Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tengai Makyou: Ziria

Hudson Soft / Red
CD-ROM (Rerelease: Super CD-ROM)
1989 (Rerelease: 1992)

My completion of this game marked the end of my Tengai Makyou journeys on the Duo. Being the backwards sort of fellow I am, I didn't play through it until I had already beaten its famous successors, so it had a couple of very tough acts to follow. But good old Ziria took up the challenge and proved itself to be a superb RPG. It isn't quite as impressive as the other two PCE TMs, as it doesn't feature the same caliber of awesome cinematic moments and its battle system is inferior to their respective systems, but it still manages to rule.

It wasn't agreeable to me at first. The battles were taking way too long, the field graphics seemed appallingly primitive, and the cinematics were too, uh, "laid back" in style.

The excellent combat-scene art gave me reason to remain optimistic. Cloudy skies and foreboding forests make for fantastically gloomy battle backdrops. The graphics on the whole are pretty dark, which I didn't expect after witnessing the bright, colorful visuals sported by Manji Maru and Kabuki Den.

Things really start to pick up once Ziria joins forces with a funny little nutcase named Tsunade. You've gotta love a girl who wields huge axes and shuns magic. There are lots of other wonderfully crazy characters to meet, which is par for the TM course.

There are also plenty of very cool bosses, including a woman with a viper-tongue and a burly kraken.

For some reason, I really enjoy the strange little "tag" game you can play in certain towns. You have to grab a chest and dart out of the room before one of the resident runners lays a hand on you. (I know, I pick odd things to highlight.) The music that plays during these scenes and in standard shops is extremely cool!

For those interested in the series, I suggest starting not with this first chapter but with Kabuki Den. KD is the easiest one to get into since it's pretty crazy right from the start while the other two (particularly Ziria) take some time to really get going. Go for Manji Maru next, since its menu system works in pretty much the same manner as Kabuki's. Yeah, you'll be going backwards, but I'd say it doesn't really matter; and if you begin playing Ziria with confidence based on the success of its descendants, you might be more willing to endure its slow start. Whenever you do get around to it, check out Justin Cheer's walkthrough and strategy guide.

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