Sunday, October 25, 2020

Game 385: Minelvaton Saga: Ragon no Fukkatsu (1987)

This was not a good use of time.
Minelvaton Saga: Ragon no Fukkatsu
("Minelvaton Saga: Return of Ragon")
Random House (developer); Taito Corporation (publisher)
Released in 1987 for NES
Date Started: 18 October 2020
Date Ended: 22 October 2020
Total Hours: 12 (artificially low because of a cheat)
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: 30
Ranking at Time of Posting: 229/392 (58%)
At least four times this year, though it seems like closer to a thousand, the following sequence of events has occurred:
  1. I decide I need to take a "break" from the official game list.
  2. I reach for the "reject" pile--the list of games that I originally rejected for being a) on a console, b) not an RPG, c) in a language I couldn't easily translate, or d) unavailable. If the original reason was d), I research to see if it's turned up since then. If it was c), I look to see if there's an English patch.
  3. I start playing the game, intending to get a "quick entry" out of it, particularly since I don't mind cheating the rejects.
  4. I soon realize that the game isn't going to be quick, even if I cheat. But I don't want to take the game as a loss, so I keep playing until the bitter end, which turns out to be a lot more time than I wanted to invest in this little diversion.
You'd think I'd learn my lesson after a few of these, but here we are again. Minelvaton Saga came up in a literal random roll. Both a) and c) originally applied, but some Googling showed me that c) was no longer true, as a translator going by the name Aishsha made a translation available in 2011. While my rules do not obligate me to play games with fan translations (nor console games at all), these "reject pile" moments are for making exceptions, and I decided to give it a shot. Why didn't I stop after playing long enough to offer a BRIEF? I have no idea. I suspect to answer that question would involve several sessions on a couch. But here are the results.
The main character name is the only "creation" in the game.
The Saga takes place "long ago, even before the Big Bang," in the world of Minelvaton. The world was created by gods who then warred over its dominance. These included Khan, the God of Light, and Ragon, the God of Darkness. Eventually, Khan was triumphant, and the land flourished in a time of peace, the people coalescing into various lands and kingdoms. But Ragon returned (hence the subtitle), and his armies soon conquered the kingdoms of Ishkhan and Palmeccia. The young prince of Palmeccia and his guardian, a priest, were tossed into a time gate as the invading armies entered the throne room. Years later, his guardian on his death bed, the young prince (the character) now vows to restore the lost kingdom. To stand against Ragon, he will have to seek the power of the gods.
The character learns his pedigree at his guardian's death bed.
1987 is early in the history of Japanese console RPGs. That, coupled with the fact that the game was long-untranslated, led me to hope that I was in for a relatively original, exotic experience. Instead, it soon became clear that Minelvaton provides an experience highly derivative of Dragon Quest (1986) of the previous year, perhaps also influenced by Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord, which also had a 1986 NES release. Minelvaton offers the same limited character creation, the same goofy cartoonish little man scurrying across a large landscape and encountering at random timer intervals, the same weird selection of magic objects that you can use in combat. It has some original elements in combat and in the way it treats NPCs, which I will explore. 
The world of Minelvaton is, I'm going to guess, no more than 64 x 64--small even by 1987 standards. But it's full of rivers, mountain ranges, broken bridges, patches of deep water, and other obstacles. It also forces you into a random combat every few seconds of walking. So getting from one side to the other can take closer to half an hour than half a minute. Again, recall Dragon Quest, where the final castle was literally visible from the starting castle, but took 17 hours of grinding and exploration to find the exact series of items that would get you to that point. Minelvaton perfects that mode of gameplay. You have to visit the same castles and towns multiple times as you find new resources for opening locked doors, passing through solid walls, walking across lava, and solving other navigational puzzles. There are multiple times in the game in which I found some new artifact and had no idea what to do with it. I literally had to loop back through every previously-visited area, talking to every previously-encountered NPC, until one of them finally bore fruit.
The world of Minelvaton is small but seems large.
(This mode of gameplay is also present in the Charles Dougherty series, starting with 1984's Questron. His games featured a lot of castles in which you could only progress so far until you found a key in another castle. You'd go back and forth between castles, each time exploring just a little bit further. Since the Dougherty titles also featured the same overland-and-town model as Dragon Quest, I wonder if there was any influence. Then again, I suppose we see that model all the way back in 1980, with the Atari 2600's Adventure.)
