This NES game came out in 1990 from Konami. It’s based off of a manga series which was notable for trying to emulate a “Western” style of plot and layout. The story is fairly simple. Your hero, Madara, was dismembered by an evil general, and was found in a river by an old man. He recreated Madara’s limbs with “gadgets” and raised him as his son. Meanwhile, the missing body parts are held by powerful generals. When the old man, Tatara, dies, Madara strikes out to regain his true body parts and to end the Moki invasion.
There’s a number of unusual and ambitious elements in the game. For example, the music uses a special sound chip to improve the quality. The battle system uses an AI movement system over a battle field. Certain party members get discounts when shopping in stores. Seasons change on the world map, and this is reflected in the battle screens. You get ambitious cut scenes when facing a major boss, and interesting layouts in dungeons. For example, the first boss appears in a horde of bats, and has a castle shaped like an ear. He has Madara’s ear. Presumably his bat like sonar comes from the power of Madara’s ear.
There’s also a number of problems. There’s some minor lunky issues with menus, and the AI could be better in battle. For the most part, fights amount to watching your party flail away at the monsters. The worst problem is the difficulty. Let’s start with the level of grinding. You start the game with 500 gold. If you paid full price, a full set of better equipment is 1450 gold. You should be about level 4 when you progress in the starting area of the game. You are levels 3, 2, and 5 when you get done buying the new equipment. You will still need to fight for a while to get up to 4. Thankfully, once you hit that point, you’re all right to do three things. The final area with the boss for that area requires a little more levelling.
So, you say, NES games are grindy. However, the game seems to loathe ressurection. You can get ressurected in the early game by Tatara, but he dies. Once he’s dead, the only way to ressurect your party members is by plot points (bear in mind that they’ll promptly die due to the level differences and you can’t protect them easily due to AI issues.) You finally get the ability to ressurect in the middle parts of the game. Consider this. The hero starts with 200 HP. If you get a particularly bad first battle, he could lose 140 HP in one fight. A minor battle could take off about 60 HP. The inn is free in the first town but the level of deadliness and the ease of dying makes the game a constant struggle to not get randomly and pointlessly killed.
This isn’t a challenge since you can play conservatively as you’d like, and get killed due to bad luck with sleep spells. Grinding mindlessly makes the slow pace of the battle system more annoying. You can’t escape the grind, because you risk dying. There’s no running back to town with your surviving party member – because you can’t resurrect your party until pretty late in the game. The unrepentant “No, death is a major thing” is definitely a design statement. However, it just leads me to frustration and hitting reset.
I suppose that’s the main problem for me with Madara. I could talk about the hilarious line by one general (basically, you approach him, and he says the hero has balls to confront him – considering the missing body parts, I suppose I’m glad he does have them.) I could talk about the ambitious elements. However, I just keep coming back to the fact that playing the game is an endless dance with pointless death.