early 8bits also add in the fun of not using kanji or spaces, so you need to know where each word begins and ends. Usually by having a good vocabulary and knowing all the particles by heart.

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  9. Wait, didn't Pitfall create the side scrolling action genre? It's certainly no RPG but it had multiple paths to take and a time limit.

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    1. The guy who developed pitfall was quite young, and he wrote a detailed journal while he was doing it and trying to make a living in games development.

      It's published online and is a fascinating read.

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    2. I believe you're thinking of Jordan Mechner, who created Karateka and Prince of Persia.

      https://www.jordanmechner.com/backstage/journals/

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  10. The description of gun upgrades reminded me that I haven't played a scrolling space shooter in literally years. I must try to dig one up.

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    1. Try "The last Eichhof". It was funny sounds. And beer.

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  11. Great post!

    To bad that lot of japanese CRPGs are untranslated, hard to emulate and obscure.

    Maybe one day someone will start blog about playing JCRPGs in chronology order? :D

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    1. This is kind of my dream job, but I'm not there with my Japanese skills yet; far from it.

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    2. Most of them didn't, yeah... PC-88/PC-98 never really became popular in the West, likely due to them being purely Japanese in origin and having tons of games with pornographic elements. A shame, considering that there were some interesting offerings for those systems which will likely never be translated, unless machine translation gets to the point where it will become possible in real time. That's probably a loooong time away for Japanese.

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    3. PC 88 and 98 were indeed Japan only PCs, produced domestically and outfitted with Japanese keyboards. The hardware was mostly IBM compatible IIRC, but since normal western keyboards and OSes weren't made to be used with Japanese characters they decided to make their own PCs for the Japanese market.

      Of course there was no reason for these computers to ever be exported outside of Japan, or for any applications released on it to be published in any other language than Japanese. If the Russians had made their own PCs running on their own OS and with kyrillic keyboards, they would also be a purely domestic system (luckily cyrillic is inherently more compatible with Latin systems and keyboards due to the similar amount of letters and the alphabet working the same way as ours, so Russians just used western PCs and adapted some things).

      The games were usually quite niche and often pornographic. The PC was seen as a more adult system compared to the consoles, and it was also a more open system so developers could allow themselves to create games most console publishers would never accept. The PC 88 and 98 were often used by amateurs making their first games for that reason.

      Japanese PC gaming is quite the fascinating beast. But due to the popularity of consoles, and the bad reputation PC gaming gained due to all the sex and violence portrayed in these games, it never really caught on. Japan didn't develop the same PC culture as America and Europe in the 90s, either, so PC games always stayed a small niche. Most Japanese didn't even have private email addresses until the late 00s!

      PC 88 and 98 had their own little gaming ecosystem that for the most part didn't spill over into consoles and/or the west. There are some absolutely gorgeous RPGs exclusive to those systems that I'll never get to play because they're untranslated and will likely stay that way.

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    4. A great example of a game I'd love to play is Digan No Maseki, just for its amazingly atmospheric artstyle. But I'm not gonna jump into an untranslated Japanese RPG...

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    5. Kurisu who comments on this blog does a great blog about untranslated JRPGS - https://superfamicomrpgs.blogspot.com/ - which I also lurk religiously but do not always comment on :(

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    6. Thanks for the plug -- I think it would be interesting to do Japanese CRPGs too; I think I have avoided those because information is not always easy to come by, and I'm not sure about the quality of emulators or how available the games are.

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    7. I'm not sure how accurate the emulators for them are, but I've never heard anybody say anything about a game not working, of course these would be primarily English-speakers. There are tons of screenshots for all sorts of games on Mobygames, so I assume that its true for each of those it would work. The availability is...well, as available as any other old system. The only barrier is the language. I am aware you don't have that problem, I'm just pointing it out.
      Also, there are some recent translations of PC-98 games, but those were done by someone using machine translation, so they're terrible. From what I understand, most of the barrier to PC-98 translations is a lack of people willing to hack the files so that they'll actually be, ya know, translated in-game.

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    8. Hmm, maybe I'll consider it some day. I have two blogs going right now so I can't start a third.

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  12. You like the idea of having to pay for saves with in-game currency? Well, I recall a lot of reviews over here in Germany rejecting the idea. I think I'm fond of the idea of preventing save-scumming - as you mention regularly, it heightens tension and makes victories more meaningful. However, I'd probably prefer specific items instead of the standard currency. I think most players would find it rather frustrating even if they only had the feeling that they'd constantly have to choose between, for instance, upgrading party equipment and, well, saving to save.

    You also mention there is grinding available in this game. Doesn't this basically break this limitation in half?

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    1. The original disk version of Realms of Arkania made you pay with experience points when saving outside of temples - wasn't very popular though ... They abandoned the feature for the CD version and the sequels.

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    2. Dragon Quarter on PS2 uses a specific item to allow saving and you essentially find one every 2 hours or so. As the game is HARD, it was quite horrible for me ...

