Friday, July 24, 2020

Game 372: Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord (1986)


On the one hand, I appreciate the non-anime influence. On the other hand, this looks like the members of a 1980s pop band.
            
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord
Japan
Kogado Studios (developer and Japanese publisher); SEGA of America (U.S. publisher)
Released in 1986 for PC-88, FM-7, and Sharp X; 1987 for NES and Sega Master System
Date Started: 16 July 2020
              
I thought that while I was feeling positively about consoles, I ought to have a brand new experience. While I had the rare session with the Nintendo as a child, I've never touched anything by Sega at all. I barely knew anything about the company before I started writing this entry, which is too bad, because at least in its early days, I might have taken to some Sega games more naturally than their contemporary Nintendo titles. Not this one so much, it turns out, but some.
         
Sega has an interesting history. It goes back to World War II (specifically, 1940) Hawaii, where four Americans created Standard Games to supply slot machines and other coin-operated amusements to military bases. After the war, the founders sold Standard Games and created Service Games, now based in Tokyo to avoid running afoul of American gambling laws. Although the new name reflected the founders' history, the company expanded its offerings to private businesses and homes. The abbreviation "Sega" first appeared in 1954, and it became the official name of the company after it merged with a photo booth company created by another American in 1965. Sega created arguably the first "arcade" game--more mechanical than electronic--in 1966, called Periscope. Sega's first fully-electronic arcade game was 1973's Hockey TV, which I might have actually played at a bar in Texas in the late 1970s with my dad. I definitely remember playing some kind of primitive hockey game with him.
   
The company went through several phases of acquisition and division by American and Japanese owners from the 1960s through the 1980s. As the arcade business declined in the early 1980s, Sega tried its hand at a computer (the SC-3000) before deciding to compete with Nintendo by developing their first console system, the SG-1000, in 1983. (It offered only one RPG: a port of The Black Onyx.) The Sega Master System succeeded in 1985. Other models (Mega Drive, Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast) followed through the next 20 years before the company shifted fully to software in the early 2000s. 
     
Perhaps because of its American pedigree or perhaps just to find a different niche, Sega adopted a different aesthetic than Nintendo--and different rules. While Nintendo's graphics leaned towards the "cutesy," Sega's offered more classic western styles, as the title screen to Miracle Warriors shows. While there are some Goofy Cartoonish Little Men within their game icons, the static portraits of the early games show less of an anime influence. This seems to become less true as the years pass, but in the late 1980s, the graphical distinction between Nintendo and Sega is stark. More important, Sega aimed more for a market that, if not "adult," was at least adolescent. The American division didn't seem to care about whether its games were "family friendly," much less insist on striking the word "miracle" from its title because of religious connotations.
           
In the early days, Sega RPGs offered a more western aesthetic.
       
The Sega Master System (SMS) only had five RPGs during its run; two of them were released in 1987: Miracle Warriors and Phantasy Star. Although Phantasy Star was developed specifically for the SMS, Miracle Warriors pre-dates it, both in terms of its original Japanese PC release in 1986 and also its SMS release in October 1987 (Phantasy Star wasn't until December). Both hit the U.S. market at roughly the same time, in late 1988. But Phantasy Star was actually developed by Sega and didn't have a contemporary (Japanese-only) NES release the way that Miracle Warriors did, and thus probably would have been a better title for my first Sega experience. I researched the company after I started the game, alas.
      
The backstory concerns a "stumbling shepherd lad named Iason" who accidentally (the game is vague on how) opens the Pandora Passage, the gateway separating the Five Lands from the evil realm of the Dark Lord Terarin (who, because the name doesn't really convey it, is female). The opening allowed monsters to pour into the Five Lands and sow chaos. Feeling guilty, Iason trained with the White Monks and succeeded in his quest to reseal the passage. But he foresaw the eventual crumbling of the seal and prophesied that four brave warriors would need to face Terarin. That day has come. The PC is one of Iason's descendants, charged with replicating his ancestor's quest.
           
A four-character name is all we get for character creation.
          
If I found the Final Fantasy manual a bit puerile, at least some effort went into it. The manual for Warriors (at least, the U.S. release) is opposite and worse. While you won't hear me complain about the artwork, it offers virtually no help getting started except a one-page list of tips that any of us could have written without even seeing the game (e.g., save often, make maps). The screenshots are all low-resolution monochrome images that barely correspond to the game screens, and the text, full of ORIGIN-like "thees" and "thous," leaves more questions than it answers, such as why the party must endure the constant presence of a floating fairy named Ica. The game map is intimidatingly large and complex, with no clue about where you're starting.
             
The map that came with the game makes the land look a bit bigger than it actually is.
          
Game begins by giving the character a name, then dumping him onto a blank landscape with no guidance, although a nearby castle seems the place to start. The interface is a bit odd. Most of it is taken by a non-interactive window that, during exploration, really doesn't serve any purpose except to show the current terrain from a side-view. Real maneuvering is done in the small top-down window in the upper-right, while the lower-right shows current statistics for money, potions, fangs, and "character points," which are a kind of fame or karma meter. The lower-left shows a health bar and a bar indicating progress towards the next character level.
            
Starting the game. The largest window serves no purpose except to show your current terrain and remind you that an inexplicable fairy is accompanying you.
         
The Sega controller was pretty much the same as the NES: a directional pad and two main buttons. However, the original console lacked analogues to NES's "select" and "start" buttons, which games like Final Fantasy used to provide additional functionality. Thus, the game itself feels a little simpler and a little clumsier. Movement is by tiles and the game is turn-based.
   
At the castle, I learned that "fate calls" me to "bar evil's entry," and that I "must seek the seal of the Dark Lord." I eventually learned that there are several castles throughout the lands, but they all seem to just offer one conversation with the king. You can't actually explore them. Towns are different, including the nearby town of Garia. They have streets you can explore and shops and houses you can "enter" for a line of dialogue or a list of services. Garia had a weapon shop, a blacksmith (who repairs weapons and armor), a healer, and a mayor who demanded 500 guilders. I only started with 400, so I said no, and he demanded I leave. I later discovered that you get major hints for your guilders, but you otherwise don't have to pay.
           
