• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.
  • Hi Guest. We've rebooted and consolidated our Communities section, so be sure to check it out and subscribe to some threads. Thanks!

JRPG Spotlight Vol 1: Dark Half (SFC) [5/24/15: fan translation released]

duckroll

Member
Jun 7, 2004
114,759
2
0
37
JRPG Spotlight Introduction
I've been thinking of doing something like this for a while now. Basically the idea is to have a series of monthly or bi-monthly threads about unique JRPGs which are significantly different from the norm in all areas - presentation, characters/setting, gameplay, etc. I don't want it to be too frequent or it would lose its purpose and just be some general talk-about-any-game thread.

I don't want to be the one creating all the threads, but obviously I think this is a neat idea so I'm going to start it off. Hopefully there's a good enough JRPG community here left so we can also discuss other games within the threads and others can pitch what games would make good entries for the next thread, etc.

The idea is to bring interesting JRPGs which aren't commonly known to the attention of more people, and to create opportunities to discuss the variations in JRPGs, and also to discuss cool ideas which have previously attempted but have no been seen in the genre at large again. I know there are people who are actually interested in the genre, so hopefully those who just generally go into a JRPG thread to troll will just stay out entirely if this doesn't interest you.


What qualifies as a JRPG?
Any role-playing game on any platform developed in Japan qualifies as a JRPG. But it is important to note that this does not mean a "western style" JRPG is instantly something unique and interesting within the genre. There are plenty of western influenced JRPGs out there like King's Field and Wizardry games. If there's a JRPG which is western in style but also unique among its peers then of course it qualifies, but I think most people will be more interested in JRPGs which are distinctly Japanese, yet also unique.



JRPG Spotlight Vol 1: Dark Half



Title: Dark Half
Platform: Super Famicom
Publisher: Enix
Developer: Westone
Release Date: 31st May 1996


What's this game?

Dark Half is a dark fantasy JRPG presented in isometric view, released by Enix in 1996 for the Sup Famicom. It was only available in Japan, and was never localized for English audiences. The game centers on a legendary hero who seeks to defeat the demon lord and rid the world of darkness. There are towns, dungeons, and a world map. There are random encounters and the battles are turn based.


What's so interesting about this?
There are several interesting things about the game. The main unique feature in the game is that you play as both the protagonist and the antagonist in the game. The game is presented in chapters, with each chapter alternating between the hero and the demon lord. Hence the player gets to view the story from both perspectives along the way.

Another innovative feature in the game is that the two lead characters play differently in terms of gameplay systems. The hero is a bit more traditional in that he has equipment and he has party members who are characters. To use spells you need to use one-use spell books in battle, and you also have a normal attack with your weapons. The demon lord on the other hand actually learns spells and can cast them at a cost. The party members you can get are monsters which are either given to you, or recruited using a spell from random encounters later on. These differences emphasize the differences between the two leads, and the demon lord is clearly designed to be the stronger character and the one who is more appealing to play as.

The game also utilizes a soul counter throughout the game. For both characters, there is a counter at the top left of the screen representing the amount of soul they have left. This counter goes down as you move, and it is replenished a little when you defeat enemies. When the demon lord uses spells, the cost is drawn from the soul counter. If the counter hits zero, the game ends. The demon lord can replenish more of the soul counter by raiding entire towns and killing all the NPCs, while the hero can replenish the soul counter later by using a church and exchanging currency for it.

Another aspect which sets this game apart from other JRPGs is the general dark theme. Not only is the art style and general art direction extremely bleak, the scenario itself is also much more dark fantasy than traditional fantasy. It definitely feels a bit like a Japanese Legacy of Kain game, which is something uncommon even in western RPGs.


Who made this?
Dark Half was developed by Westone - the creators of the Monster World series. The game was directed by Ryuichi Nishizawa and Shinichi Sakamoto. This is also probably the last original game developed by Westone before they fell into licensed game hell.

Sakamoto did not compose for the game, even though he's the co-director. The sound unit in the game was outsourced to T's Music and the soundtrack was composed by Tomoyuki Hamada.


References
Game credits: http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/dark-half-/credits
Screenshots: http://www.mobygames.com/game/snes/dark-half-/screenshots
Gameplay video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5uQFviNoIc
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
0
0
Love this idea! I have a few games I would be interested in doing threads like this about at some point, too.
 

Acosta

Member
Jun 9, 2004
12,637
0
0
39
Awesome idea duckroll, thanks for this, didn't know this game. The soul counter sounds like an interesting mechanic, how easy is to control the souls flow? If it´s too strict I guess it would force you to be very conservative about the use of powers and so, and I guess once you raid a village, you can't raid it again, right?

