Friday, September 18, 2020

Game 380: Mad Paradox (1992)

Spoiler: no explanation is ever given for this title.
       
Mad Paradox
Japan
Queen Soft (developer and Japanese publisher); Samourai (U.S. publisher)
Released 1992 for PC-98; 1994 for FM Towns and DOS
Date Started: 13 September 2020
Date Ended: 14 September 2020
Total Hours: 8
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)
      
Nearly 30 years later, I can't even find any evidence that a company called Samourai existed. The title screen of the game itself is the only evidence. I don't know where they were located or who was on the staff. By all appearances, the company seems to have existed solely to bring Mad Paradox to an American market. I desperately want to find the people involved and ask, why Mad Paradox? Why not any of the host of 1980s and early 1990s Japanese PC RPGs that look so much more interesting? There's Fantasian (1985), which coupled first-person dungeon exploration with top-down grid-based tactical combat before Pool of Radiance did it in the U.S. Was SSI influenced by this Japanese game? I'll never know because I can't play it. Paladin (1985) is a fun-looking RPG-platformer hybrid. There's Riglas (1986), an adventure-RPG hybrid with a "studio" perspective that looks like it could have been influenced by Quest for Glory if Riglas hadn't come out first. There's the delightfully weird-looking Panorama Toh (1983). A bunch of other games I know only from intriguing titles: The Magic of Scheherazade (1987), The Return of Ishtar (1987), Zombie Hunter (1987), Bastard (1988), Druid (1988), Slime Master (1989), Another Genesis (1990). There's a Japanese-only fourth entry in the Phantasie series from 1990. The sin of all of these games, I guess, is that they didn't have breasts.
    
Mad Paradox has those, but the game is so inept that it forgets it's an eroge at some point and plays the last third entirely straight. Having played Knights of Xentar (1991) and Cobra Mission (1992) before this one, I had certain expectations, and I was shocked--not disappointed, you understand, just surprised--when the game had no final "reward." 
          
Yes, it's this sort of game. (Censored so my blog doesn't get labeled as "adult" by Google.)
        
That would be fine if there were anything else notable about Mad Paradox, but there isn't. It's a grindy, linear, derivative, ugly game with limited mechanics and a nonsensical story. In basic form and narrative, it's like Knights of Xentar, but with less freedom, more boring combat, and blander characters. It's rare that I say this even about bad games, but there was nothing about the time I spent on it that wasn't a complete waste. I can't tell you much about what's on my "to do" list this week without giving away too much personal information, but suffice to say that there is no stronger justification for my blog's title than the fact that I spent 8 hours of this week of all weeks winning this game.
    
Paradox concerns a character named Mash, who has been raised all his life as an orphan in the city of Dorah. Now, on his 17th birthday, an old and wise friend named Samos tells Mash of his history. Mash's parents had been the rulers of Dorah, but one day an evil warlord named Gorgus showed up and challenged Mash's father to combat. Mash's father was a pacifist and refused, so Gorgus killed both parents and took off. Samos doesn't think Mash's father could have beaten Gorgus anyway because Gorgus had some way of commanding fire. Mash immediately vows revenge.
              
Samos lays out the backstory.
          
The opening dialogue is another prime example of the wordiness that accompanies a lot of these JRPGs. It's like hearing two children shout, "Am not!" and "Are too!" at each other. One round of it, fine, but after a few repetitions you start wondering if any jury of "your peers" would really convict you. In this case, I had to read through several screens of Mash trying to convince the reluctant Samos to tell him about Gorgus, with the equivalent of "Please tell me!" and "No, it's too dangerous" repeated so often that I began to understand Gorgus's motivations for just killing everyone in this town.
    
Eventually, Samos relents and sends Mash on a quest that begins with retrieving his father's arms and armor from the old castle. At first, I worried I'd have trouble finding it, but I soon realized that my worries were baseless. The game consists of only about a dozen areas, each taking up only about four screens. Hallways are wide and buildings large, and areas are therefore hard to get lost in. Pathways don't open until you're ready for them and many of them close behind you, so even when it seems like you're stuck, you just have to loop around the NPCs in a small number of screens, and eventually you'll get the next clue.
           
