Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Game #74: Sorcerer's Kingdom (Genesis) - Understandably Forgotten (Finished)

Game 74

TitleSorcerer's Kingdom
ReleasedJune 1993 (February 1992 JPN)
Developer: NCS/Masaya (& Technical Wave)
Publisher: Treco
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based (strategic)
Series - Standalone

It's difficult to pin down a development company for this one even though they received full credits -- as best I can tell they were a bunch of contractors or part of the original publisher
This game is no grand epic. It's about as middle of the road as a game can be while still being above a threshold of good. The story is run of the mill -- a land filled with adventurers, a new young warrior is finally of age and seeks to follow in his father's (who has been missing for some time) footsteps.
Selecting a name is almost as difficult as picking the 'right' combination of starting classes
Kanan, the hero's father, left some years ago and hasn't been heard from since. Now Norick, the name I gave him, has requested the king to permit him to do the same. Of course he does; there wouldn't be much more if the king denied him. The title of Adventurer was granted to young Norick. He was also provided a magic map that allows for quick travel and indicates completed quests.
Speaking with the people in the courtyard outside the castle, and in the town beyond, I learned of a wizard to the west that I should visit for important information. The hero's mother stands outside the inn to wish him luck throughout the game, and she offers some starting money. Now with 100 gold to my name I picked up a hand axe that cut my attack speed in half, but increased my attack power by more than four times. I didn't have enough for armor, but it also has a trade off: slower movement in battle to offset increased defense.
The first combat of the game introduces how deadly it is without some additional equipment -- I'm moving into position after initiating battle
Combat is about the only unique aspect of the game. Enemies wander around on the same screen as the characters in real-time. When an enemy gets within striking distance, or any time the player chooses from the menu, battle commences. Pulling enemies away from each other, getting only a single opponent on screen, is typically the best way to take them out. There's no visible experience. As characters act in battle they will eventually get stat boosts based on their actions. The Wizard appears after defeating all the goblins on the hill west of town, and he thrust a magic stone into my possession. It contained some password that opens the kobold king's secret hideout.
Early game overs -- I pushed my luck a little too far at the first boss battle
The kobold area is fairly easy when taken at a moderate pace. I grinded up a few levels to beat the kobold king and his four lackeys. Surrounding myself with trees on all but one side proved necessary. With the kobold hoard dealt with, Crale Village was able to harvest lumber once again. Gott, the woodcutter went to work right away, clearing a path to the elf village. In the meantime, I visited with the mayor of Crale, received my first sword marker on the map for an area completed, and advanced to the next title given by the king.
Most NPCs will change their dialogue as the story advances
The elf village elder directed me to the dragon rock they guarded. It had just been hit by a large lightning bolt. There I found a strange person named Elrad fending for his life from kill hounds.
Maybe next time come a little more prepared
Back in the elf village we learned that something called the elf orb had been stolen, and the elder's daugther, Astina, led the charge to retrieve it. Hearing this Elrad ran off after her before he had the chance to join the party. So, I was forced to fight solo. The basilisk at the end seemed doable until it spewed some gas turning the hero to stone. Astina and Elrad showed up just in time to save the day, and clinch the victory. So joined Elrad, but Astina left to return the orb to the village.
Just one little quest needs to be done before she'll consider us worthy
The king bestowed new titles before we made our way south to get some iron for a blacksmith to repair the east bridge. Elrad's powerful magic made quick work of the enemies in the plains. Too bad his MP is so limited. A deserted village appeared after we cleared them. There we met Midi who opened a path further south into the mountains. You'd think having an extra character would be beneficial, but combat is funny in this game. Nearly every enemy gets an action when any character takes a turn. Luckily you can choose any one to act each turn.
Thank you to whoever placed these regeneration points in the enemy dungeons, they're great at restoring all HP and MP
After some grinding off the restore point (because it was easy), I headed deeper into the volcano. A wizard lay waiting, one that I supposed served the Warlock on mount Serbia. The wizard spawned some mirror images, but their damage was rather pathetic, so I ignored them as I easily beat down the original.
Well how about that, wasn't expecting to find this game using the four elements shtick as well
