Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Miracle Warriors: Won! (with Summary and Rating)


I don't know; it was 50/50 for a while.
        
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
Date Ended: 29 July 2020
Total Hours: 10
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 26
Ranking at Time of Posting: 175/379 (46%)
      
Summary:
Probably the first Japanese console RPG released in America, and the first for the Sega platform, Miracle Warriors is a boring, grindy game in which the player must assemble a team of four characters, collect a series of artifacts, and do battle against a great evil to recover the titular seal and thus save the world from an influx of monsters. As with many console RPGs of the period, real game content lasts only a few hours; the rest of the length is required for grinding for experience, gold, and a few rare magic items. The game features simple mechanics to go with simple controls, including a combat system with virtually no tactics, limited character development and inventory development, and only a thin veneer of lore.
      
*****
     
A lot of you warned me that it wouldn't be time well-spent, but I finished Miracle Warriors anyway, mostly to avoid having the loss count against my statistics. One of these days, I'm going to have to have a frank discussion with myself about how many sunk hours that "won" statistic is really worth. My time is probably only half of what it would take to win it on era-accurate hardware; I made liberal use of the emulator's "fast forward" option to speed through combat pauses and animation (I can't help but wish DosBox offered a similar option after all those combats in Amberstar).
     
Miracle Warriors mostly serves to make better console games like Final Fantasy seem all the more impressive. Final Fantasy required some grinding, but at least what happened after the grinding was interesting. Even the grinding itself was a little interesting, in the sense that it offers actual combat tactics. There's none of that in Warriors, just blunt attacks and the occasional use of a magic item.
          
Getting the fourth companion.
       
Winning the game involves running around from continent to continent, hitting towns, dungeons, caves, and castles, first to assemble the team of four Miracle Warriors, then to equip them with a variety of sword, shield, and armor artifacts. By the time you head for the final battle, all four warriors have a full suite of special items, which the game allocates automatically to particular warriors without your input.
    
There are a few chokepoints that keep Warriors from being a truly open world game. First, you can't explore the sea until you pay 30,000 guilders for a ship. Even then, you can only explore the calm, eastern seas. You need to get a second ship elsewhere to explore the rougher oceans around the final continent. (There is no graphic for either ship; you just walk on water once you have it in your inventory.) There is at least one companion who can't join the party until you find a particular piece of armor. There are some items of equipment that you can't pick up, and areas you can't enter, until you have particular companions. Whenever I ran into such an issue, I just circled around to different areas and returned later. There was always plenty to do.
           
Getting the second ship.
          
Some of the equipment is found in treasure chests in small dungeons that you have to explore, but other times you just have to fight one boss enemy the moment you enter.
        
Finding an equipment upgrade in a dungeon.
         
There's no sense of team combat. The four warriors are more like four individuals who just walk around together. In combat, only one character can attack at a time, and only he gets experience for attacking. Enemies generally only attack the character who attacks them (in any given round), although some are capable of mass-damage spells.
          
The party is pretty low on hit points.
         
There are a few items that can help in combat. Sacred Nuts, found after combat in a few wooded areas, cause damage when thrown. Staffs of Earthquakes can be purchased for 10,000 guilders in a town on the southern part of the map. And on an island in the southeast, you can purchase Stones of Protection (which block enemy spells for one full combat, if they work, which is only about 50% of the time) for 50 fangs. All of these items have maximums, so you can't carry an infinite number.

When you face a particularly tough enemy, there's only one series of actions. First, use a Stone of Protection so that the enemy can't cast mass-damage spells. (Sometimes you have to use multiple stones until one works.) Then, exhaust your Staffs of Earthquakes and Sacred Nuts, both of which can be used without retaliation from the enemy. Next, have the first character "attack" until his hit points are almost gone. Move on to the second character, then the third, and finally the fourth. If he's not dead by the time the fourth character's hit points are exhausted, you need to reload and spend more time grinding before trying the combat again.
          
One of the boss-level enemies.

          
One particular annoyance is that you can't use healing herbs in combat. Late in the game, however, you obtain some Potions of Resurrection (which, despite their name, are basically just full-healing potions) from Sea Serpents. These add an intermediate step in tough combats, giving you a few more hit point bars to exhaust before the battle is over. I've seen people recently making fun of Phantasy Star for offering a cake shop in a cave; if Warriors was better known, "sea serpents drop healing potions" might become the same sort of meme.

         
There are only ever three "spells" in the game, and none of them are usable in combat. They just rouse your companions and allow you access to certain areas.
          
The game's three spells. "Come, Iason" is necessary to enter some endgame areas.
      
The game generally does a decent job of updating the latest NPC hints to help you with the next stage of the game. I still needed to look up a hint online for the final area, however. The endgame takes place on the southwestern continent, Areos, but many of the locations you need to enter are hidden. I never got a hint about the fact that they were hidden nor where they were hidden, so I needed a walkthrough to bail me out. After that, it was just a matter of finding three keys and then heading to the final dungeon, which for some reason is called Gelkis.
       
One of three keys needed for the endgame.
          
