Sunday, April 16, 2017

Below the Cut: Technoclash (Genesis)

(Source: Wikipedia)
Technoclash - Rating(7 RPP)
1) 1 - Character Advancement: practice/experience based advancement, stat or level increases, multiple classes or characters, customize characters
2) 1 - Combat: character stats used for combat, additional combat options, turn based
3) 2 - Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 2 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5) 0 - Exploration: open world from the beginning, visited locations remain open
6) 1 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve

I was eager to see a completely new RPG. On Wikipedia it's listed as an action-RPG, but I failed to find what contributes to that second genre, so it's here on the chopping block. It has less to offer than LandStalker.

There are no character levels, stats, or much of a world to explore. The back of the box purports 7 areas with up to 9 levels each, but it's all progressive levels. I only played through the first two to get a feel for it, but failed to find much in the way of lore, side quests (or a main quest), and no store or currency.

The main character is able to choose a partner for each level, either a warrior type or wizard type. There are a good number of weapons (all requiring ammo) and spells to heal, teleport, levitate, or become invincible for a short time. Ammo is picked up from fallen enemies. Completing some levels requires a tiny bit of puzzle solving.

As for the game overall, it's tough, but taking it slow makes it a bit easier. It's not a good game, at least from what I played, but it isn't the worst either. It compares most easily to Gauntlet, but the level design is a bit more interesting.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Game #68: Inindo: Way of the Ninja (SNES) - Wandering Away (Finished)