When I exited the volcano Astina showed up to join the party, informing me that was Mount Serbia and the wizard was the warlock. The king advanced out titles, and the story once more. With the bridge repaired we headed east. Midi was at the end of the bridge, and decided she was going to join as well. With a full party (I could tell from the menu), Norick had a full three people to watch him be awesome. Most often it wasn't worth spending MP to cast magic, and Norick had the strength to take enemies out in a hit or two. Midi did okay as a secondary fighter, but better as a backup healer. Astina was the main healer. I hung out around another restoration point in the next dungeon to make sure the other characters didn't fall behind too much in their stat gains.
Astina buffing Norick as we faced a hydra guarding the water spirit
Another area cleared, and another new title. Title changes aren't just for show. Each one grants new spells (to all except the hero, who can't cast magic). While most new spells cost more, the extra punch they provide is usually worth it. At the end of the previous dungeon, I learned that I had to release all the spirits to gain a special power to defeat the great evil plaguing the land.
The bartender is probably the most useful NPC for pointing the party in the right direction to progress the story
Taking his advice, and checking out a snow-covered village named Argel, I found the townspeople there had all become shades. All except the shop owners and innkeeper luckily. One dungeon later, with another restoration point I used to its full extent, I left behind the bodies of three dead giants and removed the town's shadow form, as well as released the wind spirit to boot.
The map fills with another sword to indicate a completed area, but sadly can't be used to escape dungeons quickly
By this last dungeon though, Midi had learned the escape spell that allowed quick exit. I returned to the king for a new title. We heard tale of something called wind wings that would allow the party to fly far to the east. We gathered leather from the Argel village (not sure what animal they came from), lumber from Crale, and had the wizard on the hill magic them to make us the wings. I also took this opportunity to make sure everyone was outfitted with the best equipment I could purchase. We flew from the east of Argel, landing in a new area.
This scene lasted much longer than was necessary; if it wasn't animated I might have thought the game froze
While there was no town, we found a restoration point, and used it as a base to explore some nearby ruins. It was a maze of twisty passages, hidden corridors, and pitfalls that dropped us to floors below. There was a lot of treasure to find. Good equipment upgrades that rewarded as much exploration as I was willing to take on. I'm not sure I found everything, but I found enough to press forward towards the end.
Each character has their own inventory, which is limited
At the end of the ruins, the party found themselves in the middle of an audience with the king, advisor, and fanfarers all. The king, about to bestow a title, decided that DEATH was more fitting. Of course, this was all an illusion as they all turn into enemies and a battle begins. I had Elrad cast spark to take down the skeletons, and afterwards Norick cleaned up first the wizard, and second the boss (a lich), with Astina spot healing as necessary. Even at this late stage there aren't any group healing spells.
A dragon... you don't say? Go to Dragon Rock? Okay!
The end game came quickly as the king received a letter from Kanan detailing his banishment to Blood Island. The king and all his soldiers left to rescue him. The Legendary Sword, passed from from king to king since ancient times was given to me by the Minister. On Dragon Rock, I invoked the spirits with the sword, and received the Elemental Sword, which was now equippable by the hero, and made my attack power jump from 160 to 500. I don't think I missed any upgrades in between, but it's possible.
Wondering how to get to Blood Island was unnecessary as Dragon Rock formed a cave that took me straight there
The cave path was filled with easily defeated pyrohydras, which were exactly like the hydra boss except purple. I found the king's men all lain about in a short passage with the king on his last legs. He dropped a heavy amount of exposition before giving me a medallion and telling me Kanan was actually heir to the throne, which probably means Norick will be king by the end. Further in the cave we found Kanan. He healed the party with the last of his medicine, without realizing there was a restoration tile next to him. He handed us the other half the medallion before we faced off against the black dragon.
In case it wasn't obvious whenever you enter battle mode
Finally Astina had a group heal spell, and it's a good thing too as the dragon has a lightning attack that severely damages the under leveled majority of the party. They lasted just long enough to maintain their health as they buffed Norick, and burned through their MP. Elrad dropped first after unleashing his ultimate spell, Explosion. Once the dragon fell, the spirit of the sword withdrew, and thanked the party after restoring the fallen members to life. We returned to Landale to find Kanan was now king.
Especially Astina and Midi
Everyone on the dais poured accolades on the party. When asked what they would do now Norick admitted his wanderlust filled heart, and committed to further adventures. Astina and Midi wanted to return to their people. Elrad wanted to seek out awesome powers. I foresee a sequel where Elrad ends up becoming corrupted by ultimate power drawn from the black dragon. Of course, no sequel exists, so we'll never know what plans, if any, were thought up to continue the story.

