Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mystic Ark, Part 1 - Reincarnation

Time for a classic Super Famicom RPG that never made it over here, like many great RPGs of the mid-90s. This is the game that would have been known as The 7th Saga II, had it gotten a North American release. It fixes many of the problems of the original game, and lets you have a three (!!!) person party.

Legend says that this was one of Enix's better efforts of the 90's. Thanks to the folks at Dynamic Designs (formerly Magic Destiny), we eventually got a fan translation of the game. If Lennus 2 was any indication, it'll be a great translation. Hell yeah, I'm excited for this.

Here's the box art. It looks like an interesting game. Hmm... a gender-ambiguous hero, talking animals... is this a Suikoden?

The back of the box features the cast of the game, and a shot of the new three-person battles.

 Here's the Dynamic Designs crew. Big shout-out and thank you to these guys for making this game - and many others - finally accessible to an English audience.

In the intro of the game, we're introduced to the various characters very briefly. There's Lux, along with a bunch of other Tetujin. They look different in this game. In The 7th Saga, they were bulky mechs. Now, they're sleek. They kinda look like Umaro from Final Fantasy VI.

As for the other characters...

Here's the cast (click the image to magnify this). The guy (...yes, it's a guy) on the left and the girl with the braid are your two options for the hero of the game. Indeed, you only have two choices, unlike the first game. They're pretty similar to one another. The guy has fire spells and better attacks, the girl has ice spells and gets heal spells at lower levels.

As for the other characters... there are six, and you can bring two with the hero at any given point (once you get them). There's a ninja, a monk, a beast-man, Lux, and two hot women. They're a damage caster and a healer, filling the Esuna and Valsu roles.

 Here's Meisia, the healer of the game. We'll see if this game emphasizes damage output first and foremost like the original, and if there's room for a non-offensive character. Hopefully I can make room for her, because...

...homina homina

 Unfortunately for our heroes, they all get transformed into figurines in this intro. I guess the first big objective of the game will be to find a way to turn them back into themselves.

 I was expecting to have a more substantial character select at the outset of the game, so this is a bit of a letdown. The two heroes aren't even particularly visually distinct from one another, as they both look like blonde women. At least their stats and abilities are somewhat different, though they both fall under the Kamil "jack of all trades" archetype.

The default names for the characters are Remeer (for the dude) and Ferris (for the lady).

The game begins in this shrine, where the heroes have all been figurined. The main character wakes up, due to being revived by a goddess or something, and the game begins. Why doesn't the goddess revive everyone else too? Either way, they've all been sucked from their homeworld (Ticondera?) to this strange plane. The shrine seems to have portals to numerous other worlds, via examining things. It's a little bit like the hub castle in Mario 64.

 I went with a male, for continuity's sake. What am I referring to, you ask? Well, this guy... is King Lemele from the first game.


This is both a prequel AND a sequel to The 7th Saga, which will make sense if you read the final post on that game. So is this The 8th Saga or The 6th Saga? Actually, it's more likely to be the 6th. I'm pretty sure these events transpire in before the original game, even if it starts in the future of the original game's finale.

 In any case, it's pretty awesome to be playing as the badass King Lemele... even though he's the prettiest woman in the game. Must be because he's reincarnated from Esuna.

If you go with Ferris as the main character, I'm not sure if she's still supposed to be Lemele. I also can't abide a female character who constantly makes me think of Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

So... I guess this takes place after the hero of 7th reincarnates, but before he gets killed and impersonated by Gorsia. Ya know, the timeline of this duology is already not making much sense, much like the geography of Lennus 2. I still don't understand how that solar system made any sense.

 You can interact with objects in this game in a number of ways, which is interesting but makes things a bit more time-consuming.

 Thing is, most of the options don't do anything, and most of the objects don't do anything. I can tell that I'll be wasting a lot of time examining/pawing at plain things like bookshelves that have nothing beneficial for me.

