Falcomonth – Looking at Sorcerian (Sega Megadrive version)

It’s the unofficial January 2014 Falcom community playalong! As Frederick from FE:A would say: “Pick a game and play!” and since just about everyone is probably going to pick a Ys game, I choose…

Sorcerian 1

What do you mean that’s not what he said?

So normally, I would play the most recent PC version “Sorcerian Original”, but I didn’t want to dig out the DVD. A lot of the console versions tend to be just weaker versions of the PC ones, but the MegaDrive has a bunch of new contents so let’s just go with that.

Sorcerian CharSorcerian is a really odd game because it’s like if someone wanted to make a platforming Metroidvania RPG, but then suddenly decide to pile on complex Wizardry town mechanics.

First thing first is to create our characters. There are 4 classes:

1) Fighter – Stabs stuff with sword.
2) Wizard – Gets a bunch of free magic items at start.
3) Elf – Lives the longest, levels the slowest.
4) Dwarf – Fighter variant. Uses Axe rather than Swords. Great frontliner material, but really stupid (low INT).

And yes, Elf and Dwarves are classes because this is based off really old D&D games.

Stats are kind of self-explanatory and if they aren’t you should read the manual, but some stats of note…

1) Vit doesn’t affect HP. Instead it affects your ability to open doors. Uh yeah, because that’s the sort of task that takes your physical health into account instead of your strength. It’s basically only relevant for your leader, but you really want it because you don’t want to have to abandon your dungeon run halfway.

2) Dex affects your ability to avoid traps, but there’s a skill that allows you to just avoid all of them. Another one of those “relevant for leader only” stats except even more suitable for dumping.

3) Karma is ridiculously good for several reasons, because it reduces shop costs and also EXP to level up. Make sure this is high, especially for elves.

4) You need at least 1 INT to cast spells. Everyone should have that, including your dwarves. In fact, there ‘s usually at least 1 powerful magic Dwarf-only axe in each Sorcerian game.

Sorcerian 2Son of a teacher, I forgot this version doesn’t have kanji text. That’s going to make reading annoying. Also the town menus are rather boring in the old versions.

 <— Expect to listen to this a lot.

One of Sorcerian’s major defining features is that when they’re not adventuring, characters take up jobs to earn GP/EXP yearly. Jobs also affect stats (always ending with a net gain of +1) and are restricted according to Class/Gender (e.g men can’t be midwives).

While you may be tempted to take your fresh characters into the dungeons immediately, it helps to spend a few years working to build up some cash, stats and EXP. Adventuring is definitely the faster way to amass power, but if you’re sending out completely fresh characters straight away you might as well send them out in coffins.

Sorcerian 3So after working Danae the first to his untimely death of old age and giving the fortune to Danae the 2nd, I decided to enter town and put my earnings to good use. The Training Field is nice because for a small amount of gold and 2 years, you get +5 in one stat, which averages to +2.5 stats per year. There’s also a bunch of misc skills, 4 of them (Item/Trap/Monster Identify/Herbs), their effects are in the manual.

Sorcerian 4One silly thing about Sorcerian’s interface is that characters start out naked and you have to buy basic equipment for them. And then once you do it once, the weapon shop becomes… kind of silly except as a source of mundane items for enchanting, I guess. It would take many many games in the series before a “Magic Item” shop would finally be available (“Sorcerian Original” has it)

Sorcerian 5

Well, I don’t really feel like writing anymore about town stuff, I really should but I’m getting lazy. So let’s actually start playing the game instead of Menu Life Simulator 2000.

Normally, most Sorcerian versions offer what is now known as the “Master Disk Scenarios”, which are scenarios from the original first PC-88 version of the game. Said version also had what is one of the first ever experiments at what is now known as the “DLC” concept with downloadable scenarios, but for whatever reason those never made it to other versions except maybe the iOS version. No first-hand experience on that one though.

The Genesis version is kind of unique because every scenario available in it is new and hasn’t appeared anywhere else, so if you have played the game a million times already, these are going to be rather fresh. On the downside it also means I can’t use the English walkthrough from GameFAQs.

Scenarios in Sorcerian fall between a scale of “Dungeon Bash” and “Puzzle-Solving”, so be sure to read the descriptions and figure out what you’re in the mood for. I’ll just pick the first one because.