About proposals, could I suggest Venus & Braves? (don't think I could do it myself, my lack of Japanese knowledge made me miss lot of details about it when I played, but I feel it could suit in this series and there are people in gaf who know it quite well to speak about it).
 

Hours Left

Member
Jun 28, 2006
33,689
1
0
Excellent idea duckroll, I love hearing about obscure games.

Never heard of this game before now, I will look into it further.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
0
0
Venus & Braves is a great idea for a thread like this.

I personally want to do a thread about Emerald Dragon. There was a thread about it here ages ago, but I would love to go more in-depth about it and its various incarnations.
 

Pumpkins

Member
Mar 21, 2009
1,030
0
0
"Hadn't seen you before, where are you from?"

"The darkness." *turns dude into bones*

:lol

Nice OP though, haven't heard of this game. The sprite work is interesting.
 

duckroll

Member
Jun 7, 2004
114,759
2
0
37
Thanks, I know there's at least a small community here which still cares about JRPGs and actually playing them and discussing mechanics and stuff instead of just the story and stuff. I definitely hope there'll be more meaningful discussion about the genre at large, and interesting and unique game mechanics attempted over the years.

For Dark Half, I realized while I was writing the thread that the Soul system is very similar to the D-Counter in Breath of Fire V. It's something I had not previously associated. The idea of there being a sort of "countdown" based on your actions and movement in a RPG is interesting, especially when well executed.

In BoF5, it was something that served as a limiting factor so you would not use your most powerful attacks too much, or risk having to start the game over later in the game. In Dark Half, it serves as more of a general risk/reward factor for exploration. While you can explore the world in each chapter and go to optional places, doing so also presents a chance of running out of "time" if not managed properly. It also prevents mindless grinding, since you will never gain more souls than you spend in general while playing the game.

Another question I wanted to present using the game is why there aren't more multi-perspective narratives in RPGs. It seems to be a very logical and appealing presentation method, allowing players to see both sides of a story, and also keeping the game fresh along the way. Even when multiple perspectives are used, it is usually that of different heroes on the same side, as opposed to playing different characters in opposite sides of war. This is something I feel Blizzard has done very well in the Warcraft and Starcraft games, where you play through all factions in the story mode, and get a good taste of all the different sides in the story, and not just "what if" scenarios like in C&C.
 

ULTROS!

People seem to like me because I am polite and I am rarely late. I like to eat ice cream and I really enjoy a nice pair of slacks.
Aug 17, 2009
24,986
827
1,350
Philippines
psnprofiles.com
I support this thread idea!

I checked youtube to see how this game plays and its quite interesting. Was this game ever localized?
 

Night_Trekker

Member
Jan 27, 2005
17,175
2
1,155
37
South Carolina
Great idea for a thread series. Here's hoping enough people keep it going.

The only downside: I get to hear about great games I won't be able to understand (for the most part) :\
 

Jay Sosa

Member
Dec 6, 2008
13,941
0
680
Great, great idea. Always interested in obscure and rare JRPGs

EDIT: Not localized?, fuck I wanted to try that, any chance of a fan translation?
 

GhaleonQ

Member
Aug 24, 2006
11,572
4
1,260
Milwaukee/Wisconsin Rapids/Hanover
Geez. Talk about an anomaly. There's another similar game with a name that escapes me. Is it like Threads Of Fate in that sense?

I'm pretty sure I'll do Radia Wars Chronicle/Radia Senki: Reimeihen when I have time. I wouldn't object to just posting in such a topic, though, so this isn't "dibs."

I'm just going to do a link dump here for when I actually do it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radia_Senki
http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/radia/radia.htm
http://shrines.rpgclassics.com/nes/radia/index.shtml
http://www.gamefaqs.com/console/nes/data/575930.html
http://www.nicovideo.jp/mylist/11513428
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAiJmIn9ZdM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29P-0I1da6g

Also, Enix's Just Breed would be a good followup. Just saying.
 

Acosta

Member
Jun 9, 2004
12,637
0
0
39
Totally agree on the idea that multi-perspective stories with opposed characters should be way more common in general, but especially for rpgs, it would give much more personality to enemies and help to add variety to the story.

Thinking on multi-perspective stories, I thought on another candidate for this series: Live a Live, a Square Enix game for Snes with several characters in different eras. I have never played, but it looked pretty interesting when I read about it on HOTU (here, but be aware the text has a lot of "PC elitism" and some lazy generalizations).
 
