Minelvaton Saga

Minelvaton Saga is a prequel to Silva Saga. It was published by Taito in 1987, and had a selling point of a battery backup system.  It also had some pretty nice music, and a system for hiring companions.  It feels a lot like an early RPG, but there are some interesting features.

In this battle, the hero's HP is on the lower left, and the monster HP is on the right, above the picture of the monster. The hero's level is in the top right corner.

The combat is a Ys like system.  You bump enemies from an angle, and much like Hydlide, you take damage depending on your level compared to the monsters.  Unfortunately,  even at level 10, the starting monsters still take about 5 – 10 seconds each to kill.  The game is otherwise fairly kind if you’re fighting in your level range. You get enough money to sleep in the inn with each battle, or you get a healing item which will refill your HP.

The starting town in Minelvaton Saga. Many NES games in this era have a "blocky" look to the various sprites.

Unfortunately, like most untranslated NES games, there’s not a lot of guidance for where to go.  The road out of town leads to a castle, so it seems logical that you’re supposed to explore it.  Inside town, there’s a stairway down to a dungeon, but it’s definitely out of the hero’s level range (since you can’t seem to flee from battle, this is a fatal mistake.)

The hero chats with a young woman in town.

Still, there’s a number of interesting features in the game.  For example, the game chose to make a “combat” screen when you talked to villagers.  This changes the music, and shows a little scene of the area, and a dialogue box.  This means you don’t have to select talk from a menu to talk to villagers.  Instead you just bump them to trigger the conversation.

The cutscene at the start of the game tells a pretty typical story.

The plot of the game, as best I can understand it, is a typical “the evil emperor destroyed your homeland, but you were saved.”  Of course, the old man is now dying, and you are sent off to save the kingdom from the evil dark lord.  Much like Dragon Quest, the game involves a fair amount of grinding before you can open the next area.

The hero explores the world map in Minelvaton Saga.

So what is the game like, considering that I can’t progress the plot easily?  It’s unusual. The active battle system means that you have a different way of fighting compared to the more typical game of the era.  You have some really amazing music to listen to while you explore.  The graphics are clunky, but there are worse things out there.  You do get a feel for danger and exploration, since there’s a palpable sense of risk as you explore.  The conversation system is a different way of handling “how to talk to a person” and you could argue that it is simpler than the Dragon Quest system of menus.  I suspect most people would find it not very fun on a modern level, but it is interesting.

The trees are animated on the world map of this game. There's basically no other animation that I've seen.

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