|Translation by Aeon Genesis|
As long as Madara wasn't another dungeon crawler, I was going to be happy with whatever it had to throw at me. Right off the bat, it starts off with an awesome story about a dismembered and disemboweled baby floating down a river into a villager where a kindly old man, Tatara, promptly replaces the baby's limbs and internal organs with mechanical gizmos.
|It's what any of us would have|
done in the same situation.
And this isn't set in a futuristic setting or anything — cyberbaby's parts are most likely comprised of wood and bamboo gears and powered by good intentions. The kindly old man names the abomination Madara and raises it alongside his granddaughter, Kirin. While Madara is growing up, demons called Moki have steadily been pouring out of Mount Shumi and destroying more and more human villages and towns. Madara is just coming of age when the Moki make their presence known by poisoning Tatara.
|In other words, it's Saturday night.|
Only a White Soma will cure him but the only known location of one is at Garden Point, far to the east. With Moki wandering all over the lands, the journey will be very dangerous so Madara and Kirin hook up with Shamon, the only other warrior in the village. Madara and Kirin may feel a little safer with the experienced Shamon on their side, but the unique battle system has something else in mind. This isn't your standard menu-driven, turn-based combat. Here, everyone automatically fends for themselves on the battlefield. All the player can do is issue general tactics (Fight, Stop, Defend, and Run) or instruct a character to use a spell or an item. The majority of the time everyone will be set to Fight which means just sitting back and watching the battle play out.
|Dance, puppets, dance!|
Anyone who has spent any time playing NES strategy games knows that the computer just barely earns the I in AI in most cases. It's no different here. Kirin, the weakest member of the group, will often get stuck in melee and take a pounding. There is an option to rearrange the initial positions of the characters, such as putting the fighters in front of Kirin to protect her, but this usually doesn't work out since so many encounters begin with enemies on all sides. Running is a joke as well since the character rarely listens, instead running only after first engaging in melee (which means the enemy can just follow each round and get a hit in). The entire lower area of the battlefield could be open and Kirin will still try to flee by running between two enemies. This terrible AI isn't too annoying right now, as most fights are doable, but I can see this potentially being a huge pain in the ass later if the difficulty goes up.
During the exploration of the tiny Garden Point, Madara and Co. come across Jato, the main antagonist who does a great job of antagonizing. He's an insulting demon rabbit who has tons of lackeys to throw at the party while he buggers off, completely confident in his minion's ability to vanquish the group.
|Jato keeping morale high by treating|
one of his minions to a picnic.
The lackey put up minimal resistance and soon the White Soma was in the party's possession to be taken back to Tatara. It was a cold winter's day when the trio made it back to Tatara and crammed the White Soma down his gullet. I'm not just using my imagination here either; the game keeps track of the seasons while out in the world map. That's four different tiles for each and every terrain type. So far, the only impact of the changing seasons is that travelling merchants will set up shop in certain towns during a specific season. The merchants offer training courses to boost stats, so knowing when and where they are going to show up is quite important. At any rate, the seasonal shifts kinda force one to keep track of how many years have passed and I'm ashamed to say that Tatara spent many years poisoned and bedridden.
|"It's a little hard for me to remember since|
it happened over FOUR YEARS AGO
FOR FUCK'S SAKE MADARA!"
Shamon takes his leave of the group just before the village is attacked by a bunch of moki led by a minion named Bosho Roga. He's looking for the fabled Kusanagi blade which, unfortunately for him, is now in the very capable cyberhands of Madara. Even with Shamon gone, Madara had no problems in dispatching Bosho. The disembodied voice of Jato is heard as he denounces the two minions that were just beaten and he swears that the next one will finish the job (this time for sure!). He's more confident because he's sending a moki general named Kajura but Madara doesn't even flinch because, to Madara, all demons are the same and all will meet a grisly demise at the edge of his blade. Tatara, who has made a full recovery, joins the group and releases the barrier just north of the village that was protecting the Rain Tree. Tat's got quite a few levels and also access to all the spells that his class offers, just like Minh from Final Fantasy II.
|Oh, we's about to have some fun now.|
Since he had no items, Madara decked him out in all the latest gear and then made their way to the Rain Tree. On the way there, Tatara gives a little history lesson about how, 15 years ago, Emperor Miroku gathered together and slaughtered all the children. All the children except for Madara, that is. Try as he might, baby Madara would not die so Miroku disassembled him and entrusted one part to each of his eight generals, which is pretty gross. Tatara goes on to explain that Madara must find all of his original body parts as well as some ancient Agarthian treasures that will help defeat the moki. His long-windedness must have put Madara and Kirin partially to sleep and off-guard because all of a sudden Jato shows up and stabs Tatara in the back, killing him.
|Bye bye spell list that I never got to use even once.|
So long hundreds of gold that I spent on equipment.
Tatara's not gone for good though; his spirit resides in the Rain Trees where saving the game is done. With him out of the party, it's just Madara and Kirin left to take on Kajura, the first of the eight moki generals. His palace isn't very big and the encounters were swiftly dealt with by an increasingly badass Madara while Kirin stayed safe with missile support. It also helped that with only two of them on the field, they rarely got in each other's way. Both of them were feeling fairly confident as they approached Kajura's throne room but neither them, nor I, were prepared for the ocular assault that was about to take place.
|Oh man, I just took a core dump right in my pants.|
Sweet zombie Jesus, that's the most terrifying mid-boss I've ever seen and there's seven more of these monstrosities. The fight was tough as well; Kirin pretty much spent most of her time casting Soma (healing) spells while Madara desperately tried to prevent any of those godforsaken mouths from touching him (and I bet all of them are simultaneously screaming as well). Kirin ran out of magic points (and that includes using the MP-restoring potions she had) but Madara thankfully put Kajura down soon after. His reward?
|Are these two decades-old lumps of|
rotting flesh suppose to be superior
to the finely honed spruce implants?
After replenishing all the group's restorative items, they were free to continue travelling north and cross a raging river guarded by one of Jato's henchman lieutenants, who obviously didn't hear about how Madara just killed one of their generals.
|Ha! Joke's on you, jack. Some|
moki general has them.
The encounters across the river spike up in difficulty and only having two members in the party is more of a liability now. Most of the encounters are against three or four creatures which means that Kirin inevitably gets wailed on. Thankfully, they found a town from which to make excursions. The town had a slight infestation of moki that was easily taken care of and a resident has hinted that we should check out a nearby cave where our next companion almost certainly is. Hopefully someone buff enough to protect Kirin's right flank.