Saturday, December 31, 2016

Game #64: Exile (TurboGrafx-CD) - Another Arabian Night (Finished)

Game 64

Title: Exile
Released: 1992 (December 1991 JPN)
Platform: TurboGrafx-CD (Genesis)
Developer: Renovation Games
Publisher: Working Designs
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Action (side-view)
Series - Exile (XZR)

It always feels weirdly different jumping into a series at game two compared to jumping into an established character at the start of a new game. There's a sense of events that already took place, even if they're summed up. Characters are introduced as though the main character has a history that goes unspoken. The intro video sets out the background.
This is the only timeline for release I can find for the game
The land of Shaltar was in the midst of religious wars with different factions claiming to hold the one true nature of God and the world. The Cerjeuk dynasty was the largest, and most efficient at oppressing the masses under their law. Sadler, the main character, led a revolt last game that brought it to its knees. However, the peace was short lived as the Klispins (a not so subtle change from  Christians), sensing the weakness in Shaltar, invaded.
The didn't even bother taking out the crosses of the crusaders
Yuug D'Payne, an ally of the Klispins, sickened by the unfettered destruction of Shaltar decided that he should become the one great ruler to unite all people to end the senseless violence. An ominous voice declared it a mighty dream, and the game was afoot. Sadler begins his journey in his hometown of Assassi. He's joined by Rumi, who brings news of a spy roaming the desert.
The initial town helped fill in some of the past information. Sadler's traveling companions wander around town, and are recruited for another adventure after Sadler speaks to the man that saw the spy. Equipment is very straightforward to upgrade as price dictates strength. Items are bit more difficult to guess at. They fall into four categories: HP and MP recovery, and short-term AP and AC boosts. In the Japanese version these were exact drug references with drawbacks, but for the American market it was altered to more obscure names like heart poison without the bad side effects.
Sometimes I wish games would do away with the fancy names
We picked up Fakhyle and Kindi on the way out. While they're supposedly in the party, Sadler is the only controllable character. The party made its way to the desert, and found a new oasis. It was a clever trap set by an ant-lion. As a first dungeon it was a bit rough, especially with giant dragonflies appearing without much time to react. I grinded up to level 5, making it a bit easier. Also notable is the 70 second music track with a fade out and 3 seconds of silence at the end.
Action scenes are definitely not captured well with my setup
We found the body of a man clutching a letter beyond the ant lion. It was addressed to Sadler from Yuug D'Payne (leader of the Knights Templar) requesting he make haste to Homis Shrine to discuss matters of great importance. The party rested. Next stop was El-in where Sadler fought his way through many crusaders in order to reach Homis Shrine beyond. Yuug joined the party after discussing his plans to unite all people. Fakhyle and Kindi stayed behind to mind the shrine. As we parted ways, Fakhyle gave Sadler his magic stone Kamuhri.
Of course, Rumi tagged along as a plot device
Yuug laid out the plan to overthrow the Klispins. The Katari sect knows the whereabouts of something called the Holimax somewhere in the land of Ghilan. Thus we arrived in Grunoble... actually, I'm not sure how that led us to that town, but it's where the party arrived. Rumors of the Klispins invading the next town over, where the Katari sect resides, permeated from every person. As we traveled through the forest, Rumi was kidnapped by druids.
The over world map includes a camp scene with party portraits, and destinations that transition from one location to another
Combat is pretty basic, walk around a side-scrolling environment and slash or down slash enemies. Magic augments this a bit by adding three levels of fire or ice magic to a sword strike, and is toggled on or off via the menu. There's also regeneration magic that I used often. After wandering about Mosnee, I came across a sheep one of the shepherd boys in town lost. Bringing him to the sheep rewarded me with a prism, which Yuug was able to affix in an alter located inside a circle of standing stones. Somehow this act broke a stained glass window inside the nearby building, and I rescued Rumi from inside.
This has dialogue talking about needing the blood of Rumi to finish their Cosmic Fantasy has me thinking Cosmic Fantasy 2 came out after this, or it's referencing the third game that never arrived
With Rumi saved, the party headed to Albee in search of the Katari sect. We found the village burning to the ground. Our search for survivors payed off as we discovered men Yuug had sent in search of the Holimax. Their final message was that all scouts had returned, except for those sent to Caira. Another religious sect was said to be there, the Manichi whom the Katari worshiped.
This is one of the scenes scrubbed from the Genesis port
Upon our arrival in Ayodoya, the party was informed that Prince Larma went to Lanker Isle in pursuit of a woman named Mireyu. Turns out that is Yuug's sister, although he didn't react to the first mention of her name. We found the prince in a cave, severely injured.
This may be a cultural thing, but it always strikes me as odd how shocked characters are when they learn someone is related to someone else
We searched the woods for Mireyu and the remaining Katari while Rumi stayed behind to tend to Larma's wounds. The guard at the edge of the woods described a vampire phoenix called Guruda. I'm not if that's an intentional misspelling of Garuda to differentiate it, or merely an alternative one. According to the guard, it was the same bird that drained all the blood from Mani before swallowing him whole. The same man taken from history, but given more myth and legend in this game.
