Page 1 of 1  [ 4 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Fri Feb 2, '18, 8:37 pm 

Sometimes, you just need to toot your own horn.

Emerald Dragon: A Different Kind of Dragon Warrior

I had originally thought to make my playjournal about Romancing SaGa 2, but that would be way too complicated, and take forever, and it's much harder to refresh my memory about that. Besides, this is a game that had been sitting on my backlog for almost ten years now, so it's always a celebration to clear it out.

No, now we get to deal with a game that involves a red-haired swordsman and a shipwreck where the two are not directly involved with each other.

But first, man, Telenet just used to bleed staffers.

And we're not talking about normal staff turnovers here. One of their head composers left to eventually do the soundtrack of the Wild Arms games, and their main subsidiary studio blew up and became both the Tales Team and Tri-Ace, but this sort of stuff was happening even before that. All the way back in 1986, back around when Telenet was releasing the very first version of Valis 1, Osmu Ikegame left the company along with a few others to start their own game development company, called Glodia. the company mainly developed games for Japanese computers such as the Pc-88, the PC-98, the FM Towns, and others. They released about a dozen or so games over the lifetime of the country, mostly some kind of RPG or strategy game or combination of the two, but none of the RPGs or strategy games they made really stood out except for one, an RPG called Emerald Dragon, first released in 1989.

Now, Emerald Dragon was one of those games that was released for everything in the East and nothing at all in the West, getting put on the PC-88, PC-98, FM Towns, Sharp X68000, then later on the Turbo CD and Super Nintendo, with the console ports being done by a company called Media Works. No version of the game was translated until the Super Nintendo version got a fan translation in 2008 (which is the version I played), and the MSX version got one in 2012 (though that one seems really hard to find). And I decided to pay attention to this one because this was actually part of my RPG backlog for years.

Oh, and apparently there was a radio show version. Found the opening theme. Very Lodoss War.

It might be important to note that this game predates the Breath of Fire series because that's apparently not the only game to involves a member of an ancient dragon tribe adventuring out into the world to defeat the resurgence of an ancient enemy.

So, what have we got on our hands anyway?

We begin in the land of Draguria, a land that belongs to the dragons that is separate from Ishbahn, the world of humans. While the two lands are separated by a great rift that cannot be crossed by man, a ship wrecks off the coast. The local dragons search for survivors, and find only one- a little human girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. The dragons are at a loss of what to do, until they consult with the elder of the Dragon Tribe, who tells them that, as beings who live extremely long lives and have very few kids of their own, they should know most how precious children are. The elder decrees that she will be allowed to stay on the island, and that she will be named Tamryn, and placed in the care of Atrushan, the smallest and youngest member of the tribe and the first child born in Draguria in hundreds of years. This was likely because while all of the adult dragons were talking about what to do with the human, he was the only one to tell her not to be scared (as dragons are gentle creatures 'round here), and ask if she was all right. And so, for the next twelve years, Tamryn is given a strange but happy childhood, growing up alongside Atrushan.


HALLO! IT DERG TIEM? (FM Towns ver.)

At the end of those twelve years Tamryn decides to leave on the advice of the elder dragon, who suggested that it might be better for her to live with humans and find real happiness among her own kind (this turns out to be a total crock). When Atrushan gets wind of this, he becomes resentful of the Elder, but when finds out her mind is made up, he breaks off one of his horns and gives it to her, telling her that if she's ever in trouble or is in need of help, blow the horn and he'll come to her as fast as he can.

Three years after Tamryn leaves, the horn sounds off.

Atrushan asks to go to the human world because Gondo^H^H^H^H^H Tamryn calls for aid, and the Elder agrees, but there is a curse on the Dragon Tribe that kills them if they ever enter Ishbahn, the world of Man. So, he gives Atrushan the Silver Scale, one of the five great treasures of the Dragon Tribe, which allows him to take on the form of a human, specifically a red-haired swordsman (because of course he would, this was a PC-88 game after all), allowing him to survive in the human world. He finds soon after he arrives that the humans are struggling against the vast, overwhelming power of the Demon Army, led by Garcia, the king of all demons, and his chief lieutenant Ostracon, a man who threw away his humanity in exchange for power from the demons. The path is clear- find Tamryn (very quickly done), defeat the Demon Army, and while he's there, see about breaking that curse on the Dragon Tribe. It'd be nice if he could manage that, too.

So, the gameplay is rather difficult to describe succinctly- the first phrase I came up with was "Turn-based Star Ocean", but that doesn't quite cover things. The game is a turn-and-party-based RPG, and battles take place on an overhead-perspective arena where characters can move freely, like in the Ultima games. The game uses an AP-based action system, where different character actions consume differing amounts of AP, such as moving, attacking, casting spells (there's no MP to worry about), and so on. A character's AP is affected by levels, but also by getting better equipment, and different weapons can also have different AP costs to use in battle. The thing about this game, however, is that the only character you ever directly control in the game is Atrushan himself- you can give general commands to the rest of the party, but Atrushan is the only character you personally dictate the movement and actions of in battle, and so he's the only one who can use items (a free action), initiate fleeing the battle, and other actions. this is generally okay- the party AI in this game is actually pretty good, for the most part, so success or failure can really depend on how you choose to use Atrushan- especially since if his HP hit zero, it's an instant Game Over.

