Part of a series of blogs called 'Give thanks for fans translations.'
Okay, so some things just happen in life and you're around to witness them. Some days you're alive to see social upheaval, or present to watch Halley's comet pass out of your lifetime and some other days a fan translation 15 years in the making is just available for free and the sunrays glow gold and warmer on your computer and choice of input device, since those can make it all happen.
(Japanese: 天外魔境, literally "Devil World Outside of Heavens", a Buddhist expression referring to the illusionary perception of the objective world), also known by its English-language tag-lined title Far East of Eden
, are a series of Japanese-style role-playing games. Here
for the dev history and Here
for the folk history.
Quote from the Wiki says it better than I can:
'The main series is composed of three separate games within the land of 'Jipang' (a fictional feudal Japan using the name given by Italian merchant Marco Polo), each follows a descendant of the 'Fire Clan' and supporting cast against a range of often comical villains. The stories of the games, though primarily of 'fantasy' fare, also attempt to provide commentary on common misconceptions about Japanese culture by Western societies.'
Turns out the source material book titled 'Far East of Eden' isn't even a real book. It's all a pseudo-historical fiction in Japanese playful style to just have a grand old adventure. And that title is just a tag-line for the English speakers.
I need to underline that these are traditional turn-based Japanese RPG games. The famicom game I'll be looking at is far more archaic than its 1997 release date would expect to show. I assure you, this game, and its siblings, are not a hidden game changer stuck in Japans secret advanced gaming utopia. For some people, like me, that's just fine but 'some' is a very small part of everyone.
The battle systems are boilerplate to put it lightly.
Only two games have been translated thus far.
1 x Super Famicom game
1 x GBA spin-off
None of the games - besides this
wild spinoff - have reached shores outside their native homeland. The cultural charged history, setting and plot on full display could be to blame for this exclusivity. That includes the remakes
on PSP, Gamecube & Xbox 360. Any officially correction is still a gamers pipe-dream. So let us think of that door as closed for now and turn toward the beloved community of fan translations who seek only thanks in return for their time and skills.
Of course Youtube
has been a salvation for curiosity but I came here to play
I live in hope this blog becomes outdated ASAP.
Everyone chill, there's indeed a minecart section.
I just like to remind any readers that their time is appreciated and these are first impressions of these games. I have only spent between 5-10 hours on each. I feel justified in these early recommendations only because the hours have been brief, simple but delightful.
Japanese content translated in all its glory.
Recent years have brought the Romancing Saga games series remakes internationally (officially purchasable, rest easy) for the first time and there was a time where that was lost within the walls of Japans gaming factory, and I am happy to have existed when that became no longer the case.
Tengai Makyou Zero
Saying the Super Famicom has a few good RPG's is like saying a church glass window uses a few bright colors. This game, like many, is a grind heavy turn-based JRPG's with few-to-none unique combat or core gameplay innovations. These are competitors of the early Dragon Quest games. This game is about as full of those trappings as you would expect from its genre brethren.
The title Zero hints at how this is not even a main series game. No main titles have been translated. We are only listening for the echoes of what minor waves this series once made.
For all its simplicity, this game showcases its system well.
The time of release shows the game was able to absorb some presentational qualities from Chrono Trigger. Not so much gameplay-wise but we're looking for positives here today.
When, and if, this game's name comes up, what people can speak highly about comes up first, which is the graphics. For a game that places great emphasis on setting and environments, its presentation is indeed one its strengths. It is nice to look at and move through while the soundtrack is always pleasantly there to complete a good play-time. I enjoy the soundtrack but fans have a spot reserved in the hall of fame just for this title.
The pacing is great from the start, in less than an hour you have clear motivation and are out in the overworld fighting monsters with a good idea of where to go. The speed your characters can move at matches this fast pace. What the game lacks in originality it makes up for in depth of text and variety of fantasy genre fanfare.
In a post-Trails and post-Undertale world, it can be hard to think these retro titles are worth your time, but for my preference it offers a great substitute from diving into another games lore catalog. I enjoy lore heavy games but this is a great pick up to play, explore, save a village, lift a curse & beat the baddy type of game.
This moment seems to show up in every JRPG.
Here is only a slice of the map I've had the pleasure to explore - and is still rapidly expanding as I continue to play.
The translation also reminds you at times that this was a fan effort and while a detailed effort to try and keep the original humor intact, along with blunt innuendo, not everything comes across polished. I also remind myself I am not in a position to be selective.