These small screens really scream, "I'm in the wrong resolution!"
I've been at a loss for words for some time. Not just this game, but commenting on RPGs in general. It feels like there's less novelty to write about during each game as I progress. Hopefully it's just the slump of mediocre games, and not a growing concern. I've put this post (and the game) off for long enough though. Inindo is not a good game as a whole. The beginning 8 hours were reasonably fun, but then I entered a period necessitating grinding for some time before I could put a dent into the next dungeon. At 15 hours in I was bemoaning how slow everything was: the combat, the menus, the movement speed. Then, I discovered the run button. That's right, holding down the R button quadruples movement speed, everywhere. I suppose I should have read the manual more thoroughly.
I was just wondering what happened to her
Sure, let me just check out your stats
And suddenly I'm kicking someone out of my party
So, Rei joined the group after collecting the cloud stone. She has less strength than the main character, but many more magic points. I ditched Kusou, and somehow managed the rest of the game with Rei and Kojiro as my only source of magical healing. I traveled to Mt. Ken for the next trial, and discovered once again that I needed to grind a few levels. Luckily out of all the encounters, there were a few enemies I could manage, while from the others I had to flee. I made great use of defending while the back row characters attempted to flee. I retrieved the McGuffin, I mean Power Book, and was taught the best ability--Super.
These were the sweetest words I've read all game
I knew I was going to need some additional grinding, so I backtracked to the Tengu Forest, and fought a boss there. Boss experience is some of the best, and I wish there were more to fight. I earned the Tengu Fan as well, which I couldn't figure out at the time. I ended up selling it only to learn it had unlimited uses of the spell Gust that could remove an enemy from combat. Not a bad ability, but I would have preferred unlimited Tengu Wings to warp to towns. On the way to the next dungeon I heard of a great sword for Samurai, the Kusanagi. I ventured into a haunted cave to retrieve it. Of course, I wasn't quite able to handle that cave right away, so I spent a couple hours building up some money and grinding back at Mt. Ken to afford some additional gear.
The Super magic I'd just learned came in really handy for the Hydra guarding the sword
In the final trial I picked up the most helpful item in the game: the Health Rock. It's an unlimited use Heal 3 in combat, much like the Sage's Stone in the Dragon Warrior series. Forget the dragon ability I learned, this one item is what turned the tides of battle against Nobunaga. I was told to seek out a great elder on Mt. Hiei as my next task to reaching Nobunaga. Momochi, the leader of the Iga village I initially fled, showed up to grant his assistance, but I declined the offer. I suppose it would have fit the narrative a bit better, but only a warrior could use the Kusanagi, and it seemed like a waste not to.
I knew this was a plot door when I first passed it
Ashura was a boss guarding the entrance to Mt Hiei, and he had a special ability to dispel my Super magic whenever I cast it. I didn't really mind though as it effectively made him skip his turn. Nobunaga knew of my ascent, and sent a messenger with a challenge to meet him in some other cave. There I fought Nobunaga. With the health rock and delaying his turns with Super (as he also dispelled it immediately), it was an easy fight, but he fled before I could finish him off. The elder back on Mt. Hiei told me Nobunaga was holed up at Omi in his impenetrable fortress. My only hope was to convince the neighboring daimyou to lay siege to it by invading a neighboring province: Echizen, Mino, Yamashiro, or Ise.
An example of the war battles--I just used the tiger ability, and a couple units engage in combat
Unfortunately I seemed to have chosen a longer route to invade. I allied with Tokugawa in Mikawa (for historical reasons), but even though adjacent to Mino he always claimed it was impossible to seize that land. So, I had to go around. While I waited for him to build up his army, I damaged neighboring provinces to make them easier to attack. At worst sabotaging wastes a day, there are no other negative effects. Magic is a mixed bag during war battles. While tiger was fun, the best spell is blaze. It damages a wide area, and only hits enemy units. Geyser is good for stopping fleeing units.
The all powerful dragon spell summoned a dragon to a random location, and he always breathed fire three tiles down as he headed for my troops
Everything else has a chance to damage my own units, so I tried them once to see their effect before avoiding them altogether. I was able to bring one of my party members as a second general, but we weren't allotted many soldiers. It didn't matter though, as two ninjas with blaze can pretty much decimate any army. Never once did the enemy venture out to meet us, so attacking from afar guaranteed us victory. I battled just enough to reach Nobunaga, but this portion was by far the most fun I've had with the game despite it being devoid of challenge.
I considered helping Tokugawa (yellow) unite all of Japan
Castle Azuchi is accessible by heading south of Echizen. Inside were an assortment of enemies that were more difficult than those on Mt. Hiei, but rewarded a successful combat with less gold and experience. Nobunaga awaited my group on the top floor behind three boss battles. I wasn't taking any chances, and escaped the castle to save after each one. I was almost hoping the bosses would reappear for easier grinding. The first was Kasumimaru, the ninja that nearly did me in at the beginning of the game; an easy battle with the Health Rock. The second was Kidomaru and Mugenbo, a ninja and wizard combo that was a bit tougher. Taking out Mugenbo first made the fight much easier. The penultimate battle was against Nobunaga's Top Bodyguard, and yes, that's his name.
He definitely lived up to his name
I did end up grinding a bit after that, but I think my biggest blunder was not stocking up on ninja cures, which heal a character to max. I already had the best gear I could buy, and a number of late game equipment from chests. After level 40, my stat gains for health and energy were greatly reduced, and it didn't feel like other stats at this point made much of a difference. As expected, the battle with Nobunaga was the most difficult. He was accompanied by Mori Ranmaru, capable of healing one or both of them.
As always, Super isn't so super
I picked up a spellblock item along the way (in Yamashiro I believe), which I hoped would help against Nobunaga, but it his psychic ability used to remove Super also removes that debuff. Up against a lightning spell that hit the party for 100+ damage, I used Super to delay Nobunaga as much as I could while I focused damage on Mori. It worked the first time I faced him, but Nobunaga ended up taking me out. Every battle thereafter I couldn't even get close. It wasn't until I took a different approach that I finally managed to beat them. I kept Nobunaga pinned with Super while I wailed on him with Kojiro and Naruse. Once Mori started to cast heal, I spellblocked him, and hoped I had enough damage and healing to take out Oda before he took me out. Once he fell it was a simple matter to mop up Mori.
The biggest risk is that Oda Nobunaga crits like a truck
I considered grinding, and did for a single level, but the difference between one level and the next is far too little. I could hardly believe the change in tactic worked, and was expecting to need to grind for another 10 levels, or even track down an actual healer. I never did try a magician, so maybe there are spells that would have been more helpful. With Nobunaga struck down, revenge was obtained, and the remaining Iga ninja lived in relative peace.