Oh, and the way you attack isn't by selecting an attack action from a menu, you just try to move Atrushan into a space occupied by an enemy, so I guess things aren't that different for most red-haired swordsmen who started on the PC-88.

In later versions of the game, Atrushan can actually use dragon powers in combat as he acquires more of the great treasures of the Dragon Tribe, which were something that was only restricted to cutscenes in the original versions of the game, and these are both very powerful but also very risky to use, especially if you aren't entirely sure of the enemy's turn order as well as your party's. You see, while Atrushan can become a dragon to use an attack for a brief period of time, the curse is a very real thing, and so using that power costs him 80-90% of his maximum HP, so using these powers at the wrong time can earn you a very quick and embarrassing came over, so it's best used when you're sure someone can heal him right after, or that he'll have enough AP to take an action afterwards. It might still be worth it despite the risk because bosses in this game always come with 2-6 minions that can ruin your day. Because it's possible to spam healing items in combat, potions are actually relatively expensive compared to Tents, which heal your entire party's HP to max, but only outside of combat.

In fact, Tents are less expensive than almost all of the Inns you find throughout the game, so one may ask, like I did, "What's the point of inns?" The thing is, the game actually uses inns in a very unusual way. You see, there are a ton of character conversations in the game, that actually only happen when the party settles down in a room for a night after there has been some plot development or another, so inns are basically a refuge for the characters to have the talks that they're usually too busy to have when they're on the adventure trail and fighting off random encounters all the time.

The thing about the way that the combat system works, though, is that you don't really have the same kind of variety of combats you end up having in other JRPGs. There are no really tricky bosses that require you to interact with the mechanics in different ways, like there are in the Final Fantasy series or Romancing SaGa or whatever, so the combat variety is not especially high. The mechanics work, and that's the most you can really say.

Oh, and Atrushan and Tamryn are the only characters who actually gain levels through battle XP. All of the other characters who shuffle in and out of the party have fixed levels based on story positioning and developments, or other special events.

As for the non-mechanics parts of the game, the soundtrack is fine. It does decent work, and there are a couple of really good pieces at times, but this really isn't a "best of the best" soundtrack. Not every company has Squaresoft's stable.

However, they did some really good work with the sprites here- for a lot of the really important scenes they give the sprites a whole lot of expression and body language even despite their small size, and they even sometimes have eye color on the game sprites, which is not a common thing.

And the TALK function from Phantasy Star 4? That's also here.


So, our hero gets dumped in Ishbahn, and finds a nice village called Urvan where he learns about the state of the world, such as it is, and even finds Tamryn's house, where the maid tells her that Tamryn has been living there for three years, and has always seemed to be a kind, but sad sort of girl, and that she has recently taken up magic to fight the Demon Army. And she had just went off with some of the townsfolk to investigate a shrine where a sorcerer named Bagin went to defeat a monster golem and hasn't returned yet. So, Atrushan grabs some help from Barsom, a swordsman at the bar who's known more for being a drunk than a hero, and heads up there to find Tamryn. After getting there, they find that most of the townspeople that went up there have been killed and turned into zombies, which the pair handily dispose of. Atrushan spots the horn he gave Tamryn, and rushes in to grab it over Barsom's objections, immediately falling prey to a pit trap.

It's a rookie mistake, but Atrushan comes into this story knowing basically two things: 1.) Dragon stuff, which does not include dungeons, and 2.), That he loves Tamryn. This will be important later, but for now it's not giving him any bonuses on his find traps roll.

He's dumped into a dungeon cell with Tamryn, who was busy trying to break out- and when he spots her he immediately apologizes for being unable to to protect her before realizing that the last time she saw him, he was a blue dragon and not any kind of human at all. They find Barsom, who gives back Tamryn's horn, saying that it seems like it's very special and that she should take good care of it. Tamryn asks Atrushan if he really brought the drunk to help, and he says that Barsom's not a drunk, he's a brave swordsman! To which Barsom replies "Actually, I am drunk most of the time."

They can't force the door open to the deep chamber where Bagin is, but Atrushan has an idea- he becomes his dragon self just long enough to pull open the door, but it almost kills him to do it because of the power of the curse. Tamryn heals him when he changes back to human, and apologizes for calling him, because she didn't know Ishbahn was cursed to his people, but he holds her hands and says it's no problem- he said he would come, and he just couldn't go back on any promise he made to her. Barsom says there's time for that later, so the party goes in there, helps trash the devil golem that was waking up, and Bagin joins the party.

After they leave, they find that the village near the shrine had been wiped out by the Demon Army, and now realizing how monstrous the enemy is, Atrushan vows to help Tamryn destroy the Demon Army. So the party makes its way to Ervad to see the king. At the inn, once they're all comfortable in bed, Tamryn says that it feels like she's dreaming, that Atrushan has actually come to her, and his reply that he always meant to keep the promise he made, as the one thing he never wants to hear her call him is a liar.

The king isn't seeing anyone about any village massacres, because some Baron or other is feeding the king false info, and Barsom knows this guy, which he explains at the bar. He tells the story of how he used to be bodyguard to the king, but the Baron set up false charges and ran him out of town on a rail because Barsom saw some sneaky business, so Bagin offers a better end for the story- they go over there, axe the traitor, and clear his name. Atrushan is up for that, because he has seen past Barsom's crust of booze to the good, loyal soldier underneath, so the four go to the Baron's mansion, dig up the letters that he was exchanging with Ostracon, and when the Baron comes to kill them, well, it's actually a nasty boss fight, but when team hero can even briefly contain one dragon, things tend to go team hero's way.

