Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Game #60: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES) - I'll Take a Double Scoop of Nostalgia (Finished)

Game 60

Title: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Released: October 1992 (September 1993 JPN)
Platform: SNES
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based
Series - Final Fantasy

This game is often spurned by Final Fantasy fans for being too simple, childish. In fact, that does seem the direction intended by the developers. The thought process was that RPGs weren't as popular in the US because they were too complicated. A strange notion as I see it, since most western RPGs popular at the time were much more complicated than anything a console had seen. The game was ultimately a failure in its goal to bring RPGs to the mainstream, but what was created was a fun-loving easy adventure through a familiar story of four elemental fiends hoarding the power of four corresponding crystals.
And it's short, very short for a Final Fantasy game
The game opens with the hero (named by the player) entering the Hill of Destiny after his village was swallowed by an earthquake. An old man on a cloud instructs him to run and jump over a gap (that's right there is a jump button). He then goes over the story: four fiends, four crystals, you're the knight of prophecy, here fight this monster.
It's possible to game over here, but the game allows you to resume from the beginning of any battle
We're then automatically put in the Level Forest, which is looking decidedly dead. The old man instructs us to save the earth crystal before running off. We then need to talk to another old man, and help him push a boulder that's blocking the path to Foresta. Before heading off, he tells us to seek out Kaeli, and show her a withered branch so she will help us heal the forest.
Kaeli comes with an axe that unlocks the rest of the forest area. I picked up the Cure spell in town before tackling the boss. Aside from the jump button not normally seen in RPGs, the hero is able to use his currently equipped weapon. The sword is used to reach high switches, the axe can chop down trees, there's a bomb that breaks open passages, and claw that enables him to climb certain walls (and a later upgrade that allows him to cross certain gaps). Kaeli chops down a glowing tree, and out pops a Minotaur that poisons her. She helps finish the fight, but collapses afterwards, giving us the axe.
The world map has set destinations, and flashing arrows once you've opened the path to the next location
Scattered around the world are battlefield areas that have ten fights to clear. Each rewarded me in some way (experience, gold, or an item) once I'd cleared all ten. To the north was the Sand Temple where the elixir to cure Kaeli was held. Tristam, a treasure hunter, had already collected it though. He offered to sell it for the exorbitant amount of 9,000gp. We struck a deal; I'd help him with his next score in the Bone Dungeon, and he'd give it me. In the process, he also sold me some bombs to open up passages inside.
I avoided a well known bug where the party member elemental and special defenses aren't updated unless you restart
Defeating the Flamerus Rex at the end of the dungeon provided Tristam with the Dragon Claw he desired, and restored the Earth Crystal. I made a short trip to give Kaeli the elixir before continuing my journey on to Aquaria through the Focus Tower. Tristam left the party in search of more treasure. On the way, the old man on the floating cloud suggested I find someone named Phoebe and Captain Mac. Phoebe was in the Libra Temple where she recruited me to free her grandpa Spencer from the frozen water in town.
Using the claw Phoebe gave me to climb walls
There are no random battles in this game. Enemies in dungeons are normally visible, but block choke points that force you to fight most of them. Bosses are also visible. I obtained a Libra Crest, which allowed me to teleport to the Life Temple where I got a drop of Wakewater that restored the heart of the town. This didn't unfreeze the whole town, but it thawed the pass to the Ice Pyramid where I could restore the Water Crystal. To get there, I had to traverse the frozen Falls Basin, which was full of block pushing platform leaping puzzles.
I remember being stumped here when I first played for quite some time, not realizing that the sword could reach this switch
The Ice Pyramid culminated in a battle with an Ice Golem that was rather easy with two fire spells. Phoebe was so excited to see her grandpa that she left me to find my way back. Aquaria was finally unfrozen, and the path under Phoebe's house led me to Spencer, one of Captain Mac's friends. Spencer told me that Captain Mac was stranded on a rock ledge after a lake dried up. While Spencer continued to dig a hole to the captain, he gave me a key to investigate some earthquakes in Fireburg.
Guess I'm helping you save your dad
In Fireburg, I found myself teaming up with Reuben to save his dad. This involved finding Tristam to give us a key to open a lock of a cowardly explosives expert that gave us the mega grenade, a throw-able bomb. I took this to the Mine across from the giant boulder, and through a maze of one-way treadmills and trolley buckets I made it to the summit where I threw a grenade to move the boulder. This opened the way to the Volcano where I could investigate the earthquakes. With a near unlimited supply of seeds, I used my most powerful magic in every battle from this point to the end.
