March 12, 2020

[Game 068] Taro's Quest (NES - 1989)

Translation by aishsha & Pennywise

aaaaaaaaahhhhhHHHH... THUD!  Argh, I thought I'd never get out of that infinite loop.  Good thing I'm a fast runner. Now let's see how much time has passed... oh crapballs, just over 52,173,915 seconds!  Man, I'm so far behind and I also see that more crappy JRPGs have been translated during my absence. Welp, time to manchine up and get this shitshow started.  Not surprisingly, my post-hiatus game is yet another DQ clone that manages to bring nothing new to the table. It also commits the heinous sin of not allowing the Nung to name the main character after his fine egotistical ass.  So instead you get this guy, Juju-something-or-rather.

Pretty damn smug for level 1.

He has to retrieve the ninja scroll stolen from his ninja village, probably by ninjas.  Juju is apparently a ninja as well, as he's armed with a single shuriken which he uses in melee combat (hey, I didn't say he was a good ninja).  It's just as well, though, since he can barely hold his own against the initial enemies.

Aren't they all though?

One mildly interesting aspect of Taro's Quest is that one can pick any of the three chapters to start with.  Because I'm half computer, of course I have to start at index 0 (which means chapter 1 to you meatwads).  However, I also know that this means that each chapter is going to restart me at level one, where the bullshit density tends to be the highest.  The biggest offence that TQ commits is something I've whined about before in the past, a high encounter rate that can (and often does) trigger one or two steps after the last battle.  Compounding this is one of the worst battle tunes I've ever heard; a high-pitched, repetitious, ear bleeder that just makes the unenjoyable combat even more so.  Even the addition of a cute, female co-hero named Sakura didn't help a lot; she was pretty much a major liability until she gained a few levels, then she upgraded to a minor liability.  But she did have her uses.

I have the feeling we'll be coming
together every night, baby.

Falling into the stereotype, Sakura sucks in melee but has enhanced magic capabilities with more spells and magic points.  She also has a special attack called — wait for it — love.  Love can boost a random stat for both characters by an amount that makes little difference or just do nothing at all.  At first I was going to write this ability off, but I'm glad I played with it a little more because it also occasionally restores a decent amount of MP for both.  This is super handy as there are no MP restoring items and all healing is done via magic.  There are HP restoring items, but they're weak, are single use, and take up a valuable slot in the limited inventory.  Now with love on hand, Juju and Sakura can take extended forays into the overworld and not have to worry too much about running out of health.  Not that I particularly want to commit to such an excursion due to that being where all the crappy combats are.  Now, you may be saying to yourself, "But Shen-shen, have you considered just using your turbo booster to speed through the battles?".

Gee, I dunno.  Does a stupid dog shit in the woods?

First of all, turbo boost has never affected my ability to moan and bitch about a game.  Second of all, that isn't an option for me as my primary emulator wouldn't run TQ at all and my secondary's turbo boost doesn't work worth shit.  An apt punishment, I suppose, for being away for so long, but I'm still going to get my grumbles on.  Let's move onto the UI, which is not something I complain about very often, but the one utilized here is bafflingly bad.  Even though TQ came out 89,510,400 seconds after DQ, it somehow manages to make menu and dialogue navigation completely frustrating with how slow and sluggish it is.  One can actually see the window frames being drawn on screen and then filled with the appropriate text, which usually likes to scroll slowly up from the bottom instead of just being written directly to the top line.  This is lots of fun when I'm trying to patch up Juju and Sakura with their healing spell, which usually requires multiple castings after each battle since it heals a static 20 damage.  Each casting also closes out the entire menu (which one can visibly see being undrawn), which means renavigating the whole thing over again.  Transferring an item from one character's inventory to another will also pop up a display of both their inventories, one at a time, as if I wasn't just in their fucking inventories to make the transfer.  Even just casting a spell requires multiples lines of dialogue apparently.  For example, the restoration spell, which completely heals a character, requires FOUR separate sentences to slothfully scroll through the window display ("Sakura attacks!  Sakura uses the Restoration Jutsu!  Juju restores some HP!  Juju is completely restored!").  All the shopkeeps like to exploit the lethargic UI as well, saying the same two or three statements every damn time I visit when I just want to purchase stuff and leave.

Not that I'm going to complain to this guy's face.