Also like Dragon Quest, this game would only take about 3 hours to win if you only had to run around assembling the artifacts and fight the boss battles. The rest of the time is spent fighting random encounters, which pop up every 2 to 8 seconds in every landscape except towns. Your enemies are defined by terrain (unlike Dragon Quest, they do not get harder as you progress from the starting area, except in dungeons), and you never meet more than three per combat. They have a variety of names, but they're really only differentiated in a) how hard they hit, b) whether they can shoot things at you, or c) whether they can poison you.
The game begins in the player's house in Roland.
Combat is where Minelvaton diverges from its sources. Instead of a turn-based system inspired by Wizardry or Phantasie, it uses a somewhat action-oriented system by which you (usually) run headlong into your enemy and bash him to death. This is a system featured in Hydlide (1984) and later in Ys (1987), though I'm not sure if Hydlide did it first. Most games that use this system have their enemies scurrying around on the main game map. This is the first game I've seen in which encounters are invisible until you trip them, but then you engage in Hydlide-style combat in a separate combat window. Also unlike other games that use the "run and bash" system, it doesn't seem to matter here whether you approach the enemy from the back, front, top, or bottom, nor whether you offset your position or attack him squarely. You do want to maneuver to avoid getting attacked by multiple enemies at once, but otherwise as long as you're touching an enemy, you're both hitting each other with equal fervor.
Fighting two monsters.
That said, the player does have some ranged options. There are special magic items called Adan's Seeds and Bird Claws that allow you to throw projectiles at enemies. There are others, Boa's Seeds and Smoke Balls, that do damage to all enemies on the screen. You can buy, find, and carry up to 99 of these items. Through 95% of the game, it makes a lot more sense just to spend your money on medicine, bash enemies in melee combat, and heal. But in the last 5%, you need all the resources you can muster, and I found myself regretting not having developed more experience with those ranged items.
Things also get different when you meet NPCs who will join the party. You can have one mage companion and one archer companion. Both sit at the sidelines and shoot spells or arrows at enemies. They can be attacked, but it's rare, and the main character is the one that suffers most of the damage. There are maybe three different NPCs throughout the game who will serve in either position, some manifestly better than the others, but a couple of them up and disappear once particular quest stages are passed. Fortunately, they pass their equipment on to the next NPC. You need the mage to get through the game, as the main character is incapable of casting any spells. According to the manual, NPCs can level up, but I never saw any sign of it.
My wizard and archer shoot at a "Death Master" while I bash it. I've just killed one; he left the treasure chest behind.
For the endgame, you have to replace any NPCs in your party with two particular ones, Luna the archer and Xena the mage, both designated "Warriors of Light" by prophecy.
Poor Terna and Gino learn that they're going to be replaced.
Finally, there's a mercenary system by which you can hire up to five "mercs" and have them fight in your stead. They apparently do level up as long as they survive. Early in the game, I wanted my character to get all the experience, so I didn't see the point of mercs. This also came back to bite me in the endgame, which you need all the resources you can muster. I'll bet five top-level mercs make a big difference against the endgame bosses.
Three mercs fight for me.
The game begins in a far western city called Roland, where the character's mentor dies. Cities in the game typically have a weapon and armor shop, an inn (where you can fully heal), an item shop, a fortune teller, and a magic guild where you can resurrect slain NPCs or save your own game. Towns are also crawling with NPCs, and talking with them really does help you figure out where you have to go, either now or in later stages of the game. You just have to take good notes, and I really didn't.
Fortune tellers often help you with the next step.
Roland's king gives you your first quest: to retrieve your family's crown from the ruins of the Sinus castle, not too far away. Only then will he believe that you're the prince. After this initial quest, the game opens up a bit. The king sends you to Malt (for unclear reasons), and you can recruit your first NPCs. It's best to stay close to cities in these early stages, grinding against monsters outside and sleeping at the inn when your hit points get too low. I was about Level 15 before I could make it to Sinus and back.