Feb 24, 2009
3,463
0
770
duckroll said:
Another question I wanted to present using the game is why there aren't more multi-perspective narratives in RPGs. It seems to be a very logical and appealing presentation method, allowing players to see both sides of a story, and also keeping the game fresh along the way. Even when multiple perspectives are used, it is usually that of different heroes on the same side, as opposed to playing different characters in opposite sides of war. This is something I feel Blizzard has done very well in the Warcraft and Starcraft games, where you play through all factions in the story mode, and get a good taste of all the different sides in the story, and not just "what if" scenarios like in C&C.
Yeah this is an interesting point, I mean how many RPG's have we played where the thought "I'd so rather be playing as him" has crossed our mind when the pussy protagonist has a run-in with the bad guy for the first time. Pretty much every JPRG I've ever played.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
0
0
duckroll said:
Another question I wanted to present using the game is why there aren't more multi-perspective narratives in RPGs. It seems to be a very logical and appealing presentation method, allowing players to see both sides of a story, and also keeping the game fresh along the way. Even when multiple perspectives are used, it is usually that of different heroes on the same side, as opposed to playing different characters in opposite sides of war. This is something I feel Blizzard has done very well in the Warcraft and Starcraft games, where you play through all factions in the story mode, and get a good taste of all the different sides in the story, and not just "what if" scenarios like in C&C.
I agree. I really enjoy the multi-perspective system found in games like Suikoden 3 and Treasure of the Rudras especially. Incidentally, ethelred made a pretty good post about Treasure of the Rudras recently:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=365476

I recommend that people check it out if they're unfamiliar!
 
Sep 11, 2007
26,931
1
0
duckroll said:
Another question I wanted to present using the game is why there aren't more multi-perspective narratives in RPGs. It seems to be a very logical and appealing presentation method, allowing players to see both sides of a story, and also keeping the game fresh along the way. Even when multiple perspectives are used, it is usually that of different heroes on the same side, as opposed to playing different characters in opposite sides of war. This is something I feel Blizzard has done very well in the Warcraft and Starcraft games, where you play through all factions in the story mode, and get a good taste of all the different sides in the story, and not just "what if" scenarios like in C&C.
Yeah, I don't get why this isn't done much more, one of the reasons I loved BoF4 so much.
 

Jay Sosa

Member
Dec 6, 2008
13,941
0
680
BOF 4 did this? Mmh I was very disappointed (BOF 3 is one of my alltime favs so maybe my expectations were too high) and quit a few hours into the game. Maybe I'll try again.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
0
0
Jay Sosa said:
BOF 4 did this? Mmh I was very disappointed (BOF 3 is one of my alltime favs so maybe my expectations were too high) and quit a few hours into the game. Maybe I'll try again.
Well, you switch between Ryu's group and Fou-lu several times.
 

Celine

Member
Oct 4, 2009
12,568
9
830
GhaleonQ said:
I'm pretty sure I'll do Radia Wars Chronicle/Radia Senki: Reimeihen when I have time. I wouldn't object to just posting in such a topic, though, so this isn't "dibs."

Also, Enix's Just Breed would be a good followup. Just saying.
Radia is a really good candidate.
A Star Ocean-like game on the Famicom way before Star Ocean on the Super Famicom.

Also Sweet Home would be a good pick.
 

Jay Sosa

Member
Dec 6, 2008
13,941
0
680
I just watched the gameplay fiootage and it looks playable without knowing japanese, or am I mistaken?

And I do not like the sound of that:

The game also utilizes a soul counter throughout the game. For both characters, there is a counter at the top left of the screen representing the amount of soul they have left. This counter goes down as you move, and it is replenished a little when you defeat enemies. When the demon lord uses spells, the cost is drawn from the soul counter. If the counter hits zero, the game ends. The demon lord can replenish more of the soul counter by raiding entire towns and killing all the NPCs, while the hero can replenish the soul counter later by using a church and exchanging currency for it.
I love running around and wasting time, looking for hidden stuff and such. That sounds as annoying as the stupid random encounters which also make exploring way less fun than it should be. Or isn't there much to explore anyway?
 

Night_Trekker

Member
Jan 27, 2005
17,175
2
1,155
37
South Carolina
Kishgal said:
I agree. I really enjoy the multi-perspective system found in games like Suikoden 3 and Treasure of the Rudras especially. Incidentally, ethelred made a pretty good post about Treasure of the Rudras recently:

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=365476

I recommend that people check it out if they're unfamiliar!
Don't forget Live A Live. That would be great for a thread series like this, too.

Jay Sosa said:
BOF 4 did this? Mmh I was very disappointed (BOF 3 is one of my alltime favs so maybe my expectations were too high) and quit a few hours into the game. Maybe I'll try again.
It's one of the coolest aspects of BoF4, IMO. It has a pretty great story, from what I remember.