The final dungeon has three small levels, but with extra staircases that lead you astray into the game's other dungeons. If you find the right path, you confront the demon/dark lord/general Terarin at a staircase on the third level. She is presented topless (the way she is on the original Japanese box cover), which I find surprising for a North American console release of the period. Anyway, if you've leveled enough and follow the combat strategy above, you win; otherwise, it's back to the grindstone for a while. Grinding takes a long time at higher levels, even with "fast forward" enabled in the emulator.
           
This is so anatomically improbable, I'm not even sure I'd call it "nudity."
          
After the final battle, the game has more endings than The Return of the King. First, you get some messages on the combat screen. Note the inconsistent tense:
        
Chet defeated Terarin, the dark general, in mortal combat! Entering the depths of the shrine, Chet finds a chest. Within lay man's last hope, the Seal of the Dark Lord!
                    
It's funnier if you imagine that we found a marine seal.
         
Then, there's a scrolling message:
        
Chet and his companions came to fulfill Iason's prophecy and the people of the Five Lands, weary from despair, rejoiced. The elders led the Miracle Warriors to evil's gate. After a raging battle of sword and sorcery, the evil Terarin was defeated. Chet took the Seal of the Dark Lord and used it to once again shut the Pandora Passage, returning peace to the Five Lands.
       
Then a bunch of portraits appear to give thanks. I guess maybe they were some of the NPCs we met along the way, but none of them were memorable enough that I can put name to portrait. 
           
Thank you, random stranger.
         
Then we have some images of the king congratulating the party: "Brave Chet! I knew thee surely would be triumphant! Thy feats will become legend in the land for all eternity."
         
What king are you, again?
          
Finally, the other three companions each offers his or her own message of congratulations. After that, it's finally back to the title screen.
         
My fellow party members, looking like apostles.
        
During my career, I've attended a lot of office parties for departing co-workers. Some of them have even been for me. There's a weird vibe at some of those parties. People who barely spoke to each other are suddenly hugging. The departing co-worker is lauded for doing a much better job than he or she actually did. Statements assure him or her that he or she will be missed much more than he or she actually will. Some high-level manager you've never even met is there to hand out an award or gift card. It's all smiles and support, all cake and cocktails, and the next day you're already struggling to remember the co-worker's face and wondering what the hell that was all about. The end of Miracle Warriors felt like one of those parties. The game simply hadn't engaged me enough with its story and lore for the end to be worth all that fuss.
    
Here's my GIMLET:
    
  • 3 points for the game world. Warriors tells a fairly standard backstory and offers a boilerplate quest. Someone went through a lot of trouble in annotating the map not only with the names of the continents but also the various sections of the continents, deserts, forests, towns, and so forth, but none of it amounts to anything. These places have no particular character. Towns are all interchangeable.
  • 2 points for character creation and development. Creation consists only of a name. Development takes place by earning experience and occasionally seeing the bar roll over, which increases maximum hit points. 
          
The full party.
        
  • 3 points for NPC interaction. You get one-line clues from wandering traders and a few NPCs in towns. They're important to the game but don't offer the same depth of lore as, say, Final Fantasy.
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. The game's menagerie of weirdly-named monsters is amazingly unmemorable. Some of them have special attacks, but since there are no tactics in combat, there's really no reason to memorize those attacks.
  • 2 points for magic and combat. As outlined above, there simply aren't enough choices to make.
  • 3 points for equipment. You have a base set of gear that you can buy and a prestige set that you can find, plus a few usable items in combat.
         
The game's inventory screen.
          
  • 4 points for the economy. Between healing, purchasing staffs, paying the armorer in Hierax to upgrade your swords, and other purchases, the economy remains relevant through most of the game.
  • 2 points for a main quest with no side quests, no choices, and no alternate outcomes.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are decent. Some of the monster portraits are creative and fun. The sound effects aren't interesting enough to deal with the constant, repetitive music, and I thus played with the sound off. The simple mechanics make serviceable use of the simple controller, but there were a lot of ancillary interface issues that wipe out any points I would otherwise give it. It was too hard to distinguish health and experience bars, for instance, and scrolling through menu options doesn't wrap around when you get to the top or bottom.
          
There are some weird monsters in this game.
         
  • 2 points for gameplay. It gets some credit for limited nonlinearity, and the total game time wasn't so bad. But the game is otherwise far too grindy, and there would be no reason to replay it unless you just completely forgot what it was about.
          
That gives us a final score of 26. It perfectly exemplifies what a game in the mid-20s means: it's an RPG; you can play it; it doesn't do anything outrageous; you might be glad you had it if you were in prison and had nothing else to do. I watched old episodes of Arrow while I played it. If I had it only for the console, it would be too boring and slow to keep my attention fixed on the television with nothing else to keep me occupied. Maybe if the television had picture-in-picture. What happened to that? I don't even think my brand-new Roku television offers that option.
         
I'm not sure Sega had the best ideas when it came to box covers.
          
Contemporary reviews were very low. The best categorized on MobyGames is from the March 1989 Power Play at 63/100 (March 1989); from there, they drop into the 40s. Almost all reviews, contemporary and current, note the repetitive, slow combat and grinding, which really says something given that these elements were common to console games of the era. Typical is the December 1988 The Games Machine: "Endless repetition of combat, inflexible interaction, and monotonous predictability kills this shallow attempt at an RPG."
     
