So, the Sega CD. After you worked through the big names like Sonic CD, you’re invariably left with a console that’s for the most part is not very good. Most people are aware that the Sega CD bought way too much into the trend of FMV games which aged very poorly in the long run and a lot of words has been written about those already.
And then there’s this game. Revengers of Vengeance is one heck of an obscure Fighting Game and once you’ve played it, it’s pretty easy to see why. I have no idea why someone went through the trouble of localizing it in the first place but apparently knowing that they had a stinker on their hands, they at least engaged in one of the most hilariously EXTREME marketing campaigns ever. Just take a look at that packaging and you can tell that the idea was to go for a cheesy “B-movie” poster feel. My favourite line is actually from magazine ads of the game, which states that the game is “based on a true story!” One where giant rhino-men bears down on Ren Faire cosplayers, I suppose. The amazing title of “RoV” wasn’t even the game’s original JP name, where it goes by the rather mundane moniker of “Battle Fantasy” but more on that later.
The cheesy “EXTREME” marketing gimmick extends all the way to the manual, which actually makes for a very fun read even for really mundane parts. You gotta love a passage about how to insert a Sega CD disc into your console which begins with “Although your maddening thirst for total and complete VENGEANCE has driven you to the very brink of utter insanity, contain your rage long enough to complete the following steps.” When you start the game, you’re treated with the most awesome $2 budget cheap animation that a random unknown designer could buy at the time. I mean seriously, I can’t really say roughly drawn static images floating by on the screen with SPEED LINES is exactly pushing technical limits but maybe the awesome background music just makes it sound a lot cooler. And now, the most surreal icon you will ever see – 2 Megadrives engaging in a kick-boxing fight.
The game is marketed as having 3 modes, although its really only 2. Tournament is the basic “Arcade mode” of most fighting games where you fight a predetermined series of fight until the end-boss, and then kill him too.
Arena of Death, the mode with the amazing icon, is probably the biggest let-down. It’s a glorified CPU mode where you sort of get to adjust the stats of the AI and then send them off to fight each other, but why the heck would you do that? Even if you were super bored I can only imagine this would make you even more dead from boredom.
The mode we’re taking a look at today is the Quest mode. You see, this game was marketed as an RPG/Fighting game hybrid. Nowadays, most console ports of Fighting Games come with an “RPG” mode of some sort such as Soul Calibur but back in the old days, you were lucky if anything other than a basic Arcade mode as available! So is it any good…? Well, I already kind of gave the answer away in the title, didn’t I? NOW INTRODUCING THE CAST OF CHARACTERS. Deedlit, Gimli, Shadow, Vega, Jon Talbian, Rocksteady, Shadow, Hawkgirl, Naga the White Serpent and Karategirl.
Actually a pretty diverse cast for a fantasy fighting game, though not particularly the most original character concepts as my nicknames would tell you. Extra points for effort with this presentation for character selection compared to simply selecting from heads in square boxes. Fun fact but looks like they got lazy during localization and left the Japanese Katakana characters in while naming your character. So feel free to name your character オッパイ or something. At the start of every character’s quest, there’s an anime cutscene that sets up the plot for that character, though I use the term very loosely because even Street Fighter 2 probably had a more effective narrative than this game.
Talon (the name of Miss Harpy here) plot is as follows: One day, the final boss of the game comes by while she’s out and just steals her egg from its nest. She exposits this to the audience by delivering a shrieking “OH NOS, MY BABY” in the worse dubbed voice money can buy in 1994 which simply has to be heard to believe but I’m too lazy to take a video for you people. And now she’s going to go beat him up and get her egg back. Not like I understand the motivation as to why he stole the egg in the first place, I guess he was really hungry for Harpy Omelettes that day.
So anyway, I always wanted to date a harpy, retire to our love nest and raise a clutch of eggs… UH, YOU DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING MOVING ON *Mindwipes* Whoa, when did I enter Ys – Harpy Edition? Though I hope that doesn’t give anyone the impression that the gameplay’s going to be like Ys, it just looks like this in the hub town where you do all your shopping and stuffles. And since we’re talking Ys similarities: the fortune teller gives the exposition on the plot of this game: head honcho villian Venum (sic) is gathering his power and once he’s done, the world is DOOMED! Your player character has 1 year to train up and put a stop to him once and for all… though I will note that apparently the Revengers universe year only has 200 days, which is a fact which might screw you over.
