Yes, the Taiwanese RPG that came out in 1996 on the Megadrive but was only translated and released in the west in 2006, with a terrible, terrible artwork and ridden with bugs. It got better though. The third edition got a new cover artwork and many bugs were corrected. Not all of them though. I’ve been playing the fourth edition which, while using the same code as the third edition, was shipped in a red flimsy cardboard box. All the latest re-editions from superfighterteam are in cardboard boxes, just so you know. It’s not obvious when you order, as they keep using photos of the third edition in a plastic clamshell case, with a cardboard mention in small prints.
ANYWAY. After being disappointed with the box, let’s be disappointed with the game! Well it’s not that bad. Actually, it’s pretty good, if one can forgive the bugs and glitches, most of those being near the end game. The game is quite pretty, with quite a few different environments to roam in, with a lot of detail. I enjoyed what I saw.
The story too was interesting: none of that generic mute hero who finds a magical weapon in a stone, or has their village burned down, or just wakes up conveniently amnesiac at the beginning of the game. No, the hero of this story is an annoying spoiled brat, the Prince of the Shatt Kingdom, who decides learning lessons isn’t worth his regal rank and longs the free life of the lowly populace. He thus decides to escape from the castle for a day, disguising himself into a pauper while giving his own clothes to a lookalike beggar to conceal his absence. This of course goes as well as it should, and when it’s time to get back to the comfy life in the castle the guards simply laugh at his face and drive him away. To make matters worse, one character from within the castle noticed the prince / pauper switch and decided to use it to their advantage to seize power. And the game starts, with the hero having to find a way to prove he is the prince, while uncovering the machinations happening inside the castle.
The writing of the game itself was well done too. The hero is chatty, with a real personality that evolves with the story. The story is quite linear, and the next location is never far away from the previous one, thanks to a cleverly designed world map. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter because spoilers, but the setup and the story are good points to me.
The combat system, which is the meat of an RPG, is a strange one. They decided to do things differently: the hero has a “stamina bar” which continuously decreases over time, and each action consumes a set amount of stamina points. Once the bar is depleted, it’s the enemy’s turn. It’s an interesting innovation as it forces the player not to spend too much time deciding what their action should be. However, it comes with it’s own set of drawbacks, which in my opinion aren’t worth the innovation. The first one is that you can’t pause during battles: especially as the later battles get drawn out due to enemies having a lot of hit points, you can’t attend any real life situation while fighting a boss, else you lose the fight. And losing a fight can have big consequences, I’ll get to that in the next part.
Another problem with that stamina bar is that all the enemy share a single one. Which means that no matter whether you’re facing a single monster or six of them, they are allowed the same amount of action, which is about five normal hits. Facing six wolves, five of them will hit you once in the first turn; after taking care of the first five wolves, the last wolf can hit you five times. In essence, you’re fighting a single mob that is represented by a bunch of avatars with separate HP. Any strategy involving selectively thinning the enemy herd is useless, using magic to hit the group all at once is no better than focussing on one enemy, all that matter is how many HP get removed by the hit. The stamina system, when applied to the enemies, completely kills any strategy you may think of.
The “dungeon” maps can be quite labyrinthine: finding your way through a forest, a cave or a tomb can be quite difficult, especially with the high rates of the random encounters. I mentioned big consequences with any combat loss. The fact is that you can only save your progress in designated spots in dungeons and on the world map. If you lose a fight, it’s game over, you have to reload your last save, which can be from some time ago. Worse, even when the save point is in the middle of a dungeon, the spawn point will be at the entrance of it: you’re not really saving your progress more than actually saving the XP you accumulated. These save points are welcomed as they mean all the won fights and accumulated experience won’t go to the bin if a fight is lost, but the entire dungeon will have to be traversed again if the game has to be re-loaded. The only real meaningful save point for the story are on the world map.
With save points only saving your status but not your progress, along with the high rate of encounters, it means that the game is, if not difficult, quite stressful: you’re one miss-hap away from losing half an hour of progress. Losing a fight is never meaningless and is always a setback, either in terms of XP gained, or map progression. As such, while the combat system has an auto-mode, I was constantly monitoring my health and how the combat ran, ready to stop the auto mode to cast a healing spell or use an item. I was also closely monitoring my magic points and health items, wondering if I would be able to find the exit before either ran out. You can sometime find beds that restore your health and magic, but these don’t save so they’re only a temporary relief. Even if you managed to get away from a fight an rush back to the nearest bed, sometimes several times, one lost fight means all these bed restorations were for nothing. Combine that with the previously mentioned fact that you can’t pause during fights, and you end up with a quite stressful combat system.
The game is glitchy. The first one I encountered was in a village where the door sprite was sometime replaced with a sand sprite. And by sometime I meant often, and on this specific location only. But this is only a cosmetic glitch, so whatever. A more concerning bug happened when I got the last weapon to the level 2. the hit animation was completely bugged, with the game chaining all the hits without waiting for the animation to complete. This meant very quick encounters, but also memory corruption with random characters all over the screen, sometimes freezing the game. Also the glitch prevented the bosses from being hurt for some reason. I ground my way to the next level as I hoped the glitch was solely related to the weapon and its level. And it was, thankfully.
There are progression bugs. One I heard of is that you shouldn’t get back to the island once you escaped it as the game wasn’t programmed for you to escape a second time. One I got was I didn’t pick up an armour and continued progressing to the next armour. After wandering a bit, I found that less interesting armour. Because worn items are automatically equipped and cannot be changed, it meant that I automatically equipped a lesser armour. I couldn’t make out if it made a difference in protection, but I loaded my previous save just in case.
All in all, I found a competent game. I enjoyed the story, going through the game was stressful but rewarding, and the bugs I encountered didn’t completely kill my enjoyment. I would encourage you to play it yourself if you like RPGs. Don’t expect an exceptionally outstanding game, be mindful of the bugs, and enjoy the ride!