In contrast, there are a curious number of modern reviews that seek to rehabilitate the game. For instance, if you've ever wondered what kind of gamer could actually be aroused by the endgame graphic of Terarin and her grotesque bosom, check out this coked-up review at HonestGamers.com; the author has won it at least four times. My colleague Zenic Reverie also found some value in the game in a 2012 series of entries (starting here) at The RPG Consoler (and if you're looking for more detail than I provided, his is definitely the series to read), although he was also relatively grounded and ultimately rated the game at 33%.

Kurt Kalata took an interesting look at Miracle Warriors in a 2007 article on HardcoreGaming101. Although he was critical of the Sega version, his worst comments were reserved for the PC-88 and MSX versions that the Sega edition was based on. Neither of the original versions feature any kind of in-game map, meaning you absolutely had to use the accompanying paper map to have any chance of figuring out where you were. The fairy companion actually talks to the party in the PC versions, and the towns are just menu towns. The Japanese NES version is closer to the Sega, although with (in Kalata's opinion) inferior graphics.
        
The final battle from the PC-88 version, courtesy of HardcoreGaming101.
           
I rated Miracle Warriors higher than I rated Kogado's Cosmic Soldier: Psychic War (1987). Although the two games are quite different, they have similar flaws, including boring combat, limited character development, and weird use of multiple characters in the party. It feels like the developers at Kogado didn't really "get" RPGs the way those at Square did (or at Nihon Falcom, for that matter). I don't know if they ever got better at RPGs--and I'll probably never know, because the company seems to have given up completely on western releases of its products after Miracle Warriors. None of its future RPGs--including Mashō Denki: La Valeur (1989), Mōryō Senki Madara: Daikongō Rinhen (1993), Record of Lodoss War (1994), Kisō Louga II: The Ends of Shangrila (1995), and Magical Squadron (1996)--have North American releases or English translations.
   
If my experience with Final Fantasy served to emphasize that not all console RPGs of the era are bad, even if played on a PC, my experience with Miracle Warriors perhaps emphasizes that if they are bad, it isn't necessarily because of the "console" part. I don't know how many more console tangents I'll allow myself--at least one to check out the first handheld RPG, I think--but overall it's been an instructive experience.


93 comments:

  1. Hm, what *is* the first handheld RPG? Is it Final Fantasy Legend? (I am a fan, but I am fully OK with anyone who isn't -- it's got some rough edges. I personally like it better than Final Fantasy for NES, though.)

    If you want to really go out there, the third Wizardry Japan-only Game Boy game (Scripture of the Dark) is interesting (it's been fan-translated).

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    1. That's actually why Chet played FF1, so he could play Legend and then Wizardry.

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    2. I forgot that until now. I guess my journey isn't done.

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    3. It was Final Fantasy Legend, which came out in the US only four months after Final Fantasy itself did. It was also the very first Square title that sold over 1 million copies.

      I had Ultima: Runes of Virtue on Game Boy, but that’s one you don’t need to bother with, as it plays like a simplified Zelda and is very cutesy. And it was made in house by Origin. David Shapiro (Dr. Cat) was the lead designer. U6’s art and music directors worked on those areas of the game. The music is good for a GB game.

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    4. The two Runes of Virtue games are adventure games with few RPG elements. They're not bad games, and some of the puzzles were interesting.

      But they're not RPGs, despite being based on Ultima.

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    5. Runes of Virtue is such a strange little game. It's an Ultima spin off that feels more inspired by the Japanese Ultima knock offs than the actual Ultima games.

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    6. I actually enjoyed RoV and played it to completion with all three characters, but I love a good Zelda style game anyway.

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  2. Doesn't Alt-F12 speed up DosBox emulator enough?
    https://www.dosbox.com/DOSBoxManual.html

    > ALT-F12 Unlock speed (turbo button/fast forward)**.

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    1. Yes it does, I was going to say that: https://www.dosbox.com/wiki/Special_Keys

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    2. That just speeds up the emulated CPU. Most games aren't sensitive to CPU speed (unless the CPU is too slow). For the ones that are, a CPU that is too fast might break things.

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    3. So I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that even though I've been using DOSBox for 10 years, I didn't understand how to fast forward until just now, when I finally took the time to figure out how it worked.

      Buck, I think you're thinking of CTRL-F12, which speeds up the CPU, but Mr. Stone is referring to ALT-F12, which uses the full speed of your actual computer to zip through things like loading times and animations. For years, I though it just didn't work because I never noticed any increase in speed when I hit ALT-F12. It didn't help that I usually play without the console window, so I can't see what's actually happening. The one time I did it with the console, I noticed that it was turning off as soon as I was turning it on. I figured it was broken or there was something else I didn't understand, and I left it alone.

      Now I see that you have to HOLD the key combination to keep it active and to get the benefit of fast forwarding. That makes it a little less useful than the Sega emulator (as well as the "warp" mode of several other emulators I use), but it still would have helped a LOT in Amberstar. I should have taken the time to better figure out how it worked before now.