So, Barsom is back in the king's good graces and gets his old job back, and it's now time to act against the Demon Army. Prince Hathram shows up with his minder, Farna, and decide to form a task force consisting of the party and his own people. Prince Hathram proves very quickly to be a graduate of the Edgar Figaro school of royal etiquette, wasting no time in hitting on Tamryn before being reigned in by Farna. Still, while Barsom leaves, those two join up, and at the inn on the way out, the prince pitches Tamryn the idea of resting with him before the big battle tomorrow before he's dragged off by Farna, who reminds his highness he'll be sleeping in no one's bed but his own, thank you very much.

A lot of the conversations between Hathram and Farna have to deal with her trying to moderate his behavior because he's going to have to marry a princess soon, with Hathram doing his best to get her to call him by his real name instead of Prince and your Highness. There is an exchange that really, actually goes something like this.

"Farna, Please don't call me Prince, just call me Hathram, all right?"
"Yes, my Prince!"

I'd also like to note that Hathram and Farna would totally be this setting's main protagonists if those spots weren't currently occupied by Atrushan and Tamryn. A prince whose country is under threat by a Demon Army and his tsundere kinda-sorta love interest? Of course. One of the thing's that makes me appreciate this game's unusual way of doing things is that the will-they/won't-they is shoved onto secondary characters while the leads already have very strong and accepted feelings for each other, which allows the writing to sometimes travel a different sort of road.

The plan is to retake Zham fortress, which has been vacated by Ostracon, who has left a total meathead named Parago in charge. And since he's a total meathead, they're able to work around that, break into the fortress, and the party just storms in and flattens the meatball before he can question the prince's masculinity too many times, freeing Zham fortress and opening up the path to other regions. Kildale is a land of caves, and following hero adventure logic, all of them are going to have to be explored. However, Bagin isn't up for doing much spelunking, and even leaves his staff behind to do other things while the party delves deep into one of the caves, and finds one of the old dragons, who had managed to escape death from the curse by hiding deep underground and using all of its power to create the Silver Scale. Atrushan asks if she is the legendary Emerald Dragon, but she says no, and that the Emerald Dragon died long ago- but that the five Emerald graces were created to revive him. We already have one, the Silver Scale, and we get our laundry list of the other four.

We follow Bagin to another set of ruins, where he left us a letter- he's heading south to destroy the Demon Beast Gomez and avenge his friend, and we're set to follow him. The party gets a set of demon armor to sneak through Arpath fortress in exchange for a promise to deliver a letter, a disguise that lasts only exactly as long as it needs to and then becomes useless, because monster-men aren't entirely dim. They end up meeting Old Khosrow, the leader of the Resistance that formed in demon-controlled territories, who tells us that in order to follow where Bagin is going, we'll need the help of the Dardawa villagers, but their chief is being held by Ostracon, chief commander of the Demon Army and Grade-S jerk, in the Demon Army Fort in the middle of town, so dealing with that can solve both our problems. His men will distract the guards, while our guys will rescue the chief. Simple, right?

Well, he's true to his word, and the party manage to find Ostracon, who's busy trying to squeeze information out of the Dardawa chief. Ostracon talks about how he thinks he'll go out and have some fun if the chief won't talk, such as killing all of the villagers if he won't talk, and perhaps, killing the chief's own son? It turns out that finding joy in cruelty in front of someone whose primary heroic virtues are his kindness and empathy and is also a dragon are a good way to punch one's ticket on the pain train, so Atrushan kicks the iron-bound door off of its hinges and charges in. Ostracon goes for his sword, but Atrushan chops off his sword arm before he can defend himself, and Ostracon is only saved from immediate death by one of his commanders, Elm the Demon Mage, arriving to hold off Atrushan and the party long enough for him to escape.

Khosrow is pretty impressed. While they weren't able to kill Ostracon, they did bag one of his major commanders, save the chief, and it's not often that he gets to hear about Ostracon running away while both crying and bleeding a lot. While it's obvious that Ostracon will remember the people who made it so he can only count to five, the Demon Army has been driven out of town, so it's time to party. Which is interrupted by the fact that the Demon Army has started to move in force, and Ervad is in danger. Hathram leaves, and takes Atrushan aside to tell him too make sure Farna doesn't do anything rash while he's gone. That night at the inn, Tamryn and Atrushan notice that Farna is awake all night- praying for the safety of her Prince.

The rest of the party heads south to try to find Bagin. The Dardawa chief refuses to help the party go through the forest, because it violates the ancient law of their village which protects them from Gomez, but the chief's grown son, Yaman, decides to defy the law and help the party anyway because by staying away, his people have abandoned another village, Nanai to the ravages of Gomez, where the people are forced to offer sacrifices to the monster.

They pass through Nanai and into Gomez's lair, where, while tracking the beast they come across Bagin, who is mortally wounded, and it is discovered that the old coot is Farna's foster father. He used to serve in the Demon Army 20 years ago, but was severely wounded, but was saved by a passing villager called Phytoma, who gave his baby, Farna, to Bagin to raise because he was designated as a sacrifice to Gomez. later, the two vowed to destroy Gomez, but Phytoma died while they were searching for an item of great magical power. However, Bagin did find it- the Purple Dragon crystal, one of the Five Emerald Graces, which powers up Farna's magic and is placed in the care of Atrushan. With that, Bagin dies.