Ancient wisdom previously denied to us fowl westerners.
The game offers some environmental challenges, usually in the form of timers, directional tiles, water levels and word games that may or may not have binary choices.
The game does make efforts to make the party members who join be interesting, one via loud floaty bubbly personality, the other using brooding, heartbroken, body-swapping warrior past. My point being that even the run-of-the-mill genre offering has more options and updated takes on combat than this game.
They attempt to make the baddies memorable, by making your endure several mini-games to indulge their passive-aggressive interactions. There is one big-bad for every nation and at least they
die change enough to keep it interesting.
The game throws minor choices at you, peek through a door slit into the secret room, use an opprtunity escape to rather than back-track, choose to lie about progress, choose to ignore a direction. All minor but the game tries to keep it interesting.
There are time where a great emphasis is placed on in-game dialogue. Such emphaiss could be a small reason to blame the delayed English release.
There is also an optional side-quest in the later half of the game, that involves back-alley transactions, cash influctions, gambling, claims of bankruptcy, and currency fiddling, that feels like it takes up half the damn walkthrough and must have been head spinning torture for play testers and/or translators. Thank you once again to those translators.
I did admire that when your are over the halfway point the game tries to shake things up a little, even if twice as many villages and NPC interactions is more like doubling down, but the world gets more interesting. There are some story events that change the land, so when you arrive in some areas, how it is then is nothing like how it will be later after you cleanse the evil of the land.
Part of the woods, part of the trees.
The main criticism is still the combat, which never evolves the way other games do when you finally complete your party members. The skills and animated spells pile up to keep it interesting but this will make you appreciate some modern gamings strides to standout from the crowd.
Because as epically designed, scaled and orchestrated the big boss battles and confrontations are, they are just another monster battle.
Surely there is a gimmick? Yes, there is. There is an Animal Crossing-esque time cycle with in-game special events based on day or season (and birthdays) of the players timezone, this usually applies to shops.
So why recommend? Well I'm actually paying thanks toward the translators but I do think it's worth a try. It is a colorful, well balanced, breezy game with a very eastern influenced setting.
Zero feels like a good culmination experience put out onto the Nintendo system for those who missed the early entries. There is little confusion and it doesn't ask much from the player (the main quest doesn't at least). It is a unique adventure, kind of like a lighthearted 90s anime spin-off. A visit to a more simple time for traditional RPG's before the genre got steered a different direction.
For all the remake madness nowadays and with this series, I'm surprised this one's number hasn't come up yet.
The good news? The next entry is more modern spin-off and while still very much a part of the same series, faults inherit, it tries to feel very welcoming.
Oriental Blue: Ao no Tengaic (The Blue Beyond)
I welcome any new titles on GBA, if they should be RPGs then so be it. It has pokemon styled graphics, a very zoomed in top-down view, a too small text box and a very basic introduction. In fact the slow start might be the worst part. Unlike its elder sibling, pacing is not the strength here. But after 1+ hour the game lets you loose to your own devices, it opens up in an impressive way.
I wasn't that impressed with the game to begin with. Then I started walking and kept walking and I did not stop and when I put the game away I was itching to play more walking.
The next day I walked until the game fought me back. This game is a delight.
You can walk FAR in this game and it will be a while before you run out of road/land.
If players knew this series for the game worlds then they made it known, because it was prioritized and expanded. Let them walk til their batteries die or the monsters stop them. If people like multiple quests buried inside tombs of NPC dialogue, give them that too. If people want a journal, make sure there is one.
The diagonal walking is a series staple at this pont.
Persona conuered the surreal school stories setting and structure, apart from the sci-fi boyband genre competitors.
Pokemon has chosen to refine, network and animate rather than evolve.
Bravely Default... I can't speak much for them but they're carrying the torch for future paths.
Tales Of games spit out more games than I can play but I enjoy the combat.
This game, on the GBA, simply presents the basics which it's series has been functioning on for over a decade and refines it, simplifies it and revels in it. While it took me 5+ hours to really groove with that, when I settled it was a comfortable stay.
The variety of locations seemingly is neverending.
This is an evolution of what came in Zero on the Famicom, styled like its older games but with a much more relaxed structure and sense of approach.
The game just seems to say have fun and it has absorbed just enough modern aspects of games to improve itself for players. The game isn't gonna set your world on fire or be the next Golden Sun or Lufia but it's a very very neat game.
