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Suspicions unfortunately confirmed

  • Marrend
  • 07/12/2012 02:37 PM
Game Title: Touhou Fantasy
Engine: RPG Maker 2K3
Status at review: In Progess/Demo

Before the NaGaDeMo Review Drive officially went into motion, I made a post. To which, a response was given.

I swear that I've heard the name of "Touhou" from somewhere else, but I do not recall from where. I think it's a game, but my knowledge in this matter is not to be trusted.

The main download for the game was set up as a split RAR file, with six parts being around 200MB, and the seventh part being about 98MB. That's about 1.27GB worth of compressed files. I was wondering what took up so much space. I made some calculations, and figured that the Music directory alone accounted for about 95% of the space the game took up. That made me a tad weary, thinking that the game's only focus was in having the "right music". Playing the game would be the only way to make a proper determination, though.

On a further note, this review is with the 1.090 patch applied.

I'm going to go out on a limb, and say that most of the battler graphics and animations are rips. The majority of sprites are probably rips too. The tilesets are all over the place, though. Along with FF5 tileset for the overworld map (The snow-forest and ocean of sand clashed really badly, though), I think I might have seen some 2K3 RTP tiles (I could be wrong on this point), along with various other styles of graphics.

How does all this come together, though? I don't mind some of the rips, as I can only assume that they have some connection to the source material in some way, shape, or form. The mapping is something else, though. The graphics of the maps are inconsistent, but there is a trait they all share: they tend to be on the large side, and pretty bare. There's a few exceptions to this rule, but "few" is the operative term, here. There's in-game commentary that vaguely suggests that the developer is aware that maps are missing something, so I can only guess that the detail work that would make the mapping more bearable did not have a very high priority with this demo.

Obviously, I peeked in the Music directory. If a game is going to spend 95% of it's total size on music, it better be really, really, awesome. There's certainly a fair share of good tunes to be heard, so the game doesn't disappoint too much in this area.

My personal favorites are the song played in on overworld (despite my general annoyance of it), and the remix of "A Maiden's Illusionary Funeral". I didn't hear the latter piece in the context of the game, but it's still a very decent piece, nonetheless.

To be honest, the story seems a bit nonsensical. The introductory scenes were a flash of scenes of characters and places that players of the game were probably supposed to be familiar with. They talked in very vague sentences, which really didn't help matters at all. It would probably help me tons if I knew the original source material better. This problem of pacing was a point against Uchioniko for the Nugget Crash Course, but I think it's worse in this game.

Anyway, from what little I gleaned, Pandora's Box came from a different dimension, had itself opened. Dangerous artifacts of great power have this tendency to have minds of their own, after all. The result of opening of the box caused inevitable chaos. Which makes sense, if one knows the myth behind Pandora's Box. Anyway, it's up to the player characters to straighten things out and save the world while they're at it.

Playing the game:
When I pressed "New Game", I was prompted to skip the introduction. To be more specific, my choices were "Yes", "No", and "????". Being of the curious sort, I selected the third option. I was brought to a debug room. An interesting, if lazy, method to get there. I tried a few things, even got into a battle or two.

As long as I'm talking about battles, I believe this game more or less uses the default combat engine of 2K3. Not that I know of many ways of going with a custom battle system in the older RPG Maker engines without tearing half of one's hair off, but I did notice that my level 99 party (Yeah, I found the object that insta-leveled characters) wasn't doing all that much damage. Normal attacks dealt, like, three digits of damage. While the skills I tried were doing, like two digits. From level 99 characters. Maybe I was fighting some kind of messed-up test battle, (Which is a possibility, as this was the debug room), but I took that experience to mean that things might be a little bit unbalanced/broken as far as combat was concerned.

Eventually, I reset the game, and decided to watch the introduction. Once the intro sequence ended, I got control of my party. Sure, I was addled with the gamut of information that the game threw at me, but I figured it would all make sense down the line. Things would probably make more sense if I knew anything about the original source, but let us not dwell on that point anymore.