Getting the main quest in the first castle.
       
Weapons and armor were hugely expensive--thousands of gold pieces each for knives, armor, and shields--and the items have a fixed number of uses before they break. I only started with 400 gold, and the most lucrative combats were only giving me about 300--offset by what I had to spend to periodically heal the character. Bestial enemies often leave no gold, just fangs, and while there's someone in Garia who will purchase fangs, I got the impression that you need to save them to prove your worth.

Thus--as almost always seems to be the case with these early JRPGs--I settled in for a long period of grinding. Encounters happen at an extremely variable rate. I counted as few as 3 steps and as many as 30 steps in between them; the average seems to be around 6. Combat, particularly in the beginning, lacks the tactical depth of Final Fantasy. You only ever face one enemy at a time, and for the first few hours (at least), there isn't much you can do other than trade physical attacks and try to retreat if your health gets too low. I mostly loitered outside of Garia and walked back and forth, retreating into the city to heal if my health fell below half. As you kill monsters, your fame and experience both increase, and every time your experience bar rolls over, your level increases, which causes a boost in the health bar.
        
Combat in the forest.
            
Monsters are mostly original to the game, and include weasly wimps, smags, unmutaks, zirods, and sekisaigs, along with more common enemies like thieves. One enemy whose appearance I swiftly grew to love was the evil merchant, who is easy to kill and carries 2,000 gold pieces. Later, that love was transferred to great lions, which drop 3,000 guilders and 5 fangs. Fans of the game must still get a tingle when they see those images. The difficulty of level of enemies depends primarily on the terrain--open plains offering the easiest, forests slightly harder, and hills and mountains the hardest.
          
Sweet.
        
There are also regular merchants that you can't kill without a loss of reputation. These friendly NPCs offer hints, as do NPCs in some of the houses in the game. Some things I learned:
          
  • The seal is guarded in the Gorkis Shrine.
  • I need to find the ancient sage, Kosama. 
  • Kosama dwells in a valley on the border.
  • If one's fame decreases, the resulting quest will be "long and weary."
       
Some hints come from NPCs on the road...
         
  • I should stick to open plains.
  • I need to collect 300 fangs for some reason.
  • I should find the Mask of the Beast before venturing into caverns.
  • There are two towns in Marula.
  • There are nine towns in the world. 
         
...and some come from NPCs in their houses.
         
  • One town was lost to Terarin's army.
  • To get my first companion, I'll need the sword of a warrior.
        
NPC hints seem to evolve as you solve quests and progress in the game, always remaining somewhat relevant to your current status.
         
In due course, around Level 6, I had a knife, shield, and armor, paid the town of Garia for its hint, and had a couple of herbs (of which you can only buy 5 maximum) to heal in between towns. I started to explore the rest of the world.
           
Purchasing equipment in a shop.
        
The game world consists mostly of a series of islands interconnected by bridges. The individual islands are somewhat small, making it possible to systematically explore without mapping. There's a comically unrealistic hard border around the edges of the world. I soon discovered that the game begins in the far northeast, and from there the only way to go is west.

I soon found Kosama's house and paid him a visit. He related that the Seal of the Dark Lord is guarded by General Terarin, and that to reach her I need to enlist three companions. Though of ancient lineage, these companions "do not realize their own power," and thus I will have to awaken them to their true calling with the "Awake, Giant!" spell, which he gave me. He said my first companion would be found in a city that prays to the god of the sea.
        
Note the world border above Kosama's house.
           
I found what I thought was my first companion in the city of Oruk, a couple of islands to the west. It had the same services as Garia except that the armory sold a sword and a mask, and the blacksmith had been fired or something. The blacksmith offered to accompany me for 12,000 guilders, which was way more than I had, so I spent another hour or so grinding. When I finally got the blacksmith in the party, I was surprised to see him among my "objects" rather than as a companion. I soon realized that the blacksmith prevents your weapons and armor from degrading, and thus you from having to buy a new set every few dozen turns. I also bought a sword and a Mask of the Beast.
        
I wonder if this is the first companion-object in RPGs.
          
The mask allowed me to explore a nearby dungeon (I don't know what happens if you try to explore without the mask), which was small enough that I could explore the whole thing by just following one wall. Amidst random combats, I found a helm that allows me to read writing in caves, and then some writing which advised me to "help [my] friends with Iason's Arms."
      
Exploring a cavern.
       
Because I had more than 300 fangs, a local king gave me the Axe of Iason, which he confusingly also called "Iris' Axe," which confusingly is just called "Iris" in my inventory.

Eventually, I came to the city of Kadia, where the first NPC told me they honored the god of the sea. I found my first companion, a warrior named Guy, in the healer's hut. (He might have actually been the healer, transformed by my spell; I was unclear about this.) When he joined, he gave me a portion of a scroll which shows the location of the Seal of the Dark Lord. He then suggested we seek our second companion in a town far to the south. Soon after, we visited a castle where the king gave him a magic sword called Turos.
          
"I am Dude! I got here as soon as I could!"
        
I was disappointed with the way that the game handles multi-character combat. Each round, you still select only a single character to perform an action that round, so the other character ends up being a meat shield to absorb some of the enemies' damage. Characters only get experience for attacks they make, so my leveling is now split. I suppose maybe later it will become clear that some characters are better at some actions than others, but right now there isn't much to distinguish Guy from Chet.

My combats options expanded slightly when I found some "sacred nuts" in a forest. These magic objects do a lot of damage when hurled at enemies. I still don't have any in-combat spells.

More accurately, your hurl it at an enemy instead of attacking.
       
Random observations:
             
  • When you buy herbs, the healer asks, "Is 2000 guilders too steep?" But the subsequent "yes" and "no" options do the opposite of what you would expect, as if he had said "okay" instead of "steep."
            