This definitely seems to be Enix's answer to Final Fantasy VI. The graphics are similar in a lot of ways. Unfortunately this game, at least so far, falls short. The walking speed is too slow and tedious, for one thing. So is FFVI's, at first. We'll see if any Sprint Shoes pop up, or if there's a dash button that I'm missing. There are also some very annoying text scrolling sound effects. All-in-all,

If you're thinking Quantum Leap already, then we're in agreement. Remeer needs to return to his world, but there's no way of knowing where he'll end up every time he goes through a world-portal in this hub. But you can bet that he hopes each time that his next leap... will be the leap home.

 Wow. Just... just wow. And the crazy thing is, this STILL doesn't make the hero of the game look like as much of a loser as the beginning of Suikoden IV does.

 This model warship transports me to one of the alternate worlds. See what I mean about the Mario 64  similarity? Looking forward to seeing what some of the other world-portals look like.

This first second was a bit of tedious exploration, but it isn't bad when you know what you're looking for. When trying to find a way to the next area, clicking a model warship doesn't really spring to mind. To be fair, the game gives you a pretty big hint.

 The overworld. It's desolate and cracked. Making a return is the crystal ball from the first game, showing enemies as they approach. It doesn't show towns any more, though, so it's a lot less useful. And without knowing where the nearest town is, this first part is dangerous. You can survive all of two battles before you get a game over on the next one.

 ...heck, you can survive all of one battle (if that) if you're unlucky and get two enemies. Gotta say though, I like the battle screen. I like the psuedo-3D, and I like that you can see your character(s).

 ....annnnd dead. Luckily, the game starts you right back at the last statue you talked to. Or inn you stayed at, if that happened more recently.

 Back on the overworld, our blood-soaked hero limps to the first town. It's... a ship? And there's another one parked nearby. Why are there warships in the middle of the wasteland? This is wild stuff.

Join your army? Can I please just have some kind of a heal? ...wait a minute, are those... talking cat-people?

 The leader of the cats immediately starts barking out orders, despite that Remeer is slowly bleeding out at this moment.

You know, I thought this was going to be a serious game. Unless this is a tongue-in-cheek dream world scenario, the game has already devolved into "4 Kidz" status with an army of cat people.

I might as well be playing Wii Petz Catz.

From the makers of Assassin's Creed!

 ::SHIIING!:: "...Requiescat in pace."

Found an armor shop. The stuff here is nice and inexpensive. I'm hoping that the upgrade costs don't spiral out of control as the game continues.

 This guy proceeds to give Remeer orders. I guess Remeer is just a cat army conscript now. Bizarre stuff. Gotta say, the story of this game isn't exactly enthralling thus-far.

 Meanwhile, our hero continues to try to apply pressure to his massive wounds as he limps around and gasps for a doctor.

 Didn't find the inn, but I found an item shop. Potions are... oddly expensive. Really weird that they're so much more pricey than the armor. Got a few of these, and they'll serve as my inn stays for a little while...

Ding, level 2! If this were a modern game, an achievement would unlock for this.

Achievement Unlocked: Got Past Title Screen

 I keep on grinding out levels, and soon get my first attack spell. I have yet to use it, though, since Remeer's regular attacks are more than getting the job done.

Know what's weird? He gets the Guard ability at level 4 or so. It's the standard Defend from most RPGs. Odd that you don't start with it. This game doesn't have Defend-Attacks like the original, either.

 Getting to level 6 gets you a recall spell. You have a recall item with unlimited uses already, but it can't be used in dungeons. This spell can, which makes it at least somewhat useful.

 Nevermind the usefulness part... it's prohibitively expensive. I was going to say it'd be useful in an emergency in the depths of a dungeon, but if it's an emergency you probably don't have 14 MP laying around.

 FOUND THE INN. It a very obvious place, as I suspected it was. One of the first rooms in the warship. Best thing is, staying here costs 10G. No more buying potions just to heal.

