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JRPG Spotlight Vol 3: Emerald Dragon (Multi)

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
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Title: Emerald Dragon
Platforms: Various Japanese PC platforms (PC88, PC98, X68000, MSX2, FM TOWNS), PC Engine CD, Super Famicom
Developer: Glodia (PC), Alfa System/Mediaworks (PCE, SFC)
Original release: December, 1989

What's this game?
Emerald Dragon is a fantasy RPG originally released for Japanese PCs in 1989. It was re-released with enhancements several times, and also somewhat remade for PC Engine CD and Super Famicom a few years later. A fan translation patch was released for the Super Famicom version of the game.
The story is about a young dragon named Atrushan and a human girl, Tamryn, who was raised by the dragons, and their quest to discover who the girl really is. In many ways, it's a fairly traditional RPG with towns, dungeons, and random battles. However...


What's so interesting about this?
Although many aspects of Emerald Dragon are traditional, there are a few areas where it really stands out.

Every version except for the Super Famicom version features a seamless world, meaning there is no separation between towns and the "overworld" as it were. This has become more common in games, but in 1989 when Emerald Dragon was originally released, it was pretty cool to behold. The game also features a party chat system like the one Dragon Quest didn't receive until Dragon Quest 7 in 2000. At any time during the game, you can press a button and get the party's thoughts on the current area or recent events.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the game, however, is its battle system. While the battles are initiated randomly as in many other RPGs, battles themselves are pretty unique for the time. They're turn-based, but not (completely) menu-driven. Instead, the battlefield is laid out somewhat like a strategy RPG, and your character is moved around with the directional pad and attacks by moving into enemies -- think turn-based Ys, perhaps. I said character, because you only have direct control over our hero, Atrushan. The rest of the characters are controlled via (amazingly, for the time) intelligent AI. They will attack and cast spells autonomously (causing no grief to the player, I might add, as the game doesn't have any MP for them to waste). That doesn't mean it's all hands-off, though, as you can interrupt the flow of combat at any time to bring up a menu that allows you to choose a character, and choose an enemy for them to focus on. Items can be used from this menu as well. After battle, experience is only gained by Atrushan and Tamryn. The rest of your characters will gain experience through story events, which is pretty cool since Emerald Dragon does party member musical chairs more often than a certain Final Fantasy game released 2 years later.

Also, maybe this is only of interest to a few people, but a lot of the character and place names in the game are derived from Zoroastrianism, which is a pretty cool break from the norm.


Who made this?
The PC versions of Emerald Dragon were developed by a company called Glodia, a company founded by Telenet programmer Osamu Ikegame, and, among others, Tenpei Sato (Disgaea) and Hiroyuki Kuwata (Seiken Densetsu 3, Kingdom Hearts 2). Glodia had developed many other games, such as Testament, Zavas, and Vain Dream, but none were as successful as Emerald Dragon. The PC Engine and SFC versions were developed seemingly in cooperation between Alfa System (Elemental Gearbolt, Tales of Innocence), MediaWorks, and Right Stuff (Alshark). The original main composer, Nobuhito Koise, returned under a pseudonym, and the original game designer and scenario writer, Atsui Ii, returned as part of Right Stuff.


What does it look like, and what's the difference between the versions?
Battle



The battle screens between the versions aren't too different, however both the PCE and SFC versions are a little more user-friendly than the PC versions, as they show you how much AP you have left. The biggest difference in battle lies with the SFC version. Character HP and damage is increased dramatically in the SFC version - while you might have 450ish HP at the end of the PC and PCE versions, you'll have more like 6000 at the end of the SFC version. Also, the SFC version adds a dragon transformation system that allows Atrushan to take on various dragon forms once per battle at the expense of his HP to deal extra damage. The SFC version also has a bottomless inventory, whereas the others have limited slots per character.

Field



As mentioned above, the original PC versions and the PCE version have a seamless world. The SFC version, however, has a traditional world map.

Party chat



Party chat between the games seems to be mostly the same, although the SFC version has a map underlaid beneath the discussion showing you where your next destination is.


Other differences include: the SFC and PCE versions of the game having somewhat different music than the original, minor story differences between the PC versions and the console versions, sidequests and minigames are different between all of the versions, and the SFC version is in general much easier due to having more treasure chests with powerful items, among other things.