The game has furniture, barrels, doors, and chests, but none of them (except about four chests in dungeons) are really interactive.
          
Other than combat and NPC "dialogue" (all lines are scripted; there are no choices), there isn't much to do in the game. It lacks any kind of "search" feature. Doors open automatically when you walk into them. NPCs are also activated by walking into them. There are no puzzles, no traps, no out-of-combat spellcasting except for healing. This would describe a lot of games in the 1980s, but it feels like we've come further than this since then.
       
There is no character creation process. Mash (and, later, his two companions) come to the game with fixed values in strength, stamina, intelligence, attack, defense, maximum health, and maximum magic power, all of which increase upon leveling up. Attack and defense scores increase as you purchase or find better equipment. Enemies have no magic and no special attacks. You never miss them and they almost never miss you, and the damage that you do to each other is fixed by a formula that considers the attacker's attack score and the defender's defense score. Because combat is so predictable, it's also boring. There are no tactics save the spells, but offensive spells aren't that much better than physical attacks. You're almost always better off saving magic ability for healing.
             
The main character's statistics early in the game.
        
The game is also extremely grindy. There's a maximum of 40 levels, and you have to be close to the top to defeat Gorgus in the end. If you just walked through the areas (and didn't get killed), you'd probably reach the endgame at Level 16. The rest is grinding, which sucks because combat is slow. Every attack, yours or the enemy's, is accompanied by an animation. Thank the gods that someone told me how to use DOSBox's "warp" mode recently or I never would have survived it. Mechanically, combat seems to be derived from Phantasie. Each round, each character attacks, casts a spell, uses an item, or tries to flee, and the action executes immediately with its animation. All characters go before all monsters. 
          
The translators didn't bother to translate the combat options, but I figured them out by context.
    
The predictability of combat means that you almost always know when you've entered an area that's out of your pay grade, so that's when it's time to return to an earlier area and camp for a while. Fortunately, I was able to watch educational videos for a class I'm taking during this process. It is not an exaggeration to say that at least 5 of the game's 8 hours were spent grinding.
      
That leaves the story, which almost doesn't deserve to be related. As Mash leaves Dorah, Samos asks him to keep an eye out for a girl with a fiery brand but otherwise doesn't tell anything about her. Mash first recovers his father's sword (a regular long sword, discarded almost immediately) from the castle, after which Samos opens the way to Death Valley. Before he leaves town, Mash can have his first ribald encounter with a local girl whose name he doesn't even remember.
     
And so it begins.
       
Each one of Mash's erotic encounters shows three or four pictures of the girl in question, censored in the places that Japanese media typically censors images of girls. None of Mash's encounters are non-consensual, though like Xentar, he is sometimes rewarded with sex (or just images of unclothed girls) in situations where the girls in question have just been through traumatic experiences. As usual, many of the girls look underaged to me, but I'll just accept that's a cultural/artistic thing. The other weird thing is that many of the images . . . I don't know how to say this . . . Many of them suggest that Mash is "participating" in the activities depicted, except that he himself never actually appears. It's as if he's gone invisible. Finally, unlike the heroes of other eroges that we've seen, Mash is not depicted as either particularly suave or particularly inept. He doesn't make jokes or cringy statements about his experiences. They mostly happen without comment, or with bland comment.
    
Areas of the game are divided into those with wandering creatures and "safe areas" (usually towns) without them. In areas that have creatures, they're always depicted as formless blobs until you run into them and the encounter begins. You can avoid them a lot of the time by walking in the other direction, but the game requires so much grinding that it's best to fight when the blobs are present. They respawn quickly. Each area typically only has two types of creatures. The Valley of Death had ogres and "mantrap plants."
         
Mash approaches an enemy party "glob" in the valley.
         