I'm pretty sure I missed the life spell somewhere, it's the one empty slot I had at the end of the game
The defeat of the Dualhead Hydra freed the Fire Crystal. After I freed each crystal, a coin was found nearby that opens another area of the Focus Tower. The next area led to a bridge where Reuben fell. He was fine, but on a cliff I couldn't reach. Tristam was there to pick up the slack. Party members don't share in the experience, and thus don't level while in the party. The only time their level increases is when they rejoin at a later time. On the other side of the bridge was a giant tree blocking the way. Seemed I needed to find Kaeli to speak with the tree, and ask it to move.
Wow, Kaeli, where have you been grinding?
I returned to Aquaria, where Spencer and Tristam joined up to find some treasure. The tunnel was slow going, and Phoebe thought she'd help by blowing it up. That collapsed the tunnel, and now I had to drag Kaeli, who was recently bed ridden, all the way to Windia. The giant tree wanted us to clear out the monsters inside of it before he would move. The boss was a chimera named Gidrah. Defeating it dispersed all the other monsters. In Windia, Otto wouldn't assist us until we saved his daughter, Norma.
You mean I killed all those monsters for nothing
At Mount Gale nearby, I confronted the monster Dullahan. He caused the strong winds that broke apart the rainbow bridge that led to Pazuzu's Tower. I found Norma right away, and sent her back home. Pazuzu was holed up in an elevator, and escaped whenever I came near. The key to getting him to stick around was to seal off the shaft on every even floor. The tower itself was more long than tough, but that may have to do with unleashing full spell power at every chance. Defeating Pazuzu unlocked the elevator, which I rode to the top to free the crystal and collect the coin.
Back in Windia, we discussed the Captain Mac's situation with Otto. Reuben showed up, and told us of a stairway to the top of Focus Tower. Just then Otto had a brilliant idea. We could drain the lake water from Spencer's cave all the way into the dry lake. With the cave-in, the only way to reach it was to increase the power of the Rainbow Road with a Thunder Rock. Reuben joined to help fetch the rock from his father. Filling the lake only moved the ship down to the nearby cave. Getting to that cave required me to find the Mobius Crest inside Spencer's cave, and the tile within Windia that traveled there. I rescued Captain Mac, and met back up with Phoebe in Windia where we learned something startling.
Alright, let's go get Chaos... I mean Dark King
Focus tower was a push through four floors of a boss rush against powered up versions of the four fiends. The room before Dark King refilled my seeds, heals, cures, and arrows. Honestly, the restorative items are thrown at the party so fiercely that I wasn't in fear of running out. They're also so weak that they're useless in the final battle, except seeds, but I only needed 2 at most.
I'm not really sure this boss needed four forms
With Dark King vanquished, peace returned to the world. The old man floating on the cloud revealed himself as crystal of light, guiding me throughout the adventure with cryptic messages (I didn't bother to mention many of them, but they weren't exactly helpful). The hero revisited all his companions, and said his goodbyes. Instead of settling down, he sailed off into the sunset in search of another adventure.

Elapsed Time: 8h50m (Final Time: 8h50m)
Honestly, he just had to get away
Combatant - There's good progression, but the simplicity of the game is evident. Monsters are a strange mix of fantasy stylized animals and creatures. Most of the game devolves into simply casting the best spells. Each monster is weak to at least one spell or weapon. The final bosses of the game have some lockdown status effects (paralyze, stone, confusion) that make them a bit RNG, but manageable eventually.
Rating: 5
Who decided the white background was a good idea?
Admirer - At least you get to name the hero. The default name is Benjamin according to the manual. There's no other customization, but you can choose to skip spells or items if you know about them ahead of time. The different weapons usable on the dungeon maps is an interesting mechanic, but they don't reflect the changing equipment (except the dragon claw).
Rating: 3
The character animation for the hero was funny as well
Puzzler - The puzzles are really light, but there are some things to figure out aside from the strategy of combat. Weapons take on a new aspect as they're used for navigating the game world in addition to slaying monsters. There aren't any side quests to speak of, and only a single solution to reach the conclusion.
