A little look at… Elmknight

I like RPGs. I like PC-98 games too. But often older computer RPGs seem to take a special sort of delight in crushing the very souls of anyone that dares to play them. This was fine back in the eighties/early nineties when you’d expect the latest RPG to last you months and a new computer game cost six shillings and a fresh chicken, but for better or worse the idea of sitting down and puzzling your way through a single title to the exclusion of all others went out with the 3.5” floppy disc.

So when browsing Project EGG for a new (old) game to spend ¥500 on it was with some trepidation that I settled on Micro Cabin’s 1992 RPG Elmknight, as it was not only an RPG but a first person RPG – the sort of thing that’s practically guaranteed to have you scrawling on graph paper like a gamer possessed. Why did I take leave of my senses and go for this game? I’ll be honest – it was because the title screen’s really cool:

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What gamer can resist an RPG with the promise of incredible giant robots? Not me, that’s for sure! Luckily it turns out that not only is Elmknight an RPG that absolutely delivers on the cool robot front but it’s also surprisingly forward-thinking in its execution, and by that I mean this is a 1992 RPG with a useful auto-map, checkpoints, and it’s balanced in such a way that people will be able to complete the game simply by paying attention and playing well – unlike Falcom’s PC-88 RPG Dragon Slayer which, much as I love it, did have me literally taping down keys so I could go out for a few hours while the game levelled up my party so I could proceed past the latest brick-wall boss.

But that’s enough rambling – what about the game?

Well as I briefly mentioned above the game’s navigated entirely from a first-person perspective, with your wandering broken down into town (actually more of a base), on-foot, and in-Land Mover (robot, for simplicity’s sake) flavours. Each of these has an always-on minimap at the bottom of the screen which while not especially detailed by any stretch of the imagination does go a long way to helping you get your bearings and at least gives some reassurance that you aren’t blindly walking in circles for hours. Both the on-foot and robot piloting sections features real-time fighting – players are expected to pick off enemies from a distance with carefully aimed shots and avoid incoming fire by moving out of the way, as opposed to hoping a DEF/LUK stat will do the work for them.

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Considering the format and the age of the game you’d expect this to all feel rather clunky, with flip-book movement (much like genre classics Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder) and limited animation, but Elmknight goes against the grain by featuring relatively smooth and responsive movement and lots of big well animated enemies to unleash your selection of weaponry upon.

The impressive visuals extend to the cutscenes too, which are frequent, well animated, and feature lots of unique one-off effects – as you’d probably hope for a game that spans ten floppy discs. The plot’s not going to win any awards, but it’s told with a sense of confidence and energy that means you’re more than likely to get swept up regardless, and the ending is satisfying enough to make the struggle of the final boss battle feel worthwhile.

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In the interests of fairness it’s worth pointing out one particular flaw – the text speed. All text auto-scrolls at a set speed, meaning fluent readers are left drumming their fingers and those of us that need to look up words find that the game isn’t prepared to just hang on for a minute while we consult a dictionary. There is an option to skip text entirely (ESC+D), but sadly not to simply speed it up. It doesn’t sound like much, but when the rest of the game is so polished it does stand out as something that really should have been addressed before release.

For whatever reason Elmknight didn’t receive any sequels or spinoffs as far as I’ve been able to see, although it did have its soundtrack released in 1993 – if you want to pick one up yourself it will apparently cost a minimum of ¥29,999, which is the cheapest price on Amazon JP at the time of writing (it wasn’t in stock anywhere else, including Yahoo! Japan Auctions).

Bonus info: Elmknight has a debug mode! Any time you’re in the Vanetta open up the weapons menu and then press 2, 7, 5, 6 on the number pad to open up a handy menu that offers invincibility, the ability to move anywhere on the map, ammo reload and all sorts of other useful little features. The downside is that your screen ends up looking like this -

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- but even then it’s actually quite interesting to get a peek under the hood and see what’s going on as you move around the map.

Want to try the game for yourself? You can! Project EGG have it for sale over here - click!

Phantasy Star Online 2 Fashion Parade Vol.1

So I’ve talked about Phantasy Star Online 2 before, praising it for being both a worthy sequel to the original Dreamcast hit as well as being a free to play title that feels like it was actually created as a game first rather than an ad banner delivery service – it’s now been the best part of a year since I made that post and I’m pleased to say that I still stand by all the positive points I raised back then.

So how do you go about celebrating that continued success? With a fashion parade of course! PSO2 is absolutely stuffed to the gills with all sorts of costumes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous – so many that I’ve had to split my own virtual wardrobe into two posts, with this first one covering all the outfits I’ve accumulated so far that are tie-ins with Phantasy Star titles or other videogames and anime licenses. The next batch will be PSO2 originals, typed up whenever I get around to it.

Outfits appear in the order they sorted themselves into in my inventory, which at a quick glance appears to be pretty much the order they were released in - the Japanese names are included so any PC PSO2 players reading this can easily copy/paste the item name into the shop search bar and buy one for yourselves, meseta willing!

If you’re wondering about the location, these screenshots were all taken on the recently-released Episode 3’s new planet Japantown Neudaiz Harukotan.

Having trouble seeing the fine fashion garments below? Don’t forget to click on any of the images to see it full size!

