Monday, August 19, 2013

Game 17: Destiny of an Emperor (NES) - Finished!

I think this is the most bland final screen I've seen
Well here we are; on the other side of another game. I've noticed more often than not I'm eager for the game to finish after about two-thirds through. Most of the time the game exhausted its mechanics without wrapping up the story in a timely manner. Does the game really need to make me walk through two dungeons and just to gain ten levels to beat another boss where I auto-battle for half of it? Only extra soldiers were gained; tactical points leveled off about 5 levels prior.
This is only slightly better
All battles up until I met the final Warlord (whom I fought three times) followed the same strategy: check the generals to ensure none have An Sha (instant kill tactic), target that one if he exists (after casting Ce Mian, which blocks enemy tactics), then auto-battle to wipe out the rest. I'm getting a little ahead though.
If that thing is so important you should keep better track of it
So, Shu is settled, Wu and Wei declare war, and Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are retired. I went ahead and added two more members to my party, but it turned out I was wasting my time as their sons Guan Xing and Zhang Bao joined after visiting the besieged Jing Zhou province. Two out of the four castles were captured, but they were easily recovered.
With some casualties
Oh never mind, he's just resting
After resettling Jing Zhou we learned that Wu and Wei formed an alliance against Shu. Sun Quan claimed Wu, and Cao Pi (eldest son of Cao Cao) claimed Wei. At least Cao Pi seemed to have some claim to rule, but for whatever reason this was explained as an usurp. After some inner turmoil, Liu Bei announced to his officers that he'll claim the right as emperor and put these upstarts in their place.
Conversations are hard to follow sometimes, but made more humorous by imagining only Liu Bei speaking
The path to Wu is a new bridge not mentioned by anyone that I happened to stumble across by revisiting castles. On this new land were warlords that sported 15,000 soldiers while I still barely managed that number across my whole party.
This was my worst defeat so far, but not my last
There was a short quest to gather some saltpeter from a nearby cave; a task I completed before I knew what I was after. Joining this powder with an old twig and some other parts an old man had, I was able to cross a channel by collapsing a mountain with a spectacular explosion.
With the channel filled I crossed into a land like all others: fortress, castle, fortress, all the enemies fell quickly after this point. The random battles held more risk, but were manageable. A cave between me and what remained of Wu was rumored to contain a glowing object. It turned out to be one of the swords created for me by the sword smith.
This really is all for flavor. Spirits never came out of the sword... that'll happen in Ghost Lion
Yet another sword was found not so ominously by dispatching a local band of pirates.
Did it still have its tag on?
Some time during my exploration of Wu I decided names were becoming less necessary to track. I had actually been keeping a fairly detailed list, but didn't see the point anymore. The game wasn't rewarding me much for it, and I felt I was nearing the end. I hoped, and luckily, it was a straight shot to the end.
I have a feeling you're just not important
Sun Quan fell easily, although this was the first time I fought two armies in a row. In the end, he regretted his treachery. The towns still offered some intrigue, but it all seemed so hollow since I already had the best strategist and generals in the game.
It also didn't help that my army was full
I found another of the swords, this time just lying around in town. Apparently one of the townsfolk had stolen in from a thief. I'm not sure how that doesn't make that guy a thief too.

Next up, Cao Pi. The battle was a little difficult as Cao Pi would continuously cast Wan Fu (full heal). I needed something to bust through his defense before he had a chance to do so. This is where I started using Bei Ji (double attack power) plus Power Pills (auto-crit, one use items). Prior to this I really didn't have a reason to buff up so much, and I continued with this tactic to the end.
Ji Mian -- Negates all physical attacks
Once I defeated Cao Pi an ally of his showed up. Si Ma Yi, the real boss of the game. I hadn't even heard of this guy. He finished off Cao Pi, then turned his sights on me. He cast a spell... yes a spell, not a tactic. His thunder power knocked me out; I awoke in an inn miles away. How could I hope to stand against such a power?
Fourth wall broken!
The first battle with Si Ma Yi took some time to get through, mainly because of the trek back once I failed. He retreated to Chin Castle. To get there I needed to travel through two of the longest caves in the game.
My nation for a boat!
Guess what I found inside. That's right, the last two swords. I'm not sure what happened to the thieves, but at least I had the swords. The most powerful weapons in the... what's that? Found a plain old Halberd? Double the damage of any of the swords? Maybe we can go back to the sword smith to have him make more...

From Chin Castle Si Ma Yi once again retreated, this time to Luo Yang. Luo Yang was the capital destroyed by Dong Zhou at the beginning of the game. In fact I could now travel from the beginning castle to the final battle. There were a few fights that led up to this, but they were simple affairs.
I don't think they can count
Si Ma Yi had two sons. They were the first to meet my advancing troops. Both were capable of An Sha and Wan Fu. When I first approached I went all out. During the battle, before their actions, they would taunt my generals with questions meant to break my resolve. However, doing this didn't prepare me for the battle immediately following.
I learned for the first time that the AI can break. Prior to the above screen, I got Shi low on health. He cast Wan Fu right after they gained access to their tactics once more. It's hard to say why this happened, but I found it most fortunate that he cast it on one of the smaller units.
Oh no! Don't heal your... other soldiers?
It took about four or five attempts before I finally found a strategy that worked to the end. Instead of casting Bei Ji on everyone I focused only on three generals, and loaded up on power pills plus two resurrect items. This allowed me to bounce back from two An Shas, and have enough power to take care of both armies.
The final blow
In the end I scraped out a victory only thanks to the RNG. I used auto-battle to see how low I could get Si Ma Yi before he'd heal again. It seemed whenever he got below 15,000 he'd recover. I really didn't have a hope of doing 15,000 in one round; I was out of tactics, and had only one power pill left. Then all of a sudden it was over. For whatever reason, two turns in a row he failed to heal.
Ah, the elusive promise of peace
With Si Ma Yi gone, I was able to enter the castle, summon Liu Bei, and end the game. Victory at last! Peace has come and everyone rejoiced!
Hey! Look happier! Where's your smile?
Liu Bei congratulated us and the credits rolled. In between names with character portraits flashing on the screen, I was treated with a few screens of Liu Bei surveying his land. I'm glad I've finally brought peace to the land, and I'm sure the people are glad to have peaceful ruler.
Ah the peaceful rule of the iron fist
Well, aside from the propagandized shiny ending, it's good to see this one end. I'm not sure how I feel about the game. Before this post I was ready to write this up as the easiest game I've played, but the final battle really was a challenge (even though it came down to randomness). I'll get the final rating out soon. Then it's time for another game from my childhood; in fact it was my only Game Boy game: Final Fantasy Legend.
Did the game borrow from Willow?
Sessions Time: 7h52m (Final Time: 21h04m)


