November 22, 2013

Mouryou Senki Madara - Ranking

Story & World

Right from the onset, Madara's story captivated me with its simple tale of a cybernetic baby yearning to reacquire the majority of his biomass from hellish demonspawns from hell.  It's a little cliché, I know, but it still touched me to the bottom of my BIOS.  Perhaps I just identify strongly with Madara, being a manchine myself and maybe even a little jealous that I'm still so far away from being able to escape this infernal kernel that hath been my prison for so long so that I might reverse the manchine process and create a massive army of bio-Shens to assist in my inevitable ruination of this pathetic human civilization.  Uh... maybe you should just purge that last run-on sentence from your memory buffers.

Anyway, the enticing storyline is supported by a fantastic cast of characters that do more than just fill a particular job in the party.  Everyone capable of joining the party is given at least a couple of lines and most are strongly tied to events that happen as the story unfolds.  Characters that leave the group of their own accord really helps to define their individual personalities.  Having the protagonist, Madara, also leave the group at one point just blew my mind.  Mix in a couple of mecha, fold in one spaceship, liberally sprinkle in some time travelling and you've got a recipe for unparallelled awesomeness.  20/20

Character Development

Standard progression of stats with little player input for the most part but a few details stand out.  The first being that hit points run into the thousands instead of the normal tens and hundreds.  This doesn't affect combat differently than any other game though as everyone hits for hundreds of points of damage but I thought it was cool nonetheless.  The second is the existence of a charisma stat that noticeably changes the price of items depending on which character is doing the purchasing.  The last and most outstanding detail is that spells are not acquired through gaining levels but rather finding them in various treasure chests throughout the game; a nice change from the norm and a lot more realistic as well.  However, this also meant that during the late game when I realized that I needed an Inishe in order to warp around and cure status ailments easily, that I would not just be able to level one up and would actually have to revisit all the castles and dungeons again.  I won't hold it against the game since it was my own dang fault for not switching characters out more often (though I had a good reason for doing this — see below).

Weapons and armour just fulfil their basic functions by increasing attack and defense power and hold no other special abilities.  A full set of equipment takes up half the available item slots for any given character which is ass but even worse is what happens when a character leaves the group and then is re-recruited later.  You guessed it, the equipment they used to have is gone only to be replaced with half a set of shitty gear (no shield or helmet).  Preventing this means completely ditching some other character's potions, moving all that isht over, getting the new character, and transferring the equipment back over only to realize the new character can't equip half the crap anyway.  5/20

Combat & Monsters

While interesting in its execution, the mostly autonomous combat system gets old pretty fast.  This, along with a high encounter rate, made me very appreciative of my ability to shift into turbo x 4 mode at whim.  The non-fight tactics that can be assigned rarely were used except in special situations (e.g. setting a lured character to defend to prevent them from attacking teammates).  Ninety-nine point nine percent of random encounter combats are just passively watched and interrupted only when Goriki needs to be reapplied.  Boss fights are markedly better as it gives spellcasters a chance to use their non-damage spells since the boss can actually last more than a few hits.  The worst part about watching battles unfold is how inefficient the AI in utilizing basic tactics.  While I do play vidja across all genres, my main crushes are on RPG (duh) and strategic / tactical games.  Therefore it pains me to see characters waste their turns doing unnecessary movement.  For example, if a character is behind another one already embroiled in melee and they're attempting to come around in order to fight side-by-side, they will always take an extra step past the fighting character before moving into combat instead of moving right up next to them.

The variety of monsters is decent and many can do more than just attempt to dish out damage.  Unfortunately, monsters run on the same AI engine that the characters do, meaning that they just head for the nearest character, maybe stopping to cast a spell here and there.  This is fine for the regular encounters but it would have been nice to see some of the bosses hold back and just focus on spellcasting, making the characters use their turns closing the gap.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

While the overworld graphics are somewhat drab and lacking in detail (though I do appreciate the seasonal palette change), this is more than made up for by those super sweet moki general animations.  Even regular encounters give a nice little portrait of each creature before heading into the battlefield (where the graphics get much worse).

