I find myself defeated, confused, and drowning in a sea of language I am ill-equipped to comprehend. For this is Cyber Knight, a Japanese game that's as opaque as any I've attempted to tackle.
The game was produced by Tonkin House and released in 1992 for the PC Engine as well as the Nintendo Super Famicom. And the game's challenges begin immediately, with the simple and unattractive preliminary title screen:
I don't know what the menu options represent. I don't remember how I got past this screen. I pushed buttons at random, punching blindly in the night. But at last, I emerged into the sunlight, holding the more attractive real title screen in my torn and bloodied claws:
The kana characters scrolled by for an eternity. I knew they were trying to tell me something, but I was unable to accelerate or interrupt the endless flow of incomprehensible information. The music was lovely, exciting and insistent with nicely sampled orchestra hits. But suddenly I was in the middle of a space battle, and I didn't even know which side I was on:
At last I found myself aboard a strange craft, confronted with a list of alien symbols -- S I recognized, L too, but nothing else made sense:
I wandered around, and found some numbered lockers. But what was in them or what purpose they served, I was unable to discover, despite the efforts of the pleasant creature who tried to assist me:
I lowered the ship to a nearby planet's surface, and raised it into space again. I did so multiple times, searching vainly for a way to disembark, and succeeding only in achieving repeated liftoffs and landings. I wandered through the game's menus over and over, seeking some familiar word or custom. At last I found some statistics, though what they were meant to quantify remained woefully out of my grasp:
After further menu exploration, I at last emerged on the planet's surface:
When I wandered into the building nearby, the nature of this world became clear at last -- it's an RPG, with mechs and sci-fi gewgaws substituted for swords and sorcery. The older gentleman with bowed head is presumably a leader of some sort, the young lady at his side his queen, or daughter, or consort, and the land, one assumes, is in grave peril from encroaching evil:
With no grasp of the quest itself, our party of three wanders out into a dungeon, and soon meets with ignominous defeat, as within two rounds we have all been turned to stone by some shell-like robots, and I can't figure out how to unfreeze us:
Sometimes this is more of a relief than it ought to be:
The music really is quite pleasant, and if I could understand the story -- or the menus -- I would probably find this to be a fun, competently-executed JRPG. It seems to have some depth, and I like the mixture of mechs with a traditional Final Fantasy-style role-playing experience.
But sometimes one really does need to speak the language to get by.