December 01, 2017

[Game 066] Rainbow Silkroad (NES - 1991)

Translation by aishsha & Pennywise

It seems like the majority of these translated JPRGs are quite content to exist as Dragon Quest clones.  This isn't a bad thing as the aesthetics certainly do their part to get me rock hard, but a clone better do something funky fresh to avoid being too derivative.  Rainbow Silkroad does just this by basing the economy on the trade commodities of yore.  All the popular items are represented: silk, salt, porcelain — they're all here!  Wandering monsters (the regular source of golds) now give nothing except for license points, which are used to purchase the right to trade in premium goods.  And yes, experience points are gone as well, meaning no levels and, indeed, no stats of any kind (outside of HP).  Buying new equipment raises HP instead and any increases to attack or defense is done entirely behind the scenes.  There is also a water gauge, which drains at different rates depending on which terrain type is being traversed.  Well, it wouldn't be much of a RPG if it was all about increasing doze mercantile skillz, so the main quest is to gather seven shards of a mirror in order to prove I'm the king or whatever.  The journey to wealth and power will undoubtedly take me all the way up the Silk Road and I started off at the western end in Damascus, Syria.  Since I'm just a po' young merchant, my initial stock was only five clay pots of questionable quality.  However, by harnessing my inner capitalist and opening my mind's eye to the eternal plane of supply and demand, I was able to deduce that best place to sell would be the city to the east, Baghdad.

Or this guy just told me.  Whatever shut up.

I loaded myself up with my five units of porcelain, strapped my trusty knife to my belt, donned my no armour, and headed towards Baghdad... and was almost immediately accosted by a solitary pickpocket, who decided to ditch his usually shtick and just straight up demand my money at knifepoint.  I could also tell he was a criminal because he used yer instead of your.

Still better than using you're or, god forbid, yore.

I guess my knife-fu techniques were pretty def because I perforated his punk ass with nary a scratch on myself.  I also sliced and diced up a couple of snakes before arriving at Baghdad and selling my warez for a slight profit of 10 GP per unit.  Pulling out my papyrus spreadsheet, I took note of all the prices and, knowing full well that I'm in a game, was not surprised to find lower net profits for the cheaper goods, which, of course, is all I could afford.  So this is how the grind was going to work then.  An interesting spin on the regular wandering around and I must say that I approve of this change, if only because it is a change.  It didn't take long before I was out of the porcelain biz and hawking beans and wheat instead.  Prices are rock steady and, netting 100 GP per trip, I was soon able to afford some armour which substantially increased my HP.  During all this time, I was also suppose to be rescuing the unfortunately named princess Ugarit, but if the caliph was prepared to send an unarmoured merchant with a knife, then he could damn well wait until I purchased some protection.  The path to her rescue involved entering some dungeons, predictably having chests of gold within them.  Even though I've only started my journey, I'm already converting the gold into commodities in my head ("Wow!  That's 2.5 wheats right there!").  I also met my first companion, a tiny genie who doesn't participate in combat but can tell me what items do.

Finally I'll know what FLASK and HERBAL BALM are.

The final hurdle in rescuing princess Uglytits was navigating a pyramid, complete with guardian Sphinx and undead pharaoh boss, both of which combat can be avoided with the proper actions.  The Sphinx, of course, wanted a riddle solved, and the pharaoh just wanted 90% of my water since he was thirsty after his long "nap".

I wouldn't have been able to beat on
something so totes adorbs anyway.

Thanks to Shnugs, I knew that my FLASK was filled with water and could replace what Tutankhamun had drank.  After further inquiry with her, I discovered that drinking water would likewise slake my own thirst and allow me to keep on living.  With princess Urraagghh safely tucked into my caravan, it was an uneventful trip back to Baghdad and the grateful caliph granted me access to the east.  I also got some kisses from the princess which interestingly was always followed by some fanfare, regardless of how many times I initiated it.

And you don't even want to know how
many times I did this. Or that my
pants were off the entire time.

