[I ♥ The PC Engine] Jaseiken NecromancerPosted on May 23rd, 2009 12 comments
Release Date: 1/22/88
Price: 4500 yen
Media: HuCard (1 Mbit)
PC Engine FAN Score: 18.19 / 30.00
Kōgien: “The graphics, which evoke a creepy, sinister mood, are memorable. Your progress is saved via password. This is used for several secret codes, but their sheer length can also be called one of the game’s memorable traits. An early overhead-view PC Engine RPG.”
The PC Engine’s very first RPG…and, coincidentally, the first game released for the system that I don’t really like. In Japan, it’s been re-released both on mobile phones and in the local Virtual Console library.
Among nostalgic Japanese gamers, this is a game that conjures up a great deal of emotion. When it was first shown off in magazines as the PCE’s premiere RPG and all that, the impression it left with its incredibly dark, brooding atmosphere was…well, unique. Everyone knew the PCE had better graphics than the Famicom; that was beyond question. What would an RPG look like on this system, though? At the very least, you could imagine journeying through an epic tale set in a great big, colorful world. Emphasis on colorful. This game is not colorful. Gears of War is brighter. You could’ve seen that from the preview screenshots alone.
Still, the gamers of late 1987 waited patiently. This is the first RPG for the PC Engine, after all. Of course expectations were going to be huge. So imagine what it was like to buy the game on launch day and be greeted with this title music alongside some sort of weird HR Giger-inspired title logo. Bizarre, is what it is.
The story’s relatively straightforward. Your kingdom’s in danger, and you’re a plucky lad who swears to God that he’ll find the evil holy sword known as Necromancer and smite the monster boss most hatefully. Gameplay is turn-based, and your party has a maximum of three people in it — you, and two NPCs you choose out of a pool of five at the beginning of the game, each with his own strengths and weaknesses (the only real innovation Necromancer offered at the time).
So you leave town and walk around this drab, realistic world map. Monsters appear — and whoa, they’re kind of animated! But the real surprise comes when you beat them and they spurt blood before disappearing (even enemies that shouldn’t technically have blood). Wow! Crazy! Real blood in my video games! It was easy to surprise Japanese RPG fans back then, what can I say? The simple fact that Necromancer’s human characters are realistically proportioned and not the stocky squares of Dragon Quest was enough to blow their minds.
A dark, brooding, Giger-ish game world with realistic graphics. If you had nothing else to play (and on the PCE in early 1988, you didn’t), it was playable. Until you got a load of the game’s 25-character passwords that never worked. Battery saving? That’s for pussies!
Click the above video to get a feel for the audiovisuals, undoubtedly the most memorable part of what’s otherwise an unmemorable 8-bit RPG. If you really want, you can keep clicking through the series to watch a playthrough of the whole game with the level-grinding edited out.
If I’d played this in 1988, that title music alone would have given me nightmares for years to come.
Another game proving that Phantasy Star was way, way ahead of its time.
wait, it’s about a sword named “Necromancer”? Geez, what a rip.
If “War of the Dead” falls under the scope of this topic at any point, I’d love to hear anything you can tell me about the series.
It looks like the dungeon/cave mazes are made slightly more challenging due to the limited visibility (torchlight only illuminates the area immediately surrounding your party). I only watched a small clip from YouTube, though.
If this game had been localized for North America, they might have changed the splatters of blood into splatters of sweat.
Necromancer seems to have decent music, but you never get a chance to hear a track for too long before it is reset (due to an encounter starting/ending, etc.)
One of my pet peeves: constantly listening to a song’s opening, never to hear the composition in it’s entirety.
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