Over the next few hours, you slowly gain the tools needed to fully explore the towns and dungeons in the western half of the map. These include regular door keys, purchasable in most item stores but not in Roland, and a special "Seal Tome" to open special doors. You find a magic pearl that proves to the king of Dorf that you're worthy of a magic ship. This allows you to take off automatically from any dock and return to land at any dock, but docks aren't so plentiful that the world opens up as much as you might think.
Sailing down a river near a dock.
You buy your first weapon and armor upgrades. You also start to hear tales of a previous hero from Orlaine named Leon; his tale is told with such detail and repetitiveness that I was sure I had overlooked some previous game in the series called Leon's Saga or something, but I can find no trace of it. 
Again with Leon.
The first half of the game ends when you liberate your parents' old capital, Arkasas, from the demon who killed them, Zairas. Shops and NPCs return to the ghost town. Arkasas is in the center of the map, and I found it was a good place to save the game so that I could return to it with a Wind Flute or "Fly" spell, both of which whisk you to the last place you saved.
That's awfully unpleasant.
The second half of the game sees you assembling the items you need to challenge the gods. This includes a full set of Leon's old equipment--armor, shield, and sword--which get upgraded later. You find a "Thru" spell to get through some dungeon walls, and an Ice Doll, which for some reasons mends broken bridges. A wizard NPC named Zen joins you long enough to smash a rock blocking a key pass, then disappears. There are a lot of castles, dungeons, and NPCs that you have to visit during this phase, and I'm afraid I was using a walkthrough by this point, so I often lost track of exactly why I was doing certain things. 
This was important for some reason.
You restore a razed wizard town using a Spell Tome, raise an island from the sea, and restore power to the "Minelva Road" teleporters. This later quest allows you to teleport to the final island, where you learn that to win, you will have to assail four towers.
An NPC lays it out.
One thing that amused me--it has probably already amused you--is the use of proper names, starting with the title. "Minelvaton" means nothing in any western language. At best, it suggests a town named after someone named "Minelva." That root is present in the game; it describes a series of teleporters that the character has to activate at some point to take him to the final area. But in any event, including a letter l and lacking a final vowel, "Minelvaton" must have been a bit odd to Japanese mouths and ears. 
The "Minelva" part is explained in-game.
Some of the other names are equally risible. "Arkasas" suggests "Arkansas," for instance. It's hard not to laugh at the character's early-game invasion of the "Sinus Ruins." The town of "Ish" sounds like the people are probably wishy-washy about everything. You could see it in a Terry Pratchett novel. The towns of "Malt" and "Dorf" just sound a bit goofy. That says nothing of the personal names. Two great heroes of the past are "Leon" and "Jim" (an homage to Hydlide?). I'm not criticizing any of this, just noting with some amusement that what probably sounds exotic to eastern ears often sounds silly or banal to western ears. Of course, the reverse is also true. If I made an RPG and named its towns Shinjuku, Arakawa, and Setagaya, you'd think those were fine names, and Japanese people would be laughing that they were just suburbs of Tokyo.
I would be lying if I said I made it to the endgame honestly. I played the first half of the game straight, save for occasional use of a save state, but it was hardly necessary. The first half of the game is relatively easy, and I was gearing up for an "easy" difficulty rating. But I got sick of all the backtracking and running around trying to figure out what I needed to do next, and thus I looked at a walkthrough to get a sense of the major steps. In consulting the walkthrough, I saw that there's a cheat code that turns off random encounters. That was too good to pass up. If I hadn't enabled it, I suspect the game would have taken me over 30 hours. Of course, that meant missing out on experience, so I figured out the typical amount of experience I was earning per hour from random combats and hex-edited accordingly. Yes, it's indefensible. I just wanted to see the end at this point.
Approaching one of the endgame towers.
I came to the endgame around Level 125 out of a maximum of 138, and wow was it hard. You have to fight four gods at the ends of four towers, then fight Ragon in his temple. Each tower alone took all 99 of my healing potions, so I had to keep flying back to the closest town to replenish them, then go through each completed tower to the next uncompleted one. That's not as easy as it sounds. Although the gods disappear after you kill them, there are numerous fixed encounters that reset every time you leave a level and return. That meant I was getting to each "new" tower with fewer than my full complement of medicines.
About to encounter Edda, goddess of the dead.