 The first and probably not the last time I'll see this happened at the claws of the Guruda
I found someone named Jofre in the forest who helped to take down the protective barrier of the Guruda once I brought him the diary of Mani he had dropped near the statue where the prince lay. Then I died a number of times to Guruda. At least the music in that stage is some of the best. I grinded up a few levels, bought some tonics, and finally bested the beast. I definitely wasn't using most of the tonics, especially the attack power and armor class buffs. It didn't help that I couldn't spare the cash to purchase more.
Finding the right timing for my strikes as he darted back and forth proved difficult
I rescued Mireyu, and recovered the remains of Mani. We attempted to follow the directions to resurrect him detailed in his diary, but a page was missing. Prince Larma directed us to Baiyon tower where original copy of the ritual resided. Sadler barely escaped the collapsing tower after retrieving the book. Yuug, Rumi, and Jofre were trapped within. With no time to waste, Sadler returned to Mani's body and performed the resurrection ritual after the prince translated the final page.
I question if this disembodied spirit is truly Mani as he eggs me on to find the Holimax
Additional history of the Holimax was revealed by the spirit of Mani. Shimbatha was an evil being that desired the Holimax, and battled an unnamed man after that man hid away the Holimax. Sadler was now the chosen one to bring peace to the world by finding the Holimax. The search continued in the east, in the town of Tachikawa. A man named Ninkan, held at Oniga Isle, was the last holy man from Mt. Koya that understood the teachings of master Kukai. Because of that, the jealous priests conspired and locked him away.
To rescue Ninkan I needed to retrieve the key to his cell from Mt. Koya, although it jammed in the lock anyway and I used the pick axe of one of the slaves
Ninkan suggested that harmonizing the two mandalas of light and time was the key to the Holimax. While Ninkan worked on focusing the energy into the mandalas after I retrieved them, he sent me to another temple on My. Koya to disperse some evil energy. After destroying a chimera, I was sent to light the candles in the temple of light. As I lit the candles, a vision of Kukai appeared and directed me to Yaban Chara the bohemian in El-in, one of the few able to arrange the mandalas in systematic harmony.
A rush of light blinded Sadler, and a moment later he found himself in front of El-in, the city where he first met Yuug
Yuug was there with bad news. Rumi and Jofre did not make it out alive. Kindi and Fakhyle were also missing. Yuug asked me to attend him as he made his way down a strange passage. As Sadler entered, he was struck by a strange force that shook his whole body.
Another risque scene censored in the Genesis version
Sadler and Yuug suddenly appeared in Eleusis at the time of a festival to Backos (not sure why they didn't go with the more common spelling Bacchus). Not all was well though, as many residents told of kidnapped daughters to attend Backos at his temple. I ran into Pythagoras inside. I pointed him to the exit, and continued on to the ritual room where they were sacrificing the girls. I managed to rescue a single girl, Simone, but the story line lay with Pythagoras who called Yuug, Hyram, who was supposed to be building Homis Shrine at the moment. Strange, the Homis Shrine was built in...
Magical time travel seems to be a theme to this series as well
While everyone was busy building the shrine, Sadler searched the place for Hyram after avoiding a giant blood stain in front of the entrance. I went back to question Pythagoras when no sign of Hyram was found, but he had already departed to Croton Academy. Sadler rightly assumed the blood was from Hyram. Pythagoras was troubled by the news of Hyram's death as he was the only one that knew how to turn the Heramusso into the active Holimax. The shrine was meant to focus energy, and harmonize the mandalas.
With all his knowledge we deduced he was the man we were sent to find
Sadler knew from ancient history that Hyram was dispatched by three followers. We found them in a random house at the academy. Yubelum strong-armed the other two into killing Hyram and hid his body inside that building. We returned the Heramusso to Pythagoras, and he helped us activate it, turning it into the Holimax. Finally everlasting peace will exist again... well, not really.
Turns out the whole Holimax quest was an elaborate plot to resurrect Shimbatha, who had possessed Yuug from the beginning
The final battle took place back at Homis Shrine. Shimbatha summoned a dark mirror image of Sadler, which was easily killed by timing attacks around his jumps while dodging below them. Shimbatha politely requested Sadler remove his head so he could add it to his tree of those that sought the Holimax in ages past. As a final boss he posed a good challenge.
Although the range of his attacks from off-screen is a bit cheap
I found myself having to stock up on items to survive as I just didn't have enough tonics. I'm glad there was no pretense of a final dungeon to slog through in order to face Shimbatha again. During the ultimate attempt against Shimbatha I found a rather strange bug. I started having some technical issues with the stream, so I entered the tonic menu while I sorted them out. Whatever did it, I came back to silence after about 10 minutes idling in the menu. Sound effects continued to work, and the voices and music picked up in the ending sequence.
And stay down!
Shimbatha begged once more for Sadler to deliver his head and inherent power. Instead, Sadler plunged his sword into Yuug's body, severing the material connection Shimbatha had created and honed with the Holimax. As he passed into the void, he claimed that Sadler would remain cursed (a curse possibly referenced in the first game). As Sadler turned away, he recalled Rumi's words of hope for a utopian world, and Sadler remarked that it was a fool's dream that will never be possible.