Why do people dislike BoF4 anyway? I can't even comprehend the problems people have with it.
 

duckroll

Member
Jun 7, 2004
114,759
2
0
37
Celine said:
Radia is a really good candidate.
A Star Ocean-like game on the Famicom way before Star Ocean on the Super Famicom.

Also Sweet Home would be a good pick.
Sweet Home would certainly be a very good candidate. I think many people have heard of the game in reference to RE, but I'm willing to bet not many people actually know what the game is like or how it played.
 

Jay Sosa

Member
Dec 6, 2008
13,941
0
680
Night_Trekker said:
Why do people dislike BoF4 anyway? I can't even comprehend the problems people have with it.
I think my biggest problem with BOF was that the first few hours played like BOF 0.9. The third was my first and I didn't know back then that all BOF are pretty similar(same main character, "fairy" princess etc.). So maybe that was the problem, I honestly can't remember why exactly I quit (I usually play through every game I start).
 

duckroll

Member
Jun 7, 2004
114,759
2
0
37
slaughterking said:
Seems like all the dialogue and most of the menus are in English. Maybe I'll try it if I can find some time to spare.
No, that's just a video recorded from an emulator with an unfinished translation patch.
 

KTallguy

Member
Jul 20, 2006
11,254
0
0
Osaka, Japan
Great thread.
The multiple perspective thing is really great.
I really liked the tension created by the D-Counter in BoF5.

That video of razing people in town is pretty crazy.
For some reason it feels very evil... more evil than most bioware games seem to feel, even though they give you that kind of choice. I guess it's because it's forced upon the player.

Night_Trekker said:
Don't forget Live A Live. That would be great for a thread series like this, too.
We've had a thread on Live A Live before, I think.
It's also a great game. Love the battle system.
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
17,232
3
0
duckroll said:
Another question I wanted to present using the game is why there aren't more multi-perspective narratives in RPGs. It seems to be a very logical and appealing presentation method, allowing players to see both sides of a story, and also keeping the game fresh along the way.
Notwithstanding your subsequent disclaimer that you mean opposite sides of the war as opposed to different heroes on the same side, FFXIII spends an inordinate amount of time doing perspective switching.

Actually, if you look back on it, the party split up scenarios in FF6 / FF8 were both highly acclaimed, particularly the switch in "main character" from WoB to WoR even if the WoR has relatively little main story narrative development. The first two Resident Evil games are both acclaimed for this as well.

All of these examples are definitely more restrained than Blizzard's way of doing things, certainly, but I think it goes to show that players could definitely get behind this kind of thing happening.
 

duckroll

Member
Jun 7, 2004
114,759
2
0
37
Stumpokapow said:
Notwithstanding your subsequent disclaimer that you mean opposite sides of the war as opposed to different heroes on the same side, FFXIII spends an inordinate amount of time doing perspective switching.

Actually, if you look back on it, the party split up scenarios in FF6 / FF8 were both highly acclaimed, particularly the switch in "main character" from WoB to WoR even if the WoR has relatively little main story narrative development. The first two Resident Evil games are both acclaimed for this as well.

All of these examples are definitely more restrained than Blizzard's way of doing things, certainly, but I think it goes to show that players could definitely get behind this kind of thing happening.
Right, there're certainly examples that players can accept playing more than a single viewpoint in a game. I just feel that using this narrative technique to showcase different sides of a conflict is a criminally underused method to flesh out characters and perspectives in a game, especially story driven games with heavy worldview and narrative focus like RPGs.
 

Chairman Yang

if he talks about books, you better damn well listen
Sep 14, 2005
7,274
0
1,515
Awesome idea, and particularly well-suited to JRPGs. Contrary to some perceptions, JRPGs do a lot of unique stuff. The problem is that these bits of uniqueness are often overlooked or never built upon in subsequent games, so they ultimately sink into obscurity. These types of threads will help with that.
 

RevenantKioku

PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS oh god i am drowning in them
Jun 6, 2004
23,074
0
1,715
36
Nara, Japan
www.bookofrevenant.com
I bought this game for ¥300 one day.
For some reason I always thought it was a visual novel.
duckroll said:
Sweet Home would certainly be a very good candidate. I think many people have heard of the game in reference to RE, but I'm willing to bet not many people actually know what the game is like or how it played.
I would love to do this! Except the game makes me pee my pants.

