"One of the greatest joys of playing a role-playing game comes from watching characters that start out as weak as a newborn child evolve into a force powerful enough to topple evil beings possessing godlike might. "
One of the greatest joys of playing a role-playing game comes from watching characters that start out as weak as a newborn child evolve into a force powerful enough to topple evil beings possessing godlike might.
In that aspect, you could say that obscure Super Nintendo RPG Kouryo Densetsu Villgust stands alone at the top of the RPG mountain. While nearly every game from this genre restricts characters to hit point totals ranging from the hundreds to the thousands, Villgust goes farther....much farther.
As you approach the final dungeon and the battles that lie within, just take a brief look at your status screen. You’ll see five extraordinarily buff warriors, all possessing roughly 40-50,000 HP. Attack and defense ratings are also obscenely high. In battles, the amount of damage caused by mere basic attacks can make even ultra-powerful onslaughts from other games, such as Final Fantasy VII’s Knights of the Round, look pitiful. Your top fighters will be pounding enemies for up to 10,000 (and more) damage per hit....and they’ll be all too willing to return the favor. Late in the game, just gaining one single level can mean one character will hit for an extra thousand or so hit points per turn. The sheer volume of the numbers used in programming this game is overwhelming, especially when compared to the mere hundreds of hit points you had to play with in many other games of this time, such as those in the Dragon Quest series.
Bandai didn’t just rely on big numbers to provide a challenging game, though. By implementing a system designed to prevent players from earning mass quantities of levels at once, they gave a valiant — but flawed — effort to ensure that this game will not become too much of a cakewalk.
Whenever you enter a new area, whether it be in the overworld or in one of the many dungeons scattered through the land of Villgust, you’ll find enemies to be plentiful and the rewards for killing them to be great. However, after gaining a level or two, you’ll soon find that battles are so scarce as to be nearly nonexistent. Find a battle and win and you’ll only receive a fraction of the gold and experience that you had been receiving. Eventually, that area will be completely free of random encounters, meaning that you have no choice but to move on.
Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? Every time you enter a new region of the game, you can count on each and every monster encounter to be challenging. Nearly every time you enter a dungeon for the first time, you’ll want to carry a few “Exit” items, because it will be unlikely that you’ll be able to clear the entire place in one attempt.
Sadly, there is one major loophole that makes each and every dungeon a breeze for any gamer with any real amount of patience. Simply level up until you stop getting the good experience points (which doesn't take that long) and you’ll be able to clear entire floors of most dungeons without facing more than one or two battles because the enemies are now encountered much less frequently. Stick to this strategy and you’ll be at full strength for each boss fight — which doesn’t bode well for those villains. Since nearly all the boss fights are barely more challenging than the tougher random encounters....let’s just say that Bandai’s “level-capping” idea is easily exploitable to completely dispel most of this game’s challenge.
But after playing Villgust for any length of time, it’s unlikely that most gamers would be overly surprised that what is arguably this game’s best idea is possessing of a fatal flaw. Take away the “level-capping” in each region and the obscenely high numbers and what you’re left with is a sub-par game with nothing to really recommend it to anyone not a diehard fan of either the RPG genre or the anime which the game is based on.
Your protagonist is a young chap named Shun, who is teleported to the world of Villgust along with his girlfriend, Michiko — who is promptly kidnapped by Gomez, a member of an evil group with the evil name of Vile. Shun immediately joins a group of four adventurers led by a person by the name of Kui and they go off to find Michiko and put an end to Vile. After a while, you’ll run into a separate group of four adventurers led by a half-human, half-dog named Murabo. Throughout the game, Shun will repeatedly switch allies, as various plot devices will temporarily incapacitate various characters.
The problem with all this is that, for all intents and purposes, Shun is the ONLY character with any sort of true significance. This game revolves around his quest to find Michiko and save her from the forces that threaten to consume her very soul in order to resurrect an evil deity. Kui, Murabo and the rest might as well simply be called “Adventurer A” and “Fighter B” for all that they matter. While the game does mention that these folks are fighting to save their world from Vile (giving them a motive for joining you), that’s about all the depth that they are given.
Villains are dealt with in much the same fashion. While a couple of them make repeated appearances to taunt you, for the most part, each major baddie is treated the same way. You’ll be walking along a corridor of some sort, the screen will switch to a battle scene and they will offer a very brief amount of dialogue (usually amounting to a death threat) before starting the fight. In other words, Shun’s allies are one-dimensional fighting machines and Shun’s enemies are one-dimensional speed bumps on his path to victory.
Regardless of which group of allies you have in your party at any time, you can count on two members being pure tanks, one being mediocre at both offense and magic and one being a great magician with non-existent offensive power. There are a couple areas where you either have a mix of characters from the two parties or only a couple of allies instead of four, but for the most part you either are working with Kui’s group or Murabo’s squad.
Considering how similar the two groups are in battle, it sometimes feels like Bandai implemented both factions for the sole purpose of making sure that you don’t have any spare gold in your pockets. You’ll soon find that weapons, armor and spells all are very expensive in this game. Odds are that you’ll have to completely clear a region before you have enough money to buy everything you need from the various stores — and you still might find yourself few grand short. Since it seems to take all your gold to keep your characters equipped with the best items, it can get very aggravating when Kui’s fully-equipped party decides to call it a day and you’re stuck with Murabo’s half-naked party, forcing you to struggle along until you obtain enough gold to upgrade them.
Add to those problems the fact that this game isn’t all that special on an aesthetic level and you are left staring at a dud. While the graphics aren’t atrocious, they don’t seem to even scratch the limits of the SNES’ technology. Equally forgettable is the game’s sound and music. Mazes are simplistic and puzzle-free, monsters and bosses are unimposing in appearance, side quests and optional areas are non-existent.
Essentially, this is a painfully linear RPG on a system with plenty that offer some degree of freedom. You’ll follow the same pattern from the moment you pick up the game until the instant you put it down. Go to town. Hear about problem confronting locals. Go to nearby dungeon. Fight through until you’ve killed boss. Go to next town. Repeat for hours upon hours without variation. Shed tears of frustration and boredom.
All things considered, this is one tough game to recommend. It looks and sounds unappealing, contains a boatload of repetitive and boring dungeons and doesn’t exactly set the world on fire with its attempts at important elements like “story” and “character development”. But, you do get to create ridiculously strong characters, each with more hit points than the average fully-powered Final Fantasy (insert Roman numeral here) party. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?
Community review by overdrive (May 27, 2004)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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