Player Characters dead: 1

I'd like to note from this point forward, that Emerald Dragon runs on the philosophy that if you have a large enough cast of playable characters, you can afford to kill two or three. Call it the Final Fantasy 2 plan.

So, after the party blows Gomez to bits, Yaman bids them goodbye and thanks for their help. The party heads back north, but to catch up with Hathram they're going to need to take Arbath fortress. Khosrow not only has a plan, he even decides to join the party on this little jaunt. With Ostracon occupied elsewhere, they're able to crack the gates open from the inside and the party storms in, putting down Bacita, the last of Ostracon's three commanders. They move from there to Kildale, defeat an ambush, and learn that Ervad has been taken- and the rumor is that Hathram has been captured and killed by the Demon Army. Farna refuses to believe it, and that night at the inn, Farna leaves in the middle of the night to look for truth in the stars. The next day, they pass through the curiously unguarded Zham fortress.

This is because Ostracon, now sporting a brand new demon arm to replace the one that Atrushan lopped off, actually wanted the party to show up in Ervad, to deliver an ultimatum- he has captured Prince Hathram in a demon crystal, which is basically an evil pok├ęball, and he demands that the party find him an item called the Avesta or the prince gets it. Their objective was never to conquer the kingdom, as they have bigger plans in mind. Unfortunately, they don't really have a choice but to try and find what Ostracon wants. The Avesta is in the southern forests, so it's time to trek back, and they pick up Yaman, who now wants to fight for all of Ishbahn, not just his own piece of ground. Yaman manages to get the map of the deep forest despite the fact that he's persona non grata for helping the party before- the rest of his village now believe that he's living under a curse. Those of you watching at home may want to remember that.

So we find the Dardawa shrine, which has the first of two big lore dumps. The second isn't that far away, but here's the gist of things.

-The Avesta was a powerful magic device created thousands of years ago and sealed away by the Gold Dragon, who built the shrine.
-The creators, those who were called the Old Gods by humans, were actually a tribe of long-lived humanoids called the Horus, who lived in the world before the dragons and were said to be so strong in magic that they could use magic without spellcasting.

The keeper allows the party in, and after a not too difficult puzzle, the party has to fight a zombie dragon for the Avesta, and on leaving, the shrine keeper also gives the party the key of the dead, which actually opens up some side areas exclusive to this version of the game, the towns of the dead. Basically, the Demon Army has been so ferocious for so long that phantom towns have begun to pop up in the real world because of how many restless souls were created by the Demon Army's massacres, so the thing you do there is put the souls to rest. Oh, and two of the restless souls in the first deadtown belong to Khosrow's wife and daughter.


As it turns out, Ostracon is actually pretty bad at playing the bogus deal card, as when we approach his fortress he immediately sends packs of soldiers to try to mug us for the Avesta. We already knew this was a bogus deal, but just... Ostracon. We storm our way up his fortress, get betrayed, and he smashes the black crystal that he used to imprison Prince Hathram. Since negotiations have failed, the party attacks Ostracon, and the demon general is once again unable to prevail over the heroes despite his demon upgrades- but he got what he wanted out of the encounter anyways, and brags about how he's going to hand the Avesta over to Garcia at Draugwand Castle. Farna, having failed her prince, is bereft of the will to fight on. Atrushan moves to try to talk her out of leaving the party, but Khosrow holds him back, telling him that he knows the young'un means well, but it's best to let her choose to do as she wills.

As they leave, Karshwarl, another of Khosrow's men, says that the situation at Draugwand castle is actually very difficult- the castle is covered by an impenetrable forcefield. Khosrow decides to leave to take control of the situation, so Karshwarl joins the party instead, and the group heads to the town of Hererud to look for clues. When the party enters, an arrow speeds by, and it came from a kid who has been practicing his archery because he wants to avenge his dad, who died to the Demon Army. Yaman gives the kid some advice, and he heads on his way. The party finds out that there's someone important in town- Saoshayant the Wanderer, Hero of the Wind. After beating up some jerks who had taken over the arena, Saoshyant concludes the party is good enough to help him go up Hererud mountain- he has actually been working on the Demon Army problem for some time, and while he doesn't know how to break the forcefield over the castle, he knows the guy who does- plus, his signature bow was stolen by Ostracon, so he'd like to get that back. Karshwarl says that the Hero of the Wind is much different than his father, the Hero of Fire.

Wait a moment- Avesta? Saoshayant?

I guess only scrubs crib names from Christianity or Judaic mysticism, real RPG writers crib from Zoroastrianism!

(As a tangent, the Mazda car company is actually named after Ahura Mazda)

So after the party leaves the arena, Saoshayant starts to talk about how to go up the mountain, when an arrow speeds down the street and hits Yaman. The kid comes by and asks if Yaman is okay, and he says he's fine, but that he should be extremely careful where he aims from now on. After the kid leaves, Atrushan is like. "Wow, Yaman, I'm glad you're okay!" And Yaman is like "Actually, I'm mortally wounded." But he had already accepted death as the price for breaking the village law, and so he dies in the street- the party buries him in the Hererud Cemetery before moving on. Saoshayant says that Yaman was admirable, for going against the laws of his people, knowing it would end like this.