This guy also pulls a PSII shopkeep jerk-move by ridiculing Juju when he inquires about the kimono that's for sale, claiming that Juju "lacks the right assets".  That may well be true, but that doesn't explain why he says the exact same thing when asked about the bow, which I'm pretty sure doesn't require titties.  Anyway, what was Juju's mission again?  Oh yes, retrieve dat ninja scroll.  Well, it was easy enough to find out it was stolen by some punk named Karasutengu, but finding him is another matter altogether.  It doesn't help that some other punk named Master Chop Suey won't help until Juju finds three marks (strength, wisdom, and courage) to prove his worth.  Whilst doing Chop Suey's busywork tasks, Juju also has the option to jack some mini-bosses for their jewels.  Not saleable jewels, but magic jewels that essentially give Juju another spell in his list.  The first one, the Thunder Jewel, gives Juju a direct damage magic attack that is useful against certain enemies with physical resistance as it does a straight 25 damage regardless of defence.  The second jewel, the Evil Fog, fared much worse.  The first hint was that the guardian of said jewel used it twice during combat — both times it did nothing.  After Juju received and tried it a few times himself, it still did nothing, whether in combat or out of it.  Shrugging, I thought for sure the final jewel, the Fire Blast, would have to be an upgraded version of the Thunder, but it doesn't work in combat either, though I only tried it about four times before giving up on it.  TQ also manages to fuck up something as basic as getting a sea-faring vessel for our heroes.  Oh, it's technically a sea-faring vessel.

One of the finest submarines feudal Japan has to offer.

What?  Why a submarine?  The game doesn't break the time period in any other place, which makes this all the worse.  It's not like the sub actually travels under the water at any point, so what the actual hell?  The random encounters take place underwater, but I don't think it'd be a stretch to assume Juju and Sakura could dive off their skiff or whatever.  Or, even better, have them snorkeling, which would also be very ninja-like.  This probably bothers me more than it should, but I spent a good amount of time grinding in the lakes to get some sweet armour, so my exposure level is somewhat high.  At any rate, the sub did do its duty to get JJ and Sakura from island to island for the final leg of the quest.  So, by this time, Juju had already bought every piece of equipment he knew about, so gold wasn't a big motivator.  He was still gaining levels, but the stat increase from levels is very low compared to what equipment does, so experience wasn't a big deal either.  Since the battles are so boring and slow, Juju and Sakura are just retreating from every battle, not so much to avoid damage, but to avoid wasting time.  There were lots of battles, too, thanks to the stellar design of the final set of dungeons.

Wanna guess how many times this repeats?

The above pictured dungeon was the one with the last mark needed for Master Chop Suey and I literally had Juju and Sakura fleeing from every battle.  I didn't even remember which mark it was until Juju opened the chest, revealing the courage mark just dripping with irony.  Whatever.  Didn't care.  Fleeing from the later monsters was pretty necessary anyway as most of those fuckers had this Ayakashi ability that charmed one of the two heroes and made them attack the other.  If it was Juju, he would absolutely destroy Sakura in a round or two, so it was better to just flee.  If it was Sakura, it was just as bad as Juju had to take care of healing himself in addition to finishing off the monster, which extended the battle substantially.  Oh, and when one of them broke the spell after a few rounds, guess what?  That ol' monsie could just cast that fucking spell again.  So screw it, I had 'em flee through the whole final dungeon as well, which was long and boring until they hit the final approach; a fanged skull cave with a carpet of bones and skulls leading up to it and flanked by a moat.

Karasutengu's attention to detail on his carpet
 is part impressive, part terrifying.

The final battle with Karasutengu was so forgettable that I'm not even giving him a pic; I'll prolly just toss him into a monstage, if I even bother with that.  TQ must have detected my ire with it because it decided to slap its floppy dick into my face one last time.  So, immediately after the fight, I was a little confused as Juju and Sakura were still in the dungeon, like nothing happened.  Hrm.  Oh well, I'll just get them to use the Shinobi Kite item to warp out like I have tens of times before.  But wait!  What's this?  When I tried to open up the item menu, I got the message "You don't need this anymore.".  No TQ, actually this is the one place where it would be the most useful.  Man, I was not looking forward to walking all the way back out, fleeing from a bazillion fights.  I was about a quarter of the way back, encounter-free, when I realized that there weren't going to be any more battles; it was just TQ being a time-wasting prick again.  Normally I would rage but I was too happy with the thought that it was finally coming to an end, so I rather enjoyed watching JJ and Sakura saunter out the dungeon and into the final scene.  I got angry again when the game reminded me that I am the Nung and I must therefore forever suffer.

Oh right, I've still got two more chapters to do.

*sigh*  Where's an infinite loop when you need one?