Is this a trick question?
         
  • The translators had problems with "i before e," instead offering "theives" and "sheilds." 
  • I haven't been able to find a good scan of the cloth map that came with the game, so I'm allowing myself to use a fan-created map that probably has a few spoilers. I couldn't read anything on the cloth scans.
      
The party's status now that Guy has joined me.
       
I don't know if I'll continue with the game or not. Based on the percentage of the map I've already explored, it would seem I'm about one-third of the way through it, which wouldn't be so bad. On the other hand, for all I know, the dungeons get much bigger or there are multiple continents, and the map just helps you with the first one. The game is pretty dull and repetitive, and unless commenters suggest that it gets more interesting, I may wrap it up with a quick GIMLET. At the very least, it's shown that while I don't care for chibi graphics or anime, I much prefer them to an unstimulating game.
       
 Time so far: 3 hours

****

Before I played Miracle Warriors, I attempted to play Destiny, an interesting-looking 1985 adventure/RPG hybrid whose developer, Destiny Software, Ltd., is so obscure I don't even know for sure what country it came from. The "Ltd." makes me suspect the U.K., but I can't say for sure, and there's some flimsy evidence that it might be an Irish company.
         
In trying to find information about the developer, it doesn't help that "Jeff Pierce" is the real name of DC comics hero Black Lightning.
          
The game blends adventure-style commands and graphic screens with RPG-style combat, inventory, and statistics. It technically fails my character development test (a "strength" statistic is based entirely on inventory), but I was prepared to overlook it for at least a few hours. Maybe only a few hours because the game has a maddening control schema by which you move the joystick over to the command list, click on a command, and then move the cursor back to the screen to click on the object to which you want to apply the command.
         
Starting the game.
       
Unfortunately, I had trouble with both the Apple II and Commodore 64 versions. I started several games with the C64, but it repeatedly crashed at various points that required disk access, and nothing I could do would solve the problem. On the Apple II version, I found that the emulated mouse seems to snap to an underlying series of nodes instead of moving continuously. Unfortunately, the distance between the nodes was enough to render certain commands unclickable. Between the two issues, this one seems the most solvable, but I couldn't figure it out with any AppleWin option.
        
The combat graphics actually show chunks taken out of the enemies as you hit them.
          
Thus, unless anyone has any solutions, Destiny goes to the "missing and mysteries" pile.
    

137 comments:

  1. Miracle Warriors does not have any real surprises in store for you, but the map you're looking at is the whole game and a fairly accurate guide to how long it is.

    The music, which I assure you is exceptional, is pretty much the only good thing about the game.

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  2. >The American division didn't seem to care about whether its games were "family friendly,"
    Which is proven by this game, I mean hurling your nuts at enemies sure isn't family friendly.

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  3. Sega, arguably, was not focused on RPGs/adventure games that much (they had mostly arcadey stuff, tons of beat 'em ups, shooters etc.). It changed slightly thanks to Saturn/Dreamcast, mostly because those two consoles did much better in Japan - which means tons of VNs too - as opposed to their earlier stuff, but Nintendo systems were still "the" systems for RPGs in my estimation. I'm pretty sure all of their consoles had fewer RPGs than SNES did on its own (though only a tiny fraction of more than 100 SNES RPGs came out in the West... between 10-20 or thereabouts). However, Phantasy Star 1 looked great for back when it came out, and the later entries are also popular. Here in Europe it was a major hit, I remember everyone who owned SMS (and later the Mega Drive) was playing them.

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    1. On the other hand, Sega has most of the few more Western-style RPGs on consoles, like Shadowrun, Warriors of Eternal Sun or Rings of Power.

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    2. I do hope Chet will cover Rings Of Power! my memories of it are hazy, but I remember it being good.

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    3. It's not even a Jrpg, it's developed by Naughty Dog

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    4. According to the master list, Warriors of the Eternal Sun has already been rejected but I hope the Addict reconsiders as it's notable as the only D&D-based rpg on consoles (I think), one of the only D&D rpgs based on Basic rather than Advanced D&D, and it will be interesting to see him compare it to the Gold Box games.

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    5. Pool of Radiance has a NES port, amazingly enough. Eternal Sun is probably the only original D&D-based console RPG, though.

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    6. I didn't know about Pool of Radiance. Interesting. Still, I think WotES is the only digital implementation of Basic D&D, although I may be wrong on that too. ;)

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    7. I've seen some stuff on the NES Pool of Radiance. It's definately an inferior port to the original, and not even in an interesting way like SNES Doom

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  4. The title screen art looks like an homage to the cover of the Emerson, Lake & Palmer album Trilogy.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/04/Trilogy_%28Emerson%2C_Lake_%26_Palmer_album_-_cover_art%29.jpg

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    1. Ha. My joke wasn't so far from the truth.

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    2. I thought they were going for a magical fantasy world version of ABBA. Maybe more ABBAcadabra.

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  5. "None the world border", should be "Note".
    Seems like you need to try other emulators for Destiny.

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  6. Even the Mega Drive fared decently well, with Shining Force and Langrisser enjoying moderate to great success and some of its computer ports (Buck Rogers, Starflight, Pirates!) being at least decent.

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    1. I can remember "Rings of Power" too, looked beautiful but the combat was bit a mess

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    2. Shadowrun is pretty good as well, and different from the SNES game.

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    3. Is Langrisser really an RPG? Wargame with RPG elements maybe?

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    4. I'd count Langrisser as an RPG. Much like Shining Force it's definitely a strategy rpg combat-wise but I hardly mind that. And this is the era where Gold Box SSI games were prevalent and the combat in those is basically wargame combat, from a wargame company, in a wargame engine.

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  7. Sega's RPG library is mediocre. While the SNES single-handedly codified the most important elements of "JRPG" as a genre, the Genesis had the Phantasy Star series (it's okay but no Final Fantasy) and a bunch of Hydlide/Zelda fusion experiments that are mostly forgotten outside their own niche fanbases.

