Bet many of you forgot about these sweet RPG gems.
Nowadays, you just have to sneeze and you’ll stumble across an RPG. Back in the day, when we used to kick it old school style on the Super NES, RPGs were quite the niche market in North America. So much so that many RPGs released back then never made the trek over from Japan because there really wasn’t a huge audience for ’em. Out of the ones that we got, you had those that rose to the top, while others, still quite fun in their own lil’ way, kinda came and went quietly without so much as a send-off.
These are just four of the ones that I remember playing and have some rather fond memories of, but that aren’t talked about so much. I dare say that perhaps a couple of these games should have a do-over and have some things tweaked. Like the first game on our list:
1. Tecmo Secret of the Stars
Developer/ Publisher: Tecmo
Release Date: July 1995
What’s this? An RPG… from Tecmo? Yes, it’s true. In fact, this was the one and only attempt at an RPG that Tecmo ever did. Quite the departure from Ninja Gaiden or Tecmo Bowl.
Because this was their first time, they decided to stick to a formula that was safe. The end result is something that’s quite average (some out there may call the game below average). However, that isn’t to say that the game didn’t have its high-points, and I still enjoyed it a lot.
So, stop me if you’ve heard this before: you are young boy —
Sackboy Ezio: STOOOOP!
Me: Quiet, you!
*ahem* So you are a young boy destined to bring down the big bad of the game, Homncruse. Of course, you can’t do it alone. You need to find the four others who will make up your band of Aqutallion warriors and then go off to stop the evil-doers from doing their evil-doings.
The fate of the world rests in the hands of five kids? Four of you look like you haven’t even scratched the heels of puberty, and your wiseman, Dan, looks like he still needs a booster seat in order to eat at the dinner table traipsing about in his onesie.
They… need… HELP! Enter the Kustera warriors and one of the game’s bullet point features: the Party Switch.
Your main party is the Aqutallion kids, but at any point in the game you can switch over to the Kustera warriors. The Kustera are a group of adults sworn to aid the Aqutallion in their fight against Homncruse. There’s 11 Kustera in total, and they’re scattered all over the place. Once you’ve found them, you can change your Kustera party at towns.
What I think the game devs were going for is to have you switch (and use) both parties equally. Ya know, if you get tired of seeing those kids prance around, you can switch to the manly men, and vice-versa. As a matter of fact, there are some places in dungeons that are accessible only to the Kustera (and some accessible only to the Aqutallion), so you’re required to make this party swap in order to advanced.
I really liked this. Too bad it’s under-utilized. There’s only a small handful of times where Party Swap is absolutely necessary (there are other places, but they’re optional), and they’re all towards the end of the game. So while the Aqutallion party’s walking around at level 30 messing up fools, your Kustera guys have to tread through the same area at level 10. Not good. There aren’t any bosses that you need to use the Kustera guys for (though in one of the final areas, you can fight one of the bosses with them if you were unfortunate enough to reach him). I seriously wished the devs had thought up of a separate side story for the Kustera that would give you a reason to switch to them more. Like, while the Aqutallion were off in one town, the Kustera were doing some investigating or something and just met up with the kids in town later… or something.
Another nifty thing is that each of the kids (except wiseman booster seat Dan, who’s not really Aqutallion, just the wise man… yea….) has to undergo a special trial in order to reach a higher plain of consciousness and get the strongest spells in the game. They can also do Unity Attacks, which will allow two or more party members to combine their magic to bring the pain (or the healing). Again, Dan can’t use Unity Attacks because… er… wiseman code. Or some such thing.
Visually, the game’s old-school at its best (enemy designs are pretty darn good!), it’s quite long, the dialogue is lost in translation (Homncruse is supposed to be Homunculus… how’d they mess that up!?) and the music is badass. In fact, Secret of the Stars has one of my favourite video game songs ever. Seriously, the song that plays during major boss battles is one of the awesomest things ever. What saddens me is that not one remix of this on OCReMix. If I had the musical savoir-faire, I’d do it myself:
Whew! I had a lot to say about this one, eh? Sorry about the rambling. There’s just so much potential here; it’s a shame that it was all handled poorly.
Overall, the game not too bad if you can look past its shortcomings, and a good trip down memory lane for the old-schooler in you. If you can find it, give it a shot!
2. The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang
Developer: RED Entertainment
Publisher: Bullet Proof Software
Release Date: June 1994
If one were to twist my arm and force me to choose between Edward Cullen from Twilight and Spike McFang, I think the choice is rather obvious, don’t you? I mean, Spike McFang would make mince meat out of that sparkly freak. Who needs super human strength when you can twirl your cape around and throw your top hat like a killer boomerang. Because if it can work for Oddjob from Goldfinger and his bolo, it can work for Spike.
I’m digressing, aren’t I? How ’bout some STORY!?
So the islands of Vladamasco are ruled by three leaders: Dracuman, Vampra and Von Hesler. Everything’s peaceful, as they tend to be in RPGs, before Von Hesler goes crazy and starts a mutiny, capturing Dracuman and Vampra. Surely, a brave warrior with years of experience will come along to save the day.
… or, it could be Dracuman’s kid, who’s busy going to a hero day camp (no, I’m not kidding).
Yes, Spike McFang, along with Vampra’s daughter Camilla, and Von Hesler’s son Rudy, must go and save the day. Umm… yay?
You’ll only have one traveling buddy with you at a time, and they’re practically invincible (also, not so helpful). So just worry about healing yourself by taking your diet cues from Count Duckula and drink Tomato juice. Though to be honest, I don’t know how much healing you’ll be doing. Seriously, this game is stupid easy. The last time I finished it, it was under two hours.
Another aspect to the gameplay is the use of magic cards. You can use cards to attack enemies, make your Companion an attacking machine and not just a bag of uselessness, and to warp around so you don’t have to trek back to town. Ah, the joys of being lazy.
One of Spike McFang‘s redeeming qualities is that the dialogue’s pretty funny. Also the art is that anime-cutesy style and the music’s goofy and whimsical. It’s a charming lil’ game, so if you ever feel the need to play something a bit more on the light-hearted side, ya can’t go wrong with Spike McFang.