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    4. Ah, yes I was. Don't be embarrassed. I've used Dosbox a lot and even compiled it from source, but I didn't know that either.

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    5. I further looked into it, and it turns out you can make it a toggle. Sort of. Launch DOSBox, then hit ctrl+F1, which starts the key mapper.

      You then click on "Speedlock" (as shown in the screenshot below), and click on "hold". That way the turbo stays on after you've released Alt+F12.

      Only problem is... it doesn't turn off when you hit the shortcut again. Nothing I tried worked. You can assign it to a more convenient key, with no modifier, but the problem persists.

      https://imgur.com/BHv4vjV.png

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    6. So the best solution is probably to just remap the standard "Speedlock" button to a key that's not used by the game but still easily accessible, like Tab.

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    7. In DOSBox Daum there is actually two speedlock keys what can be mapped. One is usual "hold to work" and the other is "toggle" one.

      But I use the holding one anyway, by mapping it to "Alt+. " So it doesn't use any single button, but can be pressed with one finger anyway.

      Unfortunately, it still can cause crashes in some games, as mentioned above.

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    8. Is that the series of builds that allows save states?

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    9. Yes, that one. DOSBox SVN-Daum with special features JAN. 27. 2014 . I've been using it for 6 years as my main DOSBox. The build from 2015 is much more unstable. Unfortunately, it is no longer in development.

      As for the other builds, ones being updated, I know their names, but not much else.

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  3. It definitely looks miles better than PC games of the era in my view.

    But as far as I can tell console games didn't really develop a strong identity of their own until possibly DQIV/FFIV in 1990/91 - the former probably the high point of 8-bit console games, the latter the first (and possibly most) important entry in the 16-bit era.

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    1. Yeah, Final Fantasy IV would be a good one to do at some point. It's kind of the moment when a lot of things clicked for that series: better storytelling (relative to most console RPGs at the time), better pacing, and almost no grinding. It's a very different animal from the typical computer RPG, and it's pretty linear, but what it does, it does well. It's pretty brief, too—maybe about 15-20 hours for a moderate-length playthrough without emulator speedup.

      As far as 8-bit titles, either Dragon Quest III or IV might be worth considering, just to see that series reach maturity in terms of its gameplay mechanics. I probably wouldn't do both.

      Interesting to hear that you're considering Final Fantasy Legend. It's... a little weird. Akitoshi Kawazu certainly marched to his own drum when it came to gameplay mechanics, so people are a little divided on the titles he worked on. I'd be interested to see your take if you do indeed go through with it.

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    2. Personally, I'd love to see a Fire Emblem game get coverage, considering those games tend to be a very different beast from other console RPGs

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    3. Dragon Quest III is a great NES RPG. It’s where the series really hit its stride as far as story and play mechanics, and was arguably the game where console RPGs in general really started to come into their own. Even many Final Fantasy designers respected DQ3 as a gold standard for some of the things they did on the SNES.

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    4. FF4 is also pretty much the pinnacle of grinding in JRPGs, though. (I think - I played the PSX remaster which I understand is based on the Japanese original, and I had to give it up when I got to the moon because ain't nobody got time for that.)

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    5. I think which version you play affects how much grinding you do, and how difficult the game is, by a lot. The original SNES cartridge, "Final Fantasy II", was bowdlerized and simplified from the Japanese version. Items were consolidated and cost less, so you need to spend a lot less time getting money to equip yourself. Various other minor tweaks were made to make the game a little easier, like reduced casting time.

      The Playstation release and other re-releases generally hew closer to the original Japanese version. Some of these editions also have unfortunate bugs that wreak havoc on the ATB system, causing you to lose turns.

      The Nintendo DS remake, which is available on PC, was definitely and intentionally made more challenging.

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    6. For what it's worth, I'd be really interested in reading coverage of one of the later NES Dragon Quests. I'm only familiar with the first one, and I'd like to see how it evolved.

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    7. You guys have to cool it. Harland is going to come along any moment and blow a gasket.

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    8. I've played Dragon Warrior I-III on classic NES, I'm not sure there's much value in playing them beyond the first. I like DWII the best of them, but it's annoyingly difficult on the NES. I've been playing the 16-bit version on Nintendo Switch lately and it's much improved.

      I actually don't like DWIII as much; I found the monsters to be too cutesy (rabbits with horns?) and the game's too long. DWIV goes in for a story-based approach, I have a copy of the ROM for emulation but I haven't spent much time on it.

      Final Fantasy IV on SNES may be worth a look just for the transition of the game. It does pace itself pretty well, it's not often you have to stop and fight monsters for money and experience. It's usually beneficial to do so for an edge but not required.

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    9. There is a story behind the infamous difficulty spike in DQII. An additional story segment, with dungeons and monsters to go with it, was planned as a precursor to the final dungeon. Space limitations forced them to cut the content. The monsters in the last few areas, however, were not adjusted downward to account for the cut content, and DQII was rushed out the door, without bring play-tested. As a result, players were unintentionally under-leveled by the time they reached that point in the game, Even today Yuji Horii regrets the difficulty spike,

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    10. I'm utterly surprised, because I've never heard of that about DQ2. I guess it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Makes me wonder where that would take place, though. That last connecting cave is pretty tough, so I imagine that would count as part of the final area...