    Disclaimer, I've never cared for Genesis or Master System games. Besides the earlier Sonics, Sega seemed to attract games that were always a step or two behind the times. While Nintendo put out tightly-designed left-to-right platformers like Super Mario World, Sega offered meandering, lazy DOS-style mazes like Decap Attack. While first-party Sega embraced the radicool 90's with Sonic, Nintendo stuck with their timeless Mario brand--it really hasn't changed a lot from even the earliest games, while Sonic has makeover after makeover to this very day.

    I rambled and lost the point, but this game seems pretty dull and I don't blame you for considering skipping it.

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    1. Yeah, you're not wrong about RPGs. Nintendo systems always had tons of JRPGs, even starting from the humble NES. By comparison, SMS had maybe 5 total... and the MD - 10-15 at most, within all the subgenres (including SRPGs), and that's in all regions.

      Here in Europe, however, it was clearly Sega that ruled the market. I remember everyone playing Phantasy Saga and very few mentions of Final Fantasy (at least until 7 came out on PS1, that console blew everything else out of the water). The thing is that pretty much everything of note on Sega's systems came out in the West, whereas many good Nintendo games were left in Japan unfortunately.

      Still, I will admit that nowadays I tend to use Nintendo systems way more often than anything on Sega. Too bad Saturn and Dreamcast failed so much in the West though, would have been interesting to see what happens later with Sega's systems.

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    2. Yes, the idea that Nintendo was the king of rpgs was a bit odd to Europeans, as we got barely any of them. Much is made of how the US got only some of the Final Fantasy series, but sometimes we didn't even get those!

      (Although we did get Terranigma when the US didn't, for whatever reason.)

      Sega was much more open to releasing rpgs in Europe, and we got almost all of the major releases, so all of my early contact with console rpgs comes from Sega. I was familiar with the Phantasy Star series long before I'd even heard of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, for example.

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    3. Well, it's obvious you dislike/don't care about the Sega systems. It's not just "I don't like them that much", you directly dismiss Phantasy Star - which I played after some FFs and I liked it way more; to me it felt way more fun and better structured.

      The reason why the NES games are more remembered is just that the written story of videogames is awfully usa-centric, to the point of Mobygames using the weird US game names, or Terranigma being called "not being known because it was ONLY released in Japan and Europe".

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    4. My recollection is that Terranigma never came out in the US due to Enix's North American branch having gone bust before releasing it. I think it was fully translated though, and that was the version that the European releases were based on

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    5. Carlos, I didn't dismiss Phantasy Star out of spite--that's just my honest opinion of the games. Same for the others I mentioned in that comment. I can't help that that's the way I feel about the Genesis and the Master System, any more than anybody else can help their likes and dislikes. Maybe I could have worded it better.

      If it makes you feel any better, there's a lot of Dreamcast games I enjoy. I love Jet Grind Radio and Space Channel Five, two criminally underserved franchises. And the tide of opinion is swinging against Sonic Adventure, but I still admire it for doing practically everything opposite to Super Mario 64 even if the technical execution was often flawed.

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    6. I can't believe Alex mentioned Sega's radicool attitude back in the day and no one has yet mentioned the Sega ads from that time that "Sega does what Nintendon't!"

      I'm fairly certain that was both witty and a large burn to me and other 12 year olds at the time.

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    7. Bare Knuckle II, Puyo Puyo, Gain Ground, and Virtua Racing behind the times? That's news to me. And it's funny that you'd cite the Sonic games as the exception to this rule when they don't hold a candle to Nintendo's offerings...

      To be fair, most of my favorite Master System and Mega Drive games are third-party games and ports. Titles like ESWAT might not have been great, but Final Bubble Bobble, R-Type, Aleste, and Ultima IV are well-regarded Master System titles for a reason. The same goes for Vampire Killer, Alien Soldier, and any of the CPS1 ports on the Mega Drive.

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    8. What are those Hydlide/Zelda fusion experiments? Sounds intriguing and I'd like to try some of them.

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    9. Here in Germany, the video game magazines tested and thus promoted the SNES US RPGs, the import access was so good I could just go to a local Block Buster store in my city and borrow imports including a necessary adapter.
      Good times ...except I suffered a bit of a trauma when I eventually got Final Fantasy 6(III) which had some incompatibility with adapters, a major one being that I couldn't see the ending.
      Still, that RPG access was one of the reasons I didn't feel much of an urge to get a Mega Drive. I got a Saturn a short time after launch though, and it took a while till the Playstation was interesting enough for me to get one.

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  8. The "too steep?" thing is probably a result of poor translation. I suspect the original question is something along the lines of "Is that acceptable?" to which the answers make more sense.

    I hope this doesn't put you off trying Phantasy Star, which is a much better rpg of the era, albeit quite grindy at the beginning and very linear in plot.

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    1. I haven't consulted the Japanese version of the script to be sure, but it's probably a result of this issue:

      https://legendsoflocalization.com/why-hai-doesnt-always-mean-yes-in-japanese/

      Basically, "hai" and "iie" in Japanese are generally translated "yes" and "no," but the shade of meaning is more along the lines of "that's correct" and "that's incorrect." When you're translating a negative question (e.g., "You don't think the price is too steep?"), then "hai" would mean "That is correct, I don't think the price is too steep."... which could also be rendered "No, I don't think the price is too steep."

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    2. That's why the US military uses "affirmative" and "negative" instead of yes or no, to avoid precisely that problem.

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    3. I was in the Army Reserves for 8 years, and I'm pretty sure "affirmative" and "negative" are colloquial, not directed. In fact, over the radio we were specifically instructed NOT to use those words, I seem to remember, because they sound similar. Either way, I don't see how it helps the problem. Either way, if someone asks you, "Is 2000 guilders too steep?," the answers YES, AFFIRMATIVE, and CORRECT all mean the same thing--it IS too steep. I won't buy them at that price--so I don't see how that helps. I suspect the confusion is more in the wording of the question rather than the answer.