Dead character count: 2

I'd like to note that since I've played a lot of JRPGs basically since forever, I know that player character deaths are par for the course, but this is the first time one has died by complete freak accident. And having Yaman and Saoshayant in my party wouldn't even put me over the five-character limit.

Oh yeah, and near Hererud is the second ghost town, where there's a scene with one of the spirits which mistakes Tamryn for his daughter. After they put him to rest, Tamryn wonders if her own father is suffering like this also, but Atrushan tells her that even if he is, they'll be able to do something about it, alive or dead. Tamryn thinks that she is glad that Atrushan is with her, especially in times like these.

So we climb the mountain, kill a group of scorpions of unusual size, and meet Saoshayant's Mentor, Husulum, who actually knows quite a lot of things about quite a lot of things, and is willing to tell us pretty much everything he knows- which begins the second lore dump.

-The Horus preceded the dragons in Ishbahn, and when the Dragon Tribe arrived, they fought for the dominance of Ishbahn. However, intense warfare + low birth rate was only going to go bad places, so they made peace and split Ishbahn between them, with the Horus taking the West and the dragons taking the east, but the Horus turned a fair chunk of Ishbahn into a barren desert when they used the Avesta, a device that amplifies magic to extreme levels and is powered by human souls.

-The Emerald Dragon, a dear friend of Husulum, was the champion of the Dragon Tribe, but was killed killed 2,000 years ago by the Great Curse. The Elder Dragons devised away to resurrect the Emerald Dragon through the creation of the five Emerald Graces, which could bring him back if his spirit was ever found.

-Ostracon has recently sold his soul to the netherworld, and has obtained the power of an Arch-Demon, a being nearly as strong as Garcian himself. Also, the only way that the Demon King Garcia could've come to Ishbahn is if someone summoned him here, so you folks had better start thinking about who could've done that.

-Tamryn has a secret or two that she may not be aware of.

He also has some excellent, splendid, terrific news- Hathram is still alive, and the black crystal that Ostracon destroyed was a fake, because if you have such a valuable hostage, you don't use him up on just one scheme. He also gives the party some useful items, as well as the Evil-Breaking Arrow, telling Saoshayant that should solve his castle problem. Also, if you pester him enough, you can get the Protect Ring, a Tamryn-exclusive piece of equipment that's by far and away the best Shield-Type equipment in the game.

So, the arrow solves the castle problem quite nicely, and Khosrow rejoins the party for the assault. The Resistance forces successfully storm the castle and open up the gates for the party, and together they managed to defeat the Demon Army in the castle, cornering Ostracon. Khosrow calls him out for killing his wife and child, and Karshwarl calls him out for killing his father, the Hero of Fire, in a cowardly trap. He refuses to yield, however, and challenges the party to battle once more, re-animating his three commanders. When even this fails, and Ostracon is defeated again, he begs Garcia to transform him into the Arch-Demon. Ostracon transforms, and during the transformation he unleashes powerful destructive energies at Atrushan, but Karshwarl shoves Atrushan out of the way and takes the hit himself, being instantly disintegrated, leaving the party shorthanded for one of the nastiest boss fights in the game. Still, even wounded and understaffed, the heroes prevail, and the man who sold his soul to the Netherworld to obtain the form of a demon to feed his lust for power is cut down by the man who gave up the form of a dragon to feed the compassion of his soul.

Character deaths: 3


Continued in post 2

Last edited by R-90-2 on Fri Feb 2, '18, 11:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 2, '18, 8:38 pm 
Ostracon is down for good, so the party collects Saoshayant's bow and the black crystal, and maybe Ostracon's helmet if you want it, but it's not that good- it provides enormous defense, but a huge reduction in AP. However, Demon King Garcia makes his first appearance, grumpy about how Ostracon was a waste of a good Arch-Demon, but at least he has the Avesta. He uses it to lift his castle, the Demon Palace, into the sky, and then blows up an inhabited island just to keep people from trying to mess with him. The crew needs to find a way to get up there.

Khosrow is still hurt by the loss of Karshwarl, but Saoshayant says that he deserved the title of Hero as much as anyone. Still, there is some good news- the death of Ostracon and his commanders mean the Demon Army is in complete disarray, so the only effective forces Garcia has left are the ones that he has in the Demon Palace itself, which means there's time to see about freeing Hathram from the Demon Crystal. Now, while playing the game, you may come across items called "Waramul's Medicine." These are potions that provide a full heal in battle. You're going to see Dr. Waramul to get Hathram back in the party.

That's right, in this game you actually get to meet the inventor of the setting's X-Potion.

Waramul is actually excited that you've come to him with the problem, because curing sick people has become boring and you've actually provided him with an interesting challenge. He knows, in theory, how to do it, but he needs some ingredients first, which involve a trip into an annoying dungeon to look for the right stuff (Self-destruct enemies that almost always move before you do? nothx). Still, the procedure is a success, the patient is cured of his demonic imprisonment, and Hathram is back in the game. At the Inn, Hathram can't sleep- when Saoshayant asks why, the prince can't help but think about Farna, wondering how she's doing, or where she is. Khosrow tells him what happened after Ostracon destroyed the fake crystal, and that a young guy like him should do his best not to worry a special lady like Farna.