On the other side of the Valley is the city of Garah, which is being menaced by a lieutenant of Gorgus named Gidd. The residents are so terrified that they offer young ladies as sacrifices to Gidd. The latest, chained up and waiting for him to come and get her, is a girl named Lizza. (Lizza disrobes for Mash in exchange for a promise to help her.) Mash also hears about a local young swordswoman named Elle. A third entanglement comes when Mash discovers that the local bartender has imprisoned a girl named Mary in his basement.
              
Ah, the joys of roleplaying a character who ogles girls while they're chained up.
         
Mary supplies the key necessary to unlock Lizza's shackles. Mash creepily has a sexual encounter with Mary before she's even freed from the basement. Lizza returns to her grandmother's cave in a forested area west of town. Lizza's grandmother has some intel on the source of Gorgus's power, which has to do with "plaques" (the way this is used, I can't help think the world is translated badly) that had been created by the gods and convey power over fire, water, and other forces.
    
At this point, it's not clear what Mash has to do to enter Gidd's fortress (the guards repel him if he nears), so it's one of the moments of the game where he has to run back and forth to various NPCs to figure it out. Mary says that to enter the fortress, Mash will need an emblem and suggests he talk again to Lizza. Running back to Lizza's grandmother's cave (fighting zombies along the way), he learns that Lizza has the emblem tattooed on her thigh (picture follows). Lizza suggests that the blacksmith can make the emblem but he'll need to see it, and Lizza doesn't want to return to town. Mash has to return to town alone and go to a shop where the shopkeeper has an "eternity mirror" that captures an image of whatever it's pointed at, but he won't sell it except for a "goddess statue." This turns out to be in the possession of Lizza's grandmother, necessitating another trip through the woods, then back to the shop, then back to the cave to capture the image, then back to town to deliver the image to the blacksmith. Such is the game padded.
            
One of many steps in a senseless quest.
         
Meanwhile, Mash finally meets Elle, who agrees to help him in his quest, as her father was also killed by Gorgus. After Mash picks up the emblem at the blacksmith's shop, Elle meets him at the gates to Gidd's fortress, which (after grinding a while), they invade, killing guards and dark fairies and ultimately Gidd himself. Gidd leaves behind a crystal ball in which Mash sees an image of a girl with a fire brand on her forehead, the one that Samos told him about.
      
Elle is one of the few female characters presented respectfully.

Taking on Gidd.
         
After defeating Gidd, Elle and Mash move on to the city of Krapp. Krapp has a few exits, one of which goes to the "twin cities" of Aquapolis and Foulwater, the other of which goes to the cities of Blessfire and Foxfire. You understand when I say "cities," I'm talking about a couple of screens with inns, shops, and a few NPCs. Each city has a weapon/armor/shield shop, and I found that the party basically had just enough gold for the latest upgrades at just about the moment they became available.
          
Items available at one shop.
        
If you check into the inn with Elle in Krapp, there are some scenes that suggest Mash might have tried to have his way with Elle and was duly reprimanded--this is played for humor, of course. Otherwise, if he checks into the Krapp inn without Elle, he finds that it's a brothel in disguise and has the opportunity to sleep with several prostitutes; there's a sequence exactly like it in Xentar. Great: I've become an expert on tropes in Japanese porn games. Irene will be so pleased.
           
Mash apparently went too far.
        
Elle disappears for a while at one point and is found frolicking with fairies in a waterfall in Aquapolis (with images, of course). In Blessfire, the duo becomes a trio as a warrior named Fugg joins the party to rescue his sister, Lora, who has been taken by Gorgus's next lieutenant, Geir. As before, the party has to get strong enough to raid Geir's fortress, which is populated by giants and necromancers, before taking on the minion himself. Along the way, they free three captive girls (with images, etc.) from Foxfire. Fugg leaves the party after Geir's defeat, which was surprising. I thought the game was going for a permanent hero-girl-male friend composition like Xentar.
          
Fugg briefly joins the team.
          