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    4. Yeah putting a negative in the question leads to communication mishaps.

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    5. Yeah, the Japanese yes/no thing can be an issue, and does end up being an issue in a few games, but here this just looks like the question was badly translated more than anything

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    6. Had a look at a Japanese playthrough on YouTube. At least in the Famicom version, there's no ambiguity at all. The question is, "Yoroshii desu ka?" ("Is that all right?"), and the two options are "harau" ("pay") and "yameru" ("cancel"). Should have been a simple translation.

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  9. "The Sega Master System succeeded in 1985. Other models (Mega Drive, Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast)".

    Genesis and Mega Drive are the same console, it was not uncommon for those times to have regional differences in names and even design.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sega_Genesis

    EU and US models had to be different on the account of different video outputs. In the case of the SNES the design was so different you could think they are two separate consoles.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Nintendo_Entertainment_System

    The 32X and Sega CD were ill-conceived and worse-implemented add-ons to the Genesis, in an attempt to extend its life, which in turn overlapped with the release of its successor (the Saturn), also a flop.

    After the Master System and the Genesis, Sega should be a business masterclass on how not to handle a product line.

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    1. To be slightly fair to the Saturn, it was Sega's best system in Japan. Problem was, the US launch was horrifically botched, and then Sega of America got a CEO that had a habit of blocking games that weren't in 3D, along with RPGs, on a system that infamously bad at 3D and at a time when JRPGs were becoming really popular

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    2. Conceptually, there was nothing wrong with the Sega CD. The tiny storage space of cartridges were always consoles' biggest Achilles Heel, and the extremely high duplication cost made things worse. Adding the ability to use ultra-high capacity CD-ROMS (The very biggest Genesis cartridge game I can find was 5 megabytes, while a CD could hold 600-700) was an excellent idea. The problem was that nobody really knew what to do with that vast empty space, other than the short-lived FMV fad. There were a few very good attempts to make good use of the concept - particularly the RPG Lunar: The Silver Star.

      The 32X, on the other hand, was a really stupid idea because it was already obsolescent on release. Had Sega gone ahead with the Neptune as a side-line, or built support for 32X cartridges into the Saturn, it might have been OK, but as it was few developers were all that interested in working with it.

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    3. The Sega CD also suffered from Sega's Japanese and American branches basically having a feud at the time, with the Japanese branch not sending any real dev kits for the thing for a while

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    4. The Sega CD also suffered by having Night Trap be its most famous game.

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  10. I strongly suspect Destiny was intended to be played with an analog joystick, and I got the Apple version to handle well by using a gamepad. I used MAMEUI, as I've always found its joystick support to be much better than AppleWin's.

    You'll need to run in windowed mode, and go to Slots->gameio and select joy, if it isn't already. Then hard reset the system, and you'll be able to map your joystick to the Apple II input.

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    1. I believe Ahab is correct. I used my gamepad (analog joystick) as well. I used mine with AppleWin and it seemed to work well with selecting items on the right and left panes. But judging from the two minutes I messed around, you will be begging for keyboard shortcuts.

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    2. The instructions for the game say that Apple II was meant to be controlled with a mouse, but C64 with the joystick. I don't have a gamepad, in either event, and have had poor luck getting them to work in the past, but maybe its time to try again.

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    3. This was the only dual-version copy of the manual I could find, and it just says to use the joystick.
      https://mocagh.org/miscgame/destiny-manual.pdf

      I tried emulating an Apple mouse just to see what would happen, and what happened is that the game just didn't recognize its input.

      You can map keyboard input to MAME's joystick directions in a pinch, but you obviously won't have analog cursor movement.

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    4. Just bear in mind that joysticks on the Apple II were mainly analog joysticks - the system just sees them as two potentiometer inputs that the game has the them treat as x/y coords. For this kind of interface that might be a little less tedious than a digital joystick, though still pretty annoying

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    5. I managed to get things working well when I added the game to Mobygames, but yeah, the controls are stupid. I'll play again tonight and give some config pointers.

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    6. Meanwhile, it might be a specific version which uses the Apple II mouse, as you had to use a special card to use the mouse and so the games had to be written to take advantage of it.

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    7. Using the keyboard is probably your best bet on the Apple version. The cursor does not always move the same length each time, and if you're patient you can select all options. Also, if you run the cursor against the top or bottom of the screen, it will kind of snap to new areas.

      It is not ideal, and it is annoying, but after a few minutes it does become workable.

      I'd hate to have you reject a terrible game I told you about in the first place. :P

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    8. It does seem very unlikely that an 8-bit Apple II game would require a mouse, as that was not at all a common peripheral. The analog joystick seems a great deal more plausible.

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    9. Shall we all pitch in to give the CRPG Addict a period-correct Gravis Gamepad? With a 15-pin to USB adapter?

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  11. I can't say whether or not the Phantasy Star series broke new ground in the genre or not. It was popular though.

    I think Phantasy Star IV let you program your NPCs - was that a first? When did we get combat macros for computer RPGs? I know Infinity Engine had a few scripting options but something must have predated that.

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    1. If you want novelty PS3's gimmick may be unique among console RPGs. Unfortunately it's the worst game in the series.

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    2. Ultima VI and VII have the basics of combat macros. They just don't work very well.

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    3. The visual presentation of the original Phantasy Star was definitely a cut above most Japanese console RPGs at the time, and there are a few aspects to the storytelling of the first sequel that would've been shocking to console gamers at the time. In terms of battle mechanics, the first three titles are fairly lacking; magical attacks are almost never useful, which is sort of a death sentence for that kind of game for me. I haven't gotten around to Phantasy Star IV, though, and I've heard it's considerably better than the previous titles.

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    4. Dragon Quest IV had combat macros in 1990.

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    5. Tristan was referring to something different from companion AI. In PS4 you could write a move like playlist "character A does X, character B does Y, character C does Z" which you could then select later to assign actions for a round all at once instead of having to enter them one by one.

