September 24, 2014

[Game 047] STED - Starfield of Memorable Relics (NES - 1990)

Translation by J2e Translations

STED is one of those rare RPGs that has a science fiction theme.  It is highly reminiscent of the Phantasy Stars, in more ways than one.  The opening story is short and to the point; unknown aliens are attacking and I'm responding to a distress call on some planet.

Dang it, I was just about to slip into the 
tub — THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS TO ME!

I'm not going to get into the logistics of how difficult it would be to attack an entire galaxy but I'll keep in mind that what happens on this planet is only one story out of billions and billions.  As soon as I dock my spacecraft (which I'll probably never see again), I'm left to wander the town and try to get some information out of the local hotties.

So...um... do you like... stuff?

I also have my buddy, Actes, here with me but he doesn't say anything, he just likes to fight.  We find the lady who sent the distress beacon and she explains something about a Space Army cover up.  I'm barely listening as I'm completely engrossed in checking out her sizable asset, namely a sweet robot named Gap.  Gap isn't like the rest of us organics in the group; it doesn't gain experience and can only increase its power via installed components.  Right now, it doesn't even have the capability to attack, but it can still absorb hits.  I also like to think of Gap as being my field analyst to this strange new world.

Gap, cross-index the molecular framework
with the quantum matrix and determine
what the hell is up with these names.

The number after the monster's name is an indicator of its power level relative to us.  Anything five or above is quite tough and, as you can see, some of the battles are overwhelming, especially considering we only get three attacks per round.  Bling for Gap is expensive and I still need to get equipment for everyone else as well.  Actes and I both start with something called a Bosom knife (I don't even want to know) and Corona just grabs her kitchen knife.  As you can tell, the weaponry of the future is pretty much the same as the weaponry of the past.  Come on, STED, you said you're a sci-fi game, so start sciencing it up.

Ah, much better (except for the
what-should-cost-one-credit Wood spear).

I don't mind some grinding right off the bat as I get used to the new environment and gameplay mechanics.  In addition to equipment, magic spells (whoops, I mean ESP because that's what what is obviously magic is called in the future) can be bought for a fee.  What's great about ESP is that it can be purchased for any non-robotic party member (cure spells for everybody!).  The levelling system gives a great deal of customization for each of the meatbags.  Upon gaining a level, a characters get two sets of points to distribute: one between Stamina and Mental (Hit Points and Magic Points) and the other between Attack, Defense, Wisdom (sometimes called Intelligence (which is just wrong)), and Agility.  So far, I've been playing into the clichés and have Actes as a fighter, Corona as a mage, and me as a balanced Shen.  A few levels and some decent new weapons allow us to get to the next town, called Hyu.  There's more stuff to bought here and I guess we'll have to stick around for awhile to purchase it because wandering off is not an option.

By Odin's beard, what foul creature is this that
can carry the breath of a dragon on its shoulder?

Experience points gained after a battle are on a system of diminishing returns; as the party gains levels, the enemy difficulty factor also goes down.  Once it gets into the negatives, XP is often zero, but credits are still earned as normal.  I rather like this gentle nudge into the more difficult areas; might as well try to earn experience and credits at the same time.  Past Hyu, monsters with resistance to standard attacks start cropping up and the ESP must be broken out, adding to the tactical depth of combat.  Adding to that depth is the lack of designated attacks carrying over to another enemy should one die beforehand, à la Final Fantasy.  Enemies also have their fair share of inflicting status ailments such as poison and sleep.  As we have neither the item or the spell to cure poison on our own, we have to head back to town to have it treated at the clinic.  This happened many times which doesn't bother me so much as we're generally near the town anyway, but it did lead to discovering an odd gameplay mechanic.  Instead of having the cure cost just a flat rate or tied to level, it seems to be based on how long since the character's last treatment, implying that the antivenom remains active and slowly tapers off.  For those longer expeditions, curing the poison can only be done with the Serum item, which cannot be bought in the first few towns and must be found.  It's not often I find myself grinding for reasons other than XP and golds, and certainly not for, what would later be, a common item and magic spell.  More than once I had to abort an excursion due to being down to our last vial of Serum.  A similar concept also applies to my buddy Gap, who, being a tin can, cannot heal while the rest of us nap at the inn.  Gap must be repaired and, since the only repair shop so far is at the beginning town, we are reliant on the oddly-named MentalB item to "heal" it.  MentalB can be bought early on, so it's not as high of a priority as Serum, but it's not much of an issue anyway since enemies spew out MentalBs like a busted piñata and Gap has high HP and defense.  STED is also quite generous with a 24 item limit so it's not too tough to be well-prepared for an extended jaunt in the dungeons.  Oh?  I haven't mentioned the dungeons yet?  The dungeons, more than anything else, remind me of the ones in Phantasy Star, except less colourful.

Colour?  COLOUR?  The future doesn't
need no stinkin' colour!

They're also quite empty despite having lots of single tile "rooms".  Even if there is something there, there is no indicator; one just has to search every space that seems suspicious.  To date, I've only found one item and it was just some consumable.  Getting through the first dungeon leads to Lutharer Island, where I find Mong Village.  Some monsters have stolen their crystal and the town Elder would like us to go on a quest to get it back.  Now, does this sound like something that any futuristic settlement would have to be concerned with, or does it sound like a classic fantasy trope?  I'm really starting to feel that STED is a fantasy RPG that was poorly spray-painted into being sci-fi.

I will say this, though; the Elders of
the future are fucking haaawwwt.

Going to the west will take me off the island, meaning that I'm going through the dungeon again, and then there'll be another trip when I return, and another when I'm done this quest.  Multiple trips through the same dungeon?  Yet another similarity to Phantasy Star.  Will STED continue to emulate PS with longer and longer dungeons?  I give a tentative yes as one citizen has informed me that a nearby tower has five floors.  But first I have to get this crystal back (probably from a dragon or wizard) for Elder Honeypot there.