I lost track of a lot of the plot at this point, and I can't even reconstruct it with my screen shots. The party found one "plaque" in Krapp, but it didn't seem to do much of anything. Later, there was discussion that they had to find a "crystal" and then "holy water." Moving forward for the rest of the game generally meant circling around between "The Wise One" in Aquapolis, Lizza's grandmother, and an overtly Christian priest in Krapp until one of them had the answer.
   
Getting the "holy water" meant visiting the city of Heavens, which turned out to be accessible from the waterfall in Aquapolis. The city was under the thumb of Gorgus's final lieutenant, Goses, who as usual had imprisoned a few girls. Freeing them opened the way to his fortress and represented the last eroge content in the game. As Mash freed them, Elle expressed some jealousy, and I set myself up for an ending just like Xentar and Cobra Mission in which the hero swears off his rakish ways and marries his female adventuring companion in a weirdly wholesome epilogue.
            
The tamest of the images from this section.

          
Goses's fotress required a lot more grinding. Enemies were dark knights and women that looked like sorceresses but were for some reason called "rusty nails." The combat with Goses himself went like all boss combats in the game. Since no one has any special attacks and all attacks do predictably the same damage, combat was just a matter of figuring out how often I had to cast healing spells in between physical attacks. As long as the enemy doesn't do more damage than you're able to heal, you can eventually whittle him down.
    
Following Goses's defeat, discussion again turned to things I don't remember discussing previously. Something about having to find a "sanctum" and an "AquaSword." After making the rounds of the usual NPCs, it turned out that the priest knew of a way to open a doorway to some "sanctum" in Aquapolis. We followed his instructions and found ourselves in a long, linear dungeon (a single straight corridor) containing the toughest enemies in the game, lizard warriors called "death tails" and floating balls of light called "ghost balls." They offered so much experience that we finished leveling up just pushing through the corridor.
        
I guess maybe this is the "sanctum."
          
Gorgus was at the end of it, but he taunted us by saying we could never defeat him without the "AquaSword," which for some reason we didn't have and couldn't find, so we had to back off and return to Krapp. There, the bartender's daughter heard of our plight and stole a "plaque" that the bartender had kept secret. She ran away with it to the forest, where it required her to sacrifice her life to turn into the "Holy Sword," which was apparently capable of defeating Gorgus. This was all told very poorly.
         
JRPGs seem to have a lot of blank lines and ellipses in dialogue.
        
We returned to the Sanctum and engaged Gorgus in combat. It was the same thing as his minions: a couple of attacks followed by a couple of healing spells or potions. It took a long time, but he died.
          
Hollywood, get this script in front of a producer!
       
The denouement was stupid. The girl with the firebrand appeared in the wake of Gorgus's defeat. Gorgus has held her prisoner all her life, telling her she was the daughter of Lord Laggs of Dorah, my father (whose actual name is appearing for the first time), which would seem to make her my sister. Surprisingly, Elle took off at this point, claiming she'd had her revenge. For some reason, Mash expressed an intention to still somehow try to make the "AquaSword," but the nameless girl convinced him it wasn't important and persuaded him to use the holy water to wish their way back to Dorah.
         
I didn't follow all of this, but I wanted the game to end, so I was with "Girl."
        
Back in Dorah, Samos filled in the rest of the story, but it still didn't make a lot of sense. It turns out the girl--who is never named--is not the daughter of Lord Laggs but of the ruler of Garah. A soldier carried her out of town when Gorgus destroyed the city; Samos ended up finding her in the woods; and my parents ended up adopting her moments before they themselves were slain by Gorgus. End of story. The girl didn't end up with Mash, either, so I'm not sure why she's even in the game.
            
Samos appears to be hitting on me.
        
The game ends with Samos offering Mash a drink. A black screen says "And . . . time passed by . . . " and then shows an image of someone--Mash, I guess--sitting under a tree at the top of a cliff. And then the credits roll over (non-lewd) images of some of the females in the game. So I have no idea what that end sequence was about, but neither do I really care. The title of the game is never really explained, either, unless that's the paradox.
 