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  12. So the plot starts with a guy accidently opening "Pandora Passage", the gateway separating his world from the female villain's.

    Sounds like a tortured analogy for a bad relationship.

    And yes, Phantasy Star would have been a much better introduction (and simultaneous closure) to Sega Master System RPGs.

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    1. I think I avoided it because so many people kept telling me to play it. I can be childish that way.

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    2. We told you to play it because it's literally the only good RPG on the SMS that anyone remembers, or talks about now.

      If you want to experience a "Sega" style RPG, your only legitimate options are the Phantasy Star series and maybe Shining in the Darkness/Shining Force 1-2.

      The rest of the games on the platform are really bad. There might be some good moments in them, but there's a reason we recommended the one series, on the platform, anyone actually remembers fondly. =)

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    3. Even Shining in the Darkness wasn't that great, mostly being a Wizardry clone with JRPG aesthetics. On the other hand, I remember the Shining Force games being pretty entertaining. I thought Shining Force might have been the first tactical JRPG released in the US, but apparently Langrisser was released as a game called Warsong (of which I have absolutely no memory).

      As far as Miracle Warriors goes, I don't think it's going to get much different from what you've seen here. I don't think I ever finished it, but I do remember getting farther than you have so far and not changes as you proceed.

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    4. Eh, I actually liked Shining in the Darkness better than what I've played of the Phantasy Star series (which is the entirety of the first two games and the first "generation" of the third). These things all come down to taste, I suppose, but it basically felt like a modestly improved Dragon Quest II set in a Wizardry-style dungeon, which is fine by me.

      But yeah, I'd recommend Chet looking at Phantasy Star not because of any overwhelming sense of love I have for the series, but because it's one of the other major franchises from the early days of Japanese RPGs. If I were to recommend any other 8-bit console RPGs to hit for this blog, I'd probably say Dragon Quest III, which is when the series hit its stride and the battle mechanics actually allowed for some good strategizing.

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    5. My previous comment probably came across a little harsh on Shining in the Darkness. I didn't think it was bad, just maybe... serviceable?

      The Phantasy Star series had its moments (gur qrngu bs Arv va Cunagnfl Fgne 2 va cnegvphyne fgnaqf bhg nf vg jnf gur svefg gvzr V fnj n creznarag aneengvir qrngu va n ivqrb tnzr. V erzrzore xvqf gnyxvat nobhg ubj gurer unq gb or n frperg zrgubq gb erfheerpg ure fvapr gur vqrn bs n aneengvir qrngu jnf whfg fb sbervta ng gur gvzr), but I don't think it overall contributed much to RPGs in the long run. I think Chet can safely skip the series.

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    6. >I think I avoided it because so many people kept telling me to play it. I can be childish that way.
      Hah, I suspected as much since I have a friend who ticks the same. Also she'll always take the opposite opinion of what the majority among us friends is saying. See people, that's why it's not helping your cause if hype a game very much in here.

      On a second note, you should never play Shining Force, it's a really horrible game. Avoid it like the plague.

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    7. I'll second about Shining Force. The first one is a horrible example of the genre with terrible balancing and incredibly slow maps, especially towards the end. Shining Force II is far more fun in comparison.

      And I'll just say (again) that I think Phantasy Star and Shining in the Darkness would be good fits for this blog. You'd have plenty to map in the dungeons (which, admittedly, is the entire game of Shining in the Darkness).

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    8. @Harland: That cake is pretty flippin' expensive, too. I'm also reminded of the "first food store" that sells burgers and cola.

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    9. If nothing else, Phantasy Star is notable for having a female protagonist, which is rare in games that do not allow a choice at character creation.

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  13. There was a Famicom version of this game, which was not released in the US. Apparently it was closer to the computer version whereas the SMS version was changed in a number of ways.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKe7yIqj4TY

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    1. Interesting. The character has a lot more starting money. No fangs and no fame. Hit points depicted numerically instead of graphically. I wonder if there are many major backstory/textual changes.

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    2. I played both versions and I can confirm both pretty much use the same backstory (if I remember correctly).

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  14. My sons really enjoyed their Genesis. It didn't do anything for me, until Shining Force.

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    1. Shining Force has its flaws, and I agree the sequel is way better, but I will never not smile at jovial Luke utterly destroying a foe with his axe, or Gong just punching a monster to death. And I don't think I've ever seen a character in any game as absurdly OP as Zylo. Dude is a war machine.

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    2. I rented Shining Force from the local video store, so many times, that it probably would have been cheaper to just buy it.

      That being said, I feel like characters like Domingo would make the Addict nope the fuck out of that game.

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  15. Localized console ports might be a good method to cover Japanese PC RPGs that are otherwise trapped behind a language barrier. Then again there'll always be that possibility that the game may have been scaled-down for the sake of the console's specs or simplified for a younger audience. It would also add way more games to the list, so maybe best to stick to these little infrequent vacations to the console sphere.

    The one thing I remember about the Master System is that it did have a start/pause button, but it was on the console itself. Kinda inconvenient.

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    1. Agreed, but Japanese PC RPG ports to consoles are actually fairly rare. Consoles themselves are very Japan-centric also, so by playing only the official English releases you only play maybe 10-20% of all the RPGs anyway at best. Too bad there's no reliable way to translate from that language on the fly, even Chinese is less problematic that way.

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  16. Segaretro has a scan for the map.

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  17. I haven't been able to find a scan of the original Japanese manuals, sadly, so there's no telling whether they offered any more content. (The original cover was... different, though, in a not very safe-for-work way.)

    The big first-person-ish view with the tiled map in the corner is really reminiscent of the Might and Magic II interface with the Eagle Eye spell active. I seriously wondered if the developers were trying to imitate that layout, but this game seems to have predated M&M2 in all its versions.

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    1. Thanks for checking. I knew if anyone would try, you would.

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    2. Wow--nudity right on the cover. Is that common in Japan?

