Long Live the Mustache
AND WE'RE OFF!!! GET HYPE GET HYPE
The first thing that happens when we load the game -- well the FIRST thing is it shows the ArtePiazza logo, just like when you start Innocent Life, so that was a little... eh LOL
But then the actual game starts :D There's a long but skippable intro, and we're gonna watch it!
We're introduced to the basic plot of the game. There were Seven Heroes. Then monsters came. The Seven Heroes saved the world. Then they vanished.
This is... literally the same amount of detail they give in the game, too, lol.
Peace came to the world and everyone forgot about the Heroes.
Then we pan over a bunch of random scenery from around the game's world. For this remaster, they decided to remake the backgrounds with new hand-drawn landscapes, but keep the character and monster sprites looking like they did in the original SFC game, because so many people are attached to those desgins. I actually think the new backgrounds look very nice, and I thought the weird super-pixelated sprites running around on top of them would feel awkward, but I got used to it within seconds. So the game's visuals are very good in my opinion. Especially when you compare to the hideous remastered character sprites from Final Fantasy V and stuff like that. I think they made better art direction choices for this port...
I guess the scenery montage was to show us the peaceful time, because next we see that the peace has ended. We see these two randos standing by a well and like... walking in place at it, and they complain about how monsters are a regular thing now.
AND THEN SUDDENLY TWO MONSTERS RUSH IN OUT OF NOWHERE AND KILL THEM INSTANTLY. Well, I assume. The people just kinda... disappeared when the monsters bumped into them. I realize this is supposed to be an "Oh, no!" moment but it just looks so funny because it's so sudden. It's like the bus thing from Mean Girls lolol.
Some soldiers rush out to the well area and approach the monsters as a giant appears as well, and they start fighting. The giant is a bit too powerful for them, though, and ends up knocking them all out. More importantly, though, please notice that this giant has a mustache. A giant mustache. Please admire. I will wait.
OK, I see you can't appreciate the finer things in life. Not everyone can have this impeccably shit taste. I guess we'll just move on.
The narration text says that the people turned to the Seven Heroes once again in their time of need (even though... they were supposed to have been forgotten and reduced to mere "faerie tales" ...?) and then ... they returned!!
The game shows a black screen with some weird monster sprites flying all over it. I didn't really catch anything that looked like anything so no caps. But just imagine it.
And here's our title screen! The intro is so long for how little it explains everything. And now we can finally start playing! Just kidding, the controller doesn't work. For some reason, you have to play this game in Steam's "Big Picture" controller mode thing, which is super annoying because enabling that also for some reason enables my controller to navigate Windows 10, so doing things like pressing the soft reset combination or pressing L3 will actually DO THINGS in Windows, even while I'm playing games, so I have to turn it off whenever I'm not playing and then turn it back on whenever I am.
Also people are complaining so much about how the game doesn't have fullscreen mode. You literally can press F11 or Alt+Enter and it will go into fullscreen. And then it will even default to fullscreen from then on out... so you only even have to do this one time...
I mean, this does indeed feel like a quick port of a mobile game, but... that's exactly what it is, so IDK what people expect. Mobile games don't have a ton of graphics options and crap and implementing that kind of stuff after a game has been fully developed when you weren't anticipating it can be extremely challenging. Personally, other than some UI elements being a little ugly, I haven't had any complaints about the game's quality.
After we finally get the controller working and go through the tedious task of having to press two entire keys on the keyboard to get to fullscreen, we can finally start a new game! The first thing that pops up is a screen asking if "Start with existing data?" or something, which I'm not really sure what it means, but I'm assuming it was a feature for mobile if you wanted to transfer your save to a new device. Why they would leave this in for the PC release, I don't know.
The next thing asks if we want to play with new content or not. This remaster contains new stuff that wasn't in the original Super Famicom release like some new features and dungeons and stuff. I had no idea you could opt to play "traditional mode" that would allow you to play with only the content that the original game had, but I think that's very cool. Of course, I'm going to play with the new content, though :)
Then we choose the gender of some warrior-looking sprite and name them. When I first played this game, I thought we were creating our lead character. But then when you start the game, this character does not even exist. In fact, you don't even see this character until the very end of the game (and it's possible to go the entire game without seeing them at all).
After we name the character, we're taken to a scene of a pub (where Thaao who we just named is, so I guess you kind of do see them already), and there's a minstrel standing near a wall. A little boy tugs at the minstrel and draws him to the center of the room, where he pulls out his harp and begins to sing his "poem." The word for "poem" and "song" is the same word in Japanese, so you see this kind of translation a lot, and sometimes it's ambiguous but... he literally pulled out an instrument to sing it... (this is not as bad as fans insisting the call the Japanese version of Magical Melody as Poem of Happiness when the entire plot of the game revolves around collecting music notes and instruments to play a song to--OK, I'm not going to go into that rant here LOL)
Anyway, the minstrel sings his "poem," even inviting the spirits of the land to join his chorus, and the "poem" is about a centuries-old struggle between good and evil and a legacy of generations of emperors and allies. The story begins in the small country of Avalon, where the empire began with Emperor Leon, who ruled "with a gentle hand and a sharp blade." He also has two kids named Victor and Gerard. And one day he took his son Gerard to hunt some monsters...
And then the game cuts to the scene that the "poem" was describing. We see five people huddled together, the center being apparently Emperor Leon commanding his troops. He explains to his son Gerard about the formation they will use while fighting, and then we're finally able to take control of the game.
The most important thing to note here is that our player character is Emperor Leon, who is like........
The little pixely sprite doesn't do this hotness justice.
But uh, yeah, we're playing the game yayyy.
Very similarly to the successor game Romancing SaGa 3, we have the option to run, but the enemy gets an advantage if we bump it to initiate a battle while running. So generally it's safer to walk unless running will undoubtedly let you avoid a battle you'd rather not fight. And like most SaGa games, the enemies seem to get more powerful based on how many battles you partake in, so fighting lots of weaklings will lead to significantly stronger enemies without much opportunity for the party to grow in strength.
And I guess if it wasn't obvious from the screenshot and that description, this is the kind of game where enemy sprites are on the overworld and you initiate battles by touching the enemies, not by random encounter.
The battle scene plays out much like other games in the series, though a lot of those staples began with this entry. (The first Romancing SaGa used some super weird battle system that is completely different from this.)
Before a round of combat, you choose an action for each of your five party members. Rather than a traditional "Attack, Defend, Run" menu, you can scroll through various menus of options for your character. Each equipped active item has its own menu, listing the abilities the character can use with that item. You also have a menu for any magic spells you've learned, a menu for martial arts you've learned, and a menu with the expected "Defend" and "Flee" commands on it. Because your characters can get such a huge variety of abilities in the game, a menu system like this works much better. It's pretty easy to navigate once you understand how it works, but if you're expecting a traditional Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy menu, you're going to be quite confused.
After selecting your actions for each character, the combat round begins and all battle participants act in order of their initiative rolls, which is based on a Speed stat.
I don't really know why, but I really like games that have this kind of turn setup -- where you make all your choices before the round begins, and then the actions take place. It makes you have to think about more at once while making your decisions, I guess, and feels more "strategic" somehow.
Between combat rounds, there's a little update screen that shows the names of the enemies and the current Hit Points and Life Points of your party members. And again like other entries in the series, this game uses an HP+LP system. Your HP works like traditional HP -- when it gets to 0, your character is knocked out. But they also lose one LP, and getting attacked again while knocked out will cause them to lose more. If their LP hits zero, they die. Like, for good.
And, uh, monsters hit hard in this game. Even in this little tutorial dungeon, we lost a few LP across the party. Enemies can easily dish out half or even all of your characters' max HP in damage with a single hit sometimes, so you have to be ready for anything, pay attention to the status of the party every single round, and pay attention to speed and character positions and stuff to plan for each round of combat. It's very fun, but for people used to more simple attack-and-win RPGs, it can be very frustrating.