Unlike most games in the eroge genre, the protagonist of this one ends sad and alone.
        
In a GIMLET, the game earns:
    
  • 2 points for some attempt at a story.
  • 2 points for character creation and development. There's no creation, but leveling feels suitably rewarding.
  • 3 points for NPCs. They play a big role in the game, but everything is one-way.
      
Wandering NPCs are sometimes helpful. Sometimes . . .
        
  • 1 point for encounters. There are no non-combat encounters, and enemies are only differentiated by how hard they hit.
  • 2 points for magic and combat. Combat has no real tactics and there's no point to the variety of spells, which is too bad because some of the visual effects for the spells are fun.
         
Elle's spell options at the highest level.
        
  • 3 points for the economy. It remains relevant most of the game and is a secondary reason to grind. When you no longer need weapons and armor, you can stock up on healing potions.
  • 2 points for equipment. There are upgrades to weapons, armor, and shields, and it feels rewarding to buy them, but there's no complexity to the items. They just adjust attack/defense scores.
  • 2 points for a main quest with no options or side quests.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. I found the graphics grainy (why do they look like they have artificial scan lines?) and the icons hard to make out. Some of the cut scene graphics were well-composed, though. I can't tell you about the sound because the music is so relentless, and can't be turned off separately, that I played with the sound off entirely. The controls work fine.
        
The artists clearly had some talent.
         
  • 1 point for gameplay. The overall game wasn't too long, but even within the limited time, it wasted a lot of time with grinding and backtracking. The predictability of combat made it too easy; it's very linear; and there's nothing replayable about it.
            
That give us a final score of 21, which is a pretty low score for the era. I'm glad I investigated what Japanese developers were doing on consoles at the same time because otherwise this would be my impression of JRPGs.
    
I typically haven't subtracted any points for bad translation, so I won't do that here, but the text of the game is riddled with spelling and syntax errors and poor word choice. Also, it's sometimes hard to tell who's speaking.

Normally, I'd offer reviews from contemporary sources, but I can't find any evidence that anyone noticed this game when it was released in 1992. I can report that an Honest Gamers reviewer named Woodhouse agreed with me in a 2003 review:
            
To play Mad Paradox is to step into a world of mediocrity. It’s an RPG that skimps on all the ingredients that can make an RPG great. The battles are neither unique nor exciting, you’re given only an excruciatingly tiny area to explore, and there isn’t any engrossing story or character development. The makers of this title decided to forego all those amenities, instead placing an emphasis on pleasing the viewer’s visual receptors. To captivate its audience, Mad Paradox relies on its one and only asset, numerous naked women.
                        
I would normally also report on the developers here, but none of them seem to be associated with any other games, including designer and writer Tooru Hamada, senior programmer Kei Ishizuka, senior illustrator Akira Komi, or even music composer Shirahama Nanki. The development company, Queen Soft, did produce at least half a dozen other titles between 1989 and 1996, mostly eroge adventure games and what can only be described as "strip mahjong." Even more of a mystery is the supposed U.S. translator and distributor, Samourai, which is an absolute ghost. I'm not 100% sure that it wasn't just a warez group that created a fan translation. Why any of these obscure individuals thought that this game was worthy of their time will have to remain an enigma. A paradox. A maddening one.


42 comments:

  1. The Magic of Scheherazade is a fantastic action RPG with menu-based random encounters that had an English NES release, though somewhat simplified and made easier- most of the game's major mechanics were intact, and can be finished in 6-8 hours without too much trouble.

    It's been about a decade since I've beaten it, but in the first hour or so of the game, I remember:

    -Getting backstory on the main quest and game world
    -Gaining several levels and learning new spells
    -Recruiting several allies
    -Paying to change the hero's class at a mosque
    -Taking classes to power up spells and attacks (complete with single-question final exams related to game mechanics, and in one case bribing the instructor to pass me after failing)
    -Taking out a loan and being chased down as interest accrued
    -Going back in time, seeing the same towns in the past, planting a tree during an eclipse, and returning to the present to find it had grown into a literal money tree
    -Solving several dungeons that were about as involving as one could expect for dungeons that could be completed in 5-10 minutes

    Though it has some rough edges (it's an easy game because the US version was made easier, and some of the hit detection in the action battles is iffy), I have a hard time not recommending it to anyone who's interested in games of the era.