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    3. Gratuitous nudity is kinda their thing.

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    4. Well I was surprised by the cover as well. From what I've seen, they normally only put nudity on their covers on games with erotic content, just like we would, and they would exist only for (japanese) pc's or japanese only consoles like the PC-FX. But in the 80s that might have been different from today, I haven't seen that many japanese game covers from that time.

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    5. I'm not super familiar with Japanese cover art, but it isn't uncommon for Japanese media to casually have unsexualized nudity present. This is very often seen on monsters (because they don't have human standards) and children (who are too innocent to have a conception of sex).

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  18. Kinda want to see you play Rings of Power now.

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    Replies
    1. I’d love for him to play it all the way through for us because I found the game’s world fascinating but the actual process of playing through the game so arduous that I just couldn’t get far. Loved wandering around in it exploring...

      It also continues to weird me out that the same developer went on to make Uncharted later.

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    2. The Japanese manual has more or less the same info. Less detail on monsters, actually. The backstory is also different, with no mention of Iason. It just says that the Seal of Pandula separating the world from another dimension of chaos and terror was lost for an unspecified reason. The forces of chaos are on the brink of overrunning the kingdom of Arkas, and the only hope is for a chosen youth to find the Seal of Conquering Evil before all is lost.

      Concerning the Mask, I think that the player can't see his surroundings at all in dungeons without it, but one can still enter.

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    3. Drat, looks like I replied to the wrong thread. Meant to reply to the one above. Sorry!

      Delete
  19. The Sega Genesis had Shadowrun and that was a fantastic RPG and the best version of the tabletop game made into a CRPG until the recent iterations.

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  20. It must have been an unpleasant surprise to see "CHET" being a dude in armor until you went to the status screen and saw that he had long hair!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Every RPG from this era wants me to play a child or a damned hippie.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. Am I correct in assuming that Iason's name is meant to be prounounced the classical Latin way, as "Jason?"

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    Replies
    1. I thought the classic Latin way would be to pronounce it more like "Yason." I don't know what the developers intended, but that's how I've been thinking of it.

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    2. I have to admit I really don't know that much about Latin. I was thinking of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he starts to spell Jehovah with a "J," and almost falls into the trap because he was supposed to start with an "I."

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    3. Iason is a Greek name, comes from the myth of Jason and the Argonauts.

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    4. Yes, you're right that they're essentially the same letter. I just don't think that it acquired its harder-j pronunciation until the 16th century, and even then only in English. Then again, this is a Japanese game made in the 20th century, so who knows what the developers intended.

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  22. Those four guys on the title screen look more like a decent heavy metal or progressive rock band rather than a pop band. A pop band from the 1980s would have been more groomed and look more like Duran Duran or Pet Shop Boys. Silk from Amberstar also looks like a decent metalhead and this is why I instantly find him likable.

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    1. The first time I looked at the title screen - even before reading Chet's comment - I immediately thought of Journey, who definitely had some hits in the 80s. Particularly the guy on the left is a dead ringer for Steve Perry. I'm not a big fan, but I still couldn't keep 'Separate Ways' from blaring in my head as I looked at them.

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    2. To me, the four guys on the title screen look too {there's a word that I would have put in here when I was 13 that I now know is wrong to use in this context even though it was never meant literally, but even knowing it's wrong, I can't quite come up with a good synonym, so we'll just have to leave it ambiguous, except I suspect you can figure it out} to be a metal band.

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    3. I believe you're suggesting that in Skyrim they would be called milk-drinkers.

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    4. That doesn't disqualify them. You didn't have to be tough to be in a fake metal glam rock band.

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    5. There's definitely an ELP and Journey vibe going on, but let's not forget Styx (DeYoung era), shall we.

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  23. I'm a huge JRPG fan and I'd never heard of this game. I'm sure it's torture to play but the narrative is fascinating. These guys really had a lot of interesting ideas that integrate systems and content in ways that are rare in modern times. Glad you decided to cover it!

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    1. It's actually fairly well balanced and playable, it's just like Dragon Quest 1 in that it doesn't offer much. There are no choices in character advancement, no real tactics to the combat, you just grind the XP and equipment until you win the combats and then you win them.

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    2. It's actually fairly well balanced and playable, it's just like Dragon Quest 1 in that it doesn't offer much. There are no choices in character advancement, no real tactics to the combat, you just grind the XP and equipment until you win the combats and then you win them.

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    3. No choices and no tactics is not what I consider "well balanced and playable."

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  24. Normal person exploring early Sega RPGs: "Hmm, should I play Phantasy Star or Shining in the Darkness?"

    CRPG Addict: "Nope, it's Miracle Warriors!"

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    Replies
    1. It was worth it, just to defy all of you smug people.

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    2. You didn't write the entry or pick the game, so what exactly was "worth it" to you?

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    3. I strongly suspect he'll follow up his foray into NES rpgs with like, Legend of the Ghost Lion or something equally obscure and unremembered by fans.

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    4. It's worth it to watch all these people not get to boss someone around. It's a friggen miracle he's even playing a console JRPG in the first place - you know, after his steadfast opposition to not only console RPGs but JRPGs in general. And now that he's actually doing it: people are complaining he's playing the wrong one. Some people are just un-pleasable.

      I don't know if he would have ever bothered playing JRPGs in the first place if he had known this was the reaction he was going to get. How about "thanks for playing a console JRPG! It sure is cool to see a less-covered one rather than the boring old ones that have been done to death already!"

      I am gathering more and more evidence for my position that a lot of you out there aren't interested in anything new or interesting and just want to see the same old, same old over and over again. No wonder sitcoms became all the same and Hollywood switched to producing endless derivative sequels.

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    5. I'm just surprised at there being other RPGs on the SMS than Phantasy Star. I had no idea this existed. It's probably the same for other people, I'd imagine. In fact, it took me a bit to realize this was another console RPG interjection, and not a short CRPG added in to break up the slog that seems to be Ultima 7 and Amberstar.

