Friday, December 3, 2010

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Necromancer

There are licensed games based on movies, books, rock bands... but not so many based on paintings.

For this week's taste of import gaming, we're looking at Necromancer, a.k.a. Jaseikin Necromancer, another Japanese role-playing game I have little hope of comprehending or seriously working through.

But I'm always interested in unusual licensing arrangements, and this one certainly qualifies -- it takes its name and inspiration from a well-known work by the artist H.R. Giger, officially licensed for the cover art, and is a little gorier than the JRPG norm.  It was released by PC Engine co-designer Hudson Soft in 1987, as Volume 5 in the company's own PC Engine lineup and one of the earliest RPGs on the console.  (It was also yet another game referenced in the early U.S. PC Engine magazine coverage that never saw release in the States.)

As usual, we start out as a heroic type, wandering around a village where we have randomly landed with no apparent intent or reason for being here.  We can converse with the locals and gain some insight into the quest ahead, if we speak Japanese, at least.  Oddly, the citizens seem to enjoy jogging in place, constantly waggling their arms and legs as if they are intensely excited about going nowhere at all.  As usual, as a clueless round-eyes I am completely lost as to what this person is going on about or what the menu options represent, but I will presume that some dire threat to the land looms over everyone's heads:

The graphics are simple but shaded with care, though the proportions are a bit off which gives the land a bit of a minigolf feel -- as we approach the King's castle, we discover that it looks to be only about four feet tall:

Inside the castle we find an old man and a younger woman; we will take continued elaboration of the dire threat as read, greet the kingdom's retainers, have a few added to our party, and leave town to seek some experience points and gold pieces to enhance our abilities.  Here, I pause to note that my party includes a bearded man in a yellow dress.  Ah, Japan!

Our party members follow us, though not in the traditional lock-step fashion -- they will arrange themselves to stay near the leader, but don't mimic his moves precisely, which is a refreshing touch.  The random battles occur and play out in the traditional fashion, though the enemies tend to spurt a little more blood than usual when killed. The enemies are fairly well-animated, given that this was a HuCard release, and as we explore farther from our starting point we run into stronger, more dangerous creatures:

Fortunately, given the game's Necromancer concept, the story does not end when our party is wiped out.  Instead, we find ourselves rescued and resurrected in a temple, where we can pay to have our fellow party members revived as well.

And then we can return to battle creepy monsters, like this intestine-spilling half-corpse that puts up more of a fight than one would presume possible:

Necromancer is fairly conventional RPG stuff -- wander, fight, visit a village, wander some more, fight some more.  I have no hope of grasping the story, such as it may be, but I might have been able to figure out how to play properly with a little additional time invested; the menus seem to feature the usual array of fight/cast/flee options.

I thought I might even be able to glimpse the game's later stages, as the former owner of my used import copy of Necromancer included a couple of passwords for later levels, written on a note stashed in the game's manual.  I found, however, to my annoyed surprise, that even locating the appropriate symbols based on his or her handwriting proved a daunting challenge, as I have no familiarity with the standard order of symbols.  With a minimum of 46 symbols to enter, I concluded that it was likely I would misread a few of them, and spending half an hour to enter a lengthy but odds-on invalid password seemed like a futile effort.

So the further mysteries of Necromancer must lie forever hidden, at least as far as I am concerned.  The map is quite large, according to the manual.  But I have more productive RPG fields to explore.

This one's not recommended for the faint-of-heart re: the Japanese language, but it's also not an expensive game.  Necromancer may be available for purchase here or here:

Necromancer PC-Engine Hu

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