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    11. Balance was a problem in general in the game, especially at the Rhône Plateau. They went from one on one battles In the first game to three player characters versus what could be pretty large groups of enemies in some cases, and on the NES/FC they didn’t have the time or resources to get everything as balanced out as they wanted to. They weren’t trying to make the game with punishing difficulty.

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    12. That doesn't make any real sense, because the core difficulty issue was something that could not be solved by level. Too many random enemies had instant-death spells, or even instant-TPK spells, that were pretty much equally effective at any level.

      Add in the notion that there's no place in the game that an extra area would fit, and it seems very unlikely.

      The developers have admitted that they ran out of cash to playtest the last third or so of the game. The theory I've hard most often is that attacks (or attack slots) were programmed for bosses without the person responsible realizing that those had already been assigned to monsters, and the lack of playtesting at that stage meant that it didn't get caught.

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    13. That's interesting! I didn't know that about DQ2. The Rhone cave is pretty hard, and the plateau insanely so. The remake helps by making spells and the interface more user friendly (targets the next enemy if the original was killed before hand) but its still a grind.

      Things like this are invaluable if you are designing a CRPG. Pay attention to pacing or you will have players quitting in frustration.

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    14. The Al-mi'raj is a horned rabbit from Arabic mythology. It also showed up in D&D 1st edition.

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    15. Yeah they looked familiar to me. But they were just part of the problem; most of the monsters went from being weird scary things to harmless looking things.

      It honestly felt like with DQ3 they went out of their way to make the game more "family friendly". Even your main character has a mom in the starting town, which just adds to it. Chet's observation that NES games felt designed for children strongly applies here.

      And yes, I know, later in the game you fight mummies, demons, dragons, all the usual things... it just felt like somebody tried to dial things back from DQ2.

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    16. Dragon Quest's graphics have always been a bit goofy. It's Akira Toriyama's style. The content is usually, though not always, darker.

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    17. I played DQ1 and DQ2 as their Android releases - which are excellent, by the way, truly bucking the trend of Android ports being dodgy and making a good argument for being the definitive version of the game - and I think they fixed the difficulty spike for DQ2. Or at least, I powered through that whole game in very little time at all and don't recall any frustrating bits.

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    18. Yes, the remake addresses a lot of the issues. I enjoy the re-interpretation of the dialogue, which adds a much more religious overtone to the series. (Something the NES version stripped out hard-core.)

      Plus they made the engine a lot more forgiving; if an enemy dies before an attack or spell goes off you just smoothly switch targets instead of attacking/casting at nothing. Or if you try and heal an ally but they're at max health, no magic points are expended. If you resurrect them, they come back at full health instead of 1 HP. And so on.

      A point of frustration for me, though, is that the leveling curve is different and it appears nobody has documented it online anywhere. You get some spells much later in the game than you did in the NES version, and the endgame area is still pretty tough. Besides the end game area, there was only one other spot (Below in ROT13 in case Chet DOES decide to play) I had extreme difficulty in completing, the rest of the game was pretty smooth.

      Gur wbhearl sebz Unzyva gb Yvnzcbeg (ARF anzrf, gur erznxr unf qvssrerag barf) vf gur uneqrfg wbhearl va gur tnzr, rkpyhqvat gur gevc guebhtu Eubar Pnir naq Eubar vgfrys.

      Gur zbafgref ner fgebat rabhtu gung hayrff lbh tevaq evqvphybhfyl ybat, rirel rapbhagre vf n punyyratr. Lbh unir ab cynprf gb erfg be erpbire urnygu naq zntvp, lbh unir gb genirefr zhygvcyr yriryf bs gur gbjre gb trg gb gur gbc gb "whzc" gb gur bgure fvqr, svtugvat zbafgref gung lbh unira'g rapbhagrerq orsber fb gurl'er arj naq fpnel. Gura bapr lbh'er ba gur bgure fvqr lbh'er whfg enpvat gb trg gb gbja naq gur vaa jvgu ng yrnfg bar yvivat punenpgre.

      Gur wbhearl sebz Unzyva gb Yvnzcbeg (ARF anzrf, gur erznxr unf qvssrerag barf) vf gur uneqrfg wbhearl va gur tnzr, rkpyhqvat gur gevc guebhtu Eubar Pnir naq Eubar vgfrys.

      Gur zbafgref ner fgebat rabhtu gung hayrff lbh tevaq evqvphybhfyl ybat, rirel rapbhagre vf n punyyratr. Lbh unir ab cynprf gb erfg be erpbire urnygu naq zntvp, lbh unir gb genirefr zhygvcyr yriryf bs gur gbjre gb trg gb gur gbc gb "whzc" gb gur bgure fvqr, svtugvat zbafgref gung lbh unira'g rapbhagrerq orsber fb gurl'er arj naq fpnel. Gura bapr lbh'er ba gur bgure fvqr lbh'er whfg enpvat gb trg gb gbja naq gur vaa jvgu ng yrnfg bar yvivat punenpgre.