Emilia Replica/エミリア・レプカ
Emilia Percival (Phantasy Star Portable 2)

Guardians F Repca Leaf/ガーディアンズFレプカ葉
Lumia Waber (Phantasy Star Portable 2)

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Hatsune Miku Replica/初音ミク・レプカ
Hatsune Miku (Vocaloid)

Sakuya Mode-N Replica/サクヤmodeN・レプカ
Sakuya (Shining Blade)

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Selvaria Replica/セルベリア・レプカ
Selvaria Bles (Valkyria Chronicles)

Arle Replica/アルル・レプカ
Arle Nadja (Puyo Puyo)

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Student Replica S Steel/スチューデントS・レプカ鋼
Katanako (7th Dragon 2020)

Karen Replica/カレン・レプカ
Karen Erra (Phantasy Star Universe)

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Madoka’s Clothes/まどかの服
Madoka Kaname (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

King of Knights Armour 騎士王の甲冑
Saber (Fate/Stay Night)

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Corps Uniform & 3DMG/兵団制服&
Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan)

Shinsengumi Captain’s Haori/新選組隊長羽織F
Female version of Ryoma’s outfit (Ryu ga Gotoku Ishin)

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Ulala Replica/うらら・レプカ
Ulala (Space Channel 5)

Altina Replica Cherry Blossomアルティナ・レプカ桜
Altina (Shining Blade)

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Kagamine Rin Replica/鏡音リン・レプカ
Kagamine Rin (Vocaloid)

Fei-Yen 1P/フェイ・イェン 1P
Fei-Yen (Cyber Troopers Virtual On Force)

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If you want to spend an afternoon gawping at the full range of male, female and Cast outfits available in PSO2 then the best place to do that is almost definitely over here – Cirnopedia

Got a favourite? Looking forward to the next batch? Either leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter!

A little look at… Runners High

Compile are prolific contributors to Japan’s retro digital download store Project EGG, offering users a wealth of titles from their extensive back catalogue: anything from spinoff mini games to excellent but overlooked adventures like Wander Wonder. Their latest title to go up on the service is Runners High, a racing game that was previously only available as part of their 1996 PC-98 DiscStation 10 compilation.

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The game’s a simple beat-the-clock racing game with a not unwelcome 90’s anime twist – rather than giving players a boring old car or a selection of typical athletes to race as you’re instead cast as a sci-fi high school student that, of course, “runs” by strapping some manner of futuristic boosters to her back. It’s hardly reinventing the wheel, but it’s tough to argue against the concept when the opening course presents players with the opportunity to skim over Sega-blue water at 300+km/h, kicking up spray as our enthusiastic runner turns into the corners.

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While originally being just one part of a compilation of Compile tid-bits makes the following somewhat understandable, there’s no getting away from the fact that Runners High has just three simple tracks to play on as one character with no unlockables, mirror courses or anything to do other than trying to beat your own lap times. This means that just about any gamer will have seen all the game has to offer within at most fifteen minutes of loading it up, but as a short-but-sweet burst of racing action Runners High makes a welcome antidote to both the sprawling multi-disc dungeon crawlers that the PC-98 already has in abundance as well as modern mainstream titles that apparently can’t do anything without a thirty minute motion captured cutscene voiced by some bloke off the telly, and at the end of the day ¥500 (approx. £2.87/$4.66USD) really isn’t much to spend on a bright but brief slice of something a little bit different.

If you’d like to buy Runners High from Project EGG you can find their store page for it here - click!

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New database entry! Chakushin Melody Damon

I like to think that I have relatively good taste in games, my razor-sharp nerd-dar silently guiding me through the endless piles of middling-to-poor releases towards more interesting titles like Ougon Musou Kyoku and English of the Dead. There comes a point though in every gamer’s life where they encounter something so obviously… naff that they simply have to buy it, and for me that game was Chakushin Melody Damon.

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Even now, after a few weeks of owning the damned thing, I still find that cover plain weird. As a ringtone composer for Japanese mobile phones that are all either in landfill or museums I can understand the faux-metal background and the various phones on the cover, but that cat? It’s like someone decided that phones weren’t friendly enough for software cases and hurriedly thought “Help, what’s cute and generally inoffensive? Err…umm… I know, cats!” then Photoshopped in the first furball image they came across.

Should you still be curious enough or somehow have access to a working fifteen year old imported phone that just has to have a Gundam ringtone on it you can find out the facts about this little oddity here – Click!.

Chakushin Melody Damon

Original Title
Official Website
The first thing to make clear about Chakushin Melody Damon is that while it is Playstation software it is not a game. Released on November 25th 1999, Chakushin Melody Damon is a collection of two hundred pre-made ringtones for various popular Japanese mobile phones of the time, bundled with a melody composer should you wish to create your own.
New ringtones are “transferred” to the phone simply by following the on-screen instructions to open up that particular model’s ringtone composer and then inputting the required key presses. A voice reads out these inputs so the user doesn’t have to keep checking back at the screen or worry about mis-reading a lengthy melody.
Melodies are split into five genres – J-Pop, Game, Anime, Classic, and Other, and contains tracks from old and new favourites such as Dragon Quest III, Final Fantasy VIII, Lupin III, Cardcaptor Sakura, My Neighbour Totoro and more.
It can be assumed that the software was a success as Ving released four further sequels in under a year, titled Chakushin Melody Damon 2-4 and Chakushin Melody Damon GOLD.
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