Rating: 4
I suppose it's these two I have to thank for these elements
Instigator - The story isn't a stretch for the franchise, but they wanted to keep it simple for their audience. In that I think they succeeded. There aren't any detailed descriptions or lore to find, but it's a fun journey (or maybe that's my nostalgia talking). NPCs are rarely directly helpful, and more often have inane comments on the current situation.
Rating: 3
The translation was actually a big step up from Final Fantasy II, although that may have to do with it being geared for an English audience
Collector - The economy is completely broken. I never had to save up or choose my purchases with care. There are a large number of items and equipment to collect, and it's easy enough to find everything (although I still missed the life spell). The most powerful armor is automatically equipped, and only the latest weapons are usable. There are also more than enough space for consumables that storage isn't an issue.
Rating: 6
I think there are more people in the Special Thanks than the total number that worked on the game
Explorer - The music is wonderful. The graphics, especially battle backgrounds, are simple. The world itself is set on rails, and there's no chance to explore or really miss a particular area. It's no grand world to wander around, but that wasn't really the aim.
Rating: 5
It just keeps going
Final Rating: 26 [43%]

Definitely a bit of nostalgia coloring my opinion, but I don't really care to revisit the numbers. It's a simple, light, easy game that you could get through in a weekend. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in finding out what RPGs are all about (or mostly about). It's a good first impression. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane enough that I didn't hate the game afterwards, but I don't think I'd revisit it again any time soon.
Finally reached the end
Next up we have Legend of the Ghost Lion (often shortened to just Ghost Lion). An NES RPG that's a little different from other RPGs. There are no experience points in this one. Levels are instead gained by collecting a certain item. This one just barely tipped the scale in its favor. I actually hadn't heard of it before starting down the list, so I'm curious to see what it has in store for me. Hopefully it takes longer than a week as I still haven't fixed the TurboDuo.
Maybe they expected to continue the adventure

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Game #59: Cosmic Fantasy 2 (TurboGrafx-CD) - "RPG of the Year" -- EGM 1993 (Finished)

Game 59

Title: Cosmic Fantasy 2
Released: September 1992 (April 1991 JPN)
Platform: TurboGrafx-CD
Developer: LaserSoft
Publisher: Working Designs
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based
Series - Standalone (Cosmic Fantasy in Japan)

I've come to realize, it's not the bad games that slow me down when writing about a new game. It's the games like this: bland, mediocre, unpolished filler that makes it difficult to feel motivated to play another hour. Add on the trouble I've had with the physical console (still not fixed, so I mostly played without music), and I may have enjoyed it less than I should have.
Still reached the end
Now don't get me wrong. There are innovations, and good design in some aspects. The movement speed and control feel great, and diagonal movement mitigates annoying NPCs that get in the way. Fully voiced cutscenes are integrated with the story at key moments to enhance immersion. Although the voice acting leaves a bit to be desired, the animation is well done. The music is thematic, and varies well. Combat, which I'll get into later, allows the player to precisely order the actions of each character when it's the party's turn. Spells level up at certain intervals, costing the same MP for more powerful effects. With those out of the way, let us see what's left.
The introduction shows Laura scolding Van
The game opens with Van off on adventure to hunt some meat to go along with the harvest Laura and the rest of the village are gathering. Van is then free to explore the town, but upon leaving, the game takes control and walks Van to a large tree where he reminisces over his relationship with Laura. He's awoken from his daydreaming by an explosion in a neighboring town.
In the destroyed village Van hears rumors that the evil lord Galam has come to this quiet island in search of a princess wearing a pendant. Guess who? That's right, Laura is actually a long lost princess hidden away here to protect the world of Idea from her sealed power.
This is going to be a picture heavy post, I can see it now
Van races back to his home village to find the Galam's army has beat him there and kidnapped Laura. Combat in the beginning is rough, with most battles depleting Van's health requiring an herb after each one. Luckily the mayor in the previous town was giving them away for free. I fought my way into Abel's house, an unnamed general of the army was guarding it.
Boss battles happen on a special battle screen that's all blacked out
Abel informed Van they took Laura to the harbor where Galam's ships were just about to depart. An epic and completely pointless battle ensued with Wizda, Galam's sorceress. Van lost in a single turn.