Venturing north, I find a tower. Apparently the people in the game know this as the lighthouse.

 Inside is some pretty rad music... and Matoya from FF1, apparently. She blasts our hero with lightning, reducing his HP to 1. Also, the door is locked. Well, clearly I'm not supposed to be here. Onward.

 Nearby is a slightly-hidden cave. More good music in here. As far as caves go, it's quite plain. I hope the dungeons get more interesting than this.

 The battle theme is different in dungeons, as is tradition. Not only is it a great track, it's very lengthy. Goes on much longer than any battle will, so you have to sit there and do nothing to hear it in its entirety.

Got this sword to drop after a Skeleton fight, and it was a big upgrade. I like when games have equipment drop from enemies. It's a very MMO thing to do (Well, Everquest, anyway). It's a lot more fun than just farming gold to clear out a shop.

 At level 7 or so, Remeer gets the ability to turn enemies into figurines. What the heck? Is this like the Ragnarok summon in FFVI and turns them into items?

 I test it out on a foe. Not sure what the point of this is. Maybe you're collecting enemies for a bestiary or something. Weird that the game basically just gives you a one-shot kill like this, so I'm wondering what the catch is.

Oh yeah... my commanding officer... is a cat named Sixpack.

 I grinded levels to 8 - which I've read is high enough to beat the first boss - just because I didn't have anything else to do. Did they forget to give the game a plot? At this point people are just giving me fetch quests and telling me to go patrol since there's nothing going on. It's like an open world game without the open world to explore or anything happening.

 One of the things I like about this game? The abundance of little puzzles that take you to a different screen. There are chess puzzles earlier that I missed getting a screengrab of, and this coin puzzle challenges you to get them all to the same side even though flipping one causes everything around it to flip.

More on this game soon... it's just getting started.


  1. Interesting to see innovation in respects I wouldn't even think of (like minigames) but a bit of a bummer that so much else is conventional.
    They're living inside a ship on dry land?! Must've run around when this whole planet dried out...I doubt it's sanitary to have so much space be enclosed...nevermind. Cat pirates are cute.
    Hopefully this figurine stuff gets tied together into a larger plot later, because it's weird all right.
    "A pencil is lying on the table, but you can't seem to move it with your strength alone." I get that it's an enchanted pencil that takes you to a scholarly land when you have a teammate, but that is indeed a new all-time classic.
    You're right about the game giving you less choice even though there are the same number of characters. Part of the fun of the first game was trying to get places with an unbalanced character that'd usually be in a supporting role, like Esuna.
    Looking forward to things picking up as you go!

    1. Alex Trebek: You wrote.. nothing. And you wagered.. nothing.
      Calista Flockhart: [ in a whisper ] The pen was too heavy.

  2. My experience with Create Figurine is that the darn thing never works ever... at least in the first few hours I played. Amazed you got it to function right.

  3. Hmm... I didn't know that this game was the sequel to Seventh Saga. It has now jumped to near the top of my 'need-to-play-soon' list. I really enjoyed The Seventh Saga, and I have beaten it 2-3 times.

  4. If your experience in the first few hours is anything like mine, you'll have far more money than you know what to do with... so don't worry about equipment costs yet.

    14 MP is about how much it cost to cast Outside and Return in the older Dragon Quest games. The idea is that once your MP gets this low, you have to bail out right then, not use a few more heal spells and cut off your route of escape.

    1. True, the spell being as expensive as 14 MP forces you to make a potentially difficult choice. Take a risk and press on, or bail while you can?

      This post is as far as I am in the game at this moment, but I'll be doing more with it tomorrow.

  5. Now I want to play this game. Nice to hear about a game that I didn't know existed. Looking forward to more from you!

  6. I don't normally do this, but thanks for all of the comments thus far. I wasn't sure if anyone would care about this game, but now I'm more motivated to continue it ASAP.