    HG101 article: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/the-magic-of-scheherazade/

    The Return of Ishtar is an arcade sequel to The Tower of Druaga and not really an RPG.

    Zombie Hunter (which has a fan translation for the NES) is a 1-2 hour action game with enough RPG elements that it probably meets most definitions for an RPG. As you need to judge when to grind for levels and manage inventory, and it's short enough that death is permanent, it's somewhere between an arcade game, a roguelite, and an RPG.

    Druid (if it's the Famicom Disk System game) is somewhere between Zelda and Gauntlet, and is a port of a game originally for several 8-bit computers.

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    1. I played Magic of Scheherazade for the NES back in the day, and I second it being a good game. One of the things I distinctly remember was playing as a warrior for the first portion of the game and running into a wall, switching to magician, and seeing onw of the first action games where class distinctly made combat different. It did a really good job of having some enemies weaker to the sword and some weaker to the wand, and encouraged class swapping back and forth based on the enemies weaknesses

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  2. I'm becoming convinced that these Japanese eroge were meant as erotica first and foremost, and only happen to be games by some trick of circumstance. Somebody spent a non-trivial amount of time and effort drawing all the still scenes, and the game was created to loosely tie them together. Why this might be the case I have no idea, since even back then it must have been easier for them to publish a print work than a video game.

    What's the deal with the interlacing? It looks like most of the interface and world graphics have some sort of CRT filter on them, but the text and still scenes don't for some reason.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. This is often the case with games ported from early Japanese PC's. Maybe someone can give us more of the technical details, but it seems to gave something to do with the original graphics modes and lazy porting.

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    3. No expert, but looking into the Wiki of some of these early Japanese PCs they seem to have two graphic chips, where one chip solely handling fonts.
      I guess that's could be a reason for that looks

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    4. I will never understand most eroges. I'd assume the appeal would be interactivity, so your character can actively take part in the erotic scenes, rather than you just being a passive observer like in print and video. But pretty much all of these games present their erotic content as static drawings where you don't get to make any interactive choices.
      The only interactivity lies in having to grind through hours of mediocre combat before you can see the images.

      I just don't get it.

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    5. Might be a tension-release thing, like when a game rewards you with an upgrade, neat visual or story content for progression along the main story.

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    6. I mean there were those cards the first Witcher...

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    7. Maybe they had a crappy game and spiced it up with erotic content? If it was the other way around, why would the erotic content stop 2/3 through the game.

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    8. I also think that it is mostly about grantinge pictures with progress, a lot of puzzlegames of the era did the same.

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    9. >>Might be a tension-release thing..

      Yes, I'm pretty certain "tension-release" is involved somewhere ;)

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  3. "As usual, many of the girls look underaged to me, but I'll just accept that's a cultural/artistic thing."

    Eroges often have disclaimers that their characters are most definitely 18+ in age, but they aren't really fooling anyone, especially when they're supposed to be high school freshmen.

    "Many of them suggest that Mash is "participating" in the activities depicted, except that he himself never actually appears. It's as if he's gone invisible."

    Yes, that's a common trope in Japanese games. In sex scenes, the protagonist is usually not identifiable so horny teenagers can self-insert themselves. He's either hidden, depicted as a bland brunet, shown from behind, or the shot is angled that only his... participating part is visible.

    It gets really bizarre when he's drawn without eyes. They're usually hidden by his bangs, but sometimes gets really stupid like this one (don't worry, safe for work).

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    1. The "participating part" is also famously often invisible. I believe it originally was due to obscenity laws, but I think it eventually just became a trope (since it happens in otherwise uncensored games), possibly for that same "personalization" reason. It's very strange to see a woman, uh, "participating" with what appears to be a cylinder of solid air.

