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Sarge
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Treasure of the Rudras impressions

by Sarge Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:58 pm

So, I promised I'd write this up. Here goes nothin'!

When I started playing the game, I got a distinct SaGa vibe from it, specifically the very little I'd played of Romancing SaGa 3. Mainly the battle system feel, the bits of non-linearity, and the multiple scenarios to play through. Well, Exhuminator pointed out to me that Kawazu was the director, so of course it feels like SaGa! All is right in the world.

So, compared to a lot of Kawazu's other works, it's a very accessible game. The battle system and leveling, though, is very traditional, unlike a lot of his other work. There's no ATB like Final Fantasy, and level ups are static in nature with set experience. The innovation is with the "Mantra" system, which has you spell out words to create your magic spells. It's pretty slick, and you basically pick up spells along the way, or you can create your own, and you'll eventually learn prefixes and suffixes to go along with root words to create your spells. For example, "IG" is for fire, you can add a "NA" to the end to multi-target, and to boost power you can use something like "KI" or "KAA" and attach "REX" to the end for more power. The final form would be KIKAAIGREX, which is a pretty powerful single-attack fire spell. There are also special cases, like "POWERUP" or "SOFT", which I'll get to in a minute.

Graphically, the game looks pretty good. I'd say it's pretty close to FFVI, maybe not quite as varied, but there are some really cool environments. It's certainly not Chrono Trigger, but very little is on the SNES. It reminds me a bit of the style used in Bahamut Lagoon, but not quite.

All movement is grid-based. Exploration can be fun, but there is a fair amount of revisiting involved, at least if you're trying to access everything you can get to. Paths have less overlap than you'd think, with several areas only one party can get to, though. Surlent, for example, spends a lot more time in Limbo than the other characters, and has access to a lot of warps the others can't use. It's not overkill, but it might get old by the end.

One thing that definitely gets old is the encounter rate. It's far too often. I don't remember how often it occurs in FFVI, but it's pretty bad here. Not as bad as a lot of the 8-bit RPGs, but it's still calibrated too high. Thankfully, you can obliterate a lot of battles pretty easily with good Mantras or a well-leveled party. Getting that well-leveled party isn't too hard to do, since the non-linearity will also let you access tougher enemies from time to time.

There are some kickin' tunes in the game, especially some of the battle and boss tunes, which tend to be different for each main character. Turns out the composer for the game is the same guy that did Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. Score (both from a musical and elation standpoint)!

The game, overall, isn't terribly difficult. One of the other aspects to the battle system that must be observed is the elemental weaknesses. In a lot of games, this matters, but not a lot. Here, it matters a ton. It has the obvious "fire-water" setup, also "thunder-wind" and "light-dark". Most equipment has an elemental property, and if you have "water" equipment on, it halves water damage. In the process, however, it doubles fire damage. You might see where this is heading...

...when you waltz into a boss fight, not knowing their elemental weaknesses, and getting absolutely destroyed by them. Game over. So you restore your save, equip the proper elements, and effectively quarter the damage you took earlier. You can improve that even more by using the various "NAREEM" spells, which set up an elemental guard ("IGNAREEM" for fire in this case). At this point, it's about exploiting the elemental weakness (if they have one), or whacking the crud out of them. You can use buffs and debuffs, and this is generally the best strategy for boss fights. "POWERUP" boosts your attack power, and stacks twice, "SOFT" decreases a boss' defense, "VIRUS" will sap their magic attack, "WEAK" takes away their physical attack power, and so on. My go-to strategy, if I wasn't getting pounded, was two "POWERUP / SOFT" and just pound on them, with a boosted "MEGAMI" spell thrown in for healing. Strategies overall become pretty simple, it's just a matter of executing properly, and generally you'll always have someone on healing duty in the toughest fights. You can't just smack "A" to win, but winning usually revolves around some version of the above.

The story itself is decent enough. The world is polluted tremendously, and it's getting close to the time of the prophecies where the world basically ends. Every 4000 years, a created race gets nuked by the titular Rudra (Danan, Reptiles, Mermaids, and Giants). Riza runs around trying to restore the world, Surlent mostly tries to unravel the mysteries of the Rudras, and Sion is more after the cult of Rudras. His response to most things is to beat the stuffing out of it. Everybody unites for the final scenario, along with Dune, the thief / treasure hunter much like Locke from FFVI. The game actually does a surprisingly good job of explaining everything at the end, and it all mostly makes sense. (Never mind the fact that you're all repeatedly getting the same treasure chests in areas in each scenario, which makes me wonder who's sneaking in and filling them back up!)

Assigning a score to the game is a bit tough, honestly. There are tons of things to like about it. But I was ready for it to wrap up at the end, and I think I picked the least fun scenario to finish up with. At least the pacing, when you know where to go, is blisteringly fast, and even if it's not quite the level of FFVI or CT, it's still one of the better RPGs on the system. I'll settle out at about an 8.0, perhaps an 8.5/10. Good stuff, but it's likely not going to necessarily please fans of either FFVI or SaGa games entirely, given how much it straddles that line. But it's easily the most accessible Kawazu game I've played, so just for that it gets kudos.

There's also a big writeup over at HG101 that folks are probably already aware of. It probably does a lot better story breakdown, so if you want to see something more that isn't just a wall of text, check it out!
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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Treasure of the Rudras impressions

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Jan 29, 2015 2:11 pm

Nice write-up. One of many Square classics we missed out on. I really enjoyed the game when I played it via SNES9X years ago. The Super Famicom cart is surprisingly expensive.
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Re: Treasure of the Rudras impressions

by Xeogred Sat Jan 31, 2015 8:53 pm

Cool stuff Sarge. Do you "unlock" spells as you learn them or something? Like they get saved so you don't have to manually spell things out every time?

The only thing that turns me off a little is the multiple scenarios thing. I guess that's a huge part of some of the SaGa's from what I've heard haha. FFIV The After Years was one I tried out... and I just lost interest after awhile. I prefer a singular party or character throughout a JRPG.

Still it sounds pretty awesome and cool, I'll have to get to it sometime.
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Sarge
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Re: Treasure of the Rudras impressions

by Sarge Mon Feb 02, 2015 5:33 pm

Yeah, you have space for like 32 or so spells (four pages). You type them in outside of battle, then select them as normal in battle.

The multiple scenarios is definitely an acquired taste. Thankfully, they're short enough overall that it doesn't start dragging too much, and seeing the story from the differing perspectives proves interesting. I still think the better way to do this is how Dragon Warrior IV handled it. Have your chapters, and all unite for a final, full game-sized mega chapter at the end. But it's not bad here at all. You also don't have to complete them all at once, like I did. You can skip around to your heart's content.

I'll be honest, another game I've always wanted to get into was SaGa Frontier, but that one is even worse about letting you know what you need to be doing, and there are even more people to play as. I found the sequel much more accessible. Rudra falls into the same camp as SF2, it actually makes a decent number of concessions to playability.
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