Series

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Armored Dragon Legend Villgust Gaiden is an anime tie-in.  It was developed by TOSE Software and published by Angel.  It came out in 1993.  While the graphics are quite pretty, the game feels a lot like Majin Eiyuuden Wataru Gaiden (Hudson 1990.) The gameplay feels even more archaic.

Note the large character sprites in the center of the screen. Having such large character sprites allows more expression on the characters.

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Silva Saga

Silva Saga came out in 1992 from Seta.  It’s notable for being a very Dragon Quest like game in the look of the game, but it does feel like a very different design philosophy.  To the best of my knowledge, Minelvaton Saga, Silva Saga, and Silva Saga II are all part of the same series.

This shows the Dragon Quest like nature of the battle screens in Silva Saga.

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Dragon Quest IV

Dragon Quest IV is a game with an extensive remake.  Much like how Final Fantasy II is a different game in the remake, Dragon Quest IV changes in fairly significant ways in the remake.  Graphically, it became 3D.  Gameplay systems were tweaked, and the music was remade for the new system.  It was published by Enix in 1990 in Japan, and 1992 in the US.

Much like Dragon Quest III, the fourth game has a day night cycle.

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Shining Force games on the Game Gear always struck me as sort of light weight fanservice style sequels.  Final Conflict, for example, has your team of heroes heading out to try to rescue or find the hero of Shining Force II.  You get to fight in similar areas, and there’s a cameo from Shining Force in the game as well.  When you discuss a strategy game like this, it’s really hard to do a traditional overview.

Note the mage in blue in the center of this screenshot. He is tucked behind the other soldiers to protect him from the dying enemy on the left.

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Each section here, I’m linking to a more detailed description of the game, if I have written one.

Dragon Quest, as a series, feels to me a bit like a game where the journey is the point of the game.  I think the main reason why I say that is that the series tends to spend a lot of time on sub-plots in various areas as you’re advancing the main plot. Final Fantasy, in comparison, tends to have the main plot be what you’re chasing for most of the game.  In Dragon Quest games, you might be searching for a missing kid, which eventually has some relation to the bigger picture.  I suppose a good description of what’s afoot is that the scope of each individual area is on a more personal level.  While the plot may be dark in some of the games, the “canon” name for most of the later heroes and heroines is the number of the game, which shows a certain lack of interest in a deep commitment to immersion in the story.

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Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger’s team was called the “Dream Team” during the production of the game.  It was a once in a lifetime mix of people that have mostly left Square since then.  It was my third major SNES RPG that I got new as a kid, so it’s really hard to look at with a non-opinionated eye.  I mean, I still remember most of the hidden item locations in FFIII / FFVI, and I still remember the opening moves in Chrono Trigger.  The game came out from Square in 1995.

This early area to explore in the game shows the attractive sprite work in the game. People tend to use Chrono Trigger's cliffs as an example of how to tile sprites.

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The Magic Candle

In the NES era, you can find PC ports of RPGS on the NES.  This includes things like Might and Magic, Ultima, and the game under question today, The Magic Candle.  The website linked here shows some screenshots of the other ports of the game, including the fact that the PC-88 version had some nudity.  As for the NES port, well, the game is pretty drastically different.  To compare, let me show a shot of the NES version, and a shot of the PC version.

The version on the left is a shot of the town in the NES version, and the PC version is on the right.

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Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is a curious game.  To really discuss it, you’ve got to decide how you want to talk about it.  Back in 1992, Square wanted to make an easier and more action packed Final Fantasy game.  The theory was that an easy cheap game would catch a younger audience, and make for more sales.  The game itself is largely considered to be a spinoff rather than a main series game.

This early cutscene in the game is pretty typical example of how the game works.

Why is this?  Well, let’s look at it like this.  A game in a series can be examined in the context of the series and the common elements of the series.  When examining it that way, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest uses different battle mechanics, different exploration mechanics, and focus on a much more linear progression.  This means that if you started the game, expecting typical Final Fantasy gameplay, you’d likely be surprised.  If you started the game expecting a typical RPG, you’d also be surprised.  As the image above shows, the game defaults to showing no hit points for the hero.   The vague old  man tasking you with saving the world is meant to be goofy and humorous, but the amount of dialogue is very small. Read the rest of this entry »

Wonder Boy is an odd series to discuss.  Part of the problem was that the Wonder Boy name was copywritten with Sega, but the actual game series belonged to what was then called Escape.  Escape later changed their name to Westone.  This resulted in games getting new sprites and plots but keeping the same gameplay on non-Sega systems.  The second game in the series, for example, was reclad as a Bikkuriman game with very catchy music.  The fifth game in the series got changed into a beetle themed Power Ranger like character in a game called “Dynastic Hero.”

The sword in Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (1989) has a decent range.

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Suikoden, as a series, is technically beyond the scope of this blog.  However, it’s an interesting game to discuss.  The game’s based off of a series of books called Water Margin (also known as Outlaws of the Marsh and All Men are Brothers.)  This Chinese novel series is an early novel, so it reads more like a combination of folk tales about various heroes rather than a smoothly flowing narrative.  Suikoden’s ties to the series are fairly vauge.  While you get people based off of characters in the novels, it’s not a literal retelling of events.

Why is the game interesting?  I think one of the more interesting plot devices in the game is the huge cast.  Each game has 108 Stars of Destiny.  While you usually need a guide to find all of them, you do get some interesting results from keeping them all alive and in your party.  For example, there’s random bits of backstory or unexplained world building.  A character in the first Suikoden, for example, reveals he has a teleportation ability.  It’s never used in the plot, or examined in more detail.  There’s Yuber and Persmerga who are basically two immortal enigmas locked in conflict.  At the end of the game in Suikoden, you tend to get a summation of each star and what happened to them.  For many of them, they die young.

I’m going to avoid the recent DS game and the side games, mostly because they’re either too recent or not from the main series.  While they are interesting, I think focusing mostly on the PS1 to PS2 era console games shows plot threads and differences more clearly.

Valeria was one of my favorite characters in the first Suikoden. She has a unique animation if you use her Falcon Rune.

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