I could always record my playthrough of something. Fuck. Now I want to do this! I just don't know what game I want to do.
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
17,232
3
0
Forgive me if my broader discussion here is taking away from this game in specific:

duckroll said:
Right, there're certainly examples that players can accept playing more than a single viewpoint in a game. I just feel that using this narrative technique to showcase different sides of a conflict is a criminally underused method to flesh out characters and perspectives in a game, especially story driven games with heavy worldview and narrative focus like RPGs.
I think part of the reason is that many JRPG villains are... err... how to put this nicely? Unsubtle? They're largely genocidal maniacal egotist racist buffoons. It's telling that people cling to something like Leo/Celes' turnabouts (or alternatively Kain, Golbez, Kuja, to a limited degree Seifer, the list goes on) as an example of nuance in antagonists in RPGs, because most other RPG villains are just comical. DQ villains are generally pretty much archetypal evil, which is fine, because that's the angle they choose to take.

The multiple perspective thing you're suggesting, where you play actors in opposition to each other, requires that each side of a conflict has a relatively plausible, reasonable, believable, empathetic motivation... which is something we rarely get in JRPGs.

Seiken Densetsu 3 kiiiiiiiiiiiiinda does this but it's not great at it. Depending on your character mix, the first few hours of the game colour the game's central powers a little differently... but it's not directly like you're talking about.

But here's a challenge for you--name an RPG where the opportunity to pull off this technique was squandered. Name an RPG where opposing sides of a given conflict are both empathetic enough that we ought to have been able to play as both sides, but we weren't able to?
 

Night_Trekker

Member
Jan 27, 2005
17,175
2
1,155
37
South Carolina
RevenantKioku said:
I would love to do this! Except the game makes me pee my pants.
It seriously is surprisingly scary for an 8-bit game. There's something about pixelated gore that is much more disturbing to me, generally speaking, than gory 3D games.
 

mclem

Member
Jan 16, 2007
42,665
3
1,060
Stumpokapow said:
But here's a challenge for you--name an RPG where the opportunity to pull off this technique was squandered. Name an RPG where opposing sides of a given conflict are both empathetic enough that we ought to have been able to play as both sides, but we weren't able to?
If SRPGs count, Valkyria Chronicles? While
Maximilian
is pretty evil, many of the other people involved are just playing out their role in the conflict rather than being *bad*, as such.

You could argue something very similar about Skies of Arcadia, I think, but it's more reasonable in VC.


Incidentally, the Dark Half translation was resurrected at the end of last year, so it's possible it'll see things through to completion.
 

RevenantKioku

PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS oh god i am drowning in them
Jun 6, 2004
23,074
0
1,715
36
Nara, Japan
www.bookofrevenant.com
Night_Trekker said:
It seriously is surprisingly scary for an 8-bit game. There's something about pixelated gore that is much more disturbing to me, generally speaking, than gory 3D games.
8 bit music can be more haunting than any orchestrated sound track can dream of being. That also helps.

One of the stores I go to in Osaka has a warning about leaning on the glass case (or something like that) and it uses a drawing the character death screen from Sweet Home. Funny, but creeps me out as well.
 

BocoDragon

or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Realize This Assgrab is Delicious
Dec 5, 2005
51,673
0
0
RevenantKioku said:
One of the stores I go to in Osaka has a warning about leaning on the glass case (or something like that) and it uses a drawing the character death screen from Sweet Home. Funny, but creeps me out as well.
I love Japanese game stores.. they often have really cute lil signs.

The US sign would be KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF THE CASE ASSHOLE written with a sharpie and attached with duct tape.
Ok I exaggerate
 

Alucrid

Banned
May 30, 2009
46,847
0
0
The game looks really good, unfortunately I have no way of playing it. :\ Maybe youtube has some playthroughs I can watch.
 

Stumpokapow

listen to the mad man
May 21, 2006
17,232
3
0
mclem said:
If SRPGs count, Valkyria Chronicles? While
Maximilian
is pretty evil, many of the other people involved are just playing out their role in the conflict rather than being *bad*, as such.
Great choice, actually. Almost all "evil empire" antagonists have sympathetic underlings that probably deserve better treatments than the one-off "aha! an epiphany! i'm on the wrong side!" scenes they end up getting.

Doesn't some of the DLC actually allow you to play as
Selvaria
? Mind you, I'm only on Chapter 12 so don't spoil any possible revelations for me, but that might be an example of what Duckroll was calling for!
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
38,485
0
0
40
NJ, USA
Damn cool thread idea. And this seems like a pretty unique game choice for the first entry. I'd love to see someone tackle the JP-only Ogre Battle spin-off. NGPC, was it?
It'd also be interesting to see similar threads dedicated to games that have been recently fan-translated. I think Lennus II was completed relatively recently, as was the SNES version of Tactics Ogre (which given the localization of the PSOne version, was probably unnecessary).