Thursday, May 31, 2012

Below The Cut: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

Source: GameFAQs

The Legend of Zelda - 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) 1 - Items and Equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 1 - Story: main story at the forefront; world full of hints and lore; descriptions for objects, people, and places
5) 2 - 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

While I'd happily play through this game again, I can't bring myself to include it among the other games in this playlist. There are some points that it has in its favor, but none of the key features I'd consider necessary to put this game in the same category as Final Fantasy, or even the upcoming Miracle Warriors, are present.

What we do find most like those games is a large--mostly open--world ready for exploring. There's hardly any direction, which allows the player to approach the game however they like. I can see this leading to an investment in the actions taken, and into Link as a character. Muted in this experience is growth from practiced actions. We're rewarded only for completing dungeons, and finding hidden areas, by gaining additional health, but no other character based gains are made.

Combat is only excelled in by the skilled, and improving is dependent on the player becoming better at the game rather than the character. Link becomes stronger by finding more powerful swords, but only gets small amounts of rupees, health refills, or bombs from defeated enemies. It's a nice mix of progress, but hardly the same experience as leveling up. I'm not saying one is better than the other, but there's an obvious difference, and my focus here is on the latter.

We've already seen the series dip on the other side, but in future versions they toe the line on this side of the genre boundaries. Who knows, maybe there'll be another time when a Zelda game is included in this list. Until then, we say farewell to Link and Zelda.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Update Part Deux

I thought of combining this with the last post, but the list seemed long enough on its own. First thing to get out of the way is the latest poll. Results say I should skip Ys for the SMS. So, that's what I'll be doing. Two people noted they didn't know what Ys was, and I hope you were joking because I had just finished the remake. New poll is up, and this time I hope to learn more about why people visit the blog. What draws you here, console games in general, memories of the games, looking for a game to play, or is it the journey of playing through every console RPG? I'll leave this one up for a while; just pick the one that fits best.
A resounding 'No' is heard
Next up are the games. A lot of older games were introduced to me recently, and I'd like to get through them before I continue onward. This means I need to emulate them. I've added them to the top of the list in case you missed them in the last post. (List here.)

If anyone has done this before for Intellivision, Colecovision, or Atari 2600, and has a favorite emulator, please let me know so I don't have to fiddle around too much on my own. The next game won't be delayed due to this though, as Miracle Warriors should be easy enough to get going. One thing to note for those that happen to stop by my streaming page is I don't have a way to stream my desktop without completely lagging my system (i.e. no streaming for emulated games). Hope you understand.

Less, and less blog related we go... at this very moment there's a charity marathon going on at Speed Demos Archive. As a member of the community, I'm helping to spread the word. They'll be streaming video of games being speedrunned live. No restarting, everything in one attempt, for your enjoyment. It's a charity marathon though, so there's opportunity to donate in support of The Organization for Autism Research (100% of donations go to OAR). There's some benefits to donating during certain times of the marathon. If you'd like to know more, I suggest you check it out. They've already managed to raise $10,000, and are hoping to get to $20,000 by the end of the weekend.

Lastly, there is one thing that I think should get more attention. Storybricks is a new software platform that allows anyone to create interactive stories in a game setting. It's still in its alpha stages (many features are missing, including the game parts), but something to keep an eye on if you're into this kind of thing. They also have a Kickstarter going to help with funding. Help to spread the word.

I'm going to be enjoying a nice leisurely Memorial Day weekend, so I'll catch up more next week when I'll make the first posting for Miracle Warriors. I haven't taken a look at the game, but if naming characters or selecting classes is possible, then feel free to suggest here. Have a good weekend everyone.

Updating the List

Well I said I was going to do it, and I finally did. I've added to the list, the Intellivision, Colecovision, and Atari games that I might be enjoying shortly as well as some games coming from the Youtube user Seedy Gamer list I mentioned in a previous post. It seems he's not posted a video in quite some time. From his list I did cut the solely online games, and those not released in the US. Sadly, I fear many of the games he suggested as RPGs won't make the cut for my list.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin Cartridge
Swords & Serpents (not related to the NES game)
Tower of Doom

Gateway to Apshai

[Atari 2600]
Crypts of Chaos
Dark Mage
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Secret Quest

Deja Vu
Star Tropics
Star Tropics 2: Zoda's Revenge
Zelda, The Legend of

Arcus Odyssey
Beyond Oasis
Gauntlet IV
Pirates! Gold
Wonder Boy in Monster World

Popful Mail

King Arthur and the Knights of Justice
Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past
Star Trek The Next Generation: Echos From the Past
Twisted Tales of Spike McFang
Unchartered Waters
Unchartered Waters: New Horizons

Harvest Moon 64
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Pokemon Stadium
Pokemon Stadium 2

Dragon Seeds
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
Legacy of Kain, Blood Omen

[Dreamcast] (None of these added, as I'll be playing the remakes, I might need a reminder to poll for the originals.)
Evolution 2
Phantasy Star Online
Phantasy Star Online, Version 2
Skies of Arcadia

[Game Cube]
Animal Crossing
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life
Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life
Legend of Zelda: Four Swords
Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

Black Stone: Magic and Steel

Dawn of Mana
Digimon World: Data Squad
Dual Hearts
Duel Masters
Future Tactics
Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland
Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon
Justice League Heroes
Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus
River King: A Wonderful Journey
RPG Maker 2
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (Playing FES only, I don't see a point in playing this original.)
Steambot Chronicles

I'll make a proper update soon with a new poll, and some gaming news to tide any readers I may have left over the weekend. TTFN

Monday, May 21, 2012

Game 9: The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) - Final Rating

The action-based battles are the main source of combat, and while it serves some purpose it's never  challenging. The only way it doesn't spill over into being laughably easy is the level cap for each chapter. Turn-based battles are on the opposite end of the spectrum; I started to dread them. At first, I did my best to fight each of these, unless it was going to be a complete wipe. Enemies usually took their turns first, and other party members had very limited actions. There were special formations that would increase the party's power, but I didn't notice a difference. With the level cap--and max money--all fights lose their rewards, and thus their appeal.  The only redeeming point of fighting enemies are boss battles.

Bosses are more of a puzzle, figuring out their weakness before you run out of magic or health. The magician class is obviously more powerful than the other two when fighting bosses, which takes away the fun of experimenting. Select spells are a necessity for each boss, so certain character levels need to be reached before even considering defeating a boss.
Rating: 4
Yeah... no
You get to choose your class, and name the hero at the beginning. Yet, no matter which class you choose, the level progression is the same (same stats and spells at each level). Most likely this is because you can change your class at any time by visiting a mosque. In fact, there are times where you'll be forced into each class, at least for a short time. Armor upgrades will change the overall color of the hero, and swords will look different in the hands of a fighter, while rod attacks appear different when used by a magician. Only one spell and one action are active at one time, so there is some customization to what you want to use, but in most cases there's an obvious or required best. Controls could use some more work; like most NES games, sticking on corners or trying to get past NPCs takes a bit of maneuvering.
Rating: 4
Crystal Rod shoots stars, only the magician can shoot three at a time
There are quite a number of puzzles, hidden areas, and logic involved in completing the game. Unfortunately, most of it doesn't matter because you're spoon fed the answers. Only one time I was hung up on Rainy needing a brave fighter. All other puzzles have the answer presented on a silver platter. There's some side quests to get some "Great Magic" spells, which I never used. Some of these are pretty powerful like Monecom, which fills all consumable items and money, and Libcom, which brings everyone back to life at full HP and MP. I never had a need to use these though, as money isn't a problem with Rupia trees giving half of max gold, and the fact they can only be used during one of the Alalart solar eclipses. There's only one way to solve things in this game, and figuring that out is where most puzzles come from.
Rating: 4
Why remember when you're just going to tell me again?
The story was very straightforward, although I never felt like an active participant. It seemed more like an action game with a story on the side only to explain why we're in the next area. Questions kept creeping up like, why did Sabaron do all this, or why are the bosses just waiting with the princesses, with no answers given. NPCs are helpful, but many repeat each other (especially look-a-likes on the same screen). I will give the game some credit for being the first RPG to have time travel. I'm supposedly Isfa's descendent, but in the past people were calling me Isfa, which I still haven't quite wrapped my brain around. Maybe it was just a case of mistaken identity; other things lacking are a way to influence the story, good descriptions for people and places, and a feeling of immersion.
Rating: 3
This is apt considering my goal
The game boasts a very nice compact view of player inventory, and organizes the menu screen in such a way that it should be easy to guess what items might be missing. This is the first game where even though I hit max gold a couple of times, I still spent most of that money by the end (you can see above I only had 100 gold at the end of the game). This is helped by enemies not dropping much in the way of gold, but also in the number of consumables like the magic carpet used for warping between towns. I was able to easily find everything by exploring all screens, so there isn't much challenge complete the game, but it's always nice to see a full inventory.
Rating: 5
Only missing the consumable R. Seed
Once again, the graphics and music are decent, although each world just swaps the color palette of the previous to show it's different. The only area this isn't true is the past in chapter 4 that finally has different NPCs in towns. The companions and enemies in the turn-based battles are well drawn, and fit well with the world. It's at least passingly interesting to explore, but the worlds are rather small, and once you've seen one town you've seen them all. There aren't many barriers to exploration except in the cases where certain items or party members are necessary to proceed. Bigger than anything else is the lack of variety. There aren't any major landmarks to look at in awe, and the sense of discovery is muddied with one of the companion characters always pointing out "hidden" locations.
Rating: 4
This dungeon is different because it's green
Overall I enjoyed the game. I remember reading about it when I was younger, but never got the chance to play it. I don't think I'll pick it up again, once is enough. It has a lot of interesting ideas, and I can see why it's considered such a classic. I'd say it was worth the play, and suggest checking it out if you have the chance. If you get stuck, you can enter the passwords W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, and END to skip ahead. The stage select passwords will ask you to confirm creating a new character from scratch.

Final Rating: 24 (40%)

Strangely the points match up with Phantasy Star, which I definitely wasn't expecting. There are things I enjoyed more in PS, and on the whole I'd put it above this game. At the same time, this game does have a lot going for it in originality.

For those interested, a speedrun exists of this game, and clocks in at a quick 1 hour and 20 minutes. That's about six times faster than my first time playing. Coming up next is me returning to the roots of the genre as I enter the world of emulation. I haven't looked into it yet, but will shortly, to find out how intellivision, collecovision, and atari 2600 emulators work. Hopefully I don't run into too much trouble.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Game 9: The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) - Finished!

Picking up where I left off, I need to locate the Holy Robe in order to gain access to Lava town, which is located in a lava flow. I found the man who has the robe; he was captured by Salamander and left unarmed in an unlocked room. Not really sure why he couldn't have left captivity. Equipped with the Holy Robe I'm able to gain access to Lava town where I find Rainy (the companion need to defeat the boss). Rainy is too scared to go alone, and one of the townspeople helpfully inform me that I need a brave fighter in my party.
Who do I have to find now?
At this point I'm thinking there's another party member I need that will encourage Rainy to come along, so off I go to explore the nearby palace. I do find some interesting things, but no other characters to join me. During my exploration I notice how weak I am compared to the current enemies, and someone in chat suggests I'm suffering for having chosen Saint as my class, so I change to a Magician, which allows me to continue searching the palace. Some time later I come to realize something... I can be a Fighter.
Wait I minute! I'm a brave fighter!
Changing class once again to Fighter allows me to get Rainy into my party. Then I make the trip to Salamander to face off with the most annoying boss yet. He only has a short window where he can be hit until he retreats into the fire field. Rainy uses his rain magic to draw Salamander back out again, but each time this happens Salamander regains some HP. This constant back and forth regeneration makes the battle last much longer than I would deem necessary. It doesn't help matters when Salamander stays out of the line of fire. To make matters worse, I was forced to retreat from my first attempt because Rainy ran out of MP.
Only the top of his forehead is vulnerable as he shifts left and right
Once defeated, we find King Feisal was being held by Salamander instead of the love interest Scheherazade. Again we begin the chapter with a fetch quest for some legendary armor that this time will unlock a legendary sword. Both are needed to enter the final area (I'm not sure why these are necessary). They're not terribly difficult to get, and after collecting them I head off to the end game. Finally I get to confront Sabaron!
You're going down Sabaron... what do you mean you're sorry?
It's an anticlimactic encounter though, as Sabaron throws his hands up in surrender as I enter the room, apologizing for what he's done. I'm told Scheherazade's form was change through magic, and she's been with me since the beginning. I must guess her new name to set her free; if I guess wrong, then we all die. Seriously, Sabaron, why don't you just tell me since you know? It's an easy guess, as there's only been one other character with me since the beginning. After this I'm giving the final rod, and told to find the demon Goragora who Sabaron summoned to be his pet.
Inside his mouth means instant death
Goragora is a short ways away through an empty maze, and behind a final puzzle. The answer to this puzzle was given back when we retrieved the legendary sword. If you don't remember though, the game helpfully just gives you the answer again. Oh, and to make it a little easier, tells you exactly how to defeat Goragora so you don't have to figure it out yourself. I wonder if in playtesting or translation the game was thought to be too hard, so the final area was dumbed down a bit.
Enter END as a password, and it'll play the ending sequence
There's a nice ending sequence where the hero gets welcomed back by the king and four princesses. Finally, we get to settle down with our love that we fought so hard to find. Oh wait, no, we actually liked adventuring so much that we're going to leave Scheherazade to find an even greater cause. I wonder why she doesn't join the rest of the group. It's not like she wasn't helpful. It seems there was a planned sequel that was canceled during development. In any case, on to the next game after a short review.

Session Time: 3h13m (Total Time: 8h15m)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Game 9: The Magic of Scheherazade (NES) - 1001 Nights

"I awoke from a dream to a vision of a lost memory. In it, I learned that I am the descendant of Isfa, a powerful magician that defeated demons long ago; recently I had take up his mantle to defeat a new evil, Sabaron. He kidnapped the King of Arabia and the four princesses, including my love Scheherazade, for some nefarious plot (or just for kicks). During our initial battle, my powers failed me, and he cast me through time where I lost my memory. Having just recovered, I was greeted by Coronya--the spirit of time--who will help me return to my own time and banish Sabaron."
It's been too long since I've posted, although I really haven't played all that much. I'm skipping the introduction post to get right into the game. In case some like the blurb, here's a quick overview:
Scheherazade's magic doesn't really play a role as far as I can tell
The Magic of Scheherazade is based on the Arabian Nights . Developed by Culture Brain and released in 1989, it's rather innovative for combining action-adventure and RPG styles into a creative blend. Most of the time, the game resembles Zelda with towns; however, with the addition of character levels, companions, and random turn-based battles in addition to over-world real-time battles the game is hard to pin down. We'll see Culture Brain at least once more when I play through Little Ninja Brothers (aka. Super Chinese 2).