References
Gameplay video (PCE): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuYvCfWrUao
The only English Emerald Dragon fansite on the internet: http://emedra.lakuuna.org/


JRPG Spotlight Archives
JRPG Spotlight Vol 1: Dark Half (SFC)
JRPG Spotlight Vol 2: Radia Wars Chronicle (FC)
 

charlequin

Banned
Oct 19, 2005
26,635
1
0
Kishgal said:
Also, maybe this is only of interest to a few people, but a lot of the character and place names in the game are derived from Zoroastrianism, which is a pretty cool break from the norm.
I'm going to have a longer response in a bit, but: wait, really? Examples? If this is of interest to only a few people I am one of them. :lol
 

Lumpy Onion

Member
Dec 11, 2008
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I played through the PC Engine version way back when it was released. A fun RPG which lasted quite a while IIRC. My only complaint is that I could never figure out how to run a away from fights. I might play the translated SFC version someday to finally understand the plot.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
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GrumpyAlien said:
I played through the PC Engine version way back when it was released. A fun RPG which lasted quite a while IIRC. My only complaint is that I could never figure out how to run a away from fights. I might play the translated SFC version someday to finally understand the plot.
Did you know how to use items and stuff? Holding a button in the battle brings up a menu that lets you use items, direct your characters, pass on your turn, and run away.
 

charlequin

Banned
Oct 19, 2005
26,635
1
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Kishgal said:
On the site I linked in the OP, there's a list showing some examples, including the hero's name, Atrushan: http://emedra.lakuuna.org/etymology.html
Nice! This goes way beyond the singular name drop of Ahriman and Ormazd in Prince of Persia 2008. :D <3 Zoroastrianism

Something I'm curious about with this game (and some of the earlier ones) is how there are all these very different versions on tons of different platforms. It's kind of weird to me just how different the versions are, and how there seem to be a number of games with ports like this (and how they never seem to include the Megadrive) -- what was the situation that led to this kind of porting? Were these various PC/computer platforms really that popular? Why'd it die out?
 

Celine

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Oct 4, 2009
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I've played the Super Famicom port.
Really liked the battle system and the pacing.
Sadly I never finished it.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
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charlequin said:
Nice! This goes way beyond the singular name drop of Ahriman and Ormazd in Prince of Persia 2008. :D <3 Zoroastrianism

Something I'm curious about with this game (and some of the earlier ones) is how there are all these very different versions on tons of different platforms. It's kind of weird to me just how different the versions are, and how there seem to be a number of games with ports like this (and how they never seem to include the Megadrive) -- what was the situation that led to this kind of porting? Were these various PC/computer platforms really that popular? Why'd it die out?
Well, honestly I'm not sure exactly how popular the computer platforms were, but I know that lots of people I knew when I was younger had at least one of them. My uncle had both a PC98 computer and a MSX computer, which is how I was exposed to a lot of this stuff. As for console ports, those were rarely done by the original developers. They were usually licensed out to people like Hudson/NEC. The Megadrive did at least get ports of Legend of Heroes 1&2, Ys 3 and Sorcerian, and a special version of Popful Mail. But those are all Falcom games... I can't think of any non-Falcom games off the top of my head. The computer platforms probably died out as the rest of the world settled on IBM PCs, and DOS became capable of displaying Japanese text properly.
 

randomkid

Member
Feb 7, 2007
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Kishgal said:
On the site I linked in the OP, there's a list showing some examples, including the hero's name, Atrushan: http://emedra.lakuuna.org/etymology.html
Hahaha, right after I finished reading I was about to quote the Zoroastrianism shout out, thinking that no one else would care about it but me, so it's kind of hilarious to me that the very first reply expresses the exact same sentiment. Games with repeated Old Persian name references are really rare, so it was kind of surreal to me seeing the name Khosrow in that screenshot. I wonder if any of the names actually relate to the old references, like is Vourokasha the name of an ocean in the game, or is Dastur the name of a priest? Or is it all basically just flavor text, which would still be cool.

Anyways, great job with the thread.
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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Got decently far in the SNES version before I lost my save file.
*sad face*

Game was pretty unique and satisfying in some respects, I must admit.
Nice thread. :)
 

GhaleonQ

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Aug 24, 2006
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Could someone more knowledgeable than me contextualize this in RPG history? I take it its lineage is PC-oriented, but I don't recognize the battle system or its user interface. What's similar before or since? Did these games usually use 1-3 main characters instead of 4-6?
 

Mejilan

Running off of Custom Firmware
Jun 9, 2004
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IIRC, the SNES version allowed up to 5 or so player characters in combat.
I THINK you only controlled Atrushan, with the rest being automatically controlled by the AI.
Consequently, combat generally ran pretty fast. I remember the AI being pretty damn decent too.
In some (all?) cases, you were able to independently upgrade their equipment.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
897
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GhaleonQ said:
Could someone more knowledgeable than me contextualize this in RPG history? I take it its lineage is PC-oriented, but I don't recognize the battle system or its user interface. What's similar before or since? Did these games usually use 1-3 main characters instead of 4-6?
The battle system is a system that Osamu Ikegame designed himself, and a variant of it was used in most of Glodia's games (some of which are mentioned in the OP: Zavas, Vain Dream). It was really unique, and I can't think of anything that came before it that used anything similar. If someone can think of something earlier that uses an AP system like this, I'd love to hear about it. Breath of Fire 5 is the closest thing to it I can think of that came out after it, and that isn't even very similar.

