天外魔境 ZIRIA非売品



First of the popular turn-based RPG series set in old Japan.

The following information is taken from Hudson Soft's website:
"The Tengai Makyo series was conceived and produced by Ouji Hiroi. The first game in the series, Tengai Makyo Ziria, was released in 1989...as the world's first major RPG on CD-ROM. At a time when most thought CD-ROMs were a poor medium for games, Tengai Makyo Ziria integrated features that couldn't be put on other media, from large maps to animation, real-voice narration, and CD-quality music. With a score from Ryuichi Sakamoto and an all-star cast of narrators, this epoch-making title revolutionized the role-playing game. Set in the fictional Japanese world of Zipangu, the game brought adventure, romance, comedy, and drama together in a single, sprawling storyline. In addition to the main games, the series also featured fighting action games featuring characters from the RPG. The main RPG series was originally conceived in three parts...The final installment of the original series, Tengai Makyo III: Namida...was stopped due to development costs and hardware limitations..."

You say...
Tengai Makyou Ziria was one of those killer apps that cemented the status of the PC Engine CD addon in Japan in 1989 and it's easy to see why. The game's opening must have been truly stunning back when it was first released. It tells the story of how the warlord Masakado attempted to take over the world of Jipang with an army of demons but was ultimately thwarted by the brave heroes of the fire clan.

Skip to several centuries later and it seems demons have appeared once again. Our main character Jiraiya is apparentlya descendent of the fire clan and is thus set upon a quest by his master the toad sage to find the other descendents and defeat the demon army once again.

Right of the bat you can tell that much care went into the animated cutscenes and the voice acting is top notch. It gives the game a lot of its atmosphere, fleshes out many of the important characters in the game and makes your party members relatable.There is quite a lot of voice acting, meaning many of the music tracks in the game are chiptunes. These are all well done though, doing a good job of emulating classical Japanese instruments and tunes. There is enough variantion here to make sure it doesn't outstay its welcome either.

The game world of Jipang is very much based on feudal Japan, featuring many of the same regions and famous locations like Edo, albeit in a different geographical layout. You will travel from town to town basically helping the local feudal lord deal with their demon problem before moving on to the next region. Meanwhile there are a good amount of region random encounters along the way, with a bit of grinding involved upon entering a region in order to get your equipment and level up to par. The encounter rate and amount of grinding feels lenient, especially compared to some other rpg's of the time (see my review of Benkai Gaiden for one of the most egregious examples).

The battles themselves can go by quickly os slowly and there's an option to increase text scrolling speed which will make random battles much more enjoyable. Enemy sprites don't have much animation, but they are detailed and there is a wide variety of them. You won't see many palette swaps and there are many different backgrounds based upon the environment the battle takes place in. This genuinely made me curious to see which enemies and backgrounds I would see in a new area. Sadly, the highly detailed backgrounds would not make it into the sequel.

Boss fights are noteworthy because the bosses themselves are incredibly detailed. This is achieved by drawing the boss sprites as an entire backgrounnd in combat. Which allows for detailed art and animations. Furthermore, bosses usually require a precise strategy or key item which you will have to discover before fighting them. Usually townsfolk will give you hints to this end so nothing comes out of left field.

There are some mechanics which were standard practise at the time that do age the game a little. The I button brings up the menu, which also includes the 'talk'and 'search'options, so you can't search or talk automatically as you would in later rpgs. This is something the sequel fixes. There's also no way of seeing which stat changes a piece of equipment will give you before buying them or even when equiping them, so it's best to save your game before buying any new equipment and be sure to check out your characters'stats before and after equiping something new. This is again something the sequel does fix. Thankfully holding down the II button lets you run, making traversing towns and dungeons much quicker than they would otherwise be.

The way you learn magic in this game is different from other rpgs. Instead of leveling up, finding spellbooks or buying them in some fashion, the land is riddled with shrines to local spirit animals which serve as guardian deities. These have been sealed by the demon clan and can only be freed by your party members after which they will grant you a new spell. Many of these are optional, but some are mandatory as part of the plot. All of them are useful however, so it's recommended to seek all of them out. One of the things I found disappointing was that you spend quite a bit of time by yourself before gaining new party members. In fact, you'll gain some temporary allies which you don't directly control in battle, but other than that you'll only gain 3 permanent party members across a 30 hour game.

Overall the game is fairly big for the time but doesn't outstay its welcome and the stoyline is enjoyable, if predictable. The setting and presentation are really what set it apart and it's easy to see why this game blew the minds of Japanese gamers back in 1989. It's interesting to check out for that reason alone. There are guides online to help you get through the game and this game definitely gets a recommendation.
Marco Wolken





Visual Scenes

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