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Where Thy Hell Dost I Go?

  • Dyhalto
  • 07/31/2016 01:27 AM
Dragon Fantasy : Heroes of Tsufana is Ephiam Oricuna's final entry into the RPGMaker genre of NES RPGs, and a high note to leave off on. As with the rest of the series, players can experience the novelty of that era in gaming without suffering through the growing pains, like grinding and ambiguous direction.
For the most part.

Visual: 3.5/5
In a twist of irony, Heroes of Tsufana's visuals took a step backward from it's predecessors.
Or maybe I'm whining because Dragon Fantasy II, the other NES-style game of Ephiam's that I played, was just that much more beautiful. It benefited from stylistically different town and dungeon designs, whereas in Heroes of Tsufana, every cave is just another gaggle of tunnels. Every castle is just another collection of blocks forming hallways. The lack of architectural flourish is hard to describe, but readily apparent to anybody whose played both games.
Battles are a feast for the eyes, though. A lot of spell graphics were lifted from SNES titles, but their animations were faithfully retrofitted into the 2-3 frame style of NES RPGs. It's both appropriate and very slick.

Overall, Heroes of Tsufana looks good as eight bits go. Just, good.

Audio: 5/5
Immediately after I was given control of the party, the first thing I did was...


Sure enough, every wall in the game will *BUMP* at you on contact. It wouldn't be Dragon Fantasy if it didn't do at least that much.
Meanwhile, the series has dropped it's proclivity for midis and gone full mp3, bringing in some classy tunes from various Dragon Quests, Final Fantasies, and Fire Emblem Gaiden (a personal fave). Throughout, the BGM always remains true to the aesthetic.

I loved the sound effect when enemies die too.

Storyline: 1.5/5
Another category in which Heroes of Tsufana stepped backwards.
I remember Dragon Fantasy II being filled with talkative bosses, all sharing a tale of woe before you sent them to the hereafter. Heroes of Tsufana opens with the Elder telling two of the heroes to go and kick the evil Vladimir's butt. Then the story goes into a deep freeze forever. Forever. A few moments of pithy narrative occur intermittently and Vladimir explains his diabolical plot before you liquidate him, but it's never anything to get invested in.

A Warning : Don't expect much of an ending. Just keep reminding yourself that you're here for the awesome gameplay.

Gameplay: 4.5/5
It wouldn't be a Dragon Fantasy game if the Hero, proclaimed as such by an authority figure right from the get-go, wasn't given a Stick for a weapon. Likewise, his sister begins with a Toy Hammer. Not even a smith's or carpenter's hammer. She gets something an infant can safely whack things repeatedly with. Thanks for the material support, Elder.

Ephiam's been making games for over a decade and it shows. Heroes of Tsufana has a perfectly balanced difficulty curve, provided you know where to go.
By that, I mean the party gets a ship 20 minutes into the game, making the world your oyster. This causes the same problem Dragon Quest II's ship had : "Where do I go next?" The world map is unnecessarily large, with no minimap or significant landmarks to aid you. Included in the game download is a screenshot of the world, but that means you have to alt+tab to desktop and break immersion. Even then, if you know where you want to go, actually getting there is a task and a half. You'll literally need to remember "head south until I hit here, then follow the coast east until the rock peninsula, then break off east..." Did I describe the world map as unnecessarily large? I meant preposterously large.

For all my complaining, you'd think I didn't enjoy the game. On the contrary. A positive spin would be to say the element of exploration is enormous in scope, with plenty of scattered towns, treasure, and places of interest to discover. The dungeons and their occupants also provide a hefty challenge, and there's even some optional superdungeon and superboss content in case completionism is your thing. It's definitely mine.

I'm sad to see the user-generated bosses weren't included, though. Enuo was kind of a wuss, and I need a little more incentive to justify grinding for Omega.

Overall: 3.5/5
While not quite as polished as the earlier entries in Dragon Fantasy, Heroes of Tsufana is still an all-round great game. The shortcomings are minor, and I attribute them to Ephiam possibly rushing the late stages so he could start work on his next big project : Chronicles of Tsufanubra.

Speaking of which...

Spoiler Alert.


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I never did thank you for this review, did I? I was certain I'd left a comment at some point, but evidently not!

Man, I had a hearty chuckle reading this review, especially when you brought up the elder's material support. Every now and then I come back to read this just to smile from ear-to-ear and do some stupid grin like a kid from seeing all the little details you poked in here.

In retrospect, I do wish I'd given the game a better ending. It deserves that much, at least! Also, going back and replaying this allowed me to rekindle my appreciation for even the simplest approach to the classic JRPG formula.
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