Agora, the god of something or other. He made my NPCs go away for a while.
I had to fight the final battle with Ragon about ten times, trying a variety of different tactics. It doesn't help that his initial hit point total of 3,200 is a lie; once you get him down to 0, he morphs into a demonic creature with 4,000 new hit points. When you fight him in melee combat, your hit points go so fast that you have to pause every couple of seconds to swallow 4-5 medicines. Thus, you want to exhaust all of your ranged options first (although he can mass-attack at range, too), then probably your mercenaries, before resorting to melee combat. My problem is that I had forgotten about mercenaries.
I thought you were the prince of darkness.
He's down to his final few hit points, but so am I.
Ragon's death doesn't trigger the endgame. Instead, you have to make a long trek back to Arkasas, where the people proclaim you their king, you marry Luna, and everyone lives happily ever after.
I was going to do that whether you asked or not.
Wait. What?

Xena and Luna hardly did anything!
I thought Minelvaton was a bit better than Dragon Quest, having built on it with some additional features. In a GIMLET, I give it:
  • 3 points for the game world. As with most JRPGs I've played so far, the backstory and its world are a little too cute, aloof, and abstracted (some day, I'll try to explain what I mean by this in more detail) for me to really care about it, but I do like that the character's actions have measurable impacts on the world.
  • 2 points for character creation and development. Creation is only a name, and while leveling is rapid, aside from extra hit points, you don't really notice it.
There's not much to character development except level and gold.
  • 5 points for NPCs. I like that what they say changes depending on where you are in the plot, that so much of the game's lore comes from them, and that a few of them can join the party.
  • 2 points for encounters. There are some fixed and lots of random encounters, but none really offer any choices or role-playing.
  • 3 points for magic and combat. There are more options than the "run and bash" method would suggest, but not a lot more.
  • 3 points for equipment. A few upgrades throughout the game, for all characters.
Selections in the "Items" shop.
  • 4 points for the economy. With so much to buy, it remains relevant throughout the game.
  • 3 points for quests. In addition to the main quest, there are a few side dungeons.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound, and interface. Nothing wrong with any, nothing particularly notable, either.
The menu/submenu system works. I didn't love it, but it works.
  • 2 points for gameplay. Minelvaton is very linear and thus not replayable. If I hadn't cheated, it would have been far too long with too many random combats. (I thought it was both even with cheating.) The difficulty averages about right, but it's too variable--too easy at the beginning, too hard at the end.
That gives us a final score of 30, one point higher than I rated Dragon Quest--less than I thought, but it basically works.
Video game music fans will want me to mention that the score was composed by Yō Ōyama, the leader of a rock band called ASTURIAS, and Haruhiko Tsuda, the guitarist for a band called Shingestu. In Japan, the game is remembered so fondly for its music that a tribute CD with new arrangements of the soundtrack was published in 2009. I agree that the songs are well-composed. They're full of complex counterpoints and polyphonic textures, and some of the rhythms are so syncopated that I'd almost call them ragtime. 
I hope that some day, I get to work on a game and am credited among "the others."
I didn't see a lot in Minelvaton Saga that demanded a sequel, but it got a couple anyway: Silva Saga (1992) and Silva Saga II: The Legend of Light and Darkness (1993). From what I can tell, the games take place on other continents in the Minelvaton world, and they feature the same type of gameplay but with improved graphics.
At the end of this four-day period, I feel the same way I feel after playing a lot of games that score around 30: full without being satisfied, as if I'd just eaten a sleeve of club crackers. I'm not sure I've accomplished anything except to get a sense of an "average" JRPG during this period, which turns out not to be much different from the ones deemed significant enough to be worthy of English translation and western release.


