December 20, 2011

[Game 010] Shell Monsters Story (NES - 1988)

Translation by KingMike

Ah, finally back to a regular RPG and a JRPG to boot.  Which also helps to explain the cutesy characters on the title screen.  But that's aiight, I'm just happy to be back on the main course of my futile quest.

The plot is a typical kill the foozle type with everyone living in peace on Shell Monster Island until news comes that the Greater Demon Lord, Fat Badger (yes, really), is about to rise from the darkness.  The legends say that the fire shell hero will descend from the skies in order to stop ol' F.B.  This shell hero must find the three other shell heroes of Water, Air, and Earth and combine their shell powers for even more shell-related awesomeness.

*sigh* Is that really what I have to call him?
Fire Shell Shen explodes onto the scene at the town of Maiyo, armed with his trusty knife.  The townsfolk are very helpful with most of them giving decent information and usually includes some compass directions to go off of.  Shen must locate both a shrine which houses a gypsy woman and the temple of a monk.  First things first though.  Shen isn't getting far with just a knife and no magic.  Time to grind!  Battles start off pretty difficult so Shen can't stray too far from the all-important inn.  The battles themselves have an interesting feature in which the enemy graphic changes after losing around three quarters of its health.  This represents its beaten down state and is often quite comical.  This is a nice addition at a time when the standards were such that even an enemy down to a single hit point still looks like this:

Way to kill me, buddy!  You're the tops!

Shell Monsters Story, however, rocks it like this:

Love wiping that stupid grin off its face.

After a few levels, Shen is ready to find the temple and the shrine.  The quest is short as both of them are located very nearby.  The gypsy woman gives Shen a treasure map which shows the location of the King Sword.  The map itself is of a very small section with no real landmarks and so the monk must be sought out in order to discover the general location of the treasure.  In order to get into the temple, one must use a Silver Key which can be bought in town.  With a limit of only five items, Shen had mostly been carrying healing and warp-to-nearest-town items.  Purchasing the Silver Key back at town, Shen begins his journey to the monk's temple anew.  Opening the door to the temple, he searches four empty rooms to eventually find the monk.  Before the monk will give Shen the information he needs, he demands a drink of water from our brave hero.  Shen suggested taking a drink from the fucking fountain that he passed by at the front of the temple but was ignored.  Instead, Shen had to warp back again to the town to buy a cheap canteen and retraced his steps yet again.  This time he got the info and hopefully some valour points for not beating it out of the lazy monk.

With that out of the way, Shen is now ready to find his companions in earnest.  The land is laid out in a fairly nonlinear manner and progress is halted by a jump in enemy difficulty.  There also exists a lot of underground passages that link land masses together.  Halfway through a passage and Shen is whisked away to a chess-like setup which pits Shen against several "pawns" and a single "king" who must be defeated.  All pieces move at a rate of one in any direction which makes it pretty pointless (at least while Shen is solo).

Where's some L-shaped movement
when you need it?

In order for the "chess" matches to be exciting, Shen needs to find that companion.  Pushing north from Maiyo, he comes across the town of Baltarie where he learns a lot about a Space-Time Ring which is one of the items he must have in order to enter the sky castle.  Sky castles always have good isht in them and Shen is eager to learn more about how to gain access to it.  He also finds out that the Key of Light is needed and is being held by an old woman named Yodada who will exchange it for two scrolls which have been lost at sea.  He'll need a boat for that but maybe he can get the Space-Time Ring and...

Hrmm, I smell a conspiracy
with the shipbuilders guild.

Fine.  Shen wants to focus on finding his companions anyhow.  Pressing further northeast, Shen enters the town of Ranal where he learns that, big shock, two more items need to be found the King and the Queen Swords.  Knowing full well that they'll be lying on the bottom of the ocean, Shen leaves the small town and heads to the major settlement in the area, Reharetta Castle.  Surely his buddy must be there!  After a thorough search, Shen was left with a locked door that he could not unlock.  There must be a key around to get this door open.  Perhaps in a nearby cave?  Hrmm.  The only enterable areas are another gypsy woman shrine and a thirsty monk in a temple.  The gypsy woman won't tell anything "to the likes of" Shen and he assumes that his unfound companion would get the old hag to cooperate.  Shen is getting quite powerful from his journeys and presses even further on though he is almost positive that the locked area in Reharetta Castle holds his future friend.  Finding more towns yields no further hints as to the whereabouts of his companion and Shen is getting exasperated trying to find this mofo.  Just when all seemed lost, fate intervened and caused a misfire in the menu selection screen, hitting the never before used Pass option that some may have noticed in the screencaps.  Guess what Pass does?  It PASSES to the next companion.  All this time Shen figured it would be like most other games and have the main character pick up companions along the way.  Maybe you should have explored the fucking menu a little bit, stupid-ass Shen.

Having "discovered" this option, it was easy enough to unite Fire Shell Shen with his Earth Shell companion, Babubabu!  He was indeed behind that locked door in Castle Reharetta which opened easily from Babubabu's side.  Shen has 13 levels of experience on Babubabu so he'll need to get him up to speed in both experience and equipment.

I don't even want to know what you
were doing behind that locked door.

The other two Shell Monsters of Water and Air are likewise immediately playable.  Being able to swap at any time and develop each character individually is a really cool idea.  Each character has different magic spells and can utilize certain types of equipment.  You really get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each character when they're forced to go at it alone right from lowly level 1.  Having Shen and Babubabu hook up also unlocked a special attack spell usable by either.  Having to get all these characters together to form the core group is like having four intro chapters to the main epic quest.  The Air and Water chapters need to be fully written yet so it's back to the grindstone.