I did a bit of treasure-hunting at the location I started at. When I had enough, I left the area, finding myself on the overworld map. What a blast of memories from Final Fantasy V the overworld map was! Anyway, I wandered a bit, half-expecting to see a random encounter. Didn't happen. As I wandered, noting the sheer size of the map, I happened across many areas that essentially gave me a "Sorry! This area is not available in this demo!" message.

I eventually came across an area I could enter, and it even had random encounters! They were able to kill a character with three or two hits, so I decided to load, and explore somewhere else. I found a shrine. That area had no encounters, and had a bit of treasure-hunting.

I eventually came across a town. It had some shops and a Beginner's Hall. The Beginner's Hall was a nice touch, I guess, but I'm pretty sure I came across the town at random rather than by design. Hard to say, as there were many locations unavailable to me because the game is still in a demo state.

Finally, I came across the area I was supposed to go to. First thing I saw when I entered was a signpost. It directed me to go to the left for the "easy" path, or to go to the right for the "hard" path. I went left to see how the easy path fared. I got through it without too much difficulty, though it kinda felt like I found my way around more out of dumb luck than anything else. However, at the end of the path, I got an event that suggested to me that I needed to go down the "hard" path. I wondered if I really had to go down both paths, or if going down the "hard" path was the only thing I needed to do. Not really wanting to experiment with that thought, I went down the "hard" path. Yeah, "hard" is the right word for it. I must have been send back to the beginning, like, fifty times. Taking down notes for which exit didn't telport me back to the beginning helped, but when I entered a "new" room (Rooms are recycled for this dungeon, so I'm guessing the game checks a variable to see if there's a reset or not), I literally had to guess which exit I was supposed to take. Anyway, when all was said and done, I found myself on an island smack-dab in the middle of the ocean. And there was this castle on the island with me. That doesn't cue a dangerous dungeon with a boss fight in RPG's does it?

Actually, it didn't. Entering the castle caused a flurry of events that introduced another character. After an awkward bonding moment involving sake and a treasure chest, we flip back to the main character. As far as I can tell, she came to the island seeking what's-her-name-I-don't-even-know, even wanting to go so far as to inflict bodily harm on the person she did manage to meet. Instead, she decided not to pursue who she was looking for. She decided to wander off someplace completely different. I don't know if such a thing is typical of that character or not, but it seemed kind of inconsistent with what little I know of her at this point. So, rather than answering anything, the game just threw more questions at my face. I decided to humor the game a tad more, though.

The location I was supposed to go to was a forest. The ability to skip over the dungeon I passed through to get to the island I was on was something this game seemed to need, and I graciously accepted the offer. The dungeon I was looking for actually wasn't too far from where I was dropped off by the dungeon-skip. Not that I knew this before-hand, as I went to a different forest, thinking that was the one the game was talking about, but I was proven wrong by a friendly bounce event. I eventually found the proper dungeon, saved and, hopped in. The first encounter, I don't think I noticed anything spectacular happening. But something must have, as the second one saw one of my three characters die, and there were about three enemies left out of the five or so that the battle started with. Sure, I could use my one-and-only resurrection on that character, but it only restored 10% of the character's health. Even so, I'm not even sure if I ran across an item shop. If I did, how much distance would I need to travel to get to it from the entrance to that dungeon? Lloyd's Beacon sounded really good to me all of the sudden.

I made another attempt in the dungeon, trying to note the amount of damage that was dealt to me. The incoming damage didn't seem that bad. I did use the main character's Pray, which heals a very small amount of HP to the party as something of an insurance. Three fights, later, I figured I was doing okay. Then, I ran across a fight with two Shades and two furball-looking things. I'm not sure who used the ability, but there was a paralysis effect and/or a sleep effect somewhere. Also, the Shades could take out a character with an attack that did around 300 damage. I noticed my main character taking around 600 damage from that attack, thanks to elemental affinities. Damned magic, against a Divine affinity? We've all seen elemental affinities before, but that character didn't stand a chance against that attack before the affinity ever kicked in. There are zero answers to elemental affinity that I knew of, but I figured I should be able to deal with status conditions, and prepare myself against the contingency of people dying in one hit.

As it happens, the town with the Beginner's Hall was pretty close. I knew that there was an equipment shop, as the building that contained the equipment shop had the staircase that led to the Beginner's Hall. But did it have an items shop? Yes, but in the least convenient place possible.