  1. As far as I'm aware, the average JRPG of the era was a generic Dragon Quest clone that might have had a few improvements, but nothing that actually gives a real reason to play over Dragon Quest. Also, I'm curious if the massive amounts of cheating might have affected the GIMLET at all, because this sounds like something that'd be some sort of hell to play normally

    1. We tend to want to rate the first game to do something more highly than its imitators in any kind of art. But if one game "had a few improvements" over the original, then why wouldn't you play it over the original? Just out of loyalty to the original's . . . originality?

    2. To put what I'm saying another way, you have to be able to point to something that Dragon Quest does better than Minelvaton, not just first, to justify rating it higher, at least on my scale.

    3. "First" does have some value if you want to see where things started from, or if you're looking at a chain of related media (this is equally true of music/movies/books/etc) and want to experience the evolution of that chain.

      Other than that, there's often little reason to experience the earliest examples of a given media at all, unless you run into something that was somehow innovative in a way that wasn't explored for some reason.

    4. I don't know if the average DQ clone of the time necessarily always improved upon DQ, or at the very least they were just as likely to make up for small improvements with questionable design decisions, like just making the game longer, but not any more interesting.

      While I don't personally consider the first Dragon Quest that great of a game (but a necessary first step to the rest of the series and some of my favorite JRPGs), I don't think the "action" combat in this one is an improvement over DQ's turn-based battles, for example. The changing NPC dialogue and more fleshed-out backstory (I think there were novels about Leon the hero) should probably be considered straight up improvements.

      Still, if I had to choose to play only one or the other, DQ has the historical significance going for it. If nothing else, if you're familiar with and fond of the later games in the series, you'll see where many of the names, items, enemies and other recurring elements came from.

    5. Personally, I feel like the big thing the original Dragon Quest does that the imitators don't is know when to end. Sure, this has a few improvements, but it also seems like a game that'd massively outstay it's welcome, which I never really got with Dragon Quest personally

    6. I think that the first games to define genre norms are often just generally higher in quality than copycats. Not by nature of being first or innovative, but just correlated with such. There's a space on my shelf for games that don't try to innovate but are just executed well and with soul, they just aren't as common.

      It's similar in my mind to an artist of any kind that suddenly finds great success with a work, and then is expected to follow it up. That first work was the result of many years of thinking, dreaming, and honing a vision, in obscurity. The second work comes under pressure and is less inspired out of necessity.

      Many clones do come out of necessity. Someone found a winning formula and it's an attempt to cash in. Inherently not an endeavor with heart, even if well-intentioned. Or, driven by a narrow inspiration to build an homage to one game, and thus the final product isn't as well-rounded as the original.

    7. "But if one game "had a few improvements" over the original, then why wouldn't you play it over the original?"

      Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy are series still active today, so I can imagine some people would be curious to check where they started. And they received a Western release at the time, so that people are much more likely to be nostalgic about them than some mildly obscure Japan-only release.

    8. I mean, you weight all the games on the same scale for the sake of documentation, but for someone playing these games more casually, outside of a personal project, personal or historical significance are definitely some of the main reason he/she would play them.

  2. I'm not complaining about a new post, but how do so many console games even get as far as the "rejected" list? Excluding the possibility that MobyGames/Wikipedia/GameFAQs/etc. are just incorrect about a game's platform, which can happen with really obscure games.

