June 15, 2016

[Game 060] Jubei Quest (NES - 1991)

Translation by aishsha & Stardust Crusaders

Well, lookie at what we got here — looks like another Dragon Quest clone.  Let's just make sure by taking a gander at the prerequisite list.  Square tile graphics?  Check.  A special teenaged protagonist who was destine to save the world since being born?  Double check.  A horde of monsters completely driven by a single evil wizard or demon?  You'd best check yo'self before you wreck yo'self.  Need to collect some MacGuffies in order to stop said evil boss?  Move your rook to king's bishop 4 and chiggy check it.

Bastard!  I bet he's also got a more
powerful second form, huh guy?

Jubei Quest is broken up into chapters, à la Dragon Quest 4, and just like I did with that game, I'm going to have one posting per chapter.  I've been slacking off big time with only have an opening and ending post for the last bunch of games — feels like forever since I've had to come up with a "clever" title.

The... Fjord... of the... Anti-matter... I got nuthin'.

Even though I entered my name at the beginning, the game still calls me Jubei because this isn't Shen Quest, you stupid player.  Jubes starts off in the only place he could possibly start — a hidden, remote village with an elder sensei who plots him up somethin' fierce.  I was expecting a sword to be bequeathed as well but JB got something else instead.

But I was only in the pool for a couple of minutes!

Oh wait, no, it is a sword.  A kick-ass one at that, as it increases Jubei's attack power to over eight times his defense.  It doesn't take long to get a chance to check out its effectiveness either, as the exit out of town is blocked by a bully named Bullmatsu and his buddy, Kiriko.  Jubei whips out the pwnage, crits Bullmatsu in the first round, and it's all over.  Bull apologizes but they both still block the way out of town.  Kiriko then asks to see the sword cuz he says he thinks it's /<-rad, but I was bullied enough in grade school to know that he's just going to steal it or spit on it or something.  Jubei wisely also decides to deny the sword, but is locked into an endless dialogue loop.

Don't you mean "But thou must!"?

So bye-bye Shrinkage, it was fun to see you in action for exactly one swing.  Jubei returns to the sensei to tell him that he lost the sword in a record time of under three minutes.  Jubei tries to talk to the master several times but he keeps incredulously repeating "The Shinkage has been stolen?", so he's probably in shock or something.  Whatevs, JB's got a keen short sword that should be enough to get him to the next village, called Owari.  The rumour mill had already informed Jubei that the magistrate in Owari is corrupt and imprisoning innocent townsfolk.  Sounds like he needs a healthy dose of vitamin J!!!  Before Jubei can do that, however, he'll need some cash for equipment and some experience for experience.  And that means a little early game grinding to get into the groove.  Creatures in battle have this cool feature where when they're at about a third of their HP, the sprite changes from a vicious one to a downtrodden one and... hey, wait a sec, I've seen this kind of battle before in a different game, right down to Jubei's sprite having his back facing the screen when attacking, giving the illusion that he's facing the monster.  This isn't a DQ clone, it's a Shell Monsters Story clone, which itself is a DQ clone.  It's a clone of a clone!

We're through the looking glass here, people.

So cool!  There's no menu option to switch focus to another character like in SMS, but I'm certain that others will be joining Jubei as there is an option to set the order of party members.  Now, any good clone will take the opportunity to do little things here and there that differentiate it a bit from its parent, and JQ so far is performing admirably.  One of the items Jubei acquires is a scroll case, where he can store various maps that people give him.  The first such map is a treasure map which leads to nice little payoff located right outside the beginning village.

*wipes brow* Whew.  I sure hope
they all aren't this difficult.

Once inside Owari Town, Jubei wastes no time in getting his sleuth on and discovers that a spy named Jirokichi has been captured and is being held in the magistrate's manor.  But the manor can only be accessed by giving a password to a certain guard who is actually against the magistrate's recent rash of prison sentencing.  Well, before Jubei even got to the manor, a townsfolk had already blabbed the pword to first random dude that talked to him.  It's too bad because I could have got the password on my own since it's a reference to a classic Japanese folk story that I've already played a whole game about.

It's either this one or peach...
dang it, I just can't remember!

Getting to the magistrate isn't as easy as just waltzing into his house and liberating the prisoners.  While there are no random encounters, there are three guards who wander about at random.  Running into one of these starts a battle but they can be avoided by Jubei liberally applying some sneaky ninja skillz.

Might as well liberate that treasure
chest while he's there.

The magistrate turns out to be some lizardman that Jubei has no problem in cutting down.  As expected, Jirokichi and some others are being stashed in the basement and soon are set free.  Jiro talks like a cross between an Australian and a Brooklyn gangster, but Jubei eventually figures out that he's a master thief who is able to both spy and disarm traps.  Spying can be done in any town but not just anywhere in town.  Long-time readers will know that I've often complained about the empty houses that seem to permeate a lot of JRPGs.  Jubei Quest rectifies this by having Jiro only able to be summoned while Jubei is in said house, in true spy fashion.  Damn, that's some fine game design!  It totally gets Jubei in the mood to go a little — underground.

Yeah man, do you got... "the stuff"?

After Jiro goes to do his thang, Jubei decides to talk a casual stroll around the town and, being the astute fellow that he is, notices a new townsfolk that wasn't there before.  It's Jirokichi in disguise!  And he's got a top secret technical scroll containing information on the fortress complex of the magistrate's boss.