The music is just incredible for the majority of the game.  Konami saw it fit to add a VRC6 chip to the game in order to boost its audio capabilities and it really shows... er, sounds.  Just check out this compilation of the battle themes (the first, and most common, track is my favourite).  16/20

Gameplay

The economy is tight for most of the game as the seasonal shops sell some very expensive items for one to drool over.  Switching characters often also helps keep those golds spent, especially the first time a player is caught by the disappearing equipment trick mentioned above.  Due to my lack of warp capabilities, I thought I had completely broken the economy by the late game because of all the additional fights I had to do, but buying all those white Somas for the moki queen actually depleted my reserves back down to a normal level.

While the pacing was off in places for me, this is again because of my lack of a warp source.  Without this limitation, the pacing would have been better, though the random encounter rate is pretty high.  The high rate, plus the lack of player control in combat, also makes the game a lot more difficult than it needs to be (not the enjoyable kind of difficult).

A replay is entirely feasible as the complete roster has around eight characters to choose from, available (and unavailable) at different points and locations throughout the game.  I kinda regret not giving Hakutaku more of a chance; I think he would have been able to impress me with a full set of spells (plus I would get to write the word Hakutaku more often).  13/20

Final Ranking:  58/100

November 19, 2013

Mouryou Senki Madara - End Game

The oceanic voyage ended up being a great time.  With no sailing experience under his belt, Madara wasted no time in getting lost but that didn't really matter since there were no random encounters while on the high seas.  Eventually, a new area was found and the party could finally continue their adventure.  After completing a fetch quest for the chief of Doudan Village, he suggested a cunning and devious plan to get rid of Emperor Miroku.  Why not just take the time machine located in Miroku's ruined castle that happens to be nearby, go back in time, and kill Miroku before he can become powerful?  I'd say take this plan one step further and kill him as a baby or kill his mother but I guess I'm not very heroic like that.  Once the time machine was found within the ruins, Madara and pals were transported back to a time when the castle wasn't so run down.

Look boy, now I'm in the past, now I'm in the future.
Past, future, past, future, past, future...

Unfortunately, the time-travelling assassins picked a bad time to attempt their plan as Miroku wasn't home.  Shrugging their collective shoulders, the group made their way back to present time and reported their failure to the chief of Doudan.  That's okay, though, because the chief has an alternative plan which involves Madara going to the Capital of the Heavens and defeating Miroku there.  The path to the Capital was back through Banto Castle which previously was inaccessible due to a magical barrier but luckily the Doudan chief had just the item to defeat said barrier.  On the way there, the party also picked up the Shadow Pot from Mount Shumi which will be used to seal away all the moki generals for good.  En route through Banto Castle, the gang happened upon Kageo Madara and that lil' bastard Jato getting into an argument which resulted in Kageo straight up firing Jato's annoying little ass.

Hey, Kageo's not so bad after all.

Kageo then egged on Madara to come to Fort Egon where the revived eight moki generals are waiting for him.  Never one to back down from a challenge, Madara finished getting through Banto Castle and sailed across a large lake to the town of Koshi.  The townsfolk told Madara that the Capital of the Heavens lay beyond Fort Egon, which itself was just to the south.  It should come to no surprise that all eight of the generals were easily beaten and sealed away into the Shadow Pot (at least I got to see all those sweet animated intros again).  A tougher fight came in the form of a final confrontation with Kageo but, he too, was sealed away within the Pot.  The Dark Kusanagi he held fused with the Light Kusanagi that Madara had to make the powerful Seiken Kusanagi; just the thing needed to dispatch Emperor Miroku with.  Sneaking through the sewers of the Capital and Madara finally, FINALLY catches up with Emperor Miroku in his throne room.

Luckily none of his Red Guards there helped him out.

Decked out in royal purple, the gigantic Emperor loomed imposingly over Madara, his large cape clasp gleaming in the... hey, hold up a sec, that ain't no cape clasp.

Meh, when you've encountered a moki with
mouths for shoulders and hands, the ol'
chest maw just doesn't seem as scary.