Sorcerian 6With all the character creation and menus going on, you were probably expecting some kind of Wizardry clone, but SURPRISE, it’s actually a platformer RPG!

So here’s my tip for general dungeon crawling: make sure everyone can cast spells, because melee attacks have a really pathetic range and your party always follow you in this weird conga line which means trying to be all Ys and avoid every attack probably won’t happen.

Now this is an early-game mission so you don’t have to do that now, although I did spend some time enchanting my leader’s weapon to back up the party Wizard’s casting (enchanting is a mechanic that’s almost impossible to figure out without heavy perusal of the game’s manual).

But by mid-game if your screen doesn’t look like a Danmaku field 24/7, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Sorcerian 7

Sorcerian’s not very import friendly because you actually need to be able to read what the NPCs are saying if you want to solve the puzzles, unless you intend to wander around aimlessly for hours until you luck out.

Sorcerian 8An oddity of old Sorcerian versions if that you only get experience once you cleared a room of enemies instead of on a “per enemy” basis. Considering how pathetic the amount is usually given out for that, it’s much better if you only kill enough to progress. You get much bigger EXP for hitting quest milestones.

Sorcerian 9

LOOT!

Well not really. Not sure how many times I can write the sentence “so Sorcerian is weird because X”, but items you find in dungeons are only used in its puzzles… until you bring them out and identify them, in which case, they suddenly become usable equipment.

Speaking of equipment, Magic in Sorcerian works differently from most other games. Rather than being an inherent part of your character, magic can only be cast from equipment: each piece has the potential to hold one spell, and which equipment you’ve set to use determines which spell is being cast when you hit the spellcasting button.

The default Wizard character can always get Rod/Robe/Ring from the weapon shop that casts Flame/Shield/Heal, which helps kickstart your casting career.

There aren’t limitations in which equipment can hold what type of spell, which means you can have Swords that heal you and Robes that cast Flame spells if you really want to.

Sorcerian 10

I need something here. Can you guess what?

Sorcerian 11

This one is painful because not having said item drops you into a huge pit of spikes and you go to retrace your entire steps back.

Sorcerian 12

Sorcerian 13

Ok, so I collected all of them and placed them on these inconspicuous pedestals here, wonder what’s next…

Sorcerian 14

Holy crap ahhhhhh

Bosses in Sorcerian aren’t really that interesting, because a lot of them take little to no damage from spells so you’re force to melee them, and since the controls are kind of clunky in just about every version, it kind of boils down to “hope you have more stats to kill it first before it kills you.” The Genesis version is one of the smoother ones though.

I guess the good news is that since this is Falcom, you can usually expect cool music when this happens.

Sorcerian 15

Sweet sweet EXP.

Sorcerian 16

So I didn’t mention it but in this scenario you’re supposed to find a “Sage Key” and stick it in the hole in the pillar over there (ew), so here we go!

 <— if you hear this tune, you’ve beaten the current scenario! Pat yourselves on the back.

Sorcerian 17

Don’t leave the area too soon though. Yet Another Sorcerian Quirk: completing the scenario usually causes “secret” items to pop up like this. They don’t appear as a graphics or anything, so you pretty much got to run into every nook, crevice and walls to find them if you want to.

Sorcerian 18

And now you leave the dungeon and enjoy your spoils.

One thing that will usually happen during a successful scenario is that one of the items will usually be marked as a “Tribute” for the King. If you offer it up to him, you usually get a huge chunk of EXP. On the other hand, you could keep it and sometimes it turns out to be a powerful magic item, so the choice is yours (or maybe you read an FAQ and figure out which ones are safe to keep or sell)

After that, you get to distribute found items, and hopefully they’re magical! As another silly old Sorcerian version quirk, there’s no way to redistribute items once this happens, so if you make a mistake, your only hope is to replay the scenario and get the items again! Geez, I’m glad Sorcerian Original adds a warehouse feature so as to implement a simple basic functionality like this many years later.

YASQ: You get like 1/5 of your EXP earned as gold after each scenario. Funny, I always thought it was the other way round in D&D.

And that’s it! And now that I’ve written this post up I remembered there was supposed to be an interface translation patch for this version. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF-

Oh and if you’re interested in more Sorcerian stuff, here’s a good Let’s Play of it.

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