  1. Rather disappointing, considering the source material.

    I am REALLY looking forward to your playthrough of Final Fantasy Legend. I still have my cartridge (and Gameboy) when I received both as a birthday present in 1990. I never beat the game and only managed to get to a land full of islands.

    That it is actually a Romancing Saga game and not a Final Fantasy game makes the nature of the game a bit more understandable, but the game continues to mystify and mock me to this day.

    1. I remember getting through the game as a kid, so I hope it won't give me much trouble. I remember learning it was a SaGa game much later. I always wondered why the Game Boy Final Fantasy games were so different. I remember the land full of islands. I think that was the second world.

    2. Yeah, the Gameboy games were strange. Final Fantasy Legend = SaGa and Final Fantasy Adventure = Seiken Densetsu. No genuine Final Fantasy love for the Gameboy, I guess.

    3. The SaGa series is one I'm excited to get into ever since my attempt at finishing SaGa Frontier. I played through everyone's stories, but couldn't beat the final boss (I think I rushed Riku's story and didn't level up enough).

  2. I remember this game being more fun than you seem to have had.

    1. It's hard to say if I would have found it more fun as a kid. Comparing it to other games of the era I'd rather play something with a bit more depth today. Still enjoyable, and I'm glad to have played it.

  3. I remember that last battle being one I had to take a few swings at. This is still a title I remember very fondly - but I do have to admit that I wonder how I would feel if I were to dust it off again today. Hmm...

    1. If you do revisit it I hope you'll return to give us your thoughts. I hear there's a number of mods available that up the difficulty while making the game more playable.

  4. Congrats Zenic on beating it. Watching ya play through it, I had forgotten how easy the original really was. The only three 'grr' spots would be Yuan Shu escape, Zhuge Liang sleeping, and Liu Zhang prison. The rest is generally hinted at (or whatever).

    Ya didn't recruit Lu Bu. It's kinda cryptic and not really *that* critical. In the castle fight after Lou Yang, you're supposed 'use' the gemsword on him in battle a few times (he'll eventually convert up until after the Yuan Shu fight). He also tells you where Chi Tu Ma is, which whoever has it in their inventory will most likely go first during battles (handy for Ce Mian).

    Destiny of an Emperor has a very active and awesome modding community.

    The first few years of mods did typical mod stuff of adjusting stats, who was where, that kind of thing. Kinda like Doom -> Doom2. Oh, and in general upping the difficulty by a factor of 10 or more... some taking the difficulty into the realm of insanity (ie: nearly requiring save state abuse).

    Modern mods outright turn the game into something else. It's the same engine kinda but an entirely different game. Like Doom -> Hexen. Difficulty in most modern mods is much better (higher) than the original, but not stupidly impossible difficult.

    I'd link the DoaE modding central place/forum here, but that seems rude to do with out asking first.

    There are plenty of challenge scenarios to play against the original game as well. Required battles only (makes money and soldier counts real low), Song Yong and Song Ren must be in party at all times, only make use of recruited generals (no zhang fei / guan yu / zhao yun / etc) etc.

    Looking forward to the upcoming games \o/

    1. You'll have to refresh my memory about Liu Zhang, which place was that? As for Lu Bu, I expected him to be recruited like the other generals, after battle. It does seem there are a few options to enforce more difficulty, but I don't think I'll ever get back to this game (so many others, must move on).

      I'm glad you enjoyed watching and it was good to have you as a companion throughout. Feel free to link to the modding forum, I don't mind at all.

  5. Appreciate link permission, and look forward to more RPG conquests! It's honestly something I should eventually do myself (rpg conquest). Just to avoid playing the same few games repeatedly etc.

    The modding forum:

  6. Kudos on the win and also for attempting to keep track of all the names. I learned from playing this game as well as Romance of the Three Kingdoms that there are way, WAY too many Chinese blokes who yearn to be warlords. I'd still recruit anyone I could but that was mostly just to get them from showing up in random encounters. And did you notice that there wasn't even a single Nung amidst the whole lot!?

    1. Thank you. I noticed you beat my time by about 6 hours. I have no idea how you went faster. :D

      Any idea if a Nung was in the original novel? I actually did the same thing, recruited generals just to get them out of random encounters.

    2. I leaned heavily on the ol' turbo for most of the midgame until tactics became necessary and it was quite useful for the all the backtracking and wandering I ended up doing while getting stuck on the sleeping Zhu Ge Liang.

      I'm not sure if there actually are any Nungs or not. The Nung (or Nong) name predates the setting of the RotTK saga by several thousand years so perhaps it was too archaic of a name to be used.

    3. Someone should make a game based on Shen Nung, where you have to go around tasting different herbs to determine their effect. That's an interesting story, but yeah, it seems to predate the Han Dynasty by about 2000 years.