Elapsed Time: 3h37m (Final Time: 3h37m)
RIP Rumi
Combatant - As an action game, this scores well in combat due to stats playing an important role. Magic is a useful way to grind, but the majority of combat doesn't require it. Enemies aren't really varied, and most will just charge you. Experience and gold rewards even out by the end, but most of the game they seem painfully low, which makes grinding necessary.
Rating: 3
Working Design team
Admirer - Important for an action game, the controls are really nice with my only real complaint is thrusting down stops all forward momentum. The turbo buttons don't add much. The ability to grind to your wanted level is available. There is, however, nothing customizable about Sadler.
Rating: 3
Jofre chants some ancient magic, and I'm just sitting here with my fire, ice, and healing spells
Puzzler - There aren't any puzzles. The main quest is well laid out, so there's no real possibility to get lost (although Mt. Koya is a bit pain to search for all the key items). There aren't any side quests, puzzles, or mini-games.
Rating: 2
Wait, who's that?
Instigator - The story is well put together, although a bit short. It's also a bit disconnected as Sadler jumped quickly between different areas without much description about how he reached them. The NPCs were helpful in pointing me in the right direction whenever I needed it. The only thing truly lacking is a way to influence the story through Sadler's actions.
Rating: 4
That's... Rumi... the game doesn't even bother to explain how she's alive, or how Sadler returned to his own time
Collector - Only the standard fare of items and equipment with nothing to really collect. Tonic, quest items, and equipment each have a separate inventory, which is nice; however, money is so tight until the very end that I had to sell off my equipment as I upgraded them. Strength is derived directly from the cost, so it's easy to know what to drop. There aren't any collections tracked in an obvious way.
Rating: 3
Thanks Cindy, whoever you are
Explorer - I enjoyed the music when it didn't cut out or have obvious loops. The graphics were well done, and the voice acting is the best I've heard from a console game. There aren't enough areas to really dig into and explore though, and past locations are completely cut off. The actual dungeons weren't all that interesting, but at least they varied in appearance.
Rating: 3
Oh yeah, thank you too, hope you enjoyed this review
Final Rating: 18 [30%]

Overall it was a solid action game, but not a lot of depth. At least it didn't overstay its welcome. The Sadler character is interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they wrap up his story in the final chapter. Especially how they explain Rumi's return, although I suspect it'll just get glossed over. At least we don't have to wait long. Next gaming year starts soon, and includes the sequel.
This woman that strips to entice the sequel probably isn't in the Genesis version either
Next up we have Soul Blazer, another game that I grew up with. It should go rather quickly. First though, we need to cut a rather odd game. Spiritual Warfare seems to be unlicensed on the NES, and I'm not sure it was released in any official capacity on the Genesis. It's a religiously focused game, but while interesting to explore it seems to be a rather blatant Legend of Zelda ripoff that doesn't offer much more than a platform for Christian preaching
Journey On, and Happy New Year


  1. You might have a hard time with the sequel, I've heard that Working Designs messed up the difficulty level of the final dungeon and accidentally made it almost impossible.

    1. I did hear something about that, but I thought it was the entire game. Guess we'll find out when I get there.