Diary of an RPGamer - 2011-08-05

Continuing the theme of picking up titles I'd not played for months or years, I finally went back to the Sega Saturn RPG Madou Monogatari, which I'd put down in 2009 (according to the save file) and not been back to since.

Madou Monogatari (Sega Saturn) from 1998 is the last in a long running series that began in the late 80s on the MSX (although a mobile-only game was released in Japan in 2005). For anyone interested, Hardcore Gaming 101 covered the series as part of their overview of the Puyo Puyo games.

 The game is a pretty standard RPG, featuring turn-based battles using a party of up to 3 characters (typically 2 story characters plus a guest). The heroine, Arle, uses only magic attacks but all other characters have some combination of physical and magical abilities. Some enemies are resistant or boosted by certain types of magic, so the player needs to be careful to remember their foes.

The game is generally presented in an isometric layout, whether in town or in a dungeon, while battles are shown side-on with nice looking 2D sprites. Conversations are overlayed with large, nicely drawn portraits of the characters to bring some life to the scene. The overworld view is simply a map with dots representing areas your party can visit; clicking on a location will send you straight there.

Each character has an SP gauge that, when full, allows them to use a special skill (grayed out when the SP bar is not flashing, as seen in the screenshot above). These skills can prove very useful against stronger enemies and bosses. The SP gauge will drain even if the player opts to use a normal move - however that move is significantly boosted in power and effect.

I'm about 4 or 5 hours in at the moment and so far it's been an enjoyable romp. The characters (and even most enemies) are packed with charm making this a good RPG to play when you don't feel like being hammered by a typical story centering on the end of the world.

As far as the series goes, I've only played this Saturn version and the SNES title Madou Monogatari: Hanamaru Daiyouchi Enji - out of the two of them, I'd definitely recommend the Saturn game - Hanamaru Daiyouchi Enji is really more of an RPG-lite type game, seemingly aimed at children. It does, however, boast the advantage of having a fan-made English translation patch available.

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