Oh yeah, I also got one of those mirror shard thingies I was looking for, wrapping up this chapter in a nice, neat, little package.  I got some more time with the princess as I escorted her to the Persian city of Tehran (in modern-day Iran), as she was due to marry the shah there.  After dropping off my sloppy seconds, it was back to business and I soon had a solid trade route from Tehran to Istanbul, dealing in coal and oil as my newly purchased Fuel License allowed me to do.  Prices are still static and this allowed me to generate some big profits as well as a gripe with the economics in general.  Why would I deal in anything other than what my license allows me to?  Without some variance in price, there's no reason to ever deal in cheaper goods once I've outgrown them.  What would really have been nice is a little supply and demand action to force me to periodically swap goods.  It's still early, so I'll continue to track the market, but I'm assuming that this aspect will stay the course.  I had only made a few runs when I was summoned by the shah who hit me with some serious déjà vu.

Naw, guy, I already did this, guy.  Guy.

Yep, the princess managed to get herself capture again, in record time.  I was suspicious right away and thought back to our tender nights during her rescue, talking softly under the moonlight sky, and saying more to each other with an awkward glance than a million words could ever hope to convey.  I also thought back to our nights under the canvas of my caravan, where I cold wrecked dat pussy so fucking real boo couldn't walk straight for days, U NOE WUT IM SAYIN'!?!  I figured this was just one of those games that girls like to play, so I just played it off and got back to making dem endz.  I was anxious to make some cash as there was a new type of shop selling mercenaries.  I had noticed in the equip menu that there were three empty blocks just waiting for a character to hop on in.  Initially, I thought these blocks would be filled with NPCs that I met along the story (I thought Ugarit might be one), but a faceless mercenary is actually far more appropriate for a merchant transporting expensive merchandise.  The game agreed with me and soon I had Soldier1 under my command, armed with nothing and having the same HP that I started out with.  So not so much a soldier as a slave.  Since this is around the 13th century, though, I'm totally cool with this.  I didn't have cash to outfit him and still have a full load of goods, so I just gave him the knife I wasn't using anymore (upgraded to spear) and called it a day.  Having S1 with me enabled a new combat option called Watch, which is exactly what it sounds like — me standing idly by, decked out in copper armour, while S1 battles bloodthirsty bandits and venomous serpents, buck naked except for his rusty old knife.  The best part, though, is that after combat ends, the game gives me full credit for the kill.

Game, I think this is the beginning of
a long and beautiful friendship.

Tactically, I suppose this might come in handy if I'm ever low on HP, but honestly, I'm more likely to do this when I'm at full HP because otherwise I'm not abusing my power to its utmost.  I did buy S1 some proper equipment eventually, but not equal to what I have, since I'm a little paranoid about him turning on me.

Learning to walk backwards is a must
when you're a power-mad asshole.

One of the coolest aspects of Rainbow Silkroad is that the locations are all fairly accurate to their real-world counterparts.  Townsfolk aren't always willing to give up directions and having a historical map on hand helps tremendously in planning ventures.  For example, coming out of Tehran (pictured above), I knew I needed to go to Istanbul first but there were three possible roads I could have taken.  My geographical knowledge of the middle east is sorely lacking and I always appreciate any game that helps me fill in such gaps or sends me spiraling through the depths of Wikipedia.  Well, I suppose I should go and "rescue" the princess.  At least I'll probably receive a hefty reward from the shah (cash only please).

November 01, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - Ranking

Story & World

The almost non-existent story sucked and the world sucked.  It was fun to map, though, and had this element to it where one comes back through most of the castles after the midpoint to "fill in" the areas that had been previously inaccessible.  1/20

Character Development

The character development sucked.  I'm pretty sure every level is 100% static, as I saw screenshots of another late game character who had the exact same HP and SP as I did.  My final character stats also had some nice, round numbers (100 & 200) in addition to the hexadecimal integer maximums mentioned last post.  Finding a new piece of equipment automatically overwrites the previous one and none of them had special abilities.  Items all duplicated existing character abilities, of course at a much weaker power level.  1/20

Combat & Monsters

The combat sucked.  The mid to late game was the most non-sucky, as the player has all the spells available and they do work on regular enemies at least.  One cool thing about the spells is that they upgraded as the game progressed, but the lower power levels were still selectable should one want to conserve some magic points.