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  4. Fortunately, there is no more hentai RPGs what you have to play, according to the blog's rules, all the way until 2003, where Brave Soul appears. There is some risque elements in Princess Maker 2, but they don't go very far, at least graphically.

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    1. Princess Maker is also a fun game, unlike this crap.

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  5. If you never play another eroge rpg, I won't mind.

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    1. I tried finding a good eroge for a long time. After all, with a genre this prolific, there's gotta be something good in there, right?

      Right?

      The only remotely good ones I found are Sakura Dungeon and Sengoku Rance, and they were made way later. The 90s don't have a single worthwhile one as far as I could find.

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    2. Good eroge RPGs are indeed fairly rare. I think the Utawarerumono duology is the highest regarded in this genre. I've also enjoyed Kamidori Alchemy Meister and the Spirit of Eternity Sword series.

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    3. Are there really that many eroge rpgs? Even if there are, that must be a pretty niche market. Seems like the kind of games that get passed around in schoolyards much more than being sold. Not much money, you have to pay for the artwork - somewhere the quality has to suffer.

      Knights of Xentar did score 40 on the GIMLET, though.

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    4. These mostly exist because the companies who made them couldn't afford a console license, and PC gaming wasn't a big thing in Japan. So they used nudity and sex (which the console makers didn't allow) as a sales gimmick.

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    5. I've read a bit about Japanese PC gaming, and it ironically received a bad reputation due to developers often making eroges. Consoles were the family friendly gaming systems with the big budget games. Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy and all that. Meanwhile on PC a lot of available titles were weird eroges made by a small independent developer team. Therefore PC gaming had a disreputable image. If you're a PC gamer you're probably into those weird games with raunchy sex scenes.

      There were some ports of western games to Japanese PCs though, some Lucas Arts adventures received very good ports to the FM Towns for example. And visually I really love the PC 98, the artists working on games for that system made extensive use of dithering to great effect.

      One of my favorite games from a visual standpoint is the PC 98 eroge X-Girl. I never played it because it's Japanese only and I don't wanna put in the effort of emulating a PC 98 for games in a language I don't understand, but I've seen screenshots and videos of the game and it's just gorgeous. Amazing cyberpunk atmosphere.

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    6. Most of the popular non-eroge games managed to worm their way onto consoles, where they usually have an English translation, fan or not. The only exception I can think of is the J.B. Harold series. So the only things that remain are the thousands eroge, games that weren't popular enough for a console release and the odd game that wouldn't work on PC.
      Also, I think the distinct look of PC-98 games can be put down to high resolution and a low, like 16 number of colors that can be put on-screen at once. I think it has a trademarked shade of green too, but I've never seen any evidence for that.

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    7. I'm not at all in the PC-98 scene, but people who are have summarized it as "adventure games with small eroge elements, porn games, and Touhou."

      It's a shame that Chet doesn't like action games because every single Touhou game is rad as hell.

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    8. From what I've heard, Dragon Knight IV (which is the next game in the series of which Xentar is III) is a decent game. However, it's probably better to play one of the non-ero console ports than the original because they improved the gameplay more and added voice work.

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  6. I really want to play Phantasie 4 someday. As far as I know, it is a proper sequel--they flew the designer in to Japan to work on it and everything.

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  7. Help me Dr. Samos...

    https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/planetoftheapes/images/a/a3/Zaius_1.jpg/revision/latest/top-crop/width/360/height/450?cb=20061026182657

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  8. I have only ever played a couple(briefly) Hentai games, and they were both crap. Best to stay away.

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  9. I feel like a big reason the non-porn PC JRPGs never got localized was due to them not being particularly big outside of Japan yet. You're not going to find a lot of companies willing to shell out the money to localize a game when you don't even know if there's a market for it, along with having to compete with locally made games. The porn games would give them something to work with in terms of who to sell it to, assuming these aren't just fan translations given a somewhat professional coating

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  10. There are enough weird typos in the screenshots that I suspect that the translation wasn't particularly polished. So the awkward writing and shoddy story might be partly a translation artifact. I'm probably not going to invest any time in tracking down the original script to compare, though.

