Sunday, January 17, 2010

Monster Maker

NEC Avenue / U-Plan / Show Kikaku
Super CD-ROM

I initially liked this traditional-style RPG thanks to its fine soundtrack and visuals. It's not among the system's elite or anything in those respects, but it offers a lot of quality red book material, and its battles feature nice backgrounds and enemy animations.

Plus, its interesting character art makes the game stand out from its peers. The funny-looking folk it features are quite appealing.

Unfortunately, MM is a real slogger, and my patience with it eventually wore thin. By the time I played it, I'd already been spoiled by the elaborate dungeon designs and fast gameplay in titles like Neo Metal Fantasy and Tenshi no Uta. Monster Maker's battles unfold very slowly, and its dungeon designs are uninspired. Pits and "trick walls" are neat ideas for a labyrinth or two, but they get old. The numerous castle mazes are the worst, as they're very similar to one another in appearance and even in layout.

The game is pretty standard RPG stuff aside from a disappointing monster charming/combining side element. The Charm spell seems to fail quite often, and I've never actually needed to summon monsters into battle anyway.

And there are other little things that bug me. Battles sometimes experience hiccups when loading or freeze up altogether mid-fight. The townspeople have an annoying tendency to block the heroine's way and stand as immobile obstructions for what seems like forever. And speeding through dull "talking scenes" with the I button is always a risk, as it often causes the game to freeze.

And that's just the beginning of MM's issues. It also has a severe glitch that people really need to be aware of before they get started with the game. Many valiant warriors have played far into it only to get stuck in a tower room with two stairways, both of which essentially lead to dead ends (they both lead to the same next room, but the walls of the room "magically" reconfigure themselves so that you can't proceed regardless of which stairway you take).

This is the "trick" of the matter: when you enter the tower in question for the first time, you must not leave it until you reach that spot. This can be hard and annoying, as the tower is quite large and you have to find a "hidden" stairway in order to make it to the tricky spot in question. When you reach the room with the two stairways, take the left one up. You'll be at a dead end, but this time, your characters will have a conversation. Take a few steps forward and walk behind a wall. More text will come up, and then the stairway that leads to the next part of the tower will be revealed.

If you enter and then leave the tower without making it to that room first, your characters will never have that conversation, and you will be stuck at that spot FOREVER. Yep, all those hours it took to get that far will have been wasted. If you manage to evade the adventure-ending glitch, you'll reach a conclusion that isn't very satisfying, as it's a cliffhanger that was never resolved because the sequel (which was in the works) never saw the light of day. Just as I was thinking, "Hey, this cinema isn't so bad," the proceedings were interrupted by this:

This cliffhanger crap might've been acceptable if the game weren't such a pain in the ass to get through due to the glitches and if, you know, the sequel had actually come out. There isn't even what I would consider a proper final boss, as the last beast is a total wimp. Actually, pretty much all of the bosses are wimpy. If you're at a high enough level, you can use the Freeze spell over and over again to render them helpless.

Extremely nice combat graphics don't make up for the slowness of the battle system and the general bugginess of the product. Monster Maker isn't bad, but whether or not playing through it is worth the risks and trouble is debatable.

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