October 06, 2012

[Game 027] Shinsenden (NES - 1989)

Translation by Aishsha

I go into any JRPG with the expectation that it will start off fairly difficult but Shinsenden sets the bar to a new high.  As the scene opened, I found myself in the lithe body of a well-trained monk.  My sensei was giving me and another monk, Raichi, a quest to retrieve the Ichimai Charm located in a nearby cave.  Good thing sensei didn't need the charm anytime soon because it would be weeks before we'd be successful.  No sooner had we stepped outside the temple when we were attacked by a gang of four monsters.  Even after spending all our available magic and technique points, the two remaining monsters worked Raichi's face while ignoring my feeble regular attacks.  Luckily, we were able to flee and return to the temple for a nap.  The next day we made much better progress and were able to go two whole steps before being ganked by another four monsters.  This time they were much nicer and only worked Raichi's kidneys.  After a few days of this horseshit, it was becoming clear that we were going to need help.

You ain't kidding, Bub... er, I
mean, most honorable sifu.

After loading up on some locally made fireballs, we were finally able to win our first fight and immediately level up.  We actually starting seeing some battles with just one or two foes, so it must have just been bad luck with the initial set of encounters.  So, now that we could survive for a fight or two, exploring could commence.  We've been told that the village of Horai (just one screen away) has better weapons and armour available for purchase.  It looked to be like such a short jaunt but the encounter rate had something to say about that.  Big time.  It loves to slap me around with, on average, a fight every three or four steps.  It'll also line 'em up one after another, too, so I can enjoy all the fun of making dick all for progress.

I just want to explore you, game world.
WHY WON'T YOU LET ME IN?!

Geez, you can see the bloody cave right from the temple but it still took until reaching level nine and buying all the best equipment to get there.  Yeah, you'd think that I'd be a little overpowered by that point but you'd be dead wrong.  The "better" weapons raised the attack power by such a measly amount, increasing damage by a whole single point!  The first floor of the cave was filled with familiar monsters but the second floor decided to add not only tougher monsters but ones filled with poison.

It's always the cute ones that are the
most venomous, amirite fellas?

Quickly burning through the few poison salves we had on hand meant that it was time to beat a hasty retreat back to Horai.  Overstuffing our pockets with antidotes and healing potions, we were finally able to get through the rest of the cave and get the stupid amulet or whatever.

This... this is easy?  *groan*

While trekking back through the cave, we have a run-in with some dude who's being hassled by guards.  We make short work of them and then, before we can explore the last bit of the cave, are transported automatically back to the temple to heal the dude's wounds.  It's then he tells us of a special blade called Genbu that we, of course, need to get and that it's hidden back in that goddamn cave.  After essentially redoing the fetch quest again, we are told that there are three other such charmed blades and should next head west to the kingdom of Byakko.  Upon our arrival, the castle is immediately beset by enemy forces looking for the Genbu blade.  In the confusion, Raichi disappears and is considered captured.

Raichi (upper right) is no
match for three wampas.

After things settle down, the king of Byakko assigns two of his warriors to accompany me to rescue Raichi from the king of Genbu castle (no wonder he wants the Genbu blade) whilst a man named Toron hides the Byakko blade.  Before we can confront King Genbu, though, we have to find the Crimson Gourd, which can be used to capture yokai (spirits).  Apparently King Genbu is quite the summoner (or perhaps a yokai himself).  The gourd is located somewhere in the Fengshui Pagoda; the home of a band of brigands.  Much like the earlier cave, the encounter rate gives the impression that there are hundreds of creatures living here.  All are well-trained in the fighting arts, requiring multiple visits before acquiring the gourd.

The dance choreography is top-notch as well.

With the yokai-absorbing gourd in my possession, it should now be possible to enter Genbu palace and rescue Raichi.  However, before heading there, I would like to address the difficulty that I've been complaining so much about.  A big part of why the difficulty was so intense at the beginning ended up being partially my own fault.  You see, this game is obviously of the Dragon Quest clone variety and I was treating it as such.  In DQ, the encounter rate is determined by the terrain type (e.g. grasslands are low while hills are high).  So, when I was trying to grind, I was sticking mainly to hilly regions.  This was my downfall.  In Shinsenden, the encounter rate is static while the terrain determines the types of monsters fought.  I was hanging out in the hard hills when I should have been kicking it in the easy grasslands.  Now, the game isn't completely off the hook because the initial fights did take place in grasslands or forests; however, at probably around level five, the grassland monsters would be manageable.  I'll concede this point to the game but I still feel the encounter rate itself is whine-worthy.