bomba's House Of Flancakes

Posted on Aug 17th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under CRPG, Console, Dungeons and Dragons, Genesis, Warriors, Hidden Gem

It really feels like I've been cranking away at JRPGs for a while now, and I feel like I need a bit of a break, so I decided to turn to my second (and most recent) RPG love: the CRPG.  But what to play?  Ultima VI?  Nope (and for a reason we can discuss another time, if you want).  Witcher 3?  Nah, I don't really want to start anything new (and possible very long). 

So what to do?  Ah, maybe something from my past, something I have already played but largely forgotten, but also I can play on my recently hacked PS Vita.  After a few days it came to me:  Dungeons and Dragons - Warriors of the Eternal Sun (Eternal Sun) for the Sega Genesis!

Eternal Sun is a strange little bird, and I am convinced it could have only happened on consoles during the early to mid 90's.  I like to think that Westwood, seeing the massive wave of Amiga and DOS ports that Electronic Arts published on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive from 1990 on, had very little problems convincing Sega the worth of an original D&D CRPG-style title on their console (Sega published Eternal Sun in both North America and Europe).  At its heart it is an amalgamation of several different contemporary CRPGs (computer role playing games) subgenres rolled into one, controlled with the Genesis/Megadrive three-button instead of a keyboard.  Of course, looking at the developer of the game one should not be too surprised to see Westwood Associates (what would be Westwood Studios), creators of such venerable CRPG classics such as Lands of Lore, the first two Eye of the Beholder games, and the future creator of Order of the Griffin for the Turbografx-16.  Of course I didn't know that at the time (the copyright on the title lists Sega and TSR only) and frankly I didn't care.  This game was an RPG (that much I knew) just wildly different than the atypical JRPGs I had played up until this point. 

Overworld movement, in this case heading back to the castle for a res

Speaking of that, the backdrop of the game comes from an actual D&D setting, that being the Hollow World Campaign Set, which historically speaking wasn't super popular and didn't quite have the legs of some of its predecessors (such as Forgotten Realms, for example).  Created in 1990, Hollow World is set in the interior of the Known World, and features an assortment of wildly different cultures (featuring fantasy analogs for Aztecs, Ancient Greeks, Native Americans and cavemen) alongside elves, dwarves, and not so familiar beastmen and lizardmen (whom I believe are relics from the D&D 1st Edition and AD&D age). The monster collection is very old school, and features dinosaurs alongside dragons, and also cave bears and owlbears.  I had the chance to skim the original Hollow World Campaign Set, and can say with authority that I don't think it did anything to increase my enjoyment of Eternal Sun, as you start out as a stranger in a strange land, so to speak, and know nothing of the long history or culture of the Hollow World.  Personally, I did found it very interesting, though since I no longer game it was nothing more than a nice read.  If you are interested the game isn't super pricey, though I imagine you may have to be adapted if you are playing a newer edition of D&D.  Ahem.  On with the game.

Eternal Sun is a very interesting combo of several different games originating on PC, but simplified to fit a console format.  By all appearances, its gameplay combine simplified versions of Ultima VII's overworld movement, Eye of the Beholder's first person real-time combat, and the turn-based battle system seen in many Gold Box games (such as Pool of Radiance.  The blending of these gameplay types is done very well, and helps turn a game that could feel unusual and awkward into something a person who only plays console RPGs might get into.  It even feels very natural using the Genesis/Megadrive controller, which I think works very well, though certainly there is some room for improvement (such as making dropping and moving inventory more intuitive, for example), though the game will automatically equip the best armor present in the character's inventory, which is actually pretty nice.  As someone who is generally into wanting more control in his video games, I find this "feature" a blessing, as it is one less thing to worry about, considering there is literally no way of knowing which weapons are best for a character class.

Video from IntroVault on YouTube

Eternal Sun starts out during the last ditch effort of a duchy at survival, who have been battling goblin hordes continually for a fortnight.  Beaten down and ready to die in combat, Duke Barrik orders a final assault, when suddenly the ground opens up and swallows whole the castle along with the battling armies (human and goblin).  You awake (oddly enough the castle and the inhabitants survived without damage) in a mysterious valley under an equally mysterious red sun (that doesn't set) knowing you are in a different world.  The Duke, as many wise rulers before him, in an act of desperation decides the best thing for everyone is to send out a party of four first-level characters to bumble around an unknown land in a search for allies.  This is how the game starts.  Not really a huge surprise (given how many other RPGs start off in the same manner), but come on!  I guess it could be worse.  At least the whole intro sequence it pretty cool.

From here is progresses much like any RPG.  You wander around, encountering enemies (and hopefully not dying too much), browsing stores and occasionally buying stuff, and holding very brief, one-sided conversations with NPCs.  While there is an overworld with several locations to visit, for the most part you bounce between the Duke's castle and destinations in the valley, which fairly is big (for the era) but doesn't contain much outside of the places you will have to visit, lots of enemies, and impassable terrain (part of the games MO).  What's very interesting is the effect the world is having on the castles inhabitants.  It is...  Well, let's say it is negative, and progressive throughout the game (contingent on the position of the story, not actual passing time though).  But what could be causing it?  The blazing red sun, or maybe the environment itself?