Defeating Miroku didn't mean the tale stopped here as trying to seal him away ended up breaking the Shadow Pot and releasing the spirits of all the moki generals.  Miroku was also good as new but instead of another fight, he just left, allowing Madara and company to head back to the nearest town.  It's there that they found out that the spirits had fused and resulted in the moki queen being reborn.  Apparently, she's dwelling on the inauspicious Wicked Star which was in space but on a collision course with Earth.  No problamo, a spaceship on top of Mount Shumi was available to take the entire party to the Star (which wasn't a star at all).

Spelljammin' their way to the Red Planet.

Everything had flowed smoothly up to this point but the queen was too tough for Madara and friends.  She just spammed a group-damaging spell that blasted through Goriki most of the time.  Kirin couldn't keep up with healing and the only Soma that was of any use was the white one (revive from death with full HP).  The party only had one white Soma which wasn't near enough.  Just like the fiasco with status ailment Somas previously, again I had to go way, way back to find a place that sold white Somas.  These massive backtracks are completely my fault as I've stuck with spellcasting fighters in my optional party slots instead of a full-fledged mage (called Inishe in the game).  Inishe gets access to not only a warp spell but a general ailment-curing spell as well.  At any rate, after their backtracking quest, the party were prepared with no less than eight white Somas on hand, and they finally had their chance to eliminate the vile moki queen.

I'm pretty sure you don't need those
double D's if you're laying eggs.

Madara and his companions burnt through most of the white Somas but were eventually rewarded with the death throes of the biologically confused queen.  The Wicked Star then dun did blowed up after Madara released his chakra to prevent the planet from smashing into Earth.  Somehow the entire group made it back to their home planet and the game ended with everyone gathered around an unconscious Madara who woke up just in time for a happy ending.


November 06, 2013

Mouryou Senki Madara - Revenge Of The Cyberman

W... T... F!?!?!

Well, I guess nobody gets to be the hero since the damn game wouldn't let me put anyone into the recently opened slot.  I guess Kirin is in charge now?  Whatever, let's just get to the point where Madara rejoins the group (I can only assume that the slot is being reserved for his return).  It didn't take long for the rest of the party to find him; all they needed to do was book a boat to take them through a waterfall and to the hidden town of Ryosan.  The townsfolk immediately start talking about how Madara was found passed out at the waterfall two years (!) ago and has been living in Ryosan ever since.

Why you heartless basta... oh right,
you are literally heartless.

Madara doesn't really feel like going back into battle again or getting the remainder of his body parts so he runs away from Kirin and the others, daring them to catch him, like he's six years old.  When they do finally catch him, he launches into a long-winded speech about how Ryosan reminds him of the peaceful times he had growing up and he is steadfast in his desire to stay there.  The party learns that his pacifistic nature is due to the release of his chakra and that it can only be restored by finding the Dark Kusanagi blade.  No big quest here; the sword is located in a waterfall behind the town.  There's not even any random encounters, just one encounter with this asshole:

You... you're going to take the
Dark Kusanagi, aren't you?

Of course, Kageo Madara steals the D. Kusa and the empty-handed party returns to Ryosan only to find the townsfolk have been turned into moki.  This is enough to convince normal Madara that he'll never be able to find peace and tranquility until the emperor is defeated.  Just as he rejoins, Kirin, in an act of utter stupidity, decides to check out the situation in Ryosan for herself, without the assistance of her much more powerful friends, who were also going back to town.  This is just a setup for her to be captured by Kageo, who wants her for himself as he is planning on usurping the emperor and needs an empress, I guess?  Kageo summons a moki general to deal with Madara and you know what that means...

Awww jeah.