Okay, so I had a dungeon that randomly gives hard encounters, and a relatively close town. It seemed to me that this was as good an opportunity to grind as any. I figured I had to. If I was having trouble here, would I not have all the more trouble later? I noted how much experience encounters I could reasonibly defeat gave, and figured that I wasn't actually going to level all that much with these fights. I figured the best I could do was get into enough fights to get my main character a level (Which I figured would be, on average, around fourteen fights.), and use what money I earned from those fights to buy restorative items so that I could have more general staying power.

The funny part is that this dungeon is also divided into an "easy" and "hard" path. I was going the "easy" path. I shutter to think what I would come across with the "hard" path. Then again, if this dungeon turned out to be anything like the previous dungeon, in that I would have to traverse both paths to unlock where I was supposed to go, I think I would be inclined to shoot the developer rage-quit the game.

It was at about this point in the game that I noticed that the "Retreat" option was never active. It was always greyed out. If there was an item to use that escapes battles, the shop did not sell them. So, whatever encounter I came across, I had to fight it. Or reset the game, if I knew/suspected that the fight was too difficult. That's... kinda lame.

Anyway, since the encounters were randomly tough, I decided to perform a bit of gorilla tactics. I would move in, and get into one encounter. If my party survived, get the hell out of the dungeon. I did this, maybe, five times. I found myself retreating further back to the Beginner's Hall for it's Recovery Jar twice. I dunno. Maybe the NaGaDeMo Review Drive took more out of me than I thought, as my own games require a bit of grinding to survive, but I was not having fun with this game. I also figured that whatever sequence I would get at the end of the dungeon would probably still confuse and bewilder me, though I might still have a general idea of what I was supposed to do. I debated the merits of proving/disproving that theory, and possibly getting exceptionally frustrated in the process, against quitting now and giving what pointers I could in this review. I chose the latter.

General Observations:
The command window seems to stay open after I choose any area-of-effect skill, but hides itself if I choose a single-target skill, or regular attack. Bug?

Combat seems choppy at times. This might have to do with the battler sprite animations, because a lot of actions are being put into the queue at the same time, or, as I have absolutely no clue how they might affect anything, the DYN plug-ins that the game runs.

After getting over the FF5 vibe that the world map was giving me, I noticed how much space there was between enter-able areas. And that there wasn't any encounters. I thought to myself, "This game would benefit greatly from something akin to a Lloyd's Beacon." Or, since 2K3 has a built-in Teleport function, that would be equally useful, if not more so, for this game. Or, the map sizes could be cut down. All of these options are viable.

I'm not sure what kind of game balance theory was applied to this game, but I believe it needs to be re-examined. Boss enemies can generally do whatever they want, but normal enemies should not do enough damage to outright kill a character with one attack/skill. If I saw this happening in an optional dungeon, I could afford to say that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. For plot dungeons? Not so much.

I might not totally understand the "why" of what I was doing, but I think I had a good enough handle on what I was supposed to do. Executing the intended plan had it's own hiccups, though.

As I have mentioned, perhaps the onslaught of reviews I made for the NaGaDeMo Review Drive might have affected the way I approached this game. That, in itself, gives me pause not only in giving a review score (This is a demo, and it's not my policy to give demos rated reviews in the first place), but also because of some form of exhaustion in regards to playing/reviewing games in the first place.

The good news is that the music this game is as awesome as I expected. The character battler sprites seem a bit quick with their animations, but they look really sweet nonetheless.

The bad news is that the game's story will probably outright confuse anyone who has no knowledge of the source material. Even if we ignore that, encounters provide minimal rewards, and may actually end up requiring more resources to be put into them than they provide. Top all that with maps that are tedious enough just to get from one exit to the next, and the game becomes borderline unplayable. Thankfully, this is a demo, so these problems can be fixed with future releases.



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A few notes to this, if I may add them:

*I have never been able to figure out a proper EXP ratio system, due to how crappy 2K3's default EXP system works, so that's part of the problem of the EXP (it takes like 600 EXP every level, so level 1 is 600 to level 2, then 1200 to level 3). Balancing this out with enemies has proven to be...rather difficult and a big annoyance factor.