The monsters were heavily based on Japanese mythology and they definitely did not suck as they consistently kicked my ass.  I feel that they were the true heroes of this stupid tale.  6/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics only sucked sometimes.  All the castles looked identical, just room after room and corridor after corridor of cold, grey, rocky walls.  Monster depiction was much better with decent size, details and variety.  The one tune that played throughout, though, certainly sucked the big one.  There wasn't even a nice sound effect when a chest was found, something I didn't realize that I missed until it was gone.  7/20

Gameplay

Well, what can be said about the gameplay?  Hrmm... oh!  I knoes!  It fucking blew and it fucking sucked.  At least it was a short game, if only because of dat sweet, sweet emulator turbo option that make games like CoA slightly more bearable.  1/20

Final Ranking:  16/100

October 26, 2017

Castle of Ayakashi - End Game

My theory ended up being only partially correct; while there was an appreciable amount of castle levels (10), progress was swift due to lack of anything interesting.  Combat took up the majority of time, or it would have if I hadn't turbo'ed through almost every single one.  Single character dungeon crawls generally suck (roguelikes are an exception), especially if they are turn-based.  Not helping matters were the multitude of dreadful design choices made by the developers.  Normally in a RPG, the character(s) start off weak and gradually gain power over the course of the entire game.  Sure the challenge level should increase as the player progresses, but I usually never feel as weak and helpless as at the very beginning of a game.  Once I've gotten a feel for any particular game, my developed strategies and character builds are usually enough to handle the higher difficulty.  In the ah... *ahem*, rare cases where I still get my ass handed to me, it's ordinarily due to a failure on my part; I then adapt and carry on.  I'm also quite aware that in a lot of these early, simple games, that it's merely a case of player numbers vs. AI numbers, but a well-designed game will mask that, at least somewhat.  CoA was absolutely blatant about where its threshold points were.  At the start of each new area, the thrashings would begin anew, despite just having received a blade upgrade from the previous area's boss.  Levelling up normally would help, except that CoA saw it fit to increase the potential maximum number of monsters per battle, up to five.  Then, upon reaching the predetermined level that CoA demanded the player to reach, the number of monsters per encounter dropped to one and only one, making all battles trivially easy.  Well, at least with being shoehorned into a set level, the boss fights were appropriately intense, right?  WRONG!  You know how a boss fight is the perfect opportunity to play with all your spells and abilities?  They're all disabled here, including character buffs, so the only option is to wail on it with the basic attack, which is just as well since all the bosses take two hits to kill.

Gasha skull is definitely ready to par-tay.

Oddly enough, the most interesting aspect of CoA didn't even come from the game itself.  Due to an incompatibility between the emulator and translation patch, I had crazy glitches happening all over the place.  At first it was just the occasional small, square bit of some random sprite showing up near the corners, but this soon evolved into multiple chunks all over the screen, sometimes traveling down the screen in a glorious cascade of crap.  Next to go was the music, resulting in an inharmonious cacophony of bloops and beeps which was actually a refreshing change from the singular shitty tune that always plays whilst in the castle (menus have no music of sound effects).  Things then got kicked up a notch as opening treasure chests gave me the dreaded white screen of death.  After monster encounters joined the party, I knew I was well and truly fucked.  A lesser manchine might have given up right then and there, and I certainly toyed with the notion.  After all, it's not like there were going to be any big surprises between mid and endgame.  The completionist part of my programming, however, forced me to load up an alternative emulator.  Unfortunately, savestates are not compatible across emus.  Fortunately, Shen is a master of backups, and I had also been periodically writing out to the native "battery" save, which is compatible.  Using this secret Shaolin technique, I managed to overcome the glitch gremlin and made it to the final castle of Doman, a demon king who I guess needed a murderin'.

Meh, it was just copying a file from
one directory to another, no biggie.

The level included a gauntlet run of all the previous bosses, which now died in just one hit instead of two.  The two final bosses, Snow Princess and Doman, both had to be taken down in a similar manner.  Each could kill the Shenster in exactly three hits, no variable.  They also never missed and almost always went first.  This meant that after the first round, in which I had about a 50% chance of dishing out a hit myself, I would have to heal (the only spell that does work) or face death on round three.  Success was only possible if the RNG felt like giving me some successive hits.  Death meant having to go through the entire gauntlet again for just another chance to roll the dice.  There was nothing else remaining to increase the odds either; I had reached max level and had all the best equipment.

255 and 65535 are computer-speak
for "Thou shalt not pass."

Even utilizing savestates, it still took me over fifteen tries on Doman since that sob can also heal himself.  After killing him, the game decided now was the time to start storytelling — something about Doman masterminding the rebellion that ended Oda Nobunaga's chance to unite all of Japan.  Yeah, whatevs.  For all my griping though, it was all worth it to be able to get a glimpse of the most epic ending screen of any game on any platform in the entire history of gaming.