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  4. I've never really cared for party based games that have a "only the people that participated get experience" system. I get that it makes complete sense, but I tend to feel like it limits what I can do because I get more focused on ensuring no one gets underleveled than on doing what's right for the situation

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    1. I agree. Experience is an abstraction anyway. If you're THERE, in the thick of combat, facing fearsome enemies, supporting the party, then you ought to be earning experience whether you strike the killing blow or not.

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    2. Getting individual XP per hit is especially bad in games with varied character classes. Any support class is gonna be gimped by design, because the main thing they do (healing, casting support spells, etc) doesn't gain them XP.

      It's like a bad compromise between classic XP and skill increase per use systems. Per use systems mean characters only level the skills they actually use... this is kinda similar except you only get XP for offensive actions.

      Not only does it destroy any kind of balance between the different characters, it's also immersion-breaking because your healer isn't getting better at healing by actively healing... only by killing.

      I guess you could consider it vivisection training, eh?

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    3. Tactical RPGs got better about that. In a lot of them healers are rewarded for healing. A lot of games take into account how badly hurt the target they’re healing is when you heal them, so you don’t get experience points for using healing techniques on healthy people, which makes sense.

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    4. Oh yeah that's true, Tactics Ogre gives XP for healing and other spell uses, not just for damage.

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    5. Except it rewards degenerate playstyles, for instance, via keeping the last enemy alive to grind healing xp on them. Basically, you never want your experience system to incentivise playing the game weirdly.

      Some people resist, sure, but others either get annoyed that they feel obliged to.

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    6. It may reward weird playstyles, but in my experience playing like that gets really boring and generally not worth the effort. Besides, I'd say it's much better than having to risk getting your healer killed to get them leveled up, especially if it's a game with permadeath

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    7. Square RPGs and SRPGs also have a mechanic where healing and death effects are reversed against the undead, so healers can get some offense in by attacking undead enemies with healing spells.

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    8. Tactics Ogre also had the interesting constraint that to be able to become certain healing class, you had to refrain from killing. Can't remember the exact details, but I was a little suprised by that one after carefully arranging for my healer to make some kills.

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    9. I think it's reasonable to expect a game to be designed so that the optimal approaches and the most satisfying approaches mostly align. I'm not sure what the counter argument for that would be? I get that it's hard to do that, but it's the job of the game designer to tinker with the mechanics to make that happen.

      Lots of games fail at this, and yes, you can still get some fun out of them for other reasons, but I'd still count it as a flaw. It's always better if everything is pulling in the same direction.

      And yeah, the rewarding characters individually for actions seems to always lead to "degenerate playstyles" as Tristan put it. It basically takes what should be a high stakes no-nonsense struggle and turns it into practice time where you needs to get your required reps in for everyone.

      Simulating practice is not fun. It should be abstracted out like eating, sleeping, etc. It should be assumed that everyone is practicing their relevant skills in their off-time and that that is the foundation for character growth that comes from the party overcoming a real challenge together.

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    10. "Practice" is pretty much the entire gameplay loop of the Sims, so some people must seriously enjoy it.

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  5. This, this is exactly what I think of mid-20s RPGs!!!
    "It perfectly exemplifies what a game in the mid-20s means: it's an RPG; you can play it; it doesn't do anything outrageous; you might be glad you had it if you were in prison and had nothing else to do."

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  6. There's Mimana Iyar Chronicle for the PSP,which Kogado helped develop. However,it's more like the Tales of games.

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  7. I reviewed the PC Engine port of La Valeur on my blog, although in a rather abbreviated post where I only played the first section:
    https://superfamicomrpgs.blogspot.com/2017/12/pce-game-5-masho-denki-la-valeur.html

    It's not very good. It had a strangely limited system where it caps your level in each area at such a low rate, and you have so few in-battle options, that it's more like a puzzle than an RPG. If you have the right equipment and level, you win the battle, otherwise you don't.

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  8. I have played the fan-translated SFC version of Record of Lodoss War—I think my YouTube channel still has pretty much the only complete playthrough of it available—and most of the flaws you note in this game apply to it as well. However, I think the SFC Record of Lodoss War game was from a completely different developer and probably unrelated; it looks like Kogado specifically developed the Sega CD Lodoss game as far as I can tell. I guess shoddy RPG design transcends developers.

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    1. Oh, I also did that game -- it really sucked. One of the worst SRPGs I've played.

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  9. What a sad, strange little game.

    Interesting that it was released the same year as the original Dragon Quest, and has almost all the same flaws. I don't know if it was a deliberate response to DQ, but it reminds me of (of all things) the Wolfenstein 3D clones that popped up in the early 90s - which tried to follow the trail blazed by the latest big hit, only to become instantly obsolete by the successor to said hit (Dragon Quest II/III or Final Fantasy in this case, Doom in the analogy).

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    1. Ehm, I actually found and find Blake Stone a pretty fun game, and same with Rise of The Triad. At the time I would have told you that I preferred both to Doom.

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    2. A lot of the early Wolf-clones are fun, its just that they were obviously outclassed by Doom and later Quake/Duke Nukem 3D.