The team needs to go see the Sea Priestess, a descendant of the Horus in order to get to where they need to go, and after busting one of Garcia's remaining generals on the way, the party is sent on a couple of fetch quests in dungeons I don't care to talk about, because puzzle dungeons are the real curse of Ishbahn. As a reward for our troubles, we get something called the Teleposta, which is something for Tamryn- and the Sea Priestess takes Tamryn aside to explain some things in secret. Still, now it's off to a mountain shrine where the party can get to the demon palace.

Not that the trip there is uneventful, as Garcia isn't about to sit and wait for the party to breach his castle, so he actually attacks the party while they're climbing the mountain. With some help from the Sea Priestess they're able to drive him off, but he's far from finished. They pop up there to get their way forward, and she also gives Saoshayant a set of armor made with her blood that will help counter the curse on his bow. Then Garcia blasts her into goo from the sky. Why doesn't he use the Avesta to blow up the party? Well...

The Party makes it up to his castle, blows up all the remaining midbosses, and faces Garcia. He explains that the Avesta was just a loaner- he was just charging it up with human souls for the guys who summoned him, and then he sends the Avesta away. He reveals then that the ones who summoned him were none other than the Horus- they gave him leave to do as he wanted with the world in exchange for delivering the Avesta to them, and thinks that he'll just hang around and do the actual ruling while the Horus are comfortable in their hidden city near Helmend mountain. Tamryn is upset by this, but Garcia says that whether they believe it or not doesn't matter, because the truth is that the Horus, who humans called the Old Gods, are just as much monsters as he is. Then he attacks the party.

Two things. First time I tried this boss fight, I got flattened. Second thing, this is probably my favorite implementation of the Fake Main Villain thing. He not only knows he's not the main villain, he was playing one to run interference for the real plot of the actual masterminds. Plus, he immediately gives up his employers to ensure that if he goes down, they won't be far behind.

Demons can be duplicitous? WELL I NEVER

So, killing Garcia destroys the curse on Saoshayant's bow, restoring it to full power, and also causes the Demon Palace to start to implode, so Tamryn uses the teleporter she got to get everyone out. Since it was her first time using it, it's a rough landing, and the party is scattered- and Tamryn's hat is knocked off for the first time in the game. She finds Atrushan first after putting her hat back where it ought to be, and it takes him a bit to get up from being actually totally knocked out from the teleport mishap. However, the first thing he does is ask if she's all right, and the unspoken answer is a pretty hard no.

Tamryn goes on about how she couldn't forgive the Demon Army for what they had done, and that she wanted so badly to save the world from their evil and do something for everyone who had suffered, but the other reason she went on this journey is that she had always wanted to know the truth about who she was, where she was born, and how. But she now knows the truth, and wishes she hadn't because it has caused her nothing but pain. The sea priestess explained everything to her- the Teleposta can only be used by those with the power of the Old Gods, which means that Tamryn herself is one of the Horus- the people she truly belongs to are a people who tried to destroy the Dragon Tribe, who turned much of Western Ishbahn into a barren wasteland, who summoned the Demon Army that had ravaged the world for decades, and were now preparing to strike down the human world to restore their own power. Unable to bear things anymore, she breaks down by the riverside, and sobs.

Now, we've seen this before in other games- it's the kind of soul-shattering revelation common to the genre that knocks a main protagonist out of circulation for at least a couple to a few gameplay hours, but it doesn't happen here. Why?

Well, because, as I noted before, Atrushan knows two things.

Atrushan knows where his heart lies, and so tells Tamryn that nothing has changed- that she is still Tamryn to him, and to come to him, because he made a promise that he will not break, even if it destroys him. He swore to come to her side to help her whenever she called him to come, and he will always be here, no matter what happens from here on out. Tamryn goes to Atrushan, and cries her heart out in his arms.

Once she is done, however, she cleans up and is back on her own feet. Hathram and Saoshayant finally arrive, and say that Khosrow was pretty badly banged up by the landing, but managed to make it all the way to Waramul's house before collapsing. They agree that the Horus will have to be dealt with, but first they need to head back to Ervad to handle things there- after all, the Demon Palace just crashed into the sea, so they need to go back and tell everyone that they're okay. However, time is short, and Evard is on the other side of Ishbahn.

But then Tamryn is like- "Well, we do have a teleporter"

After this point, the Teleposta becomes a fast-travel option.


Before we go into the final leg of the journey, I'm going to talk about something that has been nagging at me ever since I started doing the extended writeup, which is this. Even though Atrushan has been our point of view for the past 18 hours or so, and is also the red-haired hero swordsman that has been the common protagonist of JRPGs basically since the dawn of time, he may not actually be the main protagonist of this game- odds are that it's actually Tamryn. Let's recap:

1.) Tamryn is the one with the strange heroic upbringing, raised by (admittedly gentle) dragons.
2.) Tamryn is the one who started advancing this quest in the first place.
3.) At no point has Atrushan actually taken charge of the quest, asked to take charge, or been asked to take charge.
4.) Tamryn has been the one who has been tested the most, and has been the direct subject of any and all devastating plot revelations.
5.) Atrushan's whole thing has been about keeping his promise to help Tamryn- he's not the kind of guy who'd ever say "This is my story".

This may not be the strongest case, but it's something I've been thinking about.