I could probably fill this post with only pictures of the cutscenes
Only knocked unconscious, Van woke in the care of Abel. Abel described how Laura was truly the princess of Idea. The king's chief advisor, Darva, told of a prophecy. Laura would wield immense power, but it was locked until her 17th birthday. Then it could be unleashed, and would be passed on to any man that married her. Instead of preparing her for this with a proper upbringing, she was hidden away in the care of Abel, one of the king's most loyal friends, and never told the truth. So it's been for the past 17 years.
Good question, let's have some battles to break up the exposition
Abel (Ys reference?) sent me off to the mainland, capital city and home to King Remlai. He handed me a writ to prove my story. Once the king was informed, I should then seek out Darva for additional assistance. The following cave was another difficult section. Actually, whenever I only had a single character, especially one without healing magic, I always felt unprepared for the journey. Luckily I had just enough herbs to see me through to the next town. It also helped that levels fully heal a character.
Four on one seems a tad unfair guys
The next couple towns were full of people holed up from all the wandering monsters. Sailors populated a port town, but they'd all turned to drinking since they were too scared to leave. As plot would have it, I met a young junior sorceress on her way to the mainland through a secret tunnel. Of course it too was infested by monsters. So, I took Annie and her key through the rather uneventful tunnel. On the other side, she promptly left my party.
I never did find out what that Ball of Lito did
Annie was nice enough to come with a healing spell, plus some other more damaging spells. It was then I realized combat is completely unbalanced. The attack spells cost nearly all my magic (some 50 MP), while healing is a mere 10 MP. Leveling up refills both MP and HP, and levels come so quickly that before I've depleted my healing reserves I'm at full health and magic again. Soon before Annie left, Van also got the same healing spell, and now the game was broken. There are curative items, like antidotes, and sun drops (which cure paralysis). Even some spells that do the same exist. But, do you know what's missing? Actual status effects. Not once was I poisoned, paralyzed, or had even a single spell cast by the enemy.
Helpfully there's a map for each area, but things like that lone red dot on the right side in the light brown just weren't there
I found someone named Jose to vouch for me in the town next to the castle as the regular guard didn't recognize the Writ of Shura. The king gave me his sacred royal sword, which I wasn't able to equip as it showed up in tools instead of equipment. Equipment consists of weapons, armor, shields, and an amulet; the latter provides elemental protection (but since there are no spells, I don't think these really do anything). Helpfully, the shops provide a short description for any purchasable item, but that option is missing from the regular inventory. Tools are usable items (battle or map), and they're the only thing transferable between characters. Characters come and go so often though that Van should hold onto all of the unique items. The king ordered Jan, his top swordsman, to accompany me to Darva in the east.
Maybe the game will be done by then
On our way to Darva, we stumbled upon a cursed town. Once entered, we were trapped there for all time. Another traveler, Lyle, joined our party to investigate the cause. We ventured deep into the mist. A door blocked our path through a cave, so we returned to the mayor. He told of us of the contract he signed with Amon-ta to help save his village from a severe affliction. With contract in hand we were able to open the door and confront the disembodied voice of Amon-ta.
Then we fought Amon-ta...'s minions -- two sets of monsters -- to free the village
So here's another example of why the game feels unfinished. Amon-ta is not here. He has dialog, but he doesn't show up. There's no epic battle to defeat him. Where I expected a boss fight, there was what seemed like a placeholder battle with normal enemies. Then the village was freed from the curse, and dialog suggests Amon-ta was defeated. For reference it was a battle that included the regular druid enemy. Afterwards, Lyle left the party for his home village of Tista.
This game gave me a disease
I stopped in Tista to see if Lyle would change his mind, but he was busy with his pregnant wife. Strangely, we was apparently gone and missed for a few days even though time was said to stand still in the cursed town. Darva was in his temple, waited on by Annie. Jan, having important matters with the king, left the party as soon as I arrived. Darva explained through cutscenes how Galam was a pupil of his with extremely potent magical energy, but soon the lust for power corrupted Galam. My first step was to hone my own magic, and learn from the goddess Cerum herself. Currently she was locked in stone, and the scholar Clasco to the south could tell me more.
Ah, Working Designs patented nonsensical localization
Annie joined once again as I journeyed south. This next part was a trigger hunting fun fest. Clasco the scholar wasn't much help, but he told me of a wandering minstrel named Viora (probably supposed to be Viola) who lived to the southeast. At her house I met her elf friend who told me she wasn't home, but might be in Kustra to the southwest. A lady at the tavern told me she was upstairs, but wouldn't let me past as Viora was preparing for the evening performance. There I was stuck for a bit as I didn't know how to "come back later" when time doesn't really pass.