Players control the descendant of a great magician, and choose a class: Fighter, Saint, or Magician. Unlike other games, this isn't a final decision, and at any mosque the player can choose to change classes. I'm not sure what the benefit of doing this is, but it's possible that some puzzles necessitate a certain class, or at least make it easier. The game is stage based, and consists of five chapters.
Pew, pew, I shoot you with my rod

Navigating the map is fairly simple, and getting lost is hard to do. The enemies on each screen come in a set pattern, but will randomly not be there. Also random are the turn-based battles that can occur at screen transitions. During these battles the hero can utilize the help of two of his companions. Only one area of the game has posed a real challenge, the bosses.
Turn-based battles seem out of place in this game
Bosses are the gatekeepers for the next chapter, and very often require magic to defeat them. In fact, the second boss appears to be completely impervious to all attacks except fire magic. The third boss had a spell that prevented me from using my weapons, and did his best to use it as a lock for the rest of the fight. Luckily I had just enough MP to finish him off (i.e. he died on the last spell I could cast).
The boss doesn't even do anything unless attacked with Flamol1
Chapters so far have consisted of exploring the current "world" until I learn which companions I need to find, traveling through time (i.e. finding a time gate), recruiting them (either through completing a task, triggering an event, or simply showing up), and then facing off with the boss. After each boss, we find one of the princesses and move on to the next. There's no way to travel back to a previous world.

Controls are assigned to the two buttons (A and B). One is used for magic spells, while the other is for equipment, items, or actions. There's jump, which doesn't get much use, and speak, which is necessary to get information from the locals. Hidden in the world are secret doors only revealed by the use of the Oprin spell. These aren't a challenge to find though, as Coronya most often tells you when to use it.
Why search for secret doors when you just tell me where they are?
So far there hasn't been a need to grind, and I've kept the same class from the beginning (Saint). There's a set event where the sun will be eclipsed (called the Alalart Solar Eclipse), and during this time favorable things will happen. One example is planting a tree in the past will produce a money tree in the future, and during this time casinos have a higher chance of paying out. It's also the only time when certain high level spells will work. I've yet to need to use one of these though.

Lastly, we're faced with another password system (I'm looking forward to leaving these behind entirely), which is actually somewhat manipulable according to Wikipedia. I haven't tested it out yet, but I plan to once I get through the game.
W4 stand for world 4, entering just that will allow you to start at world 4 with a new character supposedly
At this point, I've saved three princesses, and am a short ways into chapter four. If I end up playing both Tuesday and Thursday, then I fully expect to finish the game this week, and maybe get back to a normal schedule. I don't know if it's just this particular game, or a combination of that and life getting in the way, but I wish I could have stuck to the schedule a bit better. Also, I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself before blogging again, so that kept me from playing as well. Sometimes it's hard to get into the blogging aspect of this project.
Now let's go back in time and finish the game before I started it
 Current Time: 5h02m (Total Time: 5h02m)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Below the Cut: The Immortal (NES & Genesis)

The Immortal - Rating(7 RPP)
1) 0 - 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) 1 - Items and equipment: store to buy and sell, equipment decisions, item decisions
4) 3 - 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) 2 - Quests and Puzzles: side quests not related to the main quest, puzzles and riddles to solve

The Immortal started out as an early online multi-player game in the late 80's. During development it became a single-player game. The game has a unique mix of action-adventure and action combat on a separate screen.

Released on various platforms (DOS, Apple II, NES, Genesis, etc.) the game was given high reviews, and the NES version was purported to have some of the best graphics on the system. Many of the death scenes were toned down for the NES version however, and one of the levels was cut entirely. There are eight levels in linear progression littered with traps, riddles, enemies, and treasure.

The player controls an unnamed wizard in search of his teacher. There's no character progression, and combat is a simple dodge and strike slug-fest; however, there are ways to avoid combat such as casting fireballs that instantly kill, or luring an enemy into some of the traps. Only items are found, many of which are used to unlock the way further into the depths of the... whatever the place is.

I fondly remember this game, and I'm not really sure why. I'm fairly certain that I needed to reference the Nintendo Power guide that laid out the order to cast spells at the end to win. How I made it that far, I'm not really sure. Most likely I just jumped to the end, or loaded a game near the end.

I was looking forward to this one, but it's more action-adventure than RPG. Death is everywhere with instant kill traps, and combat that takes some skill to come out of unscathed. Maybe some other time, this one probably would have taken a while to get through alone. Good luck to anyone that wants to take a shot at this game, it's fun yet hard.