Friday, November 13, 2009

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Gulclight TDF 2

Having established that games I can sort-of-understand are generally more fun than those I cannot, I opted to spend some time with Gulclight TDF 2 this week.  This PC-Engine CD-ROM title is a strategy game with a kaiju theme, as the player's Terrestrial Defense Force military units take on giant monsters bent on destruction.

The first level takes place high above the city, as winged monstrosities attack.  It's not too difficult to beat them with patience, however, as they tend to attack whatever's handy -- being aggressive doesn't pay off, but letting them come to you does.

Most of the onscreen text is in English -- in fact, the only details I couldn't grasp were the names of the units and weapons available, everything else made sense.  The meaning of TDF is spelled out on the packaging; the enemy monsters are identified as PLEA, I wasn't able to figure out what that means.  There's a special attack called GUNGNIR, after Odin's magical spear in Norse mythology.

Movement takes place on a rectangular grid -- there appears to be an approximate radius of movement, so while it's not quite as precise as a hex-based map there isn't too much to be gained from moving at odd angles:

Individual battles take place in close-up, with some nice artwork in the grand Toei/Toho kaiju tradition:

Units recover some health each turn, so it often pays to play defensively, shuffling healthy units onto the front lines and letting the monsters attack.  There's an inherent imbalance at play -- the enemy units are generic, but the player's side has a flagship that means instant defeat if it's destroyed.  There also seems to be some randomness in the amount of damage dealt by weapons, making it difficult to plan and execute an effective strategy.  Victory is rewarded with a simple screen, approximately in English, and progression to the next level:

The second battle takes place at ground level, where terrain factors come into play, battling giant lizards who look and sound suspiciously like Godzilla from a distance, but up close appear to be rock and lava monsters:


The red creatures are much more aggressive than their gray brethren, and the the player's units are vastly outgunned on this level.  I finally resorted to keeping my units concentrated in the upper left-hand corner, limiting the enemies' angles of attack and forcing them to attack more or less in single file.  That worked for a while, until they punched a hole in my defenses and started taking my units out again.  I also discovered that air and ground units can be placed in the same spot on the map, allowing for concentrated firepower when attacking and shielding one of the two units from attack, which helps, though not enough for me to achieve victory at this writing.

A frustrating aspect of Gulclight TDF 2 is that a loss sends the player all the way back to the main menu -- there doesn't seem to be a save game feature. So it's a good one to play on an emulator with save-state capability.

Even though the difficulty curve is steep, I enjoyed playing this game, and as most of the text is in English it's a worthy import title.  The graphics are attractive and colorful, though there isn't very much animation -- during the close-up battles, the only movement comes from the weapons and explosions.  The CD-Audio music is very typical of the era, with lots of orchestra hit samples -- it's unobtrusive and pleasant, and varies from level to level.

So this was a fun one.  Next time, we'll look at something more opaque, I promise.


  1. Hi,

    I remember playing this as a kid, My dad bought this for me but I can't read the Japanese characters so I just picked whatever option until I figured things out. This game's OST is awesome! Any idea where I can download the OST atleast?

    Great post. Thanks. Hope to hear from you :)

    1. Hi, Mark -- I'm not aware of an official source for the OST as a separate disc, but as this is a CD game with redbook audio, the music tracks should be available for ripping right from the game disc.