The fate of the world is at stake woman!
The key next step is to piece together that Clasco is the son of the tavern owner (obvious from other dialog), and that I going back to him magically informs the tavern owner that I need to see Viora immediately. So, Clasco's father yells at the lady to let me pass. Viora tells the tale of Cerum. She turned herself to stone because she had made immortals to end a violent war. Doing so had the opposite effect, and to remove her gift she sealed her powers in stone. However, that didn't explain how to restore her. As we headed out dumbfounded for the next step, Viora had the brilliant idea to ask her teacher, Harp, that lived far to the east. I'd actually already visited Harp, but now that Viora was in my party I could learn that Cerum had a sister, Saylis, who's tears would restore her. I got an old document explaining all this. The tears were collected in a fountain. Now, where was this fountain?
It's the fountain under Darva's temple... and Darva knew the whole time
And the whole training from Cerum after restoring her resulted in a measly 1,000 experience points and a new weapon. No new spells, no hidden abilities, not even additional mobility. Returning to Darva, he told me how much I'd grown and opened the cave path to the north. As expected by this point, Annie stayed behind to continue her training. The next town was a stopping point to meet Alan, who lost a bow and is now a coward, and Joshua, an inventor conscripted by Galam's general Diggin to create a warp point straight to Galam's castle (how convenient).
They couldn't even spring for a special Diggin boss
To reach Diggin, I had to return Alan's bow so he could tell me about a hidden passag. With Diggin out of the way Josh joined the party long enough to activate the warp. Inside Galam's castle Alan and Josh stayed behind to watch Loris, Alan's missing girlfriend. So, alone I walked over Wizda to have a heart-to-heart with Galam. However, it was too late. Laura was already his wife, and he had obtained ultimate power. He knocked me out with a single hit, and sent me flying 20 years into the future to witnessed his brilliant plan to rule the world.
Commence gloating
And that's the introduction to Cosmic Fantasy 2. Yes, the game actually keeps going after all this, no longer following the young Van. Instead, we pick up 20 years later as Cosmic Space Hunter (cadet) Babbette comes flying on the scene. She's doing her rounds of the lesser charted galaxy, and happens upon the backwater planet of Idea. As she's about to move on, her computer chimes in (in the most badly dubbed French accent I've ever heard) that a distress signal is coming from the planet. Intrigued, she forgoes the usual call to headquarters, and decides to investigate it herself.
It wouldn't be a TG-CD anime game without a bit of blatant nudity, although the steam hides certain parts
Babbette is poorly equipped to have an adventure. She has gear, but no healing spells, and only a few herbs. Her one attack spell does prove somewhat useful; however, I spent most of my first few steps running away until I could find a town. The leader of the town, Jiela, was recently poisoned, and her sister, Ciela, asked me to fetch medicine from the medicine woman. In turn, she had me fetch an ingredient in order to complete the tonic. Upon my return, I found the attendant missing. She went to retrieve Jiela's sword from her home, but hadn't returned. While the medicine did its thing, I fetched the sword myself... I never did find Flora (I think that was her name).
Why wait? Pre-order today!
With Jiela in tip-top shape, both her and Ciela joined the party. We found an imposter running the town trying to convince everyone that Galam was the answer to salvation. Once defeated, Ciela stayed behind while Jiela and I ran off to fight Galam (apparently forgetting all about the distress signal or keeping a low profile). To the south was a town where a lovely girl named Serena disappeared. She was held captive by a monster, who was actually a man under a curse of an old hag. The old hag, and the imposters weren't bosses mind you, just normal enemy encounters. The monster turned back into a man named Jack, a resistance fighter against Galam's reign. Jiela decided what she really needed in her life was a man, and left the party.
Babbette found the recruitment center for Galam's harem
Nova, one of Galam's new generals, was kidnapping girls from the next town to add to his collection. I ran into and away from his goons, rescued by the younger brother of one of the girls that was kidnapped. On my way out I beat up a guard to get a letter for Nova. With it I was allowed entrance into his mansion to the north. Along the way I heard rumors of a talking cat, and in the middle of the forest, found the downed spaceship (although there was nothing to salvage). I rescued the kidnapped sister, Emily I think her name was, and found the distressed talking cat upstairs, named Pico. He told me cosmic pirates had shot down his craft while he was looking for his father.