So, the party gets a hero's welcome in Ervad. Barsom congratulates the party on a job well done, and his regret is that he didn't stay in the party until the fight was one. The king is ecstatic, and is already planning bunches of ways to commemorate and merchandise the final victory over the Demon Army. Saoshayant takes Hathram aside and tells him that it might be a better thing if the Horus matter is handled quietly, so Hathram makes up some flimsy excuse about there being demon holdouts that the king buys immediately. They learn from Barsom that Farna was here, and said she'd be waiting at the oasis in the western wasteland- she knows what's up already. Khosrow is back on his feet, and Waramul is also having the time of his life- a normal person wouldn't be able to move after what this guy went through, so he thanks Atrushan for finding him such a marvelous specimen to examine.

Oh, and you can go back to Waramul's house and get a special medicine that will supercharge Hathram for the endgame. Better go get.

At the inn, Atrushan can't sleep until he gets something out. he say he doesn't know if she's listening, but he tells her that he'll never break his promise to her, and that he'll always look after her, whenever she needs him. And once he has finished, Tamryn quietly whispers his name in her sleep.

You you find Farna, and the party's danger sense tingles, and they stand well back as Farna smacks Hathram around and telling him what she thinks of him for running off, worrying her about dying, looking like he actually died, and then coming back to life without telling her:


Your Stupid, Stupid Mind!

When she's done, he points out that she actually called him Hathram. She shrugs it off, and rejoins the party. Along the way, the party can encounter a set of standing stones, where the Elder of Draguria tells Atrushan that the creature depicted in the ancient mural you can find like, ten minutes into the game is Zandig, a monstrosity created by the Horus with the power of the Avesta in order to fight against the Emerald Dragon.

The problem with mountain climbing is that even though the Emerald Dragon died, his spirit was so powerful it sealed off the city of the Horus from the rest of Ishbahn, so they need to break through a couple of boss fights. After destroying the guard system that originally defended the city of the Horus, they get the final Emerald Grace, the Red Dragon's horn, and encounter Vendidad, a sword that houses the spirit of the Emerald Dragon. The Emerald Dragon says that he had felt that the one who would break the curse had been born, and that he will accompany Atrushan and his friends to the end of their journey. He tells Atrushan to use the Emerald Graces, so that he could guide them to where the Horus had hidden themselves.

Going to the City of the Horus is the point of no return, by the way.

So they arrive in the lost city of the Horus and end up being instantly surrounded by hordes of Horus soldiers. Tamryn tries to teleport them out, but this is noticed, and her magic is actually being blocked, because obviously someone noticed them arrive. And that someone does soon arrive on the scene. That man is Lord Tiridates, chancellor and steward of the Horus. He immediately identifies Tamryn as Fial Vim Strati, the lost princess of the Horus, who went along with the old king and queen to look for the Avesta and Teleposta in the outside world. he says she must take her place as queen of the Horus, oh, and he has the rest of the party arrested because he feels like it, basically.

I would like to note that Horus soldiers are endgame enemies, and there are more than enough in this scene for an extremely dangerous combat encounter that would actually be extremely hard for the party to win.

So, the rest of the party is tossed in the dungeon. Atrushan tries to use his dragon powers, but the Emerald Dragon tells him not to, because it'd certainly kill him- this place is the stronghold of the Horus, and was made to hold dragons. Atrushan asks the Emerald Dragon if there's anything he can do, and he replies that there is: Be patient, and believe in Tamryn.

Meanwhile, in the royal chambers, Tiridates tells Tamryn that she had better play her role and be queen, if she knows what's good for her friends, and then leaves. Tiridates turns out to be a cheapskate when it comes to locks, though, and she manages to escape with a hairpin and a bit of time. She meets up with Jessil, someone still loyal to the royal family, and tells her that Tiridates has ruled through force- no one aside from the chancellor and his followers have any interest in striking down the humans, and that it was Tiridates's agents who caused the ship that Tamryn and her parents were on to wreck as they were trying to escape the chancellor's schemes. With Jessil covering her, Tamryn springs the party from their cell. When they ask what the plan is, Tamryn thinks it's obvious. Storm the ancient citadel of the city, defeat Tiridates, and save the world. Saoshayant, who has normally been cool as ice about everything, seems to think this is a risky plan- the Horus fought evenly against the dragons, and Tiridates has been alive since the ancient war. He's willing to go along with it, he's just sayin'.

The townspeople are willing to support the party with even healing items and stuff, and drop some juicy tidbits, like how Tiridates has been chancellor for 3,000 years, which is a stretch even for the Horus, and how he created a monstrosity called Zandig to fight in the ancient war. Tiridates has now holed up in the central tower of the citadel, preparing to use the Avesta himself to seize Ishbahn. So the party storms the final stronghold, which is by far the hardest dungeon in the game, and confronts Tiridates at the top. Tiridates tells them that Ishbahn is a Holy Land, not to be profaned by dragons or humans, which he why he used the Avesta to put a curse on Ishban. He tells Atrushan that his kind is quite clever for finding a way to escape his curse by taking on human form. Tamryn tells Tiridates he's full of it, and so he decides that your party must die for the glory of the Horus, and he challenges the party alongside with his retinue of Horus Knights.

I'd like to note, by the way, that Tiridates's design falls in an amazing sweet spot in that he could be the main villain of pretty much any kind of late '80s/early '90s OVA.

The party manages to beat down Tiridates, but he's not done yet- he even exalts in the fact that he's being destoryed, and blasts Tamryn, reducing her to a human, depriving her of her extended lifespan and removing her ability to use the Teleposta herself (this has no mechanical effects, just a story thing). The Emerald Dragon realizes what has happened- Tiridates's body was being inhabited by Zandig, the monster of his own creation, which soon enough emerges in its true form. The party is forced to face this new challenge, and fight the monstrosity for the fate of the world.