These guys are weenies fought in first-person.  In third-person all bets are off at any level

After going through notes on my original playthrough and my modern one to compare, I have two main gripes about Eternal Sun/  The first is the tiny amount of help you receive to play the game.  The manual, while containing many vital bits of information, manages to somehow gloss over the fact that you can attack enemies before they attack you!  The same is true about the nice Clue Book, which helps with some of the direction of the game and invaluable at certain times (and some might say necessary), but no amount of strategy will help you figure out the main advantage your group has over your enemies; that being the ability to attack from a distance.  Putting slings in everyone's hands (in the second slot) then pressing the "B" button when sighting an enemy will greatly reduce casualties that would otherwise happen every time your party sees combat.  No joke, I must have played for ten hours back in 199-whatever before I figured that trick out, and I imagine most people (especially in the modern day) wouldn't play more than a couple minutes without that knowledge.

My second gripe is that due to the implemented D&D system makes certain aspects of the game kind of useless.  "Demi-humans" for example (which are represented as classes in Eternal Sun) are "gimped" quite heavily in old school D&D (as Gary Gygax created it) and since this game follows the original rules quite closely (for the most part), thus demi-humans (which are represented in Eternal Sun as the Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling classes) are gimped.  For my modern playthrough I decided on using an Elf instead of another warrior (or cleric), and he constantly trailed the others.  I can't tell you how annoying it is to have an Elf with a Bow +2 and a Dex of 18 miss more than eighty percent of the time with his shots, likely because his experience requirements are so high that he is always at least two levels behind everyone else.  There are plenty of other annoying things about D&D 1st edition (which is basically what Hollow World is) that I originally wrote about in this paragraph, but I think we need to move on (again).

Outside of those two gripes I can honestly say that my time with Eternal Sun was not only enjoyable, but one that I will likely repeat at a later date (this time not exclusively play as a convenient CRPG or to validate nostalgia).  True, memory of this being a very difficult game in the beginning was very correct, but once you figure out a few things it becomes a breeze, and like many CRPGs becomes a matter of "gaming the system" to progress (and quickly too if you know some of the secrets).  After that you are no longer battling your levels and equipment, but rather the challenges of your environment, such as the massive amount of traps in the Azcan Temple, which is literally the only spot in the game where a thief is useful.  And truth be told you won't be doing all that much fighting in the overworld anyway outside of those first few levels.  The real-time combat in the dungeons is very easy mainly because you can "game" it by circling around enemies.  Granted it is a technique to be mastered (basically spacial awareness and the controls) and doesn't work in small rooms, but it is incredibly useful later in the game.

One final thing I would like to mention is the clue book.  Outside of containing a wealth of information that one would expect (spells, stats, and maps), it is written in a way as if it guide was commissioned by Duke Barrick to his Chief Council, Marmillion, to be given to the four heroes so they don't start empty-handed.  It contains information and interviews with several fictional characters (most are not featured in the game itself), and is easily one of my favorite strategy guides.  My favorite parts are from the duke's interrogator, Slyke (whom styles himself The Great Unburdener), who provides the bulk of the maps in the game under the guise of being obtained from "interviews" with "clients," along with some additional flavor text.  Very entertaining, and since I received this when I first played the game (early to mid nineties), it was instrumental in bringing me back to the world portrayed in Eternal Sun.  If you plan on playing I highly recommend picking up the clue book.

Eternal Sun was one of many "shining lights" that was fixed in my gaming past, so that throughout the years when I thought about playing it or randomly came across the clue book while moving things around I would smile, and remember...  Well, I guess remember my initial struggle to understand how the game worked (which was significant) and the burst of endorphins when I finally figured it out.  If you are coming exclusively from a JRPG background this game can be brutal, such as undead enemies that cause level loss (this cannot be fixed except to re-level) and others turn your characters to stone (it is entirely possible to not get the spell that fixes this).
 But man does it feel good when that clarity hits.  And the music.  I didn't mention it before, but Eternal Sun has excellent music, though really only two tracks per area (the "wandering" track and the "battle" track).  But I need to stop, as I feel like I can go on all day about playing this game.

Warriors of the Eternal Sun is only available physically (and will likely remain that way, given how mixed up D&D licensed games can be).  It can be found on popular auction websites CIB for $30 USD or more, and for the most part isn't really selling right now.  Loose (which is how I got my current purchase) is all over the place, from $10 to $40 USD.  The clue book is a little more stable, and be picked up for around $40 USD.  Like I said, if you plan on playing this game I urge you to get this as well, as it (in my case) really added a lot to the experience.

Thanks for reading!

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So I'm an odd ball. So I am usually the last to post on a blog/forum. So I only post about weird games on weird platforms. So I have a strange relationship with commas and parenthesis. So what? Hey, at least you don't have to car pool with me to work, right? So have a heart, eat a blueberry, and don't forget to drop the empties in the box on the way out. I get deposit on those.
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