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Retro Game Review-: Elnard's Balance Restauraration
Gameplay: Boss Battle
Dragon Warrior Meets Legacy of Kain
I want to go ahead and preface this by saying that I haven't played the original 7th Saga. It's on my list, but I have not yet got around to actually trying it so I don't know how close to, or far away from, this hack is to the source material. I do know that I absolutely loved playing this game, and I am happy that I went into it blind. I am curios as to how playing a fan hack first will affect my experience when I Play the actual, original game.
This game has one of the most simplistic stories in video game history, a familiar trope that is repeated, over and over, because it is an easy premise to build a fantasy world around. The player takes control of an adventurer, by first selecting the race (and therefore appearance) of said adventurer. The different races have different stats. I chose to be a demon, the race with the most powerful offensive magic abilities. The player is then tasked with retrieving 7 runes (the game's Deus ex Machina), and sent out on their merry way with no further instruction. It plays like any other fantasy RPG, with players equiping weapons and armor dependent on the race they picked, and fighting turn based battles to level up and take on the enemies of dungeons to pick up the runes. It's straightforward fare that you don't have to think about, a good, meditative time-killer.
Gameplay: In Town
This game is strange on a number of levels. The story is simplistic, yet the characters are vast and well written. The overworld graphics, as far as backgrounds go, are hideous, almost 8-bit, but the character and battle sprites are gorgeous, almost playstation-esque. In fact, the reason I stuck with this game, and decided to play it through, is because the battle sprites were so fun to look at, so intriguing, with different forms and animations; this is real, actual artwork. The kind of thing that you can tell an artist slaved over, perfecting; the kind of thing that comes from people with standards. I don't know which of these are from the hackers and which were from the original programmers.
I actually think that I may rip some sprites from the game and make cross stitch patterns from them; that's how beautiful they are. I want to recreate them and put them on my wall. And many of them are demons or zombies, the sort of thing one would expect from a Pokemon-themed creepypasta: The undead trainer of the White Hand would fit right into this game. These are his people.
The overworld style reminds me of the original Legacy of Kain game, the one for PS1. They have similar 3/4 camera styles, and similar art styles that try to add as much realism as possible to a 32x32 pixel sprite, as opposed to the chibi style that most artists of the time used. This is a risky move, as it is difficult to isolate different body parts with these limited graphical capacities, but somehow, this game pulls it off. This, despite the fact that the backgrounds are pitiful.
Gameplay Screenshot: Random Encounter
As far as the actual gameplay goes, it really, really reminds me of Dragon Warrior. Like the old school Dragon Warriors, for the NES and original Game Boy. This game, for example, doesn't really kill you, so much as it just takes half your money and teleports you to the last inn you slept in. Also it does that annoying thing where pressing the "A" button opens a menu, rather than acting as an action button. The entire game could be played with just the A button and the directional pad. You get a menu that gives you options like "talk" "items" "explore" "status", etc, and you have to pick the one you want. That means that in order to talk to an NPC, or open a door, or do anything, you have to open the menu, and pick the action. To talk it isn't so bad, but to open a locked door, you have to go into the menu, select the key, and use it on the door. It's so needlessly complex. We didn't need to go through all that to open a locked door in Adventure on the ATARI. There's no excuse for that.
Also similar to many other older RPGs, there's no explanation when you buy an item or unlock a spell. So you're left guessing, which can be a real issue when you're talking about magic, because you could very well use up all your MP on a spell that doesn't actually accomplish anything. The game is actually pretty generous with money so it isn't a huge issue with items, but I still like to know what I'm buying.
Speaking of items, instead of maxing your item count at 99 like most RPGs of the time, they max out at 9. That's right, you're expected to treck out into a monster-filled world, with only 9 health potions, only 9 MP refilling herbs. That's extremely difficult, especially because, like many RPGs of the time, the game pacing isn't great. It's mediocre at best, and you will find yourself level grinding if you want to accomplish anything.
Gameplay Screenshot: Random Battle
This game is definitely not for everyone, and in particular I think that younger players, who have been raised on games that scale enemy level to player level, will not care for it at all. Kids just don't like to level grind because they find the monotony tedious, rather than meditative, and I can't fault them for that. However, if you're a fan of old-school RPGs, particularly if you liked the original Dragon Warrior, and don't mind the faults present in the gameplay, you'll really enjoy this game. It's a great retro adventure, and a good thing to play, particularly if you have some time you want to eat up, if you're waiting on a ride or something.