Once Zandig is destroyed, the Emerald Dragon tells Atrushan that it is now time to use Vendidad along with the Emerald Graces, and all six items disintegrate in a burst of energy, causing the resurrection of the Emerald Dragon, and not a moment too soon- killing Zandig has caused the Avesta to go haywire. Over the Emerald Dragon's caution, Tamryn and Atrushan insist on saving the innocent Horus from being destroyed, but the Emerald Dragon helps Tamryn use the Teleposta one last time to bring everyone to safety, and the party watches from a cliff on a nearby mountain as the lost city of the Horus is destroyed by the power of the Avesta. The emerald Dragon, as thanks for their efforts, gives Ishbahn a gift, and makes the western desert green again.

The Emerald Dragon (who is titanic, like the party is standing on a mountainside and are head-level with him) congratulates them on their achievement in defeating Tiridates and breaking the great curse, but that Ishbahn has moved on without dragons, and so he plans to return to Draguria and make it a paradise for the Dragon Tribe. though the Silver Scale was used up, the Emerald Dragon tells Atrushan he can restore his original from and take him back to Draguria. Tamryn moves away and braces for the worst case, but Atrushan tells big green that he would like to remain a human and stay in the human world. He never wants to be so far away from Tamryn that she has to use that horn to call him to her side, and he tells Tamryn that she will never have to be alone again. The Emerald Dragon quietly accepts Atrushan's decision, and Atrushan and Tamryn embrace.

Hathram clears his throat and says they need to return to Ervad, with Farna resigned to that his highness will have to choose a princess. He says it'll be awkward if she doesn't call him by his name when he breaks the news to his father, the king. Sensing that there's going to be a moment, Atrushan and Tamryn decide that whoops, look at the time, we need to get going, Saoshayant decides to see himself out, and the Emerald Dragon just sorta scrunches down behind the mountainside. Hathram tells Farna that what he's been trying to ell her is that he has never really thought of himself as a prince or royalty, and that he has always just thought of himself as himself. He never cared that he was a prince, or that Farna was a commoner, and he doesn't want a princess at all, but rather the person who has been with him all this time- basically he wants what Tamryn and Atrushan have, and Farna is definitely not going to say no to that.

So, that's where it ends. The love between Tamryn and Atrushan has brought about a miracle that saved Ishbahn and destroyed the curse of 2,000 years. Hathram's resolve to live life by his own choices has granted Farna's fondest wish, and Saoshayant, his mission complete, leaves to find adventure elsewhere. The Emerald Dragon muses that it is only right for the children to find their own way in the world, and they will find their path, as now they can face the future without fear, and adds that their adventures may yet be only beginning. And though Atrushan and Tamryn's lives will certainly be brief and fleeting compared to his own, they will be able to find plenty of light and beauty in that, as well.

That's Emerald Dragon, an interesting curiosity. While I've spent the last billion words or so gushing about the game, I know that from a pure critical perspective that this isn't really one of the great classics of the 16-bit era, as it falls short in some areas that other games do masterfully well- there are quite a few other games that have brilliant soundtracks and more varied and interesting gameplay, but even though this game was from an obscure, minor pair of studios, they really, really tried to do their own thing, and I ended up basically binge-playing the game as hard as I could when I got around to giving the game its second try.

The reason I felt that this game is worth mentioning is that the experience taught me that we actually learn more about our preferences from the flawed games that we like rather than the great games that we like, because you have to devote more effort into explaining why. I am sure that there are plenty of modern RPGs which are technically superior in terms of design to Emerald Dragon, but don't really hold any interest for me because I don't feel they do much to capture my imagination. You see, I never owned a Master System, I had Phantasy Star II for original hardware but never gave a hard push towards beating it until recently, and Treasure of the Rudras and Emerald Dragon are fan-translated games, so I have no reason to have any sort of nostalgic attachment to any of these. And people here are already aware of my complaints about Phantasy Star I and II, but I still beat those games, even if it was just the once, because they had something really compelling on the face of it to offer either with their setting or their story that even perfectly-designed games can end up lacking. So while Emerald Dragon is not Chrono Trigger or Earthbound, it still had something compelling enough to offer me to pull me through its entire story.

Or maybe I'm just making too big of a deal of your classic boy-meets-girl, boy-makes-promise-to-girl, boy-keeps-promise-and-fights-king-of-demons story.

You figure it out.

Because that's it, really.


Five Drops in the Desert

Last edited by R-90-2 on Sun Feb 4, '18, 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 3, '18, 6:26 pm 
I read this last night but forgot to comment on it then. Very interesting writing. I have never played this game but you certainly sparked my interest with your writings here. I may have to check this one out sometime. :clap:

PostPosted: Sun Feb 4, '18, 9:17 pm 
Silver_Surfer1 wrote:I read this last night but forgot to comment on it then. Very interesting writing. I have never played this game but you certainly sparked my interest with your writings here. I may have to check this one out sometime. :clap:

Thanks! I'd considered that I may have oversold the game, but while it's not the greatest of games, it is, in some ways, quite unusual.

And going back to other RPGs, I kinda already miss the inn conversations.

 Page 1 of 1  [ 4 posts ] 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

Display posts from previous:
Sort by  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to: