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?
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.
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 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.
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)