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Post subject: Prince of Fire - Yamato Takeru
PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 12:08 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 28, 2016 11:19 pm
Posts: 108
I wanted to write a small retrospective on this rare SFC title, having finished it and in doing so, thought best to provide you guys a little forewarning.

Yamato Takeru... was supposed to tie-in to a movie of the same name in 1994, but the game was actually released over a year later after a troubled production. The movie wasn't well received, so for the game to launch a year later it likely received little to no attention. Today this game is completely unknown in the west. But the movie "Orochi, Eight-headed Serpent" did see a bluray disc release in the States. So... what about the game?

First things to notice about the presentation is the obviously dreaded character sprite style IMHO. Never before have I seen such hideous sprites in a SFC RPG that I can tell. Really offputting, seeing as even the main character was supposed to look completely different, judging from art presented in the manual and strategy guide. In course of the game, Yamato's sprite does have a good amount of different "poses" relevant to scenes and events, but no matter what there's no saving grace in this area at all. Terrible.

Released in 1995, graphical fidelity is otherwise passable. Besides one or two exceptions of rushed locales, towns are well laid-out and pleasant to explore. One early cave stood out to me by using a bland tileset that recalls painful memories from early RPG Maker titles for some reason, but later dungeons are competent. Overall, not many dungeons provide much gameplay or sights off the ordinary, besides the occasional use of summon demons to remove obstacles, which I'll discuss soon. But the penultimate dungeon "Dead City" though has to be highlighted for one of the most aethestically impressive locations in any SFC title (not made by Square) that I know. Just amazing.

Battle backgrounds are good as well, and so are enemy sprites, there's a good amount of variance. But there's a jarring effort to be endured via the game insisting on throwing Greek and Indian mythological figures at you during the course of the story. I mean, in a traditional Japanese setting, what are those guys doing here? One of the bosses is even called "Greek Fire" and it's a huge... fire. Yes. Then there are your Shivas and elephants trampling around the Japanese countryside too, naturally. In an interview, the developers did mention regretting not to include more japanese styled enemies in the game.

The story? I've always liked stories based on real historic figures, and Yamato Takeru's tale makes a good setting for a game. At the start Yamato accidentally chops off his brother's arm and is cast out by the emperor (their father) and has to fight the emperor's enemies to regain his favor. Pacing is another matter... Orochi appears and is killed way too early, and the rest of the game just couldn't hold up pace as far as engaging villains go.

DEMON SUMMONS are the chief draw this game has to make it over to the better side of mediocrity. There are 12 different demons that you can call to your party and they function as any party member would. They have a "time limit" of about 200 steps (more in towns and dungeons, less on world map) until after you have to summon a new one, which does get constantly annoying. You can "evolve" demons by feeding them "chiron stones" found all over as quest rewards and loot. The sprites for all the demons are really interesting and I liked the system, even though summoning them over and again is a tedious affair.

(...Imagine summoning a certain demon to clear an obstacle in a dungeon. Then a few rooms later, there's a different obstacle that needs a different demon to remove, so you have to walk 200+ steps... deep in a dungeon... with a horrendous encounter rating... yes. Yes. Fun.)

One last main gameplay element is the ASTROLOGY system. In the beginning, you pick your birthday and you get an arrangement of the planets (interestingly it's not random - it seems to follow some complex pattern) and this affects your stat gains in some way. Yamato is affiliated with FIRE, so for example if on your birthday Mars happens to be in the Taurus Zodiac, your strength (or strength gains on level up??) will be higher than normal. The planets move with every step you take in the world map, so magic spells' power will somewhat vary depending on which planet is in which constellation at the moment of a battle. It's difficult to describe this system because it's hard to tell what its actual effects are. Atleast you get a "star mirror" key item so that you can look at the planets' locations at any time. A very ambitious system, though I wish it was integrated into the gameplay better.

Very very last point is the music. I'd have shoved this game off to the bin at the start if I didn't notice a very talented musician at the helm here. Same composer scored Wozz, and stylistically these soundtracks are similar. In Yamato Takeru, instruments are chosen to mesh well together. Composition draws from classical roots, with emphasis on strings and an orchestral, full sound, and unlike any other SFC RPGs I hear Liszt's influence with many of the pieces. Surely I thought that's impossible, but then again... "33. Jumas are driven mad" as a whole is very lisztian. In "39. Riding on a swan" the ending chords too more than anything. Bits and pieces here and there. I very well recommend giving the soundtrack a listen, even though it's much more effective accompanying the game, actually. And the evocative world map theme is one I need to mention as the highlight of the music IMO.

Damn this is way overlong already. To make it short, the grind is terrible in this game, so approach with caution. The script seems to be written in a straightforward way - atleast with my very rudimentary knowledge of japanese I could understand many more things than in other japanese games. Having demons as party members is fun and recalls Shin Megami Tensei games (YT's devs did make Last Bible III) but don't expect it to equal in complexity to those titles.

As far as translation efforts should go... I'd give it a NAY, there are much bigger fish to fry. Wondering if anybody else has tried this game?

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