Elapsed Time: 17h38m (Final Time: 32h50m)
And for us all
Combatant - Combat was well balanced, except when it wasn't. Most of the time it felt good getting through a dungeon, but the required grinding threw a wrench into steady progress. I felt like fights didn't provide enough experience to prevent that. Enemies towards the end of the game relied less on tricks, and more on pure combat plus healing, much like I inevitably did. It's a good thing though, as magic was in short supply for my party while the rare enemy mage unleashed full party assault spells like they'd just reached the final boss, a luxury I couldn't spare.
Rating: 5
I think it might be interesting to do a compilation of combat transition screens, this game had a distinct "bee-do" sound
Admirer - The game offers a wide cast of characters, although jumping between them seems like a bad idea because it requires re-arming them. I didn't do it enough to know if my party composition was best. There are a number of sub-classes listed under each of the four main classes, and combat ability, spells, and special skills differ between each. There's even a character that's supposed to have the wing skill. Each character lacks customization, and appearance never changes. Menus are slow and tedious, but at least movement became much more satisfying when I found the run button.
Rating: 4
Having to gain favor with each character would be a long and tedious prospect
Puzzler - The main quest is well structured and clearly defined. There are a number of side dungeons that have good rewards for their difficulty. The mazes, while generally not my thing, weren't frustratingly difficult. Nothing felt out of place. The lack of different ways to complete tasks hurts the game a bit. Why couldn't I unite all of Japan against Nobunaga? Imagine controlling multiple parties, or overthrowing a daimyou and controlling my own land to invade with. They also missed an opportunity to make the spying and sabotage sections into mini-games.
Rating: 5
Watching castles burn seems to be a past-time of Kojiro
Instigator - I think this might be the first revenge story in an RPG that isn't also a save the world one. Although, I think I would prefer playing a nameless ninja sabotaging and fighting alongside leaders in a normal Koei strategy game. NPCs have some relevant information about the world, but unless they're near a training dungeon they seem mostly uninterested in my current quest or overthrowing Nobunaga. There are standing stone pillars that describe various regions of the land, which are interesting for the lore, but don't provide any other purpose.
Rating: 4
It's not like he was the only one that could do so, but he's the only one that became an evil warlord
Collector - There are a good number of special items to collect, but no real way of knowing if they've all been found. The relative strength of equipment is evident when equipping or purchasing, but class restrictions require an attempt at buying it. The economy was useful up until I was assaulting Nobunaga's fortress, which was rather surprising it lasted that long. I would have preferred some way of donating my gold to the war efforts, but my only option was to purchase gifts for each daimyou. The party's inventory is very limited, and I often found myself tossing out various items.
Rating: 4
Explorer - The graphics are dated, and the sound effects are odd, but the music isn't too bad. Everything has a bland sort of feeling, and all the dungeons are a palette swap of the same texture. Same with the towns. The only unique area is Nobunaga's castle. The world is mostly open, although Nobunaga's territory can't be crossed in some ways. The atmosphere, and general feel of the world, works for the story. There are a good number of dungeons to discover off the main path, which are easily missed.
Rating: 5
Aside from the beginning, this is the only other cutscene

Final Rating: 27 [45%]

Overall, I'm glad to be done with this. It probably would have taken 5 - 10 less hours had I been running the entire time. It's my own fault, and I don't blame the game for it, but maybe it wouldn't have felt like such a drag to make it to the end. Unless you're really into Japanese history around this time period, I wouldn't recommend the game. The named characters, places, and battles are really only interesting with that perspective.

Moving on, we have Super Ninja Boy coming up. Before that post though I have to cut Technoclash, which is another eyebrow raising title someone proclaimed was an RPG. I knew the first few games of 1993 were going to try my patience, but I didn't think it'd take me this long to get through one. Probably the next game I'm looking forward to is Might and Magic 3, which isn't too far away. Let's see if we can get through the next couple within the month. My hope of finishing 1993 this year is probably shot.

To save you some trouble, here are the ending screens. Aside from Rei and the hero, I'm not sure who any of these people are.