Monsters don't have LP so we just have to take out their HP to defeat them.
There's not too much to do here; our job is just to clear out the monsters. I don't know if you actually have to kill them all or just one that is considered the 'leader' or something, but nothing seems like a clear leader. We do get a Kris Knife and a ton of money from a chest (like, 100,000 Crowns! It gets deposited in the Imperial Treasury because we can't hold that much on us ourselves) and then we leave. I took a screenshot of the outside of the cave just because I thought it was pretty cool looking. I also love how some random monsters decided to put such an elaborately decorative door on their like... hole in the side of a rock.
When we leave the cave area, we're taken to a world map where we select locations with a cursor. The only location available besides the place we already are is Avalon, where we came from originally.
When we return, we watch Leon walk back through town to the castle. Some children playing outside see him and come trailing behind him, mesmerized by his overwhelming beauty, hoping to get a glimpse of his wonderful mustache. But they don't get to for now -- but at least they see his gorgeous flowing hair from behind...
Leon returns to the throne where his elder son Victor is waiting. They greet each other and Victor makes sure Gerard is doing alright. Apparently Gerard is more of a bookworm type, so Victor insists his father have Gerard continue studies instead of learning to fight with him. But Leon insists it's necessary. This isn't the "he's a weakling and I want to fight!!!" kind of thing, but rather Victor is honestly concerned for Gerard's well-being, and the job that would suit him the most to help the Empire, which would be in diplomatic or administrative duties. But it doesn't sound like these paths are looked down upon at all, and Victor is just confused over why his father is training Gerard in fighting.
As Gerard continues to argue with his father, a guard interrupts them to announce that a woman named Orieve is requesting an audience with Leon. Apparently this lady has been requesting over and over and Leon doesn't really care to talk to her, but today she's lucky because he'd even less rather sit and have this argument with Victor, so he actually grants her an audience. He asks Victor and Gerard to leave them alone, and Victor catches on easily that he only invited her in to make a quick end to the argument.
At this point, Gerard and Victor are left to their own, and we take control of Gerard. The castle is a pretty bustling place. A lot of people will just say something like "Don't push yourself too hard," but there are also a lot of useful amenities and stuff here. The screenshot above is the storehouse, where we can store items and weapons and stuff. There's even a little scale that we can stand on to see how much we weigh (this will tell you your total equipment weight for each character, which affects turn order in battle.)
There are some scholars who are compiling information, and one of them will tell you how many battles you've fought over the course of the game. I guess if you know the intricacies of the mechanics and monster rank and stuff, this could be quite useful.
There's a room with some soldiers doing formation training, and you can talk to the captain and he'll yell out a battle formation, and the soldiers will jump into that formation. I'm assuming this will do something more later, because right now we only have the Imperial Cross formation, so they don't really do anything.
But one of the most enjoyable things for me to do is go around and talk to the various battle units throughout the castle. They'll ask Gerard how his training is or give him some kind of advice and he almost always responds with some kind of excuse for why he is a failure at everything or can't do anything, and it's so funny. I don't really know what the intent with all of this dialogue was, but it definitely makes Gerard sound like a huge slacker who doesn't want to do ANYTHING. So he's like me, really.
But yeah, when the mages ask him about studying he says he has no time for studies, and when they ask about magic training he says he doesn't know any spells at all. Though if you talk to Emerald (the pyrology mage), she'll remedy this excuse by teaching Gerard the Fireball spell! I actually didn't know about this the first few times I played through this intro (which is like... as far as I would ever get LOL). So if you're playing, make sure to go get your free spell by making excuses to Emerald.
We can even go into town and go into the bar and everything! There's this weird guy in there that says "You cannot come here while it's still bright!" and then just goes "Oh..." or something afterward. It's so weird?? I don't really get what it's supposed to mean lol. We can ask for a drink and the bartender gives Gerard like... coffee or something? And Gerard will say, "Whew." when he drinks it. It's cute. Most of the people in town say your generic NPC stuff like "I love this town" or whatever. But talking to various townsfolk also helps us learn a little bit more about Gerard's personality.