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  11. Mad Paradox is a terrible game, but because of *when* it came out, and being one of the few translated eroge with a wide release, it's fairly well-known, much like Xentar, so it was a good candidate for inclusion here.

    Sadly few eroge have ever been very good at mixing their erotica and their gameplay in effective ways.

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  12. I found some claims that Samourai was a French company, e.g. https://beliar-cos.blogspot.com/2014/10/mad-paradox-review.html

    > "Mad Paradox" is the only game ever released in English by the French manga publisher "Samouraï Éditions" as a part of its Geisha Pink Zone label before its bankruptcy.

    Also, from a walkthrough:

    > Because I had to replace my copy of Mad Paradox, I think I found out the hard way why there was a French walkthrough: Samurai Anime released the English game in French packaging! The front and back covers were in French, so was the instructions folder. But the game was still in English! I also saw somebody claim that their copy had French packaging, so this sounds plausible.

    Amazingly, the Internet Archive has a 1997 snapshot of Samurai Anime's website, and it does list this game for sale: https://web.archive.org/web/19970703024127/http://www.samurai-anime.com/

    They list a US address and phone number, but prices are quoted both in USD and in Francs, and they have the same "Geisha Pink Zone" label as the French publisher. I guess after their bankruptcy, they decided to move to the US?

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  13. Regarding the "scanlines":

    The PC-98 had a feature that allowed programs to render at half vertical resolution, interpolating blank lines to fill the screen. This helped save CPU time.

    https://gang-fight.com/projects/98faq/#scan

    I remember occasionally seeing a similar technique used in early FMV games (Star Trek: Borg being an example), where I believe it was a compression technique.

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    1. I had seen it in FMV games, but never before with sprite graphics. Odd, but I guess it's as good a solution as any for having the computer do "better" graphics than it's technically capable of.

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  14. I'd argue that Utawarerumono is a very good visual novel/srpg mix. The eroge scenes come late and feel like they could've been left out, the game and the story are clearly more important and they removed these scenes alltogether in new versions of the game and all sequels.

    However, and I think this is a bigger point than the porn content: To enjoy eroge/rpg, you simply have to be into manga/anime period. They are allmost all also visual novels. They all exist not so much for rpg gameplay but more for their graphics and story. And the story of course can be very anime-like, with all the tropes you hate or enjoy. I'm with the second group. So stating the obvious, if you are a hater of all things anime/japanese/whatever or just don't like the graphics style, you better stay away from these.

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  15. Is this the one with snow white and the 7 dwarfs or was that xentar? ....lol when I was like 14 my dad bought me a game and it had this xentar cobra mission and power dolls (Wich is a pretty cool tactical rpg ) I remember the box had a big sticker saying not for kids on it so I have no idea why he picked it but I'm glad some one else has played these things

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  16. I know it's an easy one, but, really, no one is making a comment about what a Krapp town it is? Or the fact that with all the back and forth, you saw a load of Krapp?

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  17. Why do you torture yourself playing hentai games you know you'll hate?

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    1. What part of the term 'CRPG Addict' isn't clear? ;-) Not to mention, you get as far as this in a project like this, there has to be quite a lot of weight pushing towards finishing games even when they're not your favorite.

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    2. I DON'T know I'll hate them. I'm indifferent to the sexual content as long as it's consensual. Meanwhile, it's possible the mechanics are quite good. I don't know until I play.

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    3. When Chet gets around to playing Sengoku Rance in 3029, he's going to be amazed at just how good an eroge can be.

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  18. > I would normally also report on the developers here, but none of them seem to be associated with any other games, including designer and writer Tooru Hamada, senior programmer Kei Ishizuka, senior illustrator Akira Komi, or even music composer Shirahama Nanki.

    It was a common practice to use pseudonyms for eroge credits, so it's no wonder you can't find anything.

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