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Psychotic Reviews: Dragon Force

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Holy crap this game rules! Dragon Force is a rather unique strategy game for the Sega Saturn that mixes turn based strategy with real time tactical movement, decision making, and party building. Development was started by a company called J-Force, but Sega itself eventually took it over and finished it. In North America it was localized and released by Working Designs. Sega used Working Designs’ English translation for the European release of the game.

Dragon Force focuses on a continent wide war between various kingdoms and empires. The continent is called Legendra, which is a terrible name. There are eight total kingdoms to choose from, but only six are initially available. The rest are unlocked after the first time beating the game.

Each kingdom gets control of various Generals, either by recruiting them by searching in various castles, or by recruiting captured commanders. There are ten different types of Generals, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. There are ten main types of common soldier types as well, and each of these have strengths and weaknesses as well. The manual includes a table detailing the effects that common soldiers have against other types.

Now, with so many different countries and stories to choose from the game is built in with plenty of replayability. For this review I just played one scenario from start to finish and dabbled in a few others. I picked Highland as my main campaign, and after playing it this one does seem to be designed to be a tutorial type of campaign. Highland is rather isolated so you do not have to worry about border wars early on, and there is an easy peaceful annexation of Palemoon. It makes me think that Lord Wein and the elf Queen Teiris will be more than friends after this giant war.

Given this easy annexation I then stormed Tristan to basically conquer the entire Eastern half of Legendra. The rest of the conquest then focused on the Western half, picking off kingdom after kingdom until I finally took down Goldark. The threat continues as the evil being Madruk is still working to be awakened, so simply conquering Legendra is basically the first half of the game.

This game is quite fast paced in the beginning, but gets bogged down in the middle. You can just run around and storm castles all day long, making sure your enemies have little and later, nothing to counter your assault with. Once you’ve finished the conquest absolute chaos ensues but you can basically spend the time just grinding levels until you’re ready to easily blitz through the rest of the game. Turns start taking quite a long time though when you’re storming castle after castle and being counterattacked. Just before I was done conquering it wasn’t unfounded to have single turns take nearly an hour or more! So this game ends up being a major time sink, and its why I’ve just been pecking at it for months while I stroll through other games.

Each one of these scenarios by itself is quite long and rewarding, and if you could only pick one Saturn game to have on the system until the end of time, and only that one game, this would be a great candidate. Is it worth the price tag? It is if you enjoy the game and play through every single campaign to see the story unfold from so many different perspectives. This game is not cheap though, so in most cases it may be one of the last games that anybody collecting for the Saturn will pick up.

Psychotic Reviews: Suikoden Tierkreis

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Suikoden Tierkreis was the second game to be made by Konami for a non-Sony system, but it was the first of those games to be released outside of Japan. Suikoden Card Stories is basically a retelling of Suikoden II as a trading card game and was released on the Game Boy Advance exclusively in Japan. I have no idea what I’m doing in that game, but I do know what’s going on in Tierkreis for the Nintendo DS mostly because of the English language. Tierkreis was the first Suikoden game since the release of Suikoden V on the PS2, and was anxiously awaited by fans of the series since there was about a three year gap between releases.

Tierkreis is a complete and total spinoff of the series. It has absolutely nothing to do with the main numbered series. As a result of this it introduces its own world with its own set of rules, all new characters, and new political entities. There are some familiar elements from previous games, such as the headquarters and 108 Stars of Destiny to recruit. This game calls them Starbearers though.

Some of the most loved design choices from the main series are gone for this game. There are no tactical battles, there are no one-on-one duels. Well, technically there are some one-on-one fights, but these take place in the normal party based battle system. The familiar cinematic system of dialogue and counters is nowhere to be seen. The weapon sharpening system has been axed in favor of equippable weapons. What was a nice way for characters to have more defined personalities was replaced by the ultimate ‘throwaway character’ system.

Many of the plot elements are unfolded through the job board. A number of these end up with the recruitment of more Stars, but some are just there for money making purposes. Thankfully, not all recruitments involve this board, so you still have to explore towns and other areas to find out where people are hiding out. You make most of your money in this game by actually moving the plot forward, as you can turn in these missions at the job board to earn a big paycheck.

This game still focuses on political machinations and the various ambitions of the independent rulers of their respective areas. Unlike the main games there are many different nations, kingdoms, tribal areas, and cities all within the game world. There is a religious, militant, zealous imperial styled country, a magical kingdom, a city of porpoise people, a tribe of felines, a kingdom of swordsmen, as well as smaller villages.

Tierkreis’ world is described as being much larger than just the explorable area, as there are many worlds connected by gateways. There is another tribe that specializes in using these gateways to travel between worlds and use items they find to trade in other worlds. This also lets characters from other worlds visit your own, but sadly the reverse is not true. It would be awesome to have small areas to explore in other worlds while keeping the plot focused on the main world.

This is not completely unique to this game though. The idea of other parallel worlds existing has been blatantly mentioned in previous games, including the first two, Suikogaiden II, Suikoden IV and Tactics. Some stars of those games are theorized to be from other worlds, but this idea was never the focus of any of the stories from those games, just one piece of a massive puzzle. Tierkreis is completely focused on not only the fact that these parallel worlds exist, but how they are related to each other.

The lack of tactical battles really hurts the feeling of grandeur that previous games give. Going into a different screen where there are units to maneuver, tactics, and strategy to earn a victory is just much more satisfying. In Tierkreis you usually make one to three parties and each one gets a couple normal battles, maybe a boss battle, and then you’re on your way.

The music is a big step down from the main series. Short loops make their return from the first Suikoden, but each area gets its own unique tracks. The visuals are quite nice for a handheld of the time, and most characters have multiple pieces of art to represent different emotions and facial expressions. The game even has voice acting! I do not care much for the voice acting on the main characters. It sounds like somebody gave the VA for the main character an extra $20 to say all of his lines as fast as possible, so he is hard to understand since words fly out of his mouth. He also has a lame catchphrase: “We don’t know what’s going to happen until we try!” That might make some more sense after you play the game though. The others range from good to mediocre, but with the game’s budget this is probably better than one might expect.

Overall Tierkreis is a fine game for what is offered here. It works well, the story is a bit simpler than the main series entries, but it is worth a look even if you’re not a fan and are looking for a fun RPG to play on the go. If you’ve played the main games before this may feel underwhelming with all the changes and omissions, but the game is fine for what it tries to do and give the player. The story works well, but the localization is quite messy at times with punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes fairly consistent throughout the game.

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