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    3. Haplo: I'm aware of that. It's simply another in-game currency that's supposed to be used for something different. However, the setup of the game makes the restriction utterly useless for its intended purposes - first, it's really not much of a problem to grind for XPs in the game; second, it's completely unforeseeable how long the main quest might take, making any kind of budgeting for the saves pointless. Also, I've read the manual from cover to cover, and while it recommends saving at temples, it never even once mentions the penalty. On my first playthrough, I genuinely thought that saving anywhere would cost you XP.

      Modran: Yeah, balancing is obviously an issue here. And of course, it helps not hiding things too hard...

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    4. I'm not sure, if it is really that easy, to grind XP in RoK (only getting the full XP for the first encounter with an enemy type). But anyhow, I like how it discourages you from saving before and after every battle ...

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    5. "You also mention there is grinding available in this game. Doesn't this basically break this limitation in half?" The cost of saving in this game is trivial. You can get the extra cash in just a couple of minutes of grinding. I'm not saying the system is implemented particularly well in Mirai, just that it's rare to see it implemented at all.

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    6. I liked the way Kingdom Come did it with the special bottles of schnapps, which are expensive. Not only do you have to (functionally) pay to save, the more you save the more you get impossibly drunk.

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  13. Going through the backlog of PC-88/PC-98 titles that have enough English to play them raises an interesting question: what about the titles on those platforms that *don't* have enough English, but appear on another (console) platform where they do?

    There's not many examples of this I can think of, but the big elephant in the room would be the first two Dragon Quest games, since the first appears on both PC-98 and MSX and the second appears on MSX; and the original Final Fantasy, which has an MSX version.

    That being said, the Final Fantasy series doesn't reappear on computer platforms after the MSX version of the original (commonly regarded as the worst version of them all) until the 1998(?) Windows port of Final Fantasy VII, while Dragon Quest stayed off computer platforms after Dragon Quest II until 2019's Dragon Quest XI.

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    1. That particular case has come up more times than anyone would care to remember, and as far as I know Chet's stance on those two games from a 2015 post on Eye of the Beholder still stands:

      "No, my policy is not that I'll play English console versions of Japanese PC games. My policy is that I'll play PC versions of PC games if those versions are in a Latin-Alphabet language. Since Hydlide was in English in its Japanese release, it makes the cut. I played it on a PC-88 emulator (just haven't published the review yet)."

      "It's flattering that people want to see my take on Final Fantasy and other console games, but I'm never going to officially make them part of my blog. If I play them as a lark, like I did with the two Intellivision games, you'll have to regard that as a bit of a bonus."

      Additionally, from a 2017 post on Hydlide:

      " I don't feel like I HAVE to play a game just because a fan-made patch is available. My criteria apply to the way the game was originally released."

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    2. I wonder if there are any readers who, interest in RPG history aside, just want Chet to play one of these console RPGs because they want him to actually like one, or at least to validate their taste in games by realizing they aren't crap. The most popular one he's played so far is Ys, and even then it was the awful DOS version that doesn't do Koshiro's compositions justice at all.

      And yes, the MSX2 port of Final Fantasy is, in my humble opinion, virtually unplayable. There are loading times everywhere and the fact that your character has to stay centered means you spend more time looking at jerky scrolling than not. What's more, the monk class suffers from some severe bugs that render him basically useless. The FM soundtrack is basically all the port has going for it.

      I haven't looked at the MSX2 ports of the Dragon Quest games, but I would imagine that they also suffer from loading times and jerky scrolling. And if Chet were to play only one Dragon Quest, I'd want him to play III anyway.

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    3. Makes sense, yeah. And no, I've never heard anything particularly positive about the MSX ports at all.

      Kearuda: That wouldn't terribly surprise me if it were the case, re: people's motivations for wanting Chet to play JRPGs. Of course, he'll eventually have to play JRPGs anyway - a few in the late 1990s, and then if the blog makes it to the 2010s sometime in the far future there'll start being a deluge of them because they all started getting PC ports around then.

      I assume the reason people bring up That One Game so much (you know which one, heheh) is because of all the significant Japanese RPG franchises, it's the one that has the most in common with the CRPGs that are Chet's wheelhouse - but that only really holds true for the first two or three games in that series too.

      (Selfishly, as someone who primarily plays console RPGs but did grow up on classic PC RPGs, I really like reading about all the obscure stuff I saw but never played.)

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    4. Additionally, from a 2017 post on Hydlide

      Chet's amusing witticism aside (he put "not Hydlide II or III" as one of his conditions in the sidebar), the frustrating thing about that discussion is that I never did get a straight answer as to whether there was a period release of Hydlide II or III that was fully playable on a computer in English (i.e. without a fan-made patch, and obviously the console release of Hydlide III on Sega Genesis doesn't count).

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  14. For what little it is worth, I would regard this game (based only on the descriptions here) as in the same genre as Wonder Boy in Monsterland. Is *that* an RPG (even if it is console/arcade only and hence off topic for other reasons)? I find that a bit of a stretch, but ...

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