Jiro must have been up all night making this,
just look at all those grape juice stains.

Finishing up in Owari, Jubei heads out to find the town of Naniwa, where Lord Devil Clone is in cahoots with one of the store owners and driving down the business of every other entrepreneur.  Getting there brings battles with a whole new set of creatures and also the first disappointment of JQ.  The secondary sprite for some monsters when they get damaged starts just being greyscaled instead of a new drawing.  Also not helping matters is the reusing of the second sprite between different monsters (e.g. a whole set of humanoid monsters share the same "bare skeleton" sprite).

Making goofy faces helps, but not by much.

There's also a lot of repetition to what townsfolk and statues (oh yeah, there are talking statues in each town) say and this is readily apparent in the sizable town of Naniwa.  A single line might be repeated by up to three NPCs, maybe more.  Ain't nobody got time for that.  If you don't have anything to say, game, then just make the town smaller.  At least have some flavour text or a terrible pun; it's all good.  At any rate, JubJub investigates the overly competitive shop and finds nothing amiss other than the shopkeep immediately bragging about how much money the store has and then not offering to sell him a damn thing.  A nice lady (possibly Jirokichi in disguise?) had given Jubei a map showing where the secret entrance to the back of the shady shop is located, even though it was obviously the bright only-thing-that-is-red well in the middle of the town.  Sneaking in, Jubei overhears the schemers laying their plans but before Jubei can get the drop on them, they leave.  Upon entering the room, all JB sees are four empty chests in a single entrance room.  Instead of realizing that there's no way those guys could have left the room without him seeing them, Jubei briefly searches some of the chests and then leaves, assuming that the event triggered here would allow him into the previously inaccessible Automata Castle.  But nope, it's outer wall is still as unscalable as ever, so Jubei just heads to the next town, Aki, seeking dynamite or a good solid ladder or something.  Aki Town has problems of its own though, as strangely persistent whirlpools are preventing them from using their boats.  Hmmm, sounds like the kind of problem that only a MacGuffin can fix!

Too bad there isn't a hero of
some kind around... well, bye.

There's a shrine nearby and obviously the Dragon Orb will just be in there, so Jubei heads there because he's sure that once he fixes this little problem, that guy in the screenshot will give him his boat.  Well, boat is maybe a little generous because it's just a two-seater canoe.  Imagine JayBee's surprise when he acquired a Crystal Ball instead!  Peering into it brought another huge surprise as it started up another character's story!!  OMG u ghuys, it's doing the Shell Monsters Story thing!!!  Aha!  So I'll do this character for a bit, then he'll meet up with Jubei and take on the Devil Clone Lord together!  Cool beans!  This character, Shiro, is a super special dog (aren't they all though?) whose owner, Gohei, is trying to ditch him but still be nice about it, so he comes up with some lame story about how Shiro should go and experience the world.

It's not you, Shiro, it's me.

Shiro isn't a dominant alpha pack leader yet (he's only level 1), so he teams up with the local prince, Onitan, who is on his way to punish a bad guy named Zombie Momotaro.  This works well for Shiro because somehow the entire town thinks that he's in league with Zombie Momotaro, so this will give him a chance to clear his good name.  Maybe Gohei is correct in sending him out of the safety of the town because, holy fuck, does Shiro love fightin' bads.  I can honestly say I've never witnessed such frenzied enthusiasm from a character before.

I can only surmise that promises
of steak were involved.

Thanks to the miracle of modern shenology, I've been able to convert this raw zeal into a real world equivalent, with 99% accuracy.

Meh, steaks or limes, the end result is the same.

Shiro's lust for blood can only carry the duo so far though, as it becomes apparent that they are trapped in their little corner of the world, so back to Jubei it is.  After a whole lotta meandering, he eventually decides to check out the room where the plotters were plotting and search every square.  Don't know how he missed it the first time, but there is a secret staircase right smack dab in the middle of the room, which leads to Automata Castle, aka Trap Fortress.  It certainly earns its alternate title, as there are spear and pit traps galore.  Jubei tries to get Jirokichi to disarm them, but he doesn't recognize them as such, requiring JB to use his reflexes in real time in order to get by them.  No, Jiro specializes in trapped treasure chests and has a respectable success rate of around 80%.  There are three types of traps: bomb, monster, and warp.  Lord Devil Clone must have got a sweet discount on traps because most of the chests are trapped and sometimes have absolutely nothing in them (the trap was the treasure?).  After having to find even more secret staircases, Jubei finally comes face to face with LDC, who falls in three rounds, no doubt due to JB's excessive levels.  Jirokichi takes his leave of Jubei here as his formidable skills are required elsewhere.  Returning to Naniwa, Jubei is pleased to find the formerly gloomy town transformed to be bright, cheery, and full of merchants selling their crappy generic wares.  The only guy worth talking to gives Jubes his leaky, run-down canoe, which whisks him off to the beginning of chapter two.

It doesn't come with oars, so you
gots to use your arms.  Enjoy!

I guess Jubei will hook up with Shiro a bit later then.  I'm really liking the cut of JQ's jib thus far and it looks like I should have plenty of material for one posting per chapter.  Here's lookin' at you, Juju!