Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Game 29: Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger (NES) - The Manual Lies! (Finished)

Credits have the best music
Faria was a game full of promise, but ultimately didn't deliver. It felt a bit out of place comparing it to Crystalis or The Legend of Zelda since those are actually fun. It lacks the same charm, and more closely resembles Little Ninja Boy, although I'm not sure many people would understand that comparison. It's generic through and through. Faria is probably the better game only because it's shorter, and the enemies are less annoying.
Which hole would you choose?
I was lost in the clouds last time, and this time tackled it methodically. The only point of interest was a castle in the sky. An old man told me the rope was found through a narrow hole in the clouds. Of course, that meant I would pick the wrong hole first. There was nothing below it except a waste of time getting back to the correct one.
What other game allows the character to climb directly on top of previously impassable mountains?
With the rope in hand I went back to the mountain area outside Riria as I previously spied a town to the east. Climbing the mountains was a fun. Inside the town were some wise men who told me the princess was an impostor. The real one was locked in the Phantom Tower, which can only be entered while holding the Crystal of Truth. They provided it, and I was off to the tower.
Using the crystal causes all but the real tower to disappear
The Phantom Tower is a genuine maze. It wraps around on itself east-to-west and north-to-south, except for specific rooms; rooms that aren't marked in any special way. I could have easily been lost in this mess for a lot longer, but I just happened to stumble across the correct path to the boss room. It's not impossible to map, but not every loop is not of equal length and exits will jump rooms at times (e.g. the north exit of a room on the 4th row might exit to the 1st row instead of the 3rd). In any case, I got lucky here, and the boss was easily dispatched.
The king must be colorblind
The real princess was awaiting my arrival. We quickly made our way to the castle to confront the impostor. The wizard's guise fell away when the princess arrived. A battle ensued with the wizard, who had two different attacks and was invisible for the entire battle. He fell easily with the goggles equipped; he moves rather slowly. With the wizard defeated, his spells fell away. The king returned to flesh, and the warrior became a man.
Sprite changed to look more manly
However, the wizard had one more trick up his sleeve. He attached his soul to the dragon he constructed from the royal scrolls. Then he used his magic to block out the sun. The final caves and tower awaited in the middle of the map. Again I scaled a mountain, and entered the town of Baig. Prior to this point the guard at the front would not let me pass unless I was a man.
We are men! Manly men!
The town was the last stopping point to fill up on the latest gear (which included the final bow and shield) and elixirs (full heal medicine). One particular NPC told me the dragon's weak spot was on his neck, so I would need to leap to attack it. However, my biggest obstacle to defeating the dragon was the manual. In the manual, the Legendary Sword has a description that says it's needed to beat the dragon. This is completely untrue. However, I headed off to the final tower thinking I would need to locate this sword.
This game's version of Death Mountain
The cave system is fairly easy to get through, but I got lost in it once. I had to go through it multiple times because I continued to die in the final tower searching for the final sword. I mapped out the entire thing, and stared at it for a good hour trying to figure out a room I might have missed. At one point, I even tried to take on the dragon, but I only heard the clink of no damage.
It wasn't until hours later that I found I could actually damage the dragon just fine without the Legendary Sword
So where was the Legendary Sword? It was recovered after defeating the dragon. Someone messed up the translation in the booklet, or something changed in localization. I spent well over 2 hours looking for that sword after finding the dragon the first time. The most annoying enemy in the dungeon poisoned me with a white poison (what I previously thought was blue... I still don't know what blue poison does), and prevented me from regenerating.
Quite easily might I add
The dragon was pretty easy to defeat. With a good amount of elixirs I went straight to the dragon after exhausting all possible locations for the sword. After the dragon, I fell down into a room that held the sword. It's rather superfluous. No more enemies exist after obtaining the sword, and my path back to the castle was swift with the use of a wing. The king was pleased that peace had returned, and finally offered his daughter's hand in marriage. The warrior could not stay though; instead he was determined to return home. The princess declared she would follow him wherever he went.
The best music and artwork appear at the end of the game, it's a nice reward for putting up with this game
Elapsed Time: 4h40m (Final Time: 11h10m)