We were getting along just dandy until Nova interrupted us
By far the hardest boss in the game, Nova crashes on the scene dealing 1/3 of my max HP with every hit. With only herbs to heal, and magic as my best damage potential, I stocked up previously with just enough to alternate 2 herbs (for health) and 1 berry (for magic) combined with one casting of magic. I had my first (and only, mind you) game over at this point. I had an M Duster as well, which randomly doesn't work, but potentially can do 120 damage. My best spell does 80 consistently. Nova dropped on the second to last attack I had. I picked up the prison key, Pico, and released the prisoners.
The only challenging battle, I barely made it through without grinding
Back in town the people rejoiced. I collected my adulation, and with nothing more to do, I left the town. A cutscene played where Babbette sounded mission accomplished to her computer, but space pirates attacked while she was away. Unable to arm weapons since Babbette had the arming chip, the ship's computer bid a hasty adieu, leaving the two aliens stranded on Idea.
There could be worse places to wait than a town where you just saved half their population from enslavement
I'm going to gloss over a lot more of the game than I usually would, but the battles are atrociously easy and all the remaining bosses are pushovers as the full party assembles. The next act began with Van regaining consciousness in the house of kindly old woman who's son, Milan, had gone missing. After getting Milan's equipment, Van headed off to the next town and rescued Pico from Galam's men.
When I sold this it was called leather, I feel like I've been lied to
The duo then ran off to save Babbette from Major Payne at Fort Dallas using skis to cross the snow. With Babbette rescued, the trio made their way through an ice cave to a town with a shrine nearby that gave me a prophecy about a cave with five goddess statues: Ein, Nolty, Sareen, Saylis, and Cerum. Awakening all five statues rewarded me with a fire staff, wind wedge (cloak), and 2000 experience. I'm not even sure this was a necessary quest, as the next area seemed unconnected. It was a forest maze with a number of tunnel entrances that all looked the same. Only two were necessary to enter, one containing a resistance member, and the second that led to the sealed door only he could open.
Even the rebel camp wasn't safe from not really a boss non-random generic encounter
On the other side of the mountain was a rebel camp. Jiela was there with Jack. Milan, the man we rescued from the forest, led us here and asked the leader to let us help. We were attacked while resting, and then the game trapped us in camp with no fights while we tried to figure out how Galam's forces got into camp. Through a lot of back and forth dialog with everyone in the camp to get the right triggers to progress the story, it was revealed that the leaders of the camp were actually working with Galam. Milan took over after we ousted them, and we moved on. Jiela was done with Jack by this point, and decided Van suited her better.
I never did find out what that was or how to reach it
I geared up at the next town before steamrolling through some haunted ruins. We then made our way to a port town, infiltrated Admiral Ibad's party, and stole one of his ships. The party set sail for the continent of Amor as the closest destination. I was then treated to a scene where Cosmic Space Hunters were alerted to Babbettes situation on Idea (her ship called in). It just so happened to be Cobra (apparently from the first Cosmic Fantasy game), and he had Pico's father among his crew.
Random boss named Barlock
As soon as the party landed they were assaulted by Galam's forces. Actually just a boss, and the first one that could drop a character in a single hit. There aren't any raise dead spells, and characters come back with 1 HP after battle. That doesn't matter much though since healing spells work just as well on fainted characters. With the way you can choose party order, there is no penalty to a character dying. Pico had a full heal spell early on, and eventually Babbette learned a spell that fully healed the entire party. We found the rebel camp to the south. There Jiela departed to make room for Jan's daughter Clea as we made our way to Darva's place.
Where we found Annie all grown up
Darva has long since passed on, but he left a message for Van: seek out Laura, for her pendant is the key to taking away Galam's immortality. Annie joined as the latest eye-candy, and we rushed the castle. We found Cobra (more like he found us) and one of Galam's generals, along with cosmic space pirates that were causing all the trouble for the hunters. Apparently the reason they're on this planet is it's considered so backwards that it would be the perfect place to hide their nefarious operations.
Kind of a hidden town with a lot of strange things exists near the castle behind the waterfall
The hidden town has a lot of cultural references, which make me think it was possibly added by the Working Designs team as a bonus. Someone named Day Shiona was mentioned, a random NPC was selling for their anti-Galam amulet, and there's a quest to find a hidden forbidden floppy. I found a TurboPlay, Joystick, and hitchhikers guide to the galaxy before I discovered the forbidden floppy. Fulfilling the quest rewarded me with 5000 experience points.