If we talk to one woman in town, she apologizes that Gerard is always having to deal with her kids, but Gerard says he's actually fond of entertaining her children. And it really does seem so, because when we talk to the kids, they seem quite friendly with Gerard. One boy says he wants to hear stories about valor and glory next time, because he's tired of hearing stories about animals. But Gerard does the same excuse thing with the kid and says, "I do not like talking about such things," or something which is even more hilarious than making excuses to the soldiers. And one of the little girls thanks Gerard for helping her cat get better or something? So it sounds like her cat was sick or injured and Gerard helped nurse it back to good health.
And otherwise people seem to be pretty fond of Gerard and the royal family in general, but I guess they could just be sucking up, too. Like if you go to the inn and try to get a room, the innkeeper talks about how she'd never forgive herself for making us stay in such a filthy place or something.
I like that all these little conversations give some insight into what Gerard is like, especially since SaGa games tend to do the exact opposite with characters.
We can also go into the prison underground and see that everything is OK. I remember making comments about this with Mikhail in RSG3, too, but I like how there's no one in here. It shows that the place is peaceful or Leon is very merciful, or both.
I don't really know what triggers it (I think it's just going into town and coming back to the castle) but eventually Orieve will be gone from the throne room and we can re-enter and talk to Leon again. Victor is there, too. Gerard asks what the lady had to say, and Leon says that she warned him that Kzinssie, one of the Seven Heroes, is dangerous. But Leon thinks it's a preposterous idea that one of the Seven Heroes could be harmful.
Though he doesn't do the "completely disregard what will turn out to be important advice" thing that happens in most narratives. He says that he doesn't expect any trouble, but he'll keep his guard up.
Gerard asks what's next, and Leon says we have another quarry of monsters to go beat up -- this time, the "elusive watchmen" in the east. We take control of Leon again and can run around and talk to everyone. The conversations Leon has with everyone are a lot more stiff and formal, and definitely a lot less funny. But you can see a huge difference in how people treat Gerard versus Leon, which is neat. Talking to kids for some reason just has them make weird noises at you like "Yeeep!" and "Woohoo!" and stuff. I'm assuming that the overwhelming sexiness irradiating from Leon's mustache is incomprehensible to their young minds and they just kinda go nuts for a little when they see him.
When we head out of town, we go back to the map where we can select the Watchmen's hideout now. This is another small cave, this time teeming with way more monsters than before. But there's not a lot to say about this place. Basically we just fight a bit and find the Watchmen at the end of the place. We find a Bastard Sword in a chest, which makes Leon really powerful for right now.
The Watchmen are actually these two weird bunny things with like... clocks for torsos. I guess the "watch" part of "watchmen" is supposed to refer to the timepiece? And "bunny with a clock" is probably Lewis Carroll reference. Anyway, these things are no joke. The two Watchmen in the back are pretty strong, and they're being guarded by the three weaker bunnies in the front. We have access to very few ranged attacks, and Haphazard Arrow does 0 damage to the Watchmen. Gerard's new Fireball spell can do a little damage, and then we have Leon's Light Ball spell which hits all enemies for a little damage. But the most important thing about Light Ball is that it also blinds enemies, which severely reduces the threat of the Watchmen's ranged attacks. Though they can still land them sometimes, and the damage is still big. And I forgot to equip Balms to the characters so we had no way to heal during this fight.
Once the front row was out of the way, Leon could tear through the Watchmen pretty easily on his own. We managed to win the battle with an entire two party members left alive!
And with that we return to Avalon, a job well done. But...
WHAT IN TARNATION?!
I'll leave you with this cliffhanger for now ;) And next entry we will finish the opening scenes to get into the main plot/game, and I'll talk a little more about some of the battle mechanics that I skipped over going into detail about this time.