As for player characters, Emerald Dragon has 5 characters, Vain Dream had 3, and Vain Dream 2 had 5.

Oh, and as far as user interface goes, the main screen being contained in a smaller area with the character status on the sides and maybe the logo on the top is very common in Japanese PC games from that era.
 

RevenantKioku

PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS PEINS oh god i am drowning in them
Jun 6, 2004
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www.bookofrevenant.com
I played this at Kishgal's recommendation almost two years ago. It's weird because I played through the whole game pretty quickly by plugging a few hours in after work over the course of two or maybe three weeks and I really don't remember much about it. The SNES version definitely wasn't hard, though I've nothing to compare it to.

The way the story developed was cool, mostly because it had the opportunity to use some cliches way too many times but it rarely, if ever, acted upon them.
The main one being that I kept thinking someone would steal Tamryn away and you'd have go find her again.

The gameplay is definitely "Ys the Turn Based" which is actually pretty awesome considering how lukewarm I am to Ys gameplay. That Dragon Change system, though, makes a lot of battles pretty easy. I tried to avoid using it, but it definitely saved my ass a good number of times.

I don't know why I don't really remember much about the game but I do remember it being fun.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
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You should get a PCE Duo and play that version now! The PCE version is my favorite, although the SFC one is pretty good too.
 

firex

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Jun 15, 2004
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I thought this game was pretty good. The map marker telling you where to go was a smart addition, and the party chat adds a lot to the story. The battles actually kind of remind me of a cross between Persona 3 and I suppose a game like Dragon Quarter. You only control the hero, but like in Dragon Quarter, if you don't have to spend AP on movement, you can beat the everloving crap out of enemies with multiple hits. Also, the lack of control over other party members isn't a big deal really. I don't recall getting a game over in battle due to them letting the hero die, although when I did game over it was because my whole party got wiped out. The enemies are too stupid, but the allies are so simple they can't fuck up like in P3 where they will cast wind/ice/fire/elec break if they don't have buffs or debuffs or heals to cast.

It also gets bonus points for being about 20-30 hours long. I forget exactly how many hours I spent on it, because the other good thing about the game is you can save anywhere. It has a lot of surprising "I have a life and can't just waste my days playing games 8 hours a day" design decisions for a game from the SNES era, which is part of why it's good. Also, most of the characters are pretty cool. Some of the characters feel like anime stereotypes, but they're either stereotypes I like (old soldier and old wise man) or you quickly learn they aren't like those stereotypes lead you to believe at first glance.
 

duckroll

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Jun 7, 2004
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I've always wanted to give the game a try, maybe I'll get the PC Engine game some day and play it on an emulator. Seamless worlds are always cool to me in RPGs, and the graphics look pretty good.
 

Takuhi

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Jan 11, 2007
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You are awesome for doing this! Emerald Dragon is probably my second favorite PC Engine CD game after Ys IV. I so have to replay that one day.

I should point out that the original Emerald Dragon actually had four composers, one of whom was Disgaea composer Tempei Sato. The others seemed to have disappeared.

But the PC Engine version soundtrack, which is way better than the original, is by Yasuhiko Fukuda of Tengai Makyo II and Bomberman fame. He doesn't do a lot of video game work but has been popping up lately on the limited edition arranged soundtracks of Cave shooter games.
 

Kishgal

Banned
Nov 25, 2009
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Takuhi said:
You are awesome for doing this! Emerald Dragon is probably my second favorite PC Engine CD game after Ys IV. I so have to replay that one day.

I should point out that the original Emerald Dragon actually had four composers, one of whom was Disgaea composer Tempei Sato. The others seemed to have disappeared.

But the PC Engine version soundtrack, which is way better than the original, is by Yasuhiko Fukuda of Tengai Makyo II and Bomberman fame. He doesn't do a lot of video game work but has been popping up lately on the limited edition arranged soundtracks of Cave shooter games.
Doing a little checking, it's strange. I was under the impression that Yasuhiko Fukuda was a pseudonym of Nobuhito Koise. I can't remember where I got that from, but I guess it isn't true.

And yeah, I mentioned Sato but I guess I didn't link him specifically with Emerald Dragon in the post.