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    3. I didn't play Wolf 3d when it was new, but I went back to it after Doom and Quake. It's way too simplistic for me to enjoy. All the Doom clones don't do it for me either when I could play Doom and its user-made wads instead. Doom's greatest advantage was that it had proper height levels, which allowed for some vertical exploration and much more interesting level design, both visually and gameplay-wise. The majority of "Doom clones" feel more like Wolf 3D clones and having no height levels, only a single plane, limits level design so severely they all feel the same.

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    4. Not only is the level design simplistic in Wolf3D, the combat is also the bare minimum. There's no interesting weapons, the majority of enemies behave identically, and of course the limited level-building options don't allow for much in the way of tactics.

      I still find it a bit fun despite these complaints, but I can only stand it for a level or two. I'm a bit amazed they squeezed six episodes and a sequel out of such limited game play.

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  10. A note for the future, when you will encounter Windows games: you can use Cheat Engine to apply a speedhack to pretty much any game. I don't know if it works on emulators, but it works on most Windows games I've tested. It's a real godsend for games with slow animations.

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    1. Yeah, I don't know. My desire to play a game authentically probably doesn't extend to avoiding a speed key if it's right there, but it's probably enough to prevent me from seeking a solution external to the emulator.

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    2. I'll bet you 100 bucks that you'll change your mind once you encounter games with excruciatingly slow movement speeds ;)

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  11. Certainly it's worth coming back to console JRPGs when we hit the SNES era to check out the way the narrative side of them develops. The consensus is certainly going to be Chrono Trigger for if you only play one from that era, but you'd be well served by any of the SNES-era Dragon Quests or Final Fantasies, or alternatively you could check out Secret of Mana for something quite different from anything you've seen so far. (I have no idea if it's the first local co-op console RPG - probably not if you're defining RPG broadly to include action titles like SoM - but it's certainly the most memorable.)

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    1. I booted up Chrono Trigger for the first time ever yesterday, and was immediately greeted with a tropenamer!

      ‘Wake up, Crono!’

      I tend to have to grit my teeth at JRPG intros. I don’t get pulled into the games until the combat mechanics start getting interesting, and there’s often a fair bit of silliness before you get to that point.

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    2. Of course, Chrono Trigger is also going to take a somewhat different approach for Chet if he plays it, because famously the game isn't actually done when the game is done...

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    3. I mean, the game is done when it's done. It doesn't have a postgame, and while it did innovate with New Game Plus and multiple endings to take advantage of it, that would only really need a mention in the rating post and maybe a link to a video with the other endings.

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    4. Personally, my vote would be for Earthbound. It's not as influential maybe, but it's certainly unique and interesting with some really clever twists on common RPG tropes, and it was a direct influence on at least one super noteworthy CRPG (Undertale).

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    5. It'd be great to see Earthbound, if just for an outsider perspective on it

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  12. "the people of the Five Lands, weary from despair, rejoiced"

    So, were the people not so weary, they'd have not given a crap about your efforts..?

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  13. Speaking of the apostle-garb - a vaguely alluring quirk of this game for me was how it couldn't seem to decide whether the setting was bog standard quasi-medieval fantasy western Europe or quasi-ancient fantasy Greek myth. Everyone wears robes and the phonetics of a lot of the proper names are Greek and some of the monsters are weird in a way reminiscent of classical mythology but then you fake Elizabethan English and plate armor... the combination gave it a subtle sense of alienness it probably doesn't deserve.

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  14. I found it kind of amusing that, in effect, you were criticizing the game for having too good an ending. I've seen many horrified reactions to a single "YOU WIN!" message, and getting dumped back to the OS, but this might be the first time I've seen a (very mild) gripe that the ending was overdone for the content.

    I never played the game, but if I had struggled through it, I would probably have thought a long ending like that was pretty neat. It might have retroactively rehabilitated it a little for me. Only a little, though, it sounds like an awful game.

    On the console excursions in general: definitely do them once in awhile. Final Fantasy 3 (US version, FF6 in Japan) on the SNES is really intricate and interesting, and Chrono Trigger on the same system feels amazingly modern in many ways.

    There's some fun stuff to be explored, with quite a number of titles you would probably enjoy very much. By the era of the Dreamcast, PS1, and Gamecube, the consoles were getting quite powerful, and the games could offer substantial depth. I have found a ton of great games through emulation, rather than by growing up with them, and despite playing them as an adult, still think very highly of them.

    Most of that's for later, though. Console RPGs in the year you're in now weren't very good.

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    1. That's a good point. I guess in the balance of things, I'd rather have a game go over-the-top like Miracle Warriors than just say "congratulations" and dump you to the DOS prompt. Given that the latter is so common in the era, I guess I could have mustered a little praise for MW's approach.

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  15. That HonestGamer review just further proves that no matter what you think of a given game there is someone out there that absolutely loves it. Seriously though, what life path makes someone stan for Miracle Warriors over all the other grindy one note console RPGs of the era?

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    1. Is "stan for" a misspelling, or some new slang to which I am not hep?

