Sunday, 22 October 2017

Paneltia Story: Kerun no Daibouken (Saturn)

The "rebuild the world" RPG is a grand old tradition, dating back to at least the early nineties with games like Terranigma (if there are any such games pre-16 bit, I don't know about them), and still lingers today with the likes of Dragon Quest Builders and maybe even Fallout 4 could be considered an entry, with its focus on taking an active hand in rebuilding civilisation. Paneltia Story is one of the rare examples of a 32-bit example (again, I can't think of any others, so if you can, please tell me!), though I'm not sure if you're rebuilding a world, or building a new one in your dreams, since I can't read any of the plot.

Anyway, it doesn't look particularly impressive, and doesn't really contain anything that couldn't have been done on the Mega Drive or SNES, as the RPG part of the game is very very old-fashioned, not only aesthetically, but also mechanically. You've got a top-down view, Dragon-Quest-style first person battles with static monster sprites and so on, and lots and lots of reused graphics. The battles are really unexciting affairs, too: in the oldest-school style, you and they monsters simply take turns hitting each other until one side runs out of HP. It's unfair to completely judge Paneltia Story as a pure RPG though, as a lot of the game revolves around the whole building gimmick.

Building works like this: each stage starts as a big empty void with a town floating in it, though as you start, the town is just an inn and a small shop. You start off with a few panels that you can place in the void, and they can have mountains, forests, rocks or water on them, or they can just be an empty plain. After you've placed a few, you can go and explore them, fighting monsters to gain experience and more panels. When you place a panel on certain (invisible) spaces, a fairy will appear and give you a town panel, which can only be placed on top of your starting town, to which they add more people and buildings. In the map-building menu, you can also look at instructions for making dungeons appear on the map, like say, place a forest panel and surround it with mountain panels, for example. Then the entrance to a dungeon will appear in the forest panels. Go to the dungeon, beat the boss, and then go to the next stage to start all over again, but with new monsters that have higher stats.

Well, I say that, but the second stage has a slightly different structure (though graphically, it and its starting town use the exact same tilesets as the first stage, which is a disappointment). For a start, the dungeon is already on the map, and you don't have any special instructions in the map menu. So you go to the boss, and there's a bit of dialogue beefore you're kicked out of the dungeon. You do now have some instructions though, and using them makes a little cave with a treasure chest in it appear. This is unfortunately, as far as I managed to get, though. I went back to the boss, and the same thing happened as before, but without any new instructions this time, and I have no idea how to proceed further.

Paneltia Story is still a somewhat interesting game, though. Playing it might be overly simple to the point of tedium, but it does have some interesting ideas, and I did have the hope of seeing if there were more of them as the game goes on. I also hope that there's more tilesets and different kinds of panel later in the game, too. I did try and find a walkthrough or a longplay video, and try and figure out what I was doing wrong, but there's nothing as far as I can see, on GameFAQs, Youtube or even Niconico. If you're Japanese-literate, and have the patience for not-particularly-exciting RPG mechanics, then you might find something interesting in Paneltia, and if you do, please satisfy my curiosity and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Tsuushin Taisen Logic Battle Daisessen (Dreamcast)

I feel like I'm playing a lot of games recently that can be described as a kind of combination of elements from other games, and this is one of them. The constituent parts in this case being Battleship and Minesweeper, both grid-based games about naval combat, though this game is themed around the inhabitants of a floating island where it's always springtime, but is currently suffering a terrible winter. That's really all I know about the plot, so let's just move on to the game itself, the explanation of which is going to be fairly lengthy.

The first thing you do before you even try to enter battle is decide your formations. You start with twenty soldiers, called "Bingos", and you can place them on your 10x10 grid in small formations called boards (kind of like your different ships in Battleship, but more varied in shape). As you win battles, you'll gradually be given more Bingos (Bingoes?) to play with, and you'll earn currency that can be spent on buying more boards, in bigger sizes and a wider variety of shapes. The importance of the boards you pick and wherre you place them will become apparent when you actually get into battle, which is where things get a bit more complex and nerdy-sounding, so be warned as you enter the next paragraph.

In battle, you start off with ten power points, and your choice from the boards you have on the grid. Whichever board you choose costs as many points as the number of bingos of which it is composed, and you use it to attack, in a Battleship-esque manner, placing its shape on the opponent's grid. If you found any of your opponent's bingos, they'll be revealed, and once you reveal one of your opponent's boards entirely, it'll be destroyed and they can no longer attack with it. Missed attacks aren't completely useless, as on your subsequent turns, places where you've attacked but there wasn't a bingo will be marked in one of two ways: if there are no bingos vertically or horizontally adjacent to the empty square, it'll show as a white cross, and if there are, there'll be a green exclamation mark there. At the start of a new turn, you'll get back one power point, plus any bonus power points you got for destroying boards. Obviously, once you're done, your opponent will do the same until one of you is left without bingos and declared the loser.

It's a pretty amusing game, but nothing special. I have to say that there are multiplayer modes that I wasn't able to play: one online, and one offline. The offline multiplayer mode apparently has the players' grids shown on the VMU screen in their respective controllers for the sake of privacy, like your hand of cards in Sonic Shuffle. It's a shame it's fallen into the Mariana Trench of forgotten games, as a nice convenient PC version to play for 10 minutes while wating for something else would be really nice.

If you like the sound of it, I recommend Tsuushin Taisen Logic Battle Daisessen. The thing to remember though, is that it's one of those Windows CE Dreamcast games, and as far as I know, the only emulator that runs them is Demul, which can be a bit weird and temperamental.