*The vast majority of the dungeons are pretty straightforward really (only the first dungeon are you forced to take both Easy and Hard paths, and this was due to my mapper who revised that dungeon map). I will admit my mapping skills are terrible (they always have been), but I DO think they get better as the game progresses (well, IMO anyways). Scarlet Devil Mansion is a prime example of an area that I loathe because I cannot get it right under any circumstances whatsoever.

*Well, obviously the game is meant for those who are fans of the Touhou series, so for those who don't know the series that well, I guess it would be hard to follow. Making it easy to follow for those outside of the series would be...rather difficult, per say.

*Yes, I realize the story throws a lot of crap at you all at once at the beginning, but I did that on purpose to let the game tie things up as the game progresses. Beta5 is where a lot of the loose ends tie up.

*Of note, I don't know if you did it, but there were skills to buy, which is how you upgrade your abilities. Dunno if that was part of the problem you were having or not with battles. As for the Retreat option being grayed out, it's only ever not-grayed out when you get a Surprise attack. Otherwise, you have to scroll down in a character's command window to the Escape command to attempt to flee. That's just how 2k3 is with that bit.

*On topic of encounters, that's something I've been trying to adjust over time. The enemy abilities probably won't change though, since that's part of the strategy behind the game is figuring out how to deal with enemies (in early game there's not much in the way of elemental protection yes, but later on you start getting more and more available at shops). Again, it's mostly the EXP system I think that makes them not worth it (I think the Steals and Drops may need adjusting too, but that's an entirely different beast on its own).

Just my 2 cents on everything so far. This may be just me since I did make the game and know what to do in it, but in retrospect it's really not as difficult as it may seem. May seem like it, but it really isn't (unless you take the Hard path. It's called Hard for a reason of course!). ^^;
I swear that I've heard the name of "Touhou" from somewhere else, but I do not recall from where. I think it's a game, but my knowledge in this matter is not to be trusted.

It's a series of indie scrolling shooter games from Japan. The plots of each individual game aren't that complex, but since each one of them (currently 19 in the series) effectively adds a new region/set of characters to the world, continuity as a whole can sometimes seem a little impenetrable.

I haven't played Touhou Fantasy yet, but I'd imagine that it runs into the problem that if it were to try to explain everything the player needs to know about the world, the exposition might begin to bore the people who are familiar with everything, and the majority of a fangame's potential audience is going to come from the second group.
Guardian of the Description Thread
I think I was, at least, vaguely aware that the skill-books in the shop allowed for skill purchases/upgrades. I never really checked them out, but I'm not sure if I attribute that to giving the things that will help me simply stay alive a higher priority, or not.

Though, you remind me that I don't talk at all about how I decide on exp/gold/item drops in this blog about game balance.

*Edit: Well, I'm not sure that players would need to know everything about Project Touhou before coming into this game. Heck, I figure the only thing that players absolutely need to know is PANDORA'S BOX HAS OPENED! THE WORLD NEEDS SAVING! I guess I don't mind a few tidbits of information about the world/characters that only fans of the original source would get/understand, though. I would expect that from any fan-game.
Of another note, I do try to balance enemy stats with the character stats at the time that you're meant to go to the dungeons. For the most part, these are balanced by how I progress through the game (this is without any grinding whatsoever mind you). Skills are mostly balanced around this as well...most of the battles come down to how much a character's/enemy's elemental attribute/status resistance is exploited, as well as how efficiently one deals with enemies. Most elemental weaknesses in this game result in 200% extra damage (hence why you took so much from one attack. I can only assume it was either Dark or a Demarcation), so of course that's going to do a lot of damage. As stated, elemental resistant stuff is hard to come by early game.

Most of the item drops I intended to be crafting materials anyways (which I need to rework how the Synthesis shop is because it is terrible right now. That's another one that'll be hard to balance out correctly). They do need reworked I think a bit though...

