Sunday, April 11, 2010

Momotarou Densetsu II

Hudson Soft

As I'm sure anyone can surmise by looking at screenshots, MD2 is an archaic traditional-style RPG that hearkens back to the days of the first Dragon Warrior with its crude map visuals and reliance on menus for actions as simple as talking to townspeople. The adventure is a linear one: you basically trek from town to troubled town and club a trouble-making demon before moving on to the next area to repeat the process. There's much more emphasis on field travel and town business than on dungeon exploring, with most of the caves simply acting as links between continents. And as you might expect from an RPG reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, there's quite a bit of leveling up to do.

Surprisingly, MD2 is a pretty decent game. It has quite a few innovative/noteworthy/charming elements that work in its favor.

You're joined early on by three NPC animal-pals who chip in with occasional attacks and healing techniques in battle. The coolest thing about these chums is that you can have them scout out an area without having to worry about being attacked. You know how annoying it can be in RPGs when you reach a new area and just want to find the next town and save or you enter a new dungeon and just want to regain your bearings only to be troubled constantly with random battles? Here, you can just send an animal bud out for a little reconnaissance and figure out the course you'll take without entering a single fight. I wish more RPGs had such a feature.

In addition to the wildlife, you're joined by all sorts of other wacky NPCs during your travels. Consider the actual playable allies as well, and the caravan you lead can sometimes number close to two dozen. It's funny to watch this long line march across the world, especially since some of the characters look very strange, particularly a really skinny dude who's about five times taller than everyone else.

Also funny are the celebrations that are held when you lend a hand to a town in need of some help. One town shoots off fireworks, another has its denizens do the wave, and another hosts an amusing village dance.

The problems faced by these towns are sometimes pretty interesting. One village is populated by tortoises and hares who are doomed to run endlessly around a track until you defeat the evildoer who cursed them to their curcuitous fate.

The bosses causing all these troubles for the towns are large, funny-looking monsters reminiscent of the beasts in Where the Wild Things Are.

The last guy is an enormous ogre standing before a backdrop of huge flames. It's a cool-looking fight scene, and he's one tough bastard.

While the map visuals are obviously very primitive, the big, cartoony enemies (not just the bosses) actually look quite nice--better than the monsters in a lot of CD RPGs, in fact. And there are almost two hundred of 'em. After you beat the game, you get to visit a special mode where you can view the enemies and listen to the tunes.

Speaking of the tunes, while many of them are pretty plain, some of the happy town music is actually quite catchy. The music in the mazes isn't as memorable, and the caves themselves aren't too memorable either, but the last dungeon is pretty darn large and contains a number of different areas for you to battle through.

You'll need some good magic spells to get through that dungeon and some of the other tough spots. Reminiscent of Tengai Makyou, you acquire spells by visiting little huts, in which you'll deal with some magic-using old fellows. You'll have to prove yourself worthy of learning the spell on offer by fighting the old man, completing a task, or overcoming a trial.

Some of the spells you get are pretty interesting. One character can create doubles of herself that not only confuse and bait your enemies but also launch attacks of their own. And when you use the spell that warps you back to town, your characters actually run a million miles an hour over oceans and whatever else is in their way until they reach their destination. Funny stuff.

When Momotarou returns to his little home at the very end, it really does feel like you and he have experienced quite an adventure. (Good thing, too, because the game tops twenty-five hours in play time, which is pushing it for a stone-age-style RPG.) Being that it's so straightforward in concept, about 95% of it can be played through easily without any knowledge of the Japanese language. There are some tasks and puzzles that are unsolvable without a walkthrough on hand, so it's a good thing that there are many Japanese ones available.

Well, despite all the nice things the title has going for it, I know that most folks will find MD2 too archaic for their tastes and will give up on it immediately after glimpsing the old-fashioned visuals. But it's not a bad game... honest.

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