Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tecmo Tecmo 11/15/91 Action RPG
The action RPG library for the NES in America was a bit light. We received some bangers for sure such as Crystalis, Faxanadu, and Willow but the pickings were slim otherwise. In Japan they were drowning in the frickin games. The sad thing is there were many titles planned for localization that would have bolstered the lineup but were cancelled. Radia Senki is one such effort from Tecmo. Radia Senki is a game big on ideas that largely succeed at them too. This is a great game and a gem we unfortunately missed out on. Radia begins with an animated cutscene of the lone princess Lefis attempting to escape from her half-brother Gadiss. Her plane is shot down and she is left for dead. Her crime? Attempting to stop him from finding the keys to the Radia Tower which holds a power that can grant world domination. At the same time an unknown knight wakes up in a forest with amnesia and is saved by Darus. The two witness Lefis plane crash and investigate, not knowing that they will be join a conflict that will change the world. The semi frequent cinemas are a staple of Tecmo on the NES and lend the story a cinematic flair. The story in Radia, while a bit cliché is good. The pacing is excellent and revelations come at a fast clip to propel the plot forward. There are a few twists along the way that although you may see them coming keep the plot engaging. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and for an 8-bit title it Is impressive. The talk feature also adds some depth to your party as well as keeping you on track. I am surprised at how forward thinking the game is but I shouldn’t be; by the early 90s developers were figuring out what works and does not leading to the uber polished RPGs of the 16-bit era. The battle system in Radia is unique for the NES. Like Chrono Trigger random encounters take place on the same field but sectioned off. Unlike that title combat is in real time. You only control the hero but can issue commands to your party members such as using magic, to retreat or to focus on a single target. Observing battles play out when you have a full five member party is pretty fun as something like this was new on the NES. It largely works and despite the degree of control you have over your party most of the time it is easier to free for all battles outside of boss encounters. I like the battle system but it has its quirks. Depending on the layout your characters will frequently either get caught in the environment or block you from attacking. There is a spell to swap positions but magic has limited charges. Melee characters are not as aggressive as ranged and will stand in front of enemies and take hits needlessly. You can’t help but feel like doing it all and truthfully more than likely you will. Maybe if there were fewer enemies per battle it would be better. You can see how this would play out during the boss battles. With fewer enemies to focus on you see just how great the combat is. I will say though in spite of these quirks it works far better than it has any right to on this system; later games on even the PS2 do not offer this much modular control. The pace of Radia is one of its greatest assets. Grinding is minimal as levels come quickly and earnestly. You will find the majority of equipment and will not need to grind for cash much either. You can sell the prizes you earn from battle (tusks, bones, etc.) sold for money as well. Conveniently you can rest in any bed you find free of charge. Dungeons are medium size but also provide beds for healing too. All of these factors as well as the brisk pace of the story make for a game that I thoroughly enjoyed all the way through outside of the rough difficulty. Radia is not an easy game for a variety of reasons. The enemies are strong and even with the best equipment your party members feel like they are wearing tissue paper. This continues up until the final dungeon in the game. Grinding does not help much and is also tedious. The game provides you with a large variety of healing items and trust me you will need them. You will need to watch your party like a hawk as they tend to drop like flies. Sadly your melee characters are a liability as they are aggressive and will proudly wade in to a group of demons and die in seconds. It is not insurmountable of course but does require a level of micromanagement that I did not expect. In Closing I really, really like Radia Senki. Tecmo swing for the fences and knock it out of the park with Radia, crafting a unique adventure that is among the best action RPGs for the NES. You can see how many of its systems would influence later titles like Star Ocean and Secret of Mana. I have wanted to get around to this one for a long time and I am glad that it has held up. Radia Senki is great.

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