This game has more story and cutscenes than its 90's older brother and yet it also feels less concerned with the main narrative. It sounds like a criticism, it might be, but I was a happy player when the story was pushed aside.
The game feels as if it was made in RPG maker, by a group of talented people working in an old and limited engine while still trying their best. After the first hour of city district wandering, the plot falls away and direction becomes flexible. A combination of journal entries and NPC dialogue will inform your next step, picking up smaller, less urgent quests along the way.
The game has the variety of environment, a mix of rural, urban, modern and traditional in all it's settings. This game holds back on a lot of the fantasy (except for the anime intro cutscene) and let's you explore to open up the world before you start tearing down magical kingdoms and battling flying caped sorcerers.
If you are the sort of player who doesn't mind a slapped on, boilerplate battle system ontop of a lovingly crafted world with a great deal of the quests and content being made up of game text, well then it is good news for you.
The GBA has a few RPG's, many of which are good but almost all get pushed under the rug in fear of puncturing the systems casual pick-up-play-for-5mins selling point. Better hide those 25+hr long save stingy adventures.
The game is accessible due to its copy and pasted genre battle system. The learning curve is a gentle incline.
Put it on Android or Switch. Y'know why? Cause it's pretty perfect how it is; portable, flexible and fun, without any need for some remaster. It is a king sized adventure with top-notch detail with simple presentation. It's a whole lotta of the genre goodness gracefully weaved around a dense world.
I have not played this game long enough to be deemed a trusted reviewer. Therefore I will drop some nice sounding marketable words about the game from the few English reviews available online which I have verified.
Multiple dialogues from NPCs, which change based on game events.
Simple adventure RPG mechanics that offers a well balanced challenge.
Optional character side-quests.
Flexibility in the order which minor game tasks can be completed
Grind heavy but full of massive exploration.
Main party of playable characters that split up
Boss fights you can win or lose and character dialogue will change on it.
Mad styled Japanese plot events and characters traits with debatable levels of self awareness thanks to strong writing!
Minor player awareness features like how it skips backtracking or item selection.
The game heals you when you level up.
A staggering amount of NPC dialogue, much of which can change as the game progresses.
When I was younger and hungry for portable GameBoy adventures, this would have been exactly what I wanted. In summary, definitely worth a play and even a purchase if you can get an English patch.
The Rest of the Series
If these games sound good or after playing one you find you enjoy these simple, dense, traditional eastern styled adventures, and you're left wondering how you will ever play them all. Then don't stress, you can't play all of this series even if you wanted.
The second game is a huge retro styled adventure that could compete with Dragon Quest VII in terms of content, but it may never cross over the lingual barrier. It may only be in memory where the older titles retain any greatness. We have other games to play and it was the Japanese-mans Ultima of its time. But the game got a decent - if underfunded - remake that is doomed to YouTube.
Gameplay experience may
be lost to time
The most recent title was the third entry in the main series that represented the true jump to 3D.
While most series are left to die in their non-lucrative IP protected existence, this one had been giving more shorthanded opportunities with a handful of 3D PS2 and DS remakes.
We may never see an official translation of the remakes. Some may not even want them since they were apparantly had trouble with funding and development deadlines and they play more like an awkward retread. If we do get them someday, they should be in a collection. If I am lucky enough to be present to see their digital release, I will join in singalong celebration with and in gratitude to those loyal souls who did it themselves.
Image picked at random from Google images.
I swear its like the internet only heard about these titles via watercooler rumours.
I mention this because from all accounts the 4th game is a sought after treasure (same slap-dash battle system tho).
Game IV in the main series on the Sega Saturn had a translation in-progress that has been abandoned but there is a guide on Gamefaqs that you can use. The games quality, reportedly high for its time, has become outshined by the status of its sought after localisation.
What hurts is that in pointing out those that are translated I highlight the other supposedly great entires that have not been made English.
So if you're someone who :
Has exhausted your supply of acclaimed RPG's.
Has played the decent RPG's and gritted your teeth through their less than refined aspects.
Has played the B/C/D tier of the genre and have delved into them no matter how unfair, odd, abstract or even broken.
Has been saying 'golly, I really could do with a Japanese top-down, grind-heavy, turn based RPG that has an animal crossing clock as one of its few gimmicks', then you're are in luck.
All time is events and the moment is the most cherished thing around us and yet to be present might always be bittersweet. Remember to enjoy the moment and know you're lucky to be here and now, even just to bear witness.