Elapsed Time: 7h26m (Final Time: 7h26m)
The credits are a nice sequence of revisiting areas and bidding farewell to the party
Combatant - Combat is fairly straightforward with very little challenge overall. Having said that, it is easy to overextend in the first few areas when it's just the hero. Stats play a big role in battle, and reduce the penalties of higher tier equipment. Unfortunately grinding stat increases isn't feasible for all characters, and I didn't quite see the potential of Midi as a fighter. The enemies themselves have two modes: melee fighters or offensive magic-users. There's little strategy in fighting other than bashing their faces in, and maneuvering the more squishy party members away from melee range.
Rating: 5
Full credits like these are becoming more common in the 16-bit era
Admirer - There's no customization, although like most stat based grinding games, I suppose it's possible to spec out Astina as a fighter. Everyone has powerful weapons, but most of the mid to late range weapons prevent magic use in combat. Appearance of the characters don't change with equipment, but that's rarer than I thought was the case when I started these ratings. There aren't any advancement options per se, only a single path. Character control is intuitive, and focusing on a single character's development is easily accomplished.
Rating: 3
That's a lot of graphics work
Puzzler - There's never a chance of losing sight of the main quest. From the obvious sword placed on the map when an adventure is completed to the NPCs in town helpfully pointing out what needs doing next, especially the bartender, there's no losing your way. No side quests, no puzzles, and only a single solution to the problems the game presents bring this rating down a bit.
Rating: 3
I don't remember much about the music, except for the credits theme, which seemed rather experimental
Instigator - It's a simple premise. Go off to follow in your father's footsteps fighting evil. Find some orphaned elemental spirits. Draw on their power to defeat a black dragon bent on regaining its power to terrorize the land once again. The world is detailed, and the changing NPC dialogue as the story goes gives a good sense of progression. In a small game world like this it works well, but I have reservations about such a system when it gets too large. Having to go back to each character to possibly get new information seems like a chore that's better handled in other games by introducing a new town.
Rating: 6
I wonder what the difference is between a 'thanks' and a 'special thanks'
Collector - There are a good number of items, mainly equipment, but there's too much to fit in all the inventory slots of four characters. Without a vault I was forced to sell some of it off, though it didn't have much use beyond equipping, even the magic items. The economy does well to maintain its usefulness through to the penultimate dungeon where better equipment is found in the dungeon than is purchasable. The strength of each item is readily available, although there are hints of magical effects that remain a bit of a mystery. With no indication of a complete list , the treasure seeker will have to be ever vigilant for secret passages.
Rating: 4
By this point we've said farewell to Midi, and we're now headed to the elf village to drop off Astina
Explorer - Compared to most games of the era, the world is small. There are no more than two screen transitions between areas of interest. The graphics are well made, with enemies doing well to standout from the background. It's the normal high fantasy fair with goblins, wolves, and golems, as well as wizards, lizardmen, and skeletons. There are a few palette swaps, but most are unique sprites. The dungeons are simple, but not bland. The sound and music is a bit forgettable. There aren't any Easter eggs, at least that I found, although secret areas do exist in the dungeons. While past areas don't become boarded off, the world doesn't open up until the current quest is completed.
Rating: 4

Final Rating: 25 [42%]
See those tiny pointy ears, that's what makes her an elf
Overall it's a fun little diversion. It doesn't hold a candle to other deeper experiences like Phantasy Star or Warsong, but it is also short enough to fit into a weekend. I wonder what I'll remember of it down the road. Probably that it was easy, had an interesting battle system, and miles ahead of similar games like Traysia. Though, I don't really recommend it today. It doesn't do enough new that hasn't been done better before.
Time to look towards the next adventures
Up next we have another Dungeon Master game, Theron's Quest for the TG-CD. Not quite a port of the first game, it seems to be a bit of remixed version, but we'll see how much it really differs next time. Posts are still going to be off the regular weekly schedule (since when has that happened?) through the rest of summer probably, but I hope the delays don't trouble anyone too much. After Theron's Quest, what I'm really looking forward to is Shining Force. A series of games I've heard only good things about, but never really played for myself.