      I don't think it's that I want to see the same things rehashed over and over again, but that I have certain favorite games that I wouldn't mind seeing covered by Chet to see his opinion and take on them.

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    6. If some people are starting to suspect that Harland is an alt account for me--one that I activate in the middle of the night when my thoughts are darkest and even drink cannot suppress them--I fully understand. I'm beginning to wonder myself.

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    7. Haha - that killed me, addict!

      From now on, I'm going to imagine Harland as a kind of Tyler "Derp"-den alter ego that comes out when you are mildly disgruntled and have drunken yourself into a stupor, worn down into pure Id. It's a delightfully odd thing to think about, and I can cultivate a mad head-canon as I read. Hopefully someone will answer the call and write a fan fiction :)

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    8. We'll know the jig is up if Chet suddenly starts blaming everything on "creatives" and "openness."

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    9. Yeah, this Is pretty much a stopped clock moment by my reckoning!

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    10. crpg-addict fanfic writerJuly 28, 2020 at 10:20 AM

      Even more fun if you add JarlFrank into the mix... what is the connection between JarlFrank, Harland, and the Addict?

      I often imagined that Jarl is Harland's older brother - maybe that they were raised by someone rather like Cliff (the postal carrier(?)) from Cheers, or some super-niche academic, and that's where they got that odd "random-fact didactic" conversational style from?

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    11. Wait... Harland is Chucky, my lost brother??

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    12. It's just one of three plotline possibilities, Jarl, and even then you have to do some specific things. It's also only in expansion.

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    13. I don't want the "same old, same old", but something that I value greatly in this blog is when Chet can say something about a title based on his experience playing all those weird mainframe games or based on playing strange German or French titles. That's really special and interesting.

      And so it's super frustrating when he comes to some other game and goes, "This is a weird idea and I don't know where it came from," and I have to cough and go, "Um, decades of JRPGs, and it's likely the developers expected their audience to know that."

      And so I know that Chet is not going to play every console RPG - nor could he possibly have time to - so if he's only going to play maybe one a year, I'd really prefer it to be the one that's going to give him that perspective rather than one that nobody played and nobody remembers. (Especially if he's then going to judge 40 years of console RPGs by it.)

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    14. I guess I could also be one of Chet's alts, cause our attitude and level of expertise towards console/J-RPGs is roughly the same. :p

      Delete
  25. "The Sega Master System (SMS) only had five RPGs during its run."

    I'm not sure where this comes from. Do you mean exclusives? It has way more than five, including this, Phantasy Star, Spellcaster, Ys 1 & 2, Ultima IV, Dragon Crystal, Golden Axe Warrior, Golvellius, and Heroes of the Lance, even assuming you discount "pure platformers with RPG elements" such as the later Wonder Boy games.

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    Replies
    1. Golden Axe Warrior was a Zelda clone, and thus not an RPG - this also seems to apply to Golvellius. Spellcaster appears to be a mix of Visual Novel and Platform game, and the RPG status of Heroes Of The Lance is well debated here but the consensus seems to be "no". That leaves Phantasy Star, two YS games, Ultima IV, Dragon Crystal, and this game. Which is exactly five.

      Delete
    2. Having played and finished Spellcaster, it is an RPG, albeit a hybridised one. Worth Chet playing purely for rhe fact it's quite unlike anything else he's played. Also FWIW Chet played Zelda, although he did note at the time he didn't want it to be a precedent.

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    3. Thanks for responding, Gnoman. You mostly have it right except that even your list has six games instead of five. I believe you're both wrong that there's an SMS version of Phantasy Star II, but of course I'm speaking from Internet research rather than intimate experience.

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    4. Forgot to count the YS ones as two games instead of one. I can only offer the excuse that they're often bundled together nowadays.


      Phantasy Star II is Genesis only - you're probably being confused by (or the source you're looking at is being confused by) the way the Sega Genesis is called the Sega Mega Drive outside of the US (a computer company appears to have trademarked the name Mega Drive in the US market).

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    5. Ugh. I contributed to more confusion. I meant Ys II, not Phantasy Star II. Ys II didn't have an SMS release.

      As for "precedent," it's important to remember that there is NO PRECEDENT WHEN IT COMES TO CONSOLE GAMES. Every console game I play is an exception to my list, whether officially an RPG or not. If I occasionally play one--and there's no guarantee that I will every play one again--it is NOT with the intent toward comprehensiveness the same way it is for computer RPGs.

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    6. Even If I enjoy your occasional dop into console games I think you are in the right track egen you only consider them as curiosities, there are little to gain from playing more of these games other than your own amusement.

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    7. Huh, I have the strongest memory of the Ys game I played on Master System being called "Ys: Books I and II" and having a very specific cover image against that white-grid Master System box branding.

      But the internet now tells me that that version of Ys never game out on SMS; that the SMS version is called Ys: Vanished Omens; and that it has a different cover to what I remember.

      I thought it might be a North America / PAL region difference but I can't find any evidence of that either.

      Memory is weird.

      Delete
  26. Just a little FYI, but there's a ROM hack / patch that at least fixes some of the game's most common issues (like the spelling errors and some missing monsters from the original releases are added back in). Not relevant for Chet, I know, since he prefers the purist approach and is not quite fond of the game anyway.

    ... hm, strange, I was under the impression that there's also a complete fan made retranslation which improves the bland - and in some cases outright wrong - English localization (including removing the Old English speech), but I can't seem to find any info about it... might be misremembering (or Mandela Effect kicking in).

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    Replies
    1. There IS a fan retranslation of Phantasy Star that includes a ton of QoL tweaks you can toggle at the title screen.

      Delete
  27. Honestly, I feel like Chet would enjoy Phantasy Star a lot more than this game, just because PS involves a lot of proper Mapping Shit Out in first person dungeons, and just has a really cool setting.

    The anime-ass cutscenes would 100% make him barf, though. XD

    ReplyDelete

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