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    2. Stan is a concatenation of 'stalker' and 'fan', and is now a verb as well, and to 'stan' for soemthing means to defend it, basically.

      It comes from Eminem's song 'Stan', which is mostly good for it's Dido sample.

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    3. Well. Now that I know the origin of it, I will proceed to avoid using it even more than before.

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    4. I'm not enough of a hip-hop connoisseur to go wild for Kendrick, but I like it enough to enjoy some Eminem.

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    5. I'd feel out of it for not knowing that, but then again, I already feel out of it for barely knowing who Eminem is.

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    6. Isn't he the guy who invented those colorful round chocolate drops?

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    7. Man, those things are delicious.

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    8. Yeah sorry about slipping that in, it's hip-hop slang for a delusional/demented fan or the act of sticking up for something in a delusional/demented manner. It does come from the really great Eminem song.

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    9. No problem. I could have Googled it.

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  16. Dark Lord now in the Spank Bank, filed right next to the Succubus entry from the Monster Manual.

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  17. I keep seeing all these people suggesting yet another Final Fantasy in addition to the one on Game Boy that you plan to play. I honestly don't think there's any merit to very many more console RPGs beyond what you've played so far. I've spoken for Phantasy Star in the past, as well as against Shining Force.

    I think at this stage, the only thing I have left to suggest that would actually bring anything new to the table would be a Japan-only Super Famicom game called F.E.D.A. The Emblem of Justice. It's a Tactical RPG that does not expect you to kill all enemies to clear maps. You can if you want, but doing so may change your circumstances within the game. The art style is fairly similar to Shining Force, but the game feels far different in comparison. A full English translation of the game is available.

    And that's it from me. I will make no further console game suggestions and will go back to eagerly awaiting you getting to World of XEEN.

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  18. One of these days, I'm going to have to have a frank discussion with myself about how many sunk hours that "won" statistic is really worth.

    It's worth a lot. Don't stop being you. We love that you're hardcore and actually finish all these games.

    Inspired by a comment on a previous thread, I started playing Xanadu (1987), or Dragon Slayer 2, on the MSX system (had to download a new emulator). There was no manual (curses) but fortunately there is a Youtube playthrough where the player is kind enough to explain how everything in the game works. Sure enough, there are a bunch of non-obvious things that you would never figure out on your own, and the very beginning of the game is hostile and requires you to navigate a repeating maze just to find the entrance to the first level. Without the video I never would have found it.

    It's an interesting game and I can see how Legend of Zelda took inspiration from it. The dungeons, notably, are almost the same with their four entrances and creatures that drop treasures.

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    1. Thanks for that. I feel better about bailing on Xanadu knowing that.

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    2. You should write up your experiences with it as a guest post.

      Delete
  19. I'm surprised you call it console rpg, to me it appears to be a conversion from a computer game, just like Ultima III on the NES.

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    1. It is, but it was updated for the console, and the console versions are its best-known versions, and it's only known in the west as a console RPG.

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  20. For the record in response to Harland's post, about the winning, it's not so much your BEATING of the games that I admire, but your exhaustive documentation of them. For example, if you need to cheat or look at spoilers to show the maximum amount of content, I would be completely fine with you. It's really great that games that have had hundreds of development hours spent on them can finally get a publicized explanation of their gameplay, story, and highlight moments, and it honors the creators of those obscure games too to let them know that their work has not gone unacknowledged and every bit of work they did in the game is shown, not just some "Dungeon 1" screenshots on MobyGames (though kudos to those guys for at least dipping their toes into games they don't like for publicity's sake). And if having to win the games as fair as possible gives you a sense of sportingness and authenticity to the original playing experience, I won't argue against that either.

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  21. I'm one of those people that has been advocating for Phantasy Star, but reading this, I'm not sure you'd like it. It is a much better game than Miracle Warriors in almost every way but it is very grindy at points -- in particular the beginning -- and the plot is quite linear.

    If you didn't like those bits of MW you won't like them in PS either, although the quality of the rest of the game may help you overlook them.

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    1. It helps that Phantasy Star has a ton of personality for the time, and a fun space opera sci-fantasy setting instead of the cliched medieval setting most RPGs have.

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  22. On the subject of notable console games, you might want to consider either FF3 or FF5 (japanese numbering, as neither was originally released in the U.S.) for the job system. To my knowledge FF3 is the first RPG to introduce the idea of characters being able to switch classes freely (or mostly freely) throughout the game and mix and match abilities from more than one at the same time. If you're interested but only want to play one of them I'd recommend 5, as it improves considerably on the first attempt in 3.

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    1. I don't recall the original Famicom/NES version of FF III allowing you to mix-and-match abilities. A character was stuck in the abilities of their current class until changing (although the level-up benefits were (IIRC) determined by what class you were in at the time, giving some permanent effect). It wouldn't be until V that you could gain an extra ability set, which was improved upon in Tactics until being mostly discarded for the in-battle class changes of X-2.

      It would still be very interesting to see a comparison of the way the FF Job system works as opposed to that of the Wizardry series (the only WRPG that comes to mind with a relatively freeform class change system), and even III is pretty developed, but V or Tactics would be the better one to sample for that reason alone.

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