The fortune teller has two functions, which both cost 50 GP:
1) Fortune-telling: Grants you a cryptic hint (more on that later)
2) Gain level: Yes, this is one of those old RPGs where you have to specifically visit a special place just to level up. Incidentally, if you don’t have enough EXP to level, she’ll take your gold anyway like a jerk, but at least she’ll tell you how much EXP you need.
Some game design commentary here – a lot of the game is explained in the manual, and if you don’t have the manual (like say, if you buy it used), you’re kind of screwed in a lot of ways. Those were different times and I’m not going to judge an old game too harshly about requirements on needing the manual to play the game for something that tries to be a bit more complex than e.g a platformer.
That being said, if you can’t read the game’s goals in the manual, I think it’s necessary for the player to stumble across the fortune teller shop first to get some grounding of the goals of the game. The game designers kind of bungle this up by placing said building in the far top right corner of the town, semi-obscured by a much bigger building in front so it’s extremely easy to overlook it until later.
And here’s the stats of our character. I got 200 days to turn her from Colonel’s extra crispy spring chicken into a fighting fit Harvey Bird-woman. So let’s head out of town and do just that. And it’s the world map. A simple point/location system where each location corresponds to a certain fighter (once again, all listed in the manual).
As another thing I consider a game design flaw, there isn’t any real pattern to how the enemy characters are arranged. Where the usual RPG standard belief would be that areas that are closer to town are easier, in this game it’s honestly kind of haphazard. It boils down to early playthroughs of the game being a complete trial and error fest as you figure out exactly which enemies you’re good enough to beat to earn the resources that you need to power yourself up.
Oh, and here’s where the hints you get from the Fortune Teller comes into play – her vague hints usually specify a location (“I see an island in the sky with clouds below.”) Defeat the enemy at the location, and you’ll get an additional item drop along with any other rewards. This is it, the meat of the game – the fighting game “engine” part. You’re going to be doing this a lot. I’m no fighting game expert, but I can reliably defeat CPU opponents in most 2D fighters at least, so as long as I brought over some of what I’ve learnt from other games, it shouldn’t be too far right? Darnit! It doesn’t take 5 seconds to realize that the basic game engine is all kinds of screwed up. Jumps are really floaty, and the characters don’t “flow” smoothly at all. Hit priorities are wacked, and you’ll end up getting hit by things which you think you shouldn’t.
Each characters moveset tends to be very imbalanced too. For example, there’s almost no reason to ever use any normal attack in the game, because most of them seem to come out slower, have more recovery time, have less priority and deal damage than any specials!
At the start of the game, your stats are terrible, which leads to some really odd outcomes in a fighting game. For example, you can’t jump high enough to clear most projectiles, and blocking is worthless when even a blocked attack deals about as much damage as actually taking a hit (and if you actually do receive an unblocked hit, it’s like running into a dump truck.)
To top everything off, the AI seems to be reading your input worse than a Mortal Kombat character. Which is one of the things that tends to make single player fighting games very boring. About the only good thing I can say about RoV’s fighting engine is that the controls are surprisingly responsive. I can execute special moves most of the time, which is more than I can say for, well, let’s go with the very first Street Fighter game… maybe. There’s no way I’m going to win this with standard gameplay. So you know what, screw it – it’s time to revert back to your 10 year old self – back to the primordial days of SCRUB TACTICS! I said that the AI read inputs, but its surprisingly and consistently bad at reading certain moves. For example, most opponents can be defeated by constantly hurling fireballs at them, even if a human player could see it coming from a mile away. Sometimes they jump over it, and then you can just use an anti-air move to knock them away and try again. Rinse and repeat and that’s… basically about the most complex any fight will ever get. It gets repetitive real quick.
Because the AI is so stupid in this department, in a certain sense, stats don’t quite matter outside of the enemy’s defense stat, and that’s only because you don’t want to take a full minute whittling down the health of a high defense enemy for each fight.
After each fight, you gain EXP based on how fast you beat the enemy and remaining health, and gold that is preset for each enemy depending on how “tough” they’re supposed to be. Unfortunately the amount tends to be pretty measly. There must be some other way to amass power faster, right? How about a quest? It’s the standard RPG thing to do and you do so by entering the guild! There are 5 possible quests in this game and they’re split up between the 3 possible characters that can greet you when you enter the Guild. Ranked from hardest to easiest IMO…
2) Young woman.
3) Old man.
But not so fast! Each quest requires you to pay either 1k or 2k gold to even accept in the first place. If you win, you get boatloads of exp and double the guild fee, so a 2k quest will give you 4k, or a 2k increase after you take the fee into account. The only exception is the Tigerman’s quest, which is free and gives 1k gold, but I consider to be the hardest in the game. If you lose you get jack squad and no, you don’t get a refund on that fee.
Which guild receptionist you get is based on random chance when you enter the building, and it’s kind of annoying to have to exit and enter until the correct one appears. Well, let’s accept a quest then…
What the… when did this become a shoot-em-up game? Yup, quests are apparently some sort of mini-game. You have both a “machine gun” shot and a “charged buster” weapon (represented by the sword filling up) to take care of waves of enemies as the screen scrolls horizontally. They aren’t really that easy by the way so it’s not really an foregone conclusion that you’re going to “win” a quest all the time. It feels sad to say this but this is probably the most fun part of the game. It’s no Touhou but it’s actually fun, fast, smooth, and a billion other words that you can’t use to describe the fighting game engine. Unfortunately, there’s basically only 5 levels so they do eventually get old. They really spread themselves too thin if you ask me.
More “screwed up game design”, but the quests don’t use any of your character’s stats at all, and the difficulty is apparently scaled off how many in-game days has past (the later, the harder.) Because they are also the best source of income AND exp, the optimal gameplay strategy is to simply win quests over and over early in the game until you die of boredom. I gained a bunch of money and levels, but in a certain un-intuitive manner, leveling actually doesn’t really raise your stats that much and quickly tapers off. The proper way to stat-build in this game is to go to the gym.
Yes, a medieval fantasy world has gyms, didn’t you know that? You can pay for either a 3 or 7 day schedule, and the fee difference is honestly mostly negligible. Most of the training options are self-explanatory from their names but I think “Invisibility” training is kind of hilarious. It raises movement speed and jumping power, so I don’t really know how that relates. Either there’s some mis-translation going on here or its something cultural that’s lost in English. And… you get a daily account of your training results everyday. There’s a couple of things to note – each training doesn’t just raise the target stat but also a couple of other stats as well, and some stats will even drop depending on the training. Expect your characters to have 0 intelligence by the end of the game if you’re doing any physical training at all. And each training takes up HP (except for the “mental” ones like Manners and Meditation).
If you don’t have enough HP, your character just takes the day off and you’re down one day for no gains whatsoever. The other thing that makes your character ditch class is if their Stress is too high, which is supposedly a check against the Stamina stat. The manual claims that higher Stress means improved stat gains but I have not seen proof of that so I suggest keeping Stress low at all times.
If you’re thinking to yourself that this system sounds familar and are all “Hey, isn’t that like Princess Maker?” then conglaturations, you have discovered another game that it rips… I mean, it was “inspired by”! Unfortunately for most English region players, being that the only access to the PM series that they had was bootleg copies of Princess Maker 2, this probably led to a lot of confusion about how the system works, as you can see from a couple of online reviews where people get confused on why their characters is constantly cutting class like they’re too cool for skool. If you want to restore your HP, you sleep at the inn. So how do you reduce your stress? Why you go to the Pub of course, where you can drink Coffee and… uh, Cola? I sense some censorship going on here.
If you drink a lot, sometimes the bartender will offer you some hints but I don’t consider that a worthwhile use of money because you have to drink so many cans of Pepsi that your character will probably develop diabetes before that happens. He also sometimes offers you a job working a week for 1k, which has a pretty decent time/money ratio actually. Also Princess Maker. Now let’s go fight some more as a change of pace. “I WILL DESTROY YOU, SPIDER-MAN… I mean, the Vulture?” Or is Psybart Bart Simpson after he developed psychic powers and mutated in the post-apocalyptic future!? Deedlit’s 2P colour scheme has brown skin. What a coincidence… OR IS IT
Some rambling “historical” information here, but elves with Brown skin seem to be a purely Japanese invention as far as I know. I suppose some other people might have drawn some, but they’re mostly culturally influenced by the original ones in any case.
This is due to the character Pirotess from Record of Lodoss War, who is most likely the very first elf character to be portrayed that way. As RoLW was based off a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Pirotess was a Drow, a race of evil subterranean elf who originally had black skin.
In modern times, they’re purple, because you try portraying a race of entirely evil people having black skin in the year 2014. Because Pirotess was created before such a cultural change happened, this did not apply to her. However, due to the fact that the technology behind Anime production and screening had trouble with displaying the colour black, her skin tone was changed to brown instead.
(For Gundam geeks, think of how Char’s supposedly “red” mecha in his early days were more of a Salmon pink instead)
1) Emporium – Sells arms and armour, which are permanent boosts to stats rather than what you would think of due to standard RPG knowledge. The concept of “equipment” doesn’t really exist in RoV, so buying a sword will give you like 30 STR and be consumed, which means that you can have the funny mental image of someone carrying 20 swords, 5 gauntlets and 7 iron sandals all at once.
2) Potions shop – Mostly useless consumables temporary effects.
3) Magic shop – Like a cross between the first two, except with a focus towards the more magical stats. The magic shop also has the very important “Book of Dispel” that you need to beat the game.
And now I’m going to explain something that only shows up in the manual – at the start of the game, Venum’s floating island castle (over in the bottom right of the world map) is sealed off by a magic barrier. In order to even enter, you need to find a particular book named… “Book of Dispel” or something, I forgot, and you need to use it. This allows access to the final stage of the game.
If you didn’t had the manual, this is something you probably wouldn’t discover on your own, because the book’s extremely unhelpful description is “Dispels Magic” and using the item doesn’t really give you a solid confirmation feedback of any sort – it simply sort of exits the item screen like using every item.
If you didn’t know what it already did in the first place, you would probably never figure out by yourself. Now, the game developers suggest that you should use the fortune teller and defeat enemies until you get one to drop, but I find it way easier to just keep checking the Magic Shop every time it restocks (which seems to be after every battle, quest or gym training) until it shows up. Bad game design #8562349 – there’s a ton of items in the game with the description “???” which are only described in the manual (there’s that phrase again!)
But even if you had the manual, most of the effects really suck, such as one that reverses your controls, one that makes both combatants invisible (which might confuse a human player, but does jack to the AI!), one that exchanges a random stat for another and many more ways to sabotage yourself! I don’t think there’s a single useful consumable in the game outside of one that raises your level temporarily., so it’s a big money trap that wastes your time for nothing. THANKS! Random interlude – sometimes your character status randomly change portraits, and I have no idea why. I suspect it signifies that you have a temporary effect that will trigger on the next battle. And is it just me or does the graphics actually kind of reach pretty amateur level art at times? Well, the barrier’s down and I’m trained, so let’s go kick some shell… Hold on a second, who are you and how do you let someone experience “the death”? Nope, it’s not Venum but his Shadow Persona Jester Symbiote butler Jado. Actually kind of an interesting character design, I think.
Jado is a huge jerk, quite possibly the hardest character in the game, yes, even stronger than the last boss. Why? Because Jado’s block not only makes him completely immune to projectiles, he also RESTORES HIS HEALTH when doing so. He’s also immune to any form of throw moves whatsoever just to add salt to your wounds.
As I’ve said earlier, there’s just no real way to play this as a legit fighting game and it all comes down to cheese tactics, so Jado’s character properties simply takes away any options you have at all. The only way I have been able to defeat Jado is building my stats so high that I can defeat him with simple jabs or throwing projectiles at him until he rarely screws up and whiffs his block and then proceeding to run the time out. Jado, you go ahead and go send in your resume to be an SNK boss right now because you would totally fit right in with them.
And if you’re wondering why my character has completely changed, I lost the old screenshot. Which means I had to play all the way up here again which I did with a completely different character. Which means I played this game to completion multiple times. Yes, feel free to pity me. After you beat the guy, you gotta go back to the fortune teller again and ask for a fortune, which will get you some kind of “the time is right now, go and defeat Venum!” and the dude will finally show up at the castle. Here’s his Engrish line. Eternal re-formation? So is that like the Catholic or Protestant reformation? After the terror that is Jado, Venum’s a let down and can be defeated by the same cheese tactics you’ve used through 99% of the game. He does have some hilarious moves where he flares up like a DBZ villain though (well, his art makes him look like one already anyway!) Yup. Damnit, I was JOKING. Was his motivation really “I was hungry for harpy omelettes”? RoV, you are truly a masterpiece of storytelling. And here’s the entire ending sequence, where only 3 lines is uttered through the entire thing: “That’s my egg!” Dawwww~ ONORE! This is all your fault AZY, if it weren’t for you I could have avoided all this suffering, why I oughta…
Wow, his name sure shows up very often. This is The Room and Tommy Wiseau all over again.
Revengers of Vengeance is bad, no doubts about it. Yet, it’s the really strangely fascinating sort of bad that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go though. In that regards, I suppose its worth experiencing it if only to experience an ambitious mess of one of the first few attempts at combining the Fighting Game and RPG genres together.