EDIT BECAUSE I DID NOT SEE EDIT: I try to give details about the characters and stuff as the game progresses, for those who don't know much about the series. Well, TRY being the keyword. One can only do so much with the information given!
Guardian of the Description Thread
I think my problem lied in that the game didn't introduce me to thinking strategically about regular battles until I hit the second dungeon. One thing you could do is make the first dungeon can be a kind of tutorial about it, giving the player characters a clear advantage. Something to consider.

Also, did you say "crafting materials"? Darigaaz, why?
Well, first dungeon is meant to be the introductory dungeon (and I think I forgot to put the random encounters back in still now that I think about it). They didn't show up until the last 2 screens which may attribute a bit to that. Dungeon was meant to introduce basic puzzles and basic enemies (I had to tone down enemies long ago because physical damage formula sucks in this game). I'm still working on fixing physical damage as I explained in PM, which I hope will help the game somehow...

So yeah, second dungeon is where the game takes off the kiddy gloves and actually throws you into the main fray of what I had in mind. Yes, there are hard areas in the game, but that should be expected really (in case you're wondering, Touhou games tend to be...on the hard side. I intend on this being hard, but not HARD, if you know what I mean?).

And yeah, crafting materials. Originally wanted to put those in during beta1, but didn't because I didn't know how to do a crafting shop (wanted to do one similar to FFIX's synthesis shop). Then I saw Genius of Sapphieros and decided to try again...and well, I have it. Just that it's not very good right now.
Guardian of the Description Thread
In truth, after I submitted this, I looked up "Touhou" on Wikipedia. So, I perfectly understand your desire to make the game have a certain difficulty to keep in flavor of the original source's bullet-hell nature. Saying that, I'm thinking yes, have the gloves on with dungeon 1 for sure. Dungeon 2, you might be able to tease them a bit more with difficulty. By dungeon 3, not only are the gloves off, but you're bringing a knife to a fistfight. Or something like this.

These are but my suggestions/thoughts, though.
Well, the game I have already set up when difficulties will kick in. For instance, from start of game to basically where you were, Forest of Magic, is where Easy mode is. Forest of Magic until some time into beta 3 is where Normal Mode is. From that point in Beta3 up until some time in beta 5 is Hard, then Lunatic until final dungeon, where it goes Extra. Enemies and strategies are different for each difficulty in a way as well. For instance, in later Normal mode (closer to the Hard part), you have to play a bit differently than say, Forest of Magic where you can pretty much Diamond Blizzard everything to death ever (yes, things die in one hit from one attack). And again, I based the difficulty and whatnot on me playing through the game with no grinding whatsoever, so the game is even meant to be challenging to those that grind and don't grind both, but moreso be generous enough to let you still do fine without grinding. Of course, having enough items help too.

The dungeons ARE pretty plain for the most part (there are 2 dungeons in particular that are in dire need of being redone, and sadly, they're right at the start of the game at the end of beta1), but as they go on I try to incorporate better design and puzzles. Beta5 is where most of the big puzzles is going to be, and around beta4 is where I try to design enemies and bosses to have more of a strategy to them.
Yo, Xenomic. We're giving you criticism.

Learn to take it constructively, and improve.

As of the latest test, the "Sorry! This area is not available in this demo!" seemed to still be there. Now, it's possible I played the same version as him (I dunno, an awful lot seemed similar).


The game is very bare bones, overdoes the music factor, and let's be real here. Having that much music and none of it at reasonable size and having all these spammed crap files on the download site (seriously, it's like you don't know about the Delete Function) makes people... ummmm, not want to play your game.

That's because several areas AREN'T done at all. And that means...they're not done. They're for later on in the game when they're actually MEANT for it. Remember, the game IS still a beta, it is not a full game.

The music was meant to give each area an unique flavor without overusing the same track over and over for areas, as well as for boss fights and scenarios. Everything was chosen because it FIT with the scenarios they were chosen for. Now, like I said a million times already, such as with previous PMs and other places, the music thing will be taken care of SLOWLY. It's a matter of cutting out things for the vanilla pack...but the rest not for the vanilla pack will be put in the EXTENDED pack for those who want the full flavor.

It shouldn't be barebones at all considering I gave you the most recent maps and database. Yes, the areas aren't accessible that were not before, but again, THEY'RE NOT MEANT TO BE YET! Everything else that's for the beta, is accessible.
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