Another game done. This one I have trouble endorsing. It's rather average with a couple of cool ideas, but the encounter rate and rather bland story isn't interesting enough to put time into it. Next up is Dragon Warrior III, which I've already started playing. I'll try to get a post out before the week is over. Now for a quick rating.
Some of the credits, if you'd like to see the whole thing then click on the link in the first caption
Combatant - Combat feels very chaotic. Sword attacks are the main form of damage. It would have been nice to have a few other viable options in an action game. Magic is prohibitively expensive, and arrows are inferior. Saba magic is the best. Enemies are a weird lot with flies, blobs, elephants, and other slightly mutated wildlife paired with demons and wizards. The AI is varied for the first half, but doesn't expand much beyond that. Bosses are mostly a joke. While combat is action based, there are stats that increase by level and improve damage considerably. Unfortunately, experience and gold are slow to accumulate. This makes combat fairly static and uninteresting.
Rating: 4
Concept art > pixel art
Admirer - It's hard to give a lot of compliments here. There's some customization to the sub-weapons as you can forgo all except the jumping shoes. The sprite of the hero is hard to see, and was not obviously female from the start. There's a visible difference once the spell is broken at least. Controls are pretty spot on, which is good for an action game. My biggest complaint is the sword will only hit a single enemy even if there are multiple on the same tile.
Rating: 3
A close-up in the beginning like this would have cemented the gender... maybe
Puzzler - Honestly, I don't expect many games to score high in this area until much later. The main quest is there, and it's hard to get lost. One side quest is available to pick up the ultimate armor (at least I believe it's a side quest). It's pretty much a straight shot to the end. The towers have stone statues to push, but there's nothing puzzling about them, just push them all.
Rating: 2
I'm not really sure what's on that tree
Instigator - The story does have a couple interesting points, but the game is so excited about them it spoils them half-way through. The manual does well to hide the fact the main character is currently female. Yet one NPC goes into detail about a town in a faraway land where the men have been turned into women. There are new sights in every town, but nearly every one had an issue to solve by destroying a nearby tower. The one that didn't had an enemy in the middle of a forest. The plot does progress and while basic, does provide motivation to keep going.
Rating: 4
What's the story behind this little guy?
Collector - I thought about giving this a lower value for the extremely limited inventory, but most key items don't take up a permanent slot. There's no sense of collecting. The economy remains relevant. Relative strength is obvious either from the manual, testing equipment, or judging based on price.
Rating: 3
Princess doesn't look very happy about her new home
Explorer - Visuals are acceptable, but the game music is rather grating. For the third time, the best track comes at the end. There's not much to see in the game world, and nothing to discover for the sake of discovery. Everything was consistent, but bland. The world was tightly controlled by impassable monsters, ships that refused to sail until after plot points were met, and mountain towns that remained inaccessible until items were found.
Rating: 3

Final Rating: 19 [32%]

Overall, I'll say it again, it's a bland, generic, mediocre experience. Faria seems to have remained obscure for a reason. I don't see anyone championing this game. Let's move on now to Dragon Warrior III.
Who is this Colon Co.?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Game 29: Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger (NES) - Head in the Clouds

Who's Colon Co.?
Game 29

Title: Faria
Released: June 1991 (1989 JPN)
Platform: NES
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Nexoft Corporation
Genre: Action-RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Action
Series - Standalone

Discovering new games is one of the driving forces for this quest. I had Faria down as a potential hidden gem lost in the obscurity of more popular titles of the time (such as Dragon Warrior III coming up next, or the release of the SNES later in the year). That is sadly not the case. Faria is an odd case, coming from Game Arts, who would later create such series as Lunar and Grandia; however, I can't find much of a link between the development teams, so this seems more of a standalone title. As for the copyright date of 1990, the actual release may have been delayed by quite some time, which may have attributed to the obscurity.
The title sequence stops on this screen with the most annoying looping music I've heard from the NES (yes, worse than Ultima: Exodus)
The story in the manual summarized as an evil wizard sealed into a sword long ago after good sorcerers summoned a dragon to fight him. The seal on the sword, like all good spells, is weakening and soon the wizard will return. A prophecy calls for a warrior from another land to defeat the wizard should he escape his bondage. Of course, like any video game prophecy, it comes true with me in control of warrior from another land.
Sure thing mister alien dude
The game plot actually picks up months after the Legendary Sword's spell was broken. The wizard already beginning his climb back to ultimate power. Just three days ago the princess of the kingdom was kidnapped. In appreciation for her safe return, the king has offered her hand in marriage to any who succeed. The warrior from a distant land arrived in the Ehdo, and answered the call to arms.
The first thing that struck me about this game was how familiar the characters look. Maybe I rented this as a kid and completely forgot about it. From the wide-eyed old men, to the stumpy faced innkeepers, all the way to the knights with numbers on their heads, something about it has me convinced I've seen it all before. The game began with the hero in Ehdo with a small sum of money, and no other equipment. Seriously, what's up with these heroes going on adventures ill-equipped? I really didn't know what to purchase, so I went with a bow and some arrows initially (a poor start, and I died fairly quickly).
So... why are you standing around here?
A bow and arrow as the only weapon was definitely not the way to go. Getting a good sword, some armor, and a hyperspeed1 are the best starting equipment for any interested. Originally I thought hyperspeed1 was a consumable since it's sold in the tool shop with other consumables, and the manual doesn't help with its description. Turns out it's a permanent upgrade, and I spent the first 2 hours of the game walking at a snails pace for no reason. Visiting the king provided 100 gold (used to buy a shield), and access across the north bridge.
It's Caterpie!
North of Ehdo, across the bridge, was the town of Somusa. Nearby was the monster infested Tower of Gelve, said to have three stone statues. The townsfolk warned me of a monster in the nearby cave whose only weakness was a weapon of gold. With only those two options, I guess I'll take on the tower. Random mention of royal family scrolls, a masked man seen at the castle, and Phantom Towers to the east had me scratching my head. I'm sure something will come together in the end.
Okay strange voice from above, I'll believe you... this time
My only other lead was mention of something that looked just like the princess' portrait in the forest. That led nowhere though as I couldn't even interact with it. It's possible that the princess I rescued from the tower is a ruse, and this is the real one, but there's nothing to do about it. This tower though, and all the towers in the game, really need to get mapped. I somehow managed to get by without doing so in the first, but the second makes it necessary.
Stone statues open up portcullises, but for some reason this first one doesn't count as one of the three
The towers aren't really all that difficult to get through with proper mapping. Some walls break away when pushed to reveal secret rooms, but so far have only provided additional money or items. A boss awaits the warrior at the end of each one, defeating them is the main purpose. After defeating each boss the tower collapses.
The lighting also gets spooky
Combat reminds me of a combination of The Legend of Zelda and Crystalis. Eventually I found secondary weapons in the form of arrows, magic, and bombs. There are also utility items: jump boots and goggles (to see invisible enemies). As for the quality of the game, it doesn't quite reach to those heights, and I found it more comparable to Little Ninja Brothers than any other title. Still it has some charm all its own. The game rewards experience for individual enemy kills, and upon level up health is refilled. Strength and defense also increase, so I suppose I can't discount the game entirely. So far it's not a stand out hit as I had anticipated. The maze-like towers kind of killed my enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm back!
Even though the princess wasn't quite as pictured, the king seemed to recognize her when we arrived. They discussed the royal family scrolls, and the princess seemed overly interested in their whereabouts. Ignoring that strange exchange, the king returned his attention to the warrior. Apparently there was a problem with fulfilling his daughter's promised engagement.
What? When! HOW?!
Well, that's news to me! Apparently I'm playing a female character. It's kind of hard to tell with these sprites, and never mentioned in the manual. I guess this is a more traditional kingdom, so instead of a wedding, the king ordered a feast (after creepily suggesting I become his queen). Being a wise king, he served everyone some caviar he purchased two days ago (impulse buying while your daughter is kidnapped is never a good idea). The mysterious masked man who sold the caviar poisoned it. It's getting to the point where you can't trust masked men anymore. Now it's my job to find a cure.
Do or do not, there is no try
The port outside Ehdo had a ship willing to sail now when previously the captain feared rough waters. For a slight fee I found myself across the sea, near the town of Karuza, a self-proclaimed tourist trap. They pointed me towards the town of medicine, just across the collapsed bridge to the west. Someone else told me of a mysterious seed that repairs bridges. I guess all the bridge builders left a long time ago. Further on inland was a cave said to have golden stones. I wasn't sure what use it'd have, so I kept heading on to the next town, Highria.
Could it be the golden stone?
The people of Highria told me about the nearby Tower of Broww (and it's one stone statue). A monster inside was in a rage and causing all kinds of distress in the minds of the nearby citizens. I also received a random clue about a lady in some mountain that can lead me to the Sky World. Since I had reason to go back to the cave now, only titled "the first cave" on the manual's map, I retrieved the golden stone in short fashion.
This is what a cave looks like, and this is an old man handing out golden stones (one per visitor)
With golden stone in hand, I headed to the tower. Some time in the middle of this tower was when I decided I really needed to map it as I was quite lost. Even though I mapped the first floor, I didn't think to link the second floor stairs to keep track of how everything was connected. This caused a bit of confusion, and I blame that on the late night. I managed to figure out where I was going, and found myself face to... face (?) with the boss.
I didn't think the old man meant a literal scissor monster
I'm not sure if holding the golden stone was enough so, I used it as well. Scissor-man went down pretty easily. Once I killed off the flying sheers, he was exactly like the first boss. The treasure beyond him was a ring that heals me during battle. My arrows also now regenerate, although that may be due to the golden arrow I received later. From the mayor of Highria I received the mysterious seed, which repaired the bridge to the city of medicine.
Some dialogue changes in Highria; I have no idea why this is referenced
One of the worst parts about the game is the encounter rate. It's definitely in the running for highest of the NES RPGs. Most of the enemies basically run at the warrior at various speeds, but some have projectile shots. The worst of them are the invisible enemies. They arrive early and are a pain in the neck to track down. It wasn't until I found the magic glasses to see them that I understood that they teleport around the screen. My last comment on battles is the escape command. While it's there, the manual warns it's use can result in the loss of gold, items, or HP, so I haven't used it.
Wizzrobe ripoff confirmed
With the bridge fixed, the town of medicine (actually called Riria) provided a capsule to cure food poisoning for a mere 10 gold. There was also a bunch more talk about the recent resurrection of the evil wizard and the ancient scrolls of dragon summoning. Something the wizard might aim to acquire. Riria also provided universal antidote. Previous healing stores provide red, blue, and white versions. I've dealt with all but white. Lastly, a soldier told me of a magic rope in sky world that would allow me to scale mountains, and an old woman mentioned a Goddess of the Lake.

Keeping track of that seems important
I returned with the capsule, and gave it to the healer who then dispensed it to the ailing townspeople. While I was out adventuring though, the king turned to stone. I'm not sure who did it, but I strongly suspect an evil wizard lurking about. Back in Somusa rumors arose of a goddess at the lake. Here we get a second dose of a myth about someone dropping a normal tool into water, and responding honestly when a water spirit presents a choice between the normal tool and a golden version of it. To praise the honesty that person received both. This same test was presented in Little Ninja Brothers, but here, I don't even get a chance to answer. I dropped some arrows in, and received golden ones in return.
When a strange ghost girl appears out of a lake asking questions, you answer honestly
The monster in the cave (named "the second cave") was easily defeated with the golden arrows, but wasn't damaged by anything else. Waiting on the other side of the cave was yet another land to explore. A port was the first point of interest, but the ship captain wouldn't deal with foreigners. I then traveled to Tegza, where an old man gave me a letter that allowed me passage on that ship. Teodoor to the north was dealing with a man-eating elephant on a nearby island.
Can you find the cat?
I did a once over of the island, but didn't run into the elephant that concerned them. Instead, I made my way back to the first port and gained passage to an island maze, home to the town of Shilf. In Shilf I was able to buy bombs, both types of magic (Sede magic is available in the first town, but very expensive at that point), jump shoes, and magic glasses. This place really has it all. There was also a paper sword, which was about as useless as you might think. Someone mentioned a pair of Sky Shoes in the North Tower, and a Crystal of Truth that will show the true location of the Phantom Tower. Also, someone let slip that the mayor of Teodoor had a translation machine. Probably useful to communicate with all the lizard men I found in the last three towns (and the one hidden in the forest outside Highria).
Silly rumors, I'm sure if that happened to me I'd know about it
I thought about trying my hand at the north tower, but decided searching for the man-eating elephant would net me that translator and all the juicy secrets those lizardmen were keeping (all they say without it is "Gao, Gao, Gao"). Turned out I missed a square of the forest, and with the bombs I made quick work of the elephant. Most of what the lizardmen divulged were things I had figured out on my own; however, I did piece together that the lizard Zelos had a unique set of armor, but he disappeared to the south of Tegza (Highria is south of there).
If only I visited you before I died in the north tower... at the boss
I received the Super Armor from Zelos, and took a second turn at the North Tower. This time I successfully conquered it. I hope I haven't given the wrong impression here by giving a disproportionate amount of words to the description of towns and traveling. The towers have definitely taken up the bulk of my time with this game. At least the North Tower was easier to map than Broww, which really shouldn't have been that difficult. The boss however was another story.
No! Why are you attacking the fireballs and throwing bombs at nothing?
The main reason for the trouble is the red poison. Blue poison is the normal drain your health until death variety, but the red causes the warrior to go berserk. It seems to cause random inputs, including switching and using sub-weapons, and I'm unable to use items during this time (so I'm not really sure how red antidotes work). This is how I died the first time, stuck in a loop of enraged fervor while the boss unrelentingly charged. Aside from the maze-like dungeons, the limited inventory space (which I still haven't quite worked out) is really cramping my style.
I still haven't figured out how to dodge this charge attack
With the sky shoes as my prize, I went back to the Ehdo, to the nearby mountain in the middle of the forest to the east. Strangely, without explanation, my movement would randomly change while navigating the forest. With some effort though, I finally arrived at the mountain. The lady recognized the shoes, and sent me flying into the clouds.
Three different colored clouds, and not a clue of where to go
Other than the magic rope to climb mountains (which I'm not sure is necessary if I can walk on clouds), I'm not sure what I'm supposed to find up there. I wondered around for a good five minutes without anything. Fights aren't dangerous as there's no fear of falling, but movement is restricted to the clouds only (no jumping over the small gaps). There is the possibility of falling off the clouds outside of battles though, and once I discovered that I called it a night. Maybe I'll have better luck next time in the clouds.

Elapsed Time: 6h30m (Total Time: 6h30m)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Below the Cut: Times of Lore (NES)

(Source: Wikipedia)
Times of Lore - 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) 0 - 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) 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

Times of Lore held a special place in my heart. I remember playing it often as a kid, or at least watched it being played. I never got very far, in fact I'm not sure I ever completed any of the quests. So, why did I hold this game in such high esteem? Most likely nostalgia in combination with being an impressionable youth. I still have the desire to beat it; however, it falls into action-adventure more than an RPG, even with the extensive dialogue branches.

I'd always thought the game was an RPG, but after a series of events (CRPG Addict's assessment, playing the game before I started this blog, and reading a couple of reviews) I've come to the same conclusion as Chet: this game shouldn't be considered an RPG. Sure there are quests, and maybe even some puzzles (I didn't find any), but the combat is all action and there isn't any character advancement. This fact escaped my child-sized brain at the time, and I'd have put it alongside such classics as Ultima VII if asked just 15 years ago (heck it was even released by the same company).

With disillusioned memories I bid farewell to this game, and take it off my list of classic RPGs. One day I'll come back to conquer it, but it has lost its luster when I look at it now. To better times, and better games we go.