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Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust Gaiden (NES) artwork

Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust Gaiden (NES) review

"Shortly after its release, Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust Gaiden was adapted into an animated short-film loosely based around the game itself. Yet, despite hosting several characters not present in the game, its lack of connection with much of anything in the game save the “evil deity” and the “goddess”, and its over-all (expected) shortness, this OVA made a lot more sense than the actual game itself. "

Shortly after its release, Kouryuu Densetsu Villgust Gaiden was adapted into an animated short-film loosely based around the game itself. Yet, despite hosting several characters not present in the game, its lack of connection with much of anything in the game save the “evil deity” and the “goddess”, and its over-all (expected) shortness, this OVA made a lot more sense than the actual game itself.

But perhaps this is to be expected. This late NES title was only released in Japan, and as such, only reached the English-speaking public through emulation and a rather poor fan-translation. It is entirely possible that the disjointed plot elements and sometimes-nonsensical dialogue are strictly due to translation and emulation error. Perhaps someone fluent in Japanese playing the original could make a lot more sense of it, but because I, and I’m sure many of you, are not, this is the best we have.

I could go into specifics here. I could explain how the introduction tells you of a demon that seemingly came out of nowhere, threatening the peaceful land of Villgust, and how a randomly selected brute of a warrior named Murobo had been chosen as the “goddess hero”. I could complain that once you actually start your epic quest, said beast simply declares, “I should find some companions!” without giving you any further instruction whatsoever. I could whine about why it is that just about everywhere you go, failing to talk to ONE person won’t trigger the next plot point, leaving you confused as hell as to where to go next. (But that’s alright because that’s what FAQs are for!). I could rant about how many of the plot elements never seem to come together or get resolved. Why is it that, halfway through the game, I’m sent to find some medicine for a village without any reason as to who or what caused many of its inhabitants to scream in agony? Where did the weird pot monster come from after acquiring one of our last friends? Why, when reaching the final boss, does it feel like everything we did before made no sense to this thing’s presence whatsoever? But I won’t. Fortunately, the game’s incredibly unique battle system more than makes up for the awkward plot and poor translation.

If I could make a comparison, I would call Villgust something of a mix between Crystalis and Dragon Warrior. Dragon Warrior’s elements shine through with the “adventurous” mindset without much direction, only this game’s sense of “openness” seems largely superficial, as the world map, in retrospect, is really quite small.

Crystalis’s probable influence on this title is an important one. Unlike most traditional RPGs, Villgust discards the typical turn-based system in favor of a more action-oriented one. Battles are still random, but now your enemies appear on a battle screen divided into five parts where you can decide the order of the fight, provided you’re not ambushed first. Once you’ve finished strategizing, the fun part begins. Actually engaging in battle is like fighting enemies on the world-map in action RPGs, only you’re confined to a single horizontal-scrolling screen. Your health appears in bars, much like in Crystalis, and, also like that game, you are in complete control of your character’s fighting prowess. That is, there is no luck involved. All enemies have different means of attack, which you must keep in mind to avoid injury, and you must also use their patterns in order to defeat them.

For example, the “pumpkin ghost” is an aerial foe whose favorite technique seems to be gliding across the screen at high altitudes while pooping on you. While quite weak, especially later in the game, he’s quite hard to hit. In order to make your life easier, it’s best to use a quicker character with long-range weapons or suitable magic. Or, if you don’t have that, use the terrain to your advantage and climb a tree so you can swat the thing as it comes to you.

Really, it’s all a matter of choosing the right guy for the job. Bostolph, with his boomerang, is great for picking off foes from afar while Murobo’s brute strength makes him good for knocking out the toughest monsters without receiving much damage. For this reason, battle order is crucial; caught off guard, overconfident, or ambushed, you could find yourself in a much more difficult situation, perhaps even facing the death of one of your comrades.

Villgust also features a few little things that somewhat redeem its horribly flawed story-advancement system. The equipment shop details who can buy what, and doesn’t allow you to purchase an inferior item or one you’ve already equipped. You don’t need to search or talk to people by selecting the option through a menu; just simply press a button. Fighting has an “auto” option, which conducts fights in a more traditional turn-based manner; you just select the item/magic you want each character to use at the start, and the system takes over the fight until someone dies. It can be slower sometimes, but it’s can be handy if you’re tired of fighting the same weaklings every couple of steps. (And on that note, I would like to say that the random encounter rate actually seemed quite balanced here, although not completely free of the usual problems with such systems).

Looking at it now, I have rather mixed feelings about this game. Its battle system is so awesome and addicting because of its ingenuity that I can easily look past the fact that monsters stop appearing in stronger forms about halfway through the game. The little things make somewhat forgivable all the tedious back-and-forth pointlessness whose only purpose is to extend game length. But the fact remains, with this translation, the plot is quite unintelligible and nonsensical, and therefore it does hamper the game substantially, especially for people like me who enjoy, and look forward to, the story element in RPGs. But I must give credit to the fans who took the time and effort to make the game actually readable. Even if the effort didn’t turn out as well as expected, it’s still better than going into the game with no understanding of the language whatsoever, and for this, I thank them.

Besides, that battle system is just too different to miss.

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (June 13, 2009)

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