The secret best RPG of February 2009…

…is, ironically, the one we’re not covering on our RPG blog. That’s because we’ve already talked about it on our retro gaming blog, you see.

I’m nearing the end of my journey through the Guadia Quest portion of Retro Game Challenge, and it’s been pretty amazing. If this had been a real RPG back in the NES days, the Guadia series would be a fondly-beloved B-tier RPG series on the level of Breath of Fire or Phantasy Star — OK, it’s not entirely fair to call Phantasy Star B-tier, but I figure when a series hasn’t seen an update to its original format in 15 years, it automatically gets demoted. Of course, Guadia Quest wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it is if it had been made 20 years ago; a good portion of its success is the result of having two decades and four generations of RPG design to draw upon. Like the rest of the titles in Game Center CX, Guadia Quest is very convincingly 8-bit until you start paying attention to the little details and remember that no console RPG back then let you save anywhere or gave you spells to double your walking speed in dungeons or let you level up so quickly or dispensed most of your equipment for free or….

Anyway, having poured more hours into this game (sub-game?) than was necessarily healthy this weekend, I’m really impressed by Guadia Quest. The creators took Dragon Quest II as an obvious point of inspiration, but aside from the basic similarities — the three-character party, the fonts, the turn-based battle system in which enemies are grouped together — the two games aren’t actually that much alike. Guadia Quest is almost more of a dungeon crawl, with a very small number of utterly enormous dungeons to expore. They have numerous floors, maze elements, backtracking, hidden secrets, and ultimately boil down to a test of endurance: can you make it to the boss before you run out of difficult-to-replenish magic points? Kinda like Etrian Odyssey, actually.

It also has a graveyard duck, so that’s cool.

I compared the monster-taming element to Megami Tensei, but that’s not entirely correct. You can only have a single companion at any given time, and they amount to a single powerful but unreliable extra party member that occasionally steps in to contribute to the battle — though not always the way you want. Still, they’re pretty handy. They never go more than four turns without taking an action, so even in those unhappy occasions where your entire party is put to sleep and takes a defenseless pounding your companion monster will eventually turn the tide of battle. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lose, just that you get to tuck an extra weapon into your arsenal.

The sequel in the upcoming Retro Game Challenge 2, Guadia Quest Saga, is apparently supposed to be taken from a Game Boy Color equivalent, which I suppose would make it Dragon Quest Monsters. Apparently it allows multiple monster companions that may be swapped with friends (whether that’s real friends or imaginary, I’m not entirely certain). And that is why I need you to buy Retro Game Challenge tomorrow: I need to play this sequel. OK? Don’t let me down. I’m counting on you.

17 thoughts on “The secret best RPG of February 2009…

  1. I’ve got a stack of games a mile high and probably should be paying off those student loans, but…I’ll do it. You win, RGC.

  2. I’d love to help but, unfortunately, it looks like us European retro gamers are being left out of the party yet again. =(

  3. Jeez, three posts from Parish in a row, what is it, Christmas?

    Can’t wait to try out Retro Gaming Challenge.

  4. Actually, the original Phantasy Star DID allow you to save anywhere. Also, is this actually out already? Such a shame how the most interesting games never get properly hyped. Time to cash in this gift certificate.

  5. Positronic Brain: Don’t worry, I’ve imported. Given the usual way things works, that means a European release will be announced in short order (Happened with Animal Crossing, happened with Guitar Hero, happened with Etrian Odyssey…).

    Hopefully it’ll turn up by the weekend so I won’t be stuck too far behind the Fun Club.

  6. Yeah…. ok. You win again. This is looking more than awesome enough to overcome my disturbing DS backlog. I’ll have to pick it up next time I’m passing the game store.

  7. I’m planning on grabbing this tomorrow (and holding off on DQV :( Oh well.) Hopefully between the Gamestop or Gamecrazy in my town someone will have it for the correct price (Best Buy is trying to sell the game for $40 on its website)

  8. I wouldn’t call Breath of Fire B-tier either, but to each their own. Looking forward to Wednesday, in any case.

  9. I was planning on devoting all of my upcoming gaming time on DQV, but this game beckons me as well. Maybe I can justify getting both because this game plays well in little spurts that will break up DQV’s RPGness?

    That’s what I’m going with.

  10. The monster training from what you describe sounds a lot like Lufia 2. I’m really excited for this!

  11. Hey Parish, from your review over at 1up…
    “Namco Bandai actually went to the trouble of creating eight new games authentically styled after famous NES hits”
    No they didn’t, the game was developed by Indies Zero. Likewise:
    “Developer: Namco Bandai”
    You should probably change that to give proper credit to the actual developers of the game.

  12. It’s a Namco Bandai (Bandai Namco, whatever) production, which invariably means the high-level decisions like that were their call.

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