    1. I'm not sure what you're asking. Console games are automatically rejected from the main list because they're console games. I still keep track of them, though.

    2. It was the latter part that confused me; if the criteria for rejecting them is indisputable and easy to remember, why keep track of them?

    3. Probably because I was always planning to play a half-targeted, half-random selection of console games despite my criteria. Also for various data and statistical reasons.

    4. Yeah I think various specifics relating to the proliferation of japanese language rpgs have a high chance of becoming relevant to Chet's endeavour - even if he never played one. His diligence on this front speaks to his research ethic.

  3. There was already an RPG which cited you as an inspiration, no? So you're there...

  4. Wow, I've never heard of this one. (That you played a fan translation gives me hope that at some point you might try out Fire Emblem.) Being able to hire and deploy mercenaries is interesting but it doesn't sound like it was developed very much.

    It looks like Minelva is a classic example of the L-R ambiguity in Japanese -- it appears that the Japanese ミネルバ (Minureba) is the standard way of transliterating "Minerva". Japanese words can actually end in 'n', so that aspect isn't unusual.

    1. That was my thought too. It's probably supposed to be "Minervaton".

    2. I wonder if the translator used L as a pun on "elven", and if that pun was always meant to be the case.

  5. I played Silva Saga II for my blog:

    It was OK; I didn't need to grind much.

    The series also has connections to Yuto Ramon's GDLeen works, which don't have much information on them in English (although the very first RPG for the SNES, other than Drakkhen, was GDLeen).

    1. (although the very first RPG for the SNES, other than Drakkhen, was GDLeen)

      Kind of bizarre that it still hasn't been translated after all these years, as you'd think someone would want to claim that crown. I know Aeon Genesis was working on it, but was supposedly only "5%" done.

      @CRPG Addict: With all your "failed" attempts at a quick console excursion, I'm torn between wanting to recommend a console RPG that I know can be beat in well under an hour by even a first-time player (and one that would make for a very interesting entry from you in particular), and knowing that recommending anything -- especially something console-related -- is a sure way to diminish the odds that you'll do it. Ah, well.

    2. Hm. I have never heard of this GDLeen. I may have to investigate.

  6. The nice thing about having played Dragon Question and Final Fantasy is that you can tell when a flood of clones of those came out in Japan, analogous to the flood of Ultima clones you encountered on Western PCs.

    "Minelva" really really sounds like the classic translation screw-up with the name "Minerva," but I'd think a fan translator wouldn't have been tripped up by that. Maybe they deliberately chose not to make the connection to Greek mythology.

    1. Where Japanese games are concerned, fan translators' (a) competence and (b) familiarity with Hellenistic (rather than Japanese) mythology is wildly variable.

    2. I've got a couple of theories, both likely untrue. 1) The "-ton" tripped up the translator and they didn't realize its an actual word. 2) They did realize everything, but because that's part of the title, and as a rule, fan-translations don't translate the title, they left in it, because people would be confused. I understand the translation was originally done somewhat early in the translator's career, so they probably didn't realize it was from Greek mythology.

    3. From the looks of it, the title screen was completely untouched from the Japanese version, so in this case it can be blamed on the original creators, rather than the translator

    4. Yes, I should have made that clear. Minelvaton Saga is the name of the game in Japan; it didn't have to be translated.

    5. I asked the author of the translation about it, and he does know about Greek mythology, he just thinks the title was just made up for the games. That's as close as we'll get to an actual answer short of asking the team responsible for it.

  7. This looks pretty nice for the NES. Shadows, shading, and the whole general aesthetic. I could just not play many games on the system, but that's rare for the era.

  8. This seems like a poorly conceived ripoff of Dragon Warrior/Quest 2. If going back to 1987 then probably should stick with the original for a better experience.

  9. There's an interesting bit of analysis you could do here when comparing this to the first Dragon Quest game (which it very plainly imitates to a large degree). This game has a bit more going for it, but it doesn't seem to have much room to grow - without serious expansion of the combat system you can't do much to take it further.

    Meanwhile, Fragon Quest I was rather starved for content, but the basic framework (the "skeleton" of the game was easily built upon, with almost all the improvements in the sequel being straight expansions of what was already there.

  10. Is this the first instance of the trope "This isn't even my final form" that Chet's encountered in JRPGs, or did it turn up in the first Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest games?

    1. Dragon Quest does it, although it was added in the localization. Final Fantasy technically does, but it's weird and takes the whole game to go off

    2. As I understand it, in the original Japanese DQ after you beat the Dragonlord, his dragon breaks loose and attacks you. The didn't like it when it was localized in the U.S., and made the dragon turn out to be the Dragonlord's true form. The Japanese liked this so much that it became official afterwards.

      A lot of time the localization changes can get rather stupid, but sometimes they're liked more in Japan than the original.

    3. Localization's only really a problem when it crosses the line into censorship, either content or culture. It's one thing to change references that'd fly over most people's heads or content that wouldn't fly in another country, but it's another thing entirely to claim someone's jumping off a cliff to "perk themselves up" or that a rice ball's actually a jelly doughnut.

    4. It can also be a problem when the changes are too extremem. Some of the early anime localizations partially or completely changed the story. Like with Robotech, where two of the three stories had nothing whatsoever to do with Robotech.

      Or where, like in at least one of the pornographic RPGs the Addict has done here, where they change a mostly serious story into a comedy.

      Although some of the changes done in localizations are accepted or even embraced (like the above DQ change), some go too far. Especially when you can't recognize parts of a series of games as actually being the same series.

    5. The Dragonlord turned into a Superdragon even in the Japanese NES version. That's just a rumour that they changed anything

  11. The town name "Dorf" is rather amusing to me because "Dorf" is the German word for "village". Maybe it was founded by German expats who lacked creativity.

    1. Dorf is also protected by fierce guardians, the infamous 'Elitedorfdepps'.

    2. Unnecessary. Only german speaking people will understand that word.

    3. I also encountered "Dorf" as a flippant way of saying "Dwarf", so I fully expected a village filled with dwarves here.

  12. I think you rejected SunDog as not an RPG, but it might be something you actually enjoy checking out when going on one of these wanderungs...

    I couldn't find where you actually rejected it, though, just that folks were anticipating it.

  13. I consider myself a big fan of Japanese games and JRPGs in particular. Yet you keep pulling out games I've never even heard of. It's great!

    (btw, since no one's mentioned it yet I have to say that the "n" sound is the only consanant in the Japanese language so "-ton" is perfectly pronouncable. I don't know why they love sticking random L's everywhere though.)

  14. This is a rare case where I have played an obscure game before you did. I remember not liking the Hydlide/Ys combat style, everything else I rather did. It's not a great game by all means but decent enough for me for a playthrough. Because of the combat I liked it less than Dragon Quest, on everything else I completely agree with the GIMLET.

  15. The gold standard for games-with-names-that-sound-funny-to-our-western-ears is probably Fighting Baseball for the SNES, with a roster of names like "Sleve McDichael", "Bobson Dugnutt" and "Todd Bonzales"

    The whole list is here

  16. As a Norwegian I found the name Brent Musburger infinitely amusing before I had learnt English, since to me as a kid it read as "Burnt Mouseburger"

  17. After playing Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, the only "relatively original, exotic experience" left for you on NES would be Megami Tensei (not counting the TRPGs). It is also the only JRPG left on NES what has a considerable historical significance, starting a big franchise of it's own and inspiring creation of Pokemon franchise.

    1. Even without thinking hard, both Sweet Home (a horror game with some pretty unique that was the first of Capcom's RPG titles and also had some influence on the later Resident Evil series) and Fire Emblem (one of the first SRPG titles that has had many sequels and probably a lot of influence on multiple later titles) easily reach both the "relatively original, exotic experience" and "considerable historical significance" tests.

    2. I can also add Mother 1 and Destiny of an Emperor, for different settings than you normally see if nothing else.

    3. Moryou Senki Madara, Willow, Zelda 2 and Metal Max are also creative and fun games and I heard great things about Lagrange point.

    4. I believe the Addict playing Megami Tensei is one of the signs announcing the Apocalypse.

  18. Remarkable long entry for a 'rejected' game...admit it, you got carried away a bit :)

  19. "If I made an RPG and named its towns Shinjuku, Arakawa, and Setagaya, you'd think those were fine names, and Japanese people would be laughing that they were just suburbs of Tokyo."

    Curiously, a bit later you mention the music composer having a band called "Asturias", that's also the name of a region near my place in the North of Spain

  20. Interesting fact: the setting of Minelvaton first appeared in a PC88 adventure game called Ankoku-jou (Dark Castle) released in 1984. Chronologically, it takes place after Minelvaton Saga and the Silva Saga games. The game ends with the protagonist causing the Big Bang, hence why Minelvaton predates our universe according to the game's story.

    There's also an action RPG called Riglas released in 1985. Story-wise it's has a lose connection with Ankoku-jou, though I don't believe it takes place in Minelvaton. The game ends with the protagonist taking on the name Leon. However, I don't think it's supposed to be same Leon mentioned in this game. In the Minelvaton series, the name Leon is a name assumed by several heroes, just like the name Erick/Roto from the Dragon Quest series. Somewhat confusingly, the canonical name of this game's protagonist is supposed to be Leon as well.

    1. Those are interesting facts! Nothing I could find online ties the games together.

  21. At this point in time, there are actually tons of JP-exclusive Dragon Warrior clones, and that trend continued until PSP and NDS more or less, though handhelds generally got fewer of them. It was the most successful RPG on the Famicom, so no wonder. There are minor twists here and there, but most of them really are just like that. There are a few dungeon crawlers, but they're really few and far between. Generally, you will mostly see games of this kinds instead. RPGs on the Japanese computers tend to be more complex than the console ones naturally, but AFAIK none of them are translated, except for that 46 Okunen Monogatari: The Shinka Ron PC98 game by Enix.

  22. By the by, I think the cheat was sensible, and even if the time spent was unanticipated I think it's interesting to get an example of a clone from across the pond. At least its not an Ultima clone!

  23. It's a long trek back to Arkansas..
    What? I'm European. I am allowed to write daft comments.

  24. This might be a clone, but its presentation is quite good! Those are very advanced tile and sprite graphics for an '87 Famicom game - better than Dragon Quest would ever get on the Famicom, although Final Fantasy 3 is better. Combined with the apparently rockin' soundtrack, it's a real shame the game wasn't more mechanically ambitious - I'm sure it would be remembered as a classic if it had been.

    1. Apparently, FF3 was the best-selling FF game for the Famicom, sold really well (in Japan only, of course) which is in part why they went with decision to make some entries on the newer consoles. Too bad we didn't get the original game in English, but oh well, what can you do.

  25. Two random thoughts on the screenshots:

    Is it me, or does that "Death Master" icon look like a penguin or puffin or something?

    Was Agora the god of the sky?

    1. That's funny. I see it. What you're perceiving as the eye is the skull, and what you're perceiving as his beak is the blade of the scythe he's holding.

      Agora is the God of Destruction, I now see from a screen shot. I was going to caption that image, "I wish there was a word to describe my fear of this god." I don't know why I didn't.

  26. I think this is the explanation for the four tower bosses:
    As you can tell, this far predates Pokemon's famous usage of the concept of four bosses and a master.

  27. Maybe they misspelled "Minelvatown"?

  28. If anyone is looking for more coverage of this game, the Chrontendo video series briefly covered it back in 2009.

    And yeah, these games were super ubiquitous in the period after DQ came out, always found this style of combat weird though.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.