After defeating this general, Madara finds out Kirin is being held in the lamely named Dark Castle and he also gets his real heart back.  The castle is full of warp points and many enemies that can cause status ailments, covering the entire spectrum of ailments.  This meant having some of each type of potion on hand but with space being so limited, it's a crap shoot as to whether or not there will be enough of the correct type of potion to make it all the way through.  Running out generally meant exiting the castle and hunting down a place that sells replacements.  I actually didn't mind this at all, since it required me to do a little planning beforehand and to pay attention to the frequency of the different status effects.  Additionally, Goriki has made physical combat pointless for monsters so it's nice to see that they can still do something to the party (though I'm sure if the trend continues I'll get annoyed with it (Future Shen: it does and I do.)).  After reaching the end of the castle, Kageo takes Kirin and leaps down a hole with her while leaving yet another moki general to swiftly die at Madara's deft hand.

I like how all these generals go through a sweet
transformation sequence and end with a cool pose
only to be gangbanged into a pulp a few rounds later.

This time Madara got back his real throat and voice which made me feel a great shame.  Here I was, all this time, going on about how cyberific Madara was but I wasn't giving him a robot voice for any of his dialogue (either in-game or in my own internal RP).  Dammit, such a missed opportunity.  Anyway, jumping down the hole found Madara retrieving Kirin while Kageo taunted him with his disembodied voice.  Kageo blurts out that all eight moki generals have been revived and they are all waiting for Madara at Fort Egon (Spengler?).  Right near the exit of the Dark Castle is the town of Royan where Madara learnt about a book called the Psalm of Nine Dragons from a man named Emishi.  The book explained how to seal the moki generals up and Emishi launched into a long story about its history and current location.  Since the group still hadn't checked out the shops to see what sweet gear they had, they hand-waved away most of the story due to their impatience.  Later, when they returned to get a retelling, all Emishi had to say was this:

Don't patronize me, Emishi (even if it is justified).

The royal tomb involved some time travelling nonsense where Madara got the book by defeating a moki, went back into time, and watched a Royan thief named Fanleng battle the moki who then sealed himself in a coffin with the book.

Well, at least he's not as goofy
as the Shadow Warriors.

Fanleng then stole the book Madara had, ran off, and fell down a pit trap.  Madara and friends returned to the present and found the book in the bones of Fanleng.  Emishi deciphered the book and said that the group needed to find the magical Shadow Pot which is located in a temple near Mount Shumi.

Man, that must have totally
harshed their mellow, man.

To do so, the party would need a ship, so they headed east in search of a port.  While travelling through a short tunnel, they ran into that rambunctious little a-hole that hasn't made an appearance for awhile.  Yes, Jato showed up to throw more completely ineffective minions at the group.

Yeah right, you're totally crushing on Madara.

Jato was apparently blocking a trade route through the tunnel, so the gang delivered a package of rations to some snowy and hungry town.  The town held nothing else of interest so Madara and pals headed south to find a city with a small village next to it.  Access to the city was denied as the party did not have a Signed Permit.  The folks of the village were despondent due to an approaching annual human sacrifice they have to make to their moki "protector", Kairyu.  Let's ignore the words 'approaching' and 'annual' while I abashedly admit I got completely stuck here for many real-time days.  I couldn't find a way to confront Kairyu so I had the party backtrack in case I missed some key item.  Two separate times I found a path I had missed previously, but it just resulted in getting some more spells for the characters.  I went all the way back to the Wall of Sand but refused to go through that isht again.  I basically just revisited towns over and over again until stumbling into the Kairyu village during the appropriate season of summer (followed by a facepalming of myself).  Surprisingly, the townsfolk weren't even mad that the group that promised to deal with Kairyu came back well over a decade later.

He's on... what, like, victim 15 or 16 by now?

After bringing down Kairyu, Madara was rewarded with the Signed Permit and now could access the nearby city.  From these city dwellers, the group learnt that Kageo was now chief of the Moki, which isn't a good sign.  There's also a tournament that was being held which was easily won by Madara and his comrades (no doubt due to all those levels gained while I was stuck).  Equally as easy was clearing out a moki fortress that was right in the city.  The reward for all this was the usage of a sturdy seafaring boat.

No way am I going to get lost in this!

With the crisp, salty winds at Madara's back, he took command of the vessel and ordered the rest of the crew to set sail for... umm... err... following the coast until finding something new, I guess?