Just look at that amateurish elf art there, she looks so depressed just to be on the cover. I know the feeling lady, I would be sad too if I was stuck in this game but look on the bright side – at least you aren’t in Dead or Alive!
There was a lot of name changes from the JP to US version, mostly because a lot of the Japanese ones were rather gibberish Engrish, I suppose. Some of them were just minor issues of Romanization (“Sarah” -> “Sara”), others had bigger changes.
Here’s the list of the major ones.
ENG -> JP
Venum -> Maou Xdark (sic, jeez sounds like something you would name an enemy in Dragon Quest 1 due to character limits)
Organa (Elf) -> Lepiear (sic.) I assume this was someone trying to terribly Romanize “Rapier” into a name
Logan (Pole Knight) -> Curkth (what?)
Fuchida (Ninja) -> Guy
Daktar (Witch) -> Ordyne
Magnus (Vega clone) -> Mcdile
Talon (Harpy) -> Halier (probably meant to be “Harrier”, from the name of the plane)
Barko (Werewolf) -> Coldy (Most likely derived from “Kobold”)
RoV isn’t exactly a paragon of good videogame storytelling, but some of the endings manage to be pretty hilarious, in a troll-ish fashion, all conveyed with very little lines.
Because of the obscurity of the game and its badness, apparently no one has taken the time to record footage of the endings. And I’m too lazy to do that too but I’m compensating with summaries instead. Here are the ones I found the most interesting.
Barko (Werewolf) – One day when Barko was out hunting, Venum came to his clan, slew his father and kidnapped his sister. Commerce VENGEANCE and sister rescuing. Pretty cliche I suppose but this is a fighting game so I hope no one was expecting Shakespeare.
For full effect of this ending, you gotta read the manual which portrays his plot as “The Incredible Saga of an English-Speaking Man-Wolf Bent on Vengeance!”, claiming that “Lurking in Barko’s destiny is an unnerving and unpleasant surprise! No player will be permitted to join the battle during the shocking final moments of Barko’s moments with Venum!”
Whoa, I’m hyped! What’s the ending gonna be?
Well, here it is (paraphrased!)
Barko’s Sister: “No, brother, don’t kill him!”
Barko: “What? Why not?”
Sis: “Because that man is… our mother!”
Barko: “Huh!?” (anime equivalent of a pratfall sound effect)
Daktar (Witch) – Daktar is a witch who has defeated Venum in the past and now she’s going to do it again. And so she does.
And the plot twist is… Daktar’s actually an old lady telling her grandchild a story, which is actually sort of foreshadowed because her voice actress is a young lady trying to do her best impression of a stereotypical “hag witch” voice. I guess like Bridget from Guilty Gear they wanted troll a bunch of people to feel really guilty about spanking the monkey.
Sara (Martial Artist) – While out in a martial artist tournament, Venum send his demon hordes to have her dojo eradicated in order to prevent them from being a threat to him. She returns to find her master dying in her arms and swears VENGEANCE on Venum.
After defeating Venum, her vengeance is complete! But wait, who should pop out but… HER MASTER DUN DUN DAAA.
Sara: “Master, you’re alive?! But how?”
Master: “Well, I was only pretending to be dead.”
Sara: “But… why would you do that?”
Master: “It makes for a really good motivator. Anyway you’ve seemed to have become super strong by now, nothing else I can teach you. Bye!”
Logan (Pole Knight) – While out, Logan’s village is destroyed and he dons a suit of armour and goes out to get revenge, which is getting kind of cliche even in its own game by now.
At the end, he defeats Venum and some people come to congratulate him but no response is received. When they get closer, they realize that THE ARMOUR WAS EMPTY, BUT THEN WHO WAS ARMOUR? He was actually a ghost possessing the suit of armour to get his revenge all along… whoo, spooky!
Magnus (Vega) – In the past, when Venum was but a minor demon, he put Magnus under a curse for some petty reason or another, leading him to don his mask to disguise himself. In order to rid himself of his curse, he has to defeat Venum as if enough time passes, the effect will be permanent. However, the manual notes that there are no outward scars or obvious ill-effects from the curse… so why the urgency? Finally defeating him, Magnus takes off the mask and… VEGA THE 2ND WAS A WOMAN! WHAT A TWEEST </M. Night Shyamalan> I can’t decide whether my feelings are “Samus already did this years ago” or brilliance, considering that Magnus moveset is entirely ultra-manly pro-wrestling suplexes, slams and elbow drops that is intentionally designed to lead you away from this conclusion as far as possible.