Babbette doesn't think much about this game
Van either
So, Van dispatched Hergan (who was Hergen prior to the battle), and Cobra showed up to take out cosmic pirate Vega (replacing Pico in the party). After the battle, Annie decided she had enough of the crazy plot, and let Cobra's eye-candy, Sayo, join the party. Pico stayed behind on the ship, and the rest of Cobra's crew went with Annie to "help the rebel cause."
The game then just feeds you unlimited free HP/MP items, plus high damage bombs
A short trek through the space pirates underground base, and I found myself outside a small cottage. There, Laura was waiting for Van's return, completely unguarded. She handed him her pendant, and asked him to put on end to Galam's reign. So, we killed Galam. The End. My game froze once after his final form, but playing through again got me the full ending. Laura died as well since her life force was intertwined with either the pendant's power or Galam. Heartbroken, Van ran off with Babbette to become a cosmic hunter.
And everyone laughed about this foolish game
Elapsed Time: 14h40m (Final Time: 14h40m)

Combatant - For the first 15 minutes, and the fight with Nova, combat is challenging. All other times it's a cake walk. Magic is all over the place, and only really useful during the Nova fight outside of healing. The enemies are a strange mix of random fantasy stylized creatures: living books, giant flow creatures, and walls with faces among all the goblins, orcs, and witches.
Rating: 2
Some of the enemies have cool designs, this is Vega in his combat mech that we easily destroyed
Admirer - The game manual boasts a 20 character cast. This doesn't really matter much as they're in and out of your party before you can get attached to them. In fact, even Van isn't immune to getting kicked out of the party for a while. There's no customization or advancement options.
Rating: 2
End game characters are the only ones that matter anyway
Puzzler - The main quest wasn't always clear. There aren't any side quests or puzzles, and only a single solution or trigger to find. Good luck trigger hunting.
Rating: 1
If only I had a random NPC to show me the hidden door here
Instigator - The story isn't too bad, and the voice acting is tolerable (or maybe I just have a high tolerance for it). Once Van is shot 20 years into the future, and the game goes from fantasy to cosmic, it's still an enjoyable ride even if the motivation for the pirates presence is weak. NPCs aren't very helpful, and in Working Designs fashion will more often than not have something quirky to say. The descriptions for store equipment is nice, but it'd have been better if I could examine those in my inventory as well.
Rating: 4
I know, shocking, right?
Collector - Forget collecting anything in the first half of the game. You know that royal sword Van had, or the Ball of Lito. Gone! All of it disappears when he's shot into the future. I didn't even bother to try them out, not sure how helpful they were or if they had abilities during combat. The economy is as bad a joke as the combat, and it's a good thing since there's no way to trade equipment.
Rating: 4
Oh yeah, Van got this awesome looking cosmic hunter plate armor that wasn't actually in his inventory
Explorer - The graphics are good, characters well detailed, and the animation is pretty good for the time. The music isn't too varied, but I couldn't judge it very often as my console was having trouble playing the CD audio (hopefully to be fixed by the next game). Loading character portraits caused the music to start from the beginning each time, and they loaded nearly every time a character spoke in the last half of the game. There's not much to discover while exploring, chests are mostly useless, and aside from that weird creature I'm not sure there were any Easter eggs. Exploration was limited to the current plot related continent area.
Rating: 4
I wish they all had this animated aerial view
Final Rating: 17 [28%]

By far not the worst game this year, but how does a title like this earn itself RPG of year when Dragon Warrior IV and... well this does seem to be a year lacking in standout titles. From memory, I'd say Soul Blazer was better than this. In any case, overall it's not an enjoyable game. Combat is tedious, and the encounter rate a bit too high. The story is the only thing this has going for it, and it's a hard pill to swallow. Some plot holes like, Robert, the ships computer running away from pirates because the weapon system was locked comes flying in at the last second guns blazing to destroy an escaping pirate ship.
Oh, and Laura doesn't look 20 years older
Moving on, I've already completed Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, and will write up the post soon. I should have the TurboDuo fixed in time for Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes, but next to play is Ghost Lion. So I don't get too far behind blogging and playing, I'm taking a break from playing until I catch up. If I let the blogging and playing get too out of sync, I'll have trouble recalling a lot of the details.