Story & World
It's a DQ clone, one of the cloniest I've ever come across. The only major difference is AoM is set in feudal Japan instead of medieval Europe. Most quests have very little to do with Kojiro; his presence is barely felt throughout the game. The world layout is straightforward, although there is one time where Musasi has to backtrack to an early tower to free some old dude for a MacGuffin. This wasn't made any easier due to an error in the translation naming the wrong tower the old man is in (this is why you remember to take notes, kiddies). Exploration wouldn't have been so bad if I had just stayed in the local waters after receiving the ship, as all the late game stuff is there. but no, I had to go explore the whole damn world, not really gaining much other than huge piles of deceased sea critters. 5/20
Two of the three main stats, might and speed, feed into attack and defense, which themselves are further augmented by equipment. Might and speed seem to increase a random amount, between 1 and 9, so there's some nice variation there. Equipment, of which there are five slots (one sword, four armour), plays less of a role, as each upgrade generally only adds a few points (sometimes one). The last batch of swords are all famous Japanese swords and can be invoked in battle for various buffs. The third stat, magic, increases the effectiveness of spells, making the basic Cure spell the single major workhorse throughout the game. Damage-dealing spells never seemed to be able to do more harm than the good ol' sword, and went unused for most of the game.
Inventory management becomes a pain during the midgame, as there are only 14 slots and everything goes in there, leaving little room for consumable items. It's not too bad until Musashi starts locating the three famous blades, as they'll soak up a slot until they're finally combined together for the final weapon. 6/20
Combat & Monsters
You like mashing the A button, right? Because that's what you'll be doing 99% of the time in combat, with the occasional break to Cure — you, know, just to keep things interesting. The mid-boss fights were stellar, though, requiring at least a little strategy for a successful outcome. Some monsters have access to some of the same spells Musashi has, in addition to stunning and poison abilities. poison is pretty harmless, being handled with either an item or a spell, but stun attacks can be devastating when they last for many rounds. Thankfully Tanuki would often slap Musashi awake and it seems he got better at it as he increased in level. Tanuki's levels are gained by finding an item called Kappa in a treasure pot. He doesn't have any stats, as he is not targetable in combat, but rather he'll deploy a random ability every so often; a new ability being gained each level. These abilities range from attacks that do hardly any damage to buffs that increase defense by an inconsequential amount to Curing at completely inappropriate times. He also says "Tanu!" after saying anything, like he thinks he's a Pokemon or something, and it got real old, real quick. Searching that lazy elder's house was a nightmare because every damn tile Tanuki would inform me that he couldn't find anything, TANU! Yeah guy, how about you just tell me when you DO find something? For this reason, and this reason alone, Tanuki is being included in the monsters category instead of character development. 4/20
Graphics & Sound
Finally I can lavish a little praise on this game, though I just realized that maybe I focus more on the sweet graphics because the rest of the game is so bland. Oh well, I'm sure AoM isn't going to complain about getting more points. Any game that makes me want to whip up some hot monstage action is scoring big for visuals.
The music is anything particularly grand, but it is period appropriate, which is just as important (if not more) in my book. I'm glad the didn't rip the music from Dragon Quest, though I can't say the same thing about some of the sound effects. 14/20
Even with the ryo I lost purchasing that spankable picture of the mermaid queen, I still generally always had enough to get by (even with a bunch of deaths that cut my ryo in half (no banks)). Purchasing new equipment was never a high priority anyway since the points they gave were so low. The only big ticket item was the mandala (at 20,000 ryo) of which I had three of by the endgame.
A necessity of this type of game, the overall length is quite short, padded with heavy amounts of grinding. After I got my stupid ass off the high seas, back on land and back on track, dat comfy feeling settled back in for most of the rest of the game. If you enjoyed the original Dragon Quest, with all its linearity and grindiness, then you'll probably enjoy this unofficial expansion campaign as well. 10/20
Final Ranking: 39/100