Name: Guren (86.67% in 15 votes)
Release date: 1999
Reviewed by: Wingzero
After several major delays, Zone's latest offering (forth by my count) Guren was finally released in November of 99 (for some unknown reasons, Zone call this as their third game; whatever happened to Youju Ranbu 1?). For those of you who have played Asgaldh, you can probably understand the anticipation that has been going on for this game.
The story took place in a peaceful nation in ancient Japan. Due to some unknown reasons, abnormal entities known as "Ghost" have been roaming around towns and villages, killing innocent lives right after the sudden death of the general in charge (military government was common at that period). The new general, hoping to restore peace to the nation; has formed a secret organization known as Guren to battle against these ghosts.
During the prologue, you "the player" and your female partner Tuki (she was your senpai and had saved you once in a forest when you were a kid) ran into a huge ghost. Unfortunately, Tuki was fatally wounded and asked you to leave everything to her and escape in order to save the battle for another day. The mission was clear, you were ordered by the head of Guren to travel around towns and villages in order to seek out other Guren team members (all female of course) to join you in your quest to bring an end to the recent ghost rampages.
From this point on, the game is then divided into two sections:
2) love and training simulation.
Unlike traditional RPG, the game was sub-divided into 18 episodes (much like Studio e.go!, you will know what I mean later; and IMHO, that's not good for a hard core RPG fan). During the first five episodes, you are to seek out your party members: Haruka, Akane, Ayano, Misaki and Kureha. The story would develop from that point on and you would soon find out who the culprit really is and the shocking truth about the recent ghost rampage incidents. In the following episodes, you are to explore the region (usually contain a small village and forest, "no more huge map to explore"?!!) and to resolve the ghost problem within the area. In the forest map, you are to fight the monsters and get money. The battle system is essentially the same as it was in Asgaldh (meaning majority of the monsters are female and you know what will happen after you defeat them). However, no experience points can be gain through fighting monsters. New skills and power up must be done in the simulation part of the game. In the village map, you can talk to the people in town and gather information. You can also talk to the Guren agent in town where he could teleport you back to the secret village of Guren where you can start the training and love simulation part of the game.
Inside the secret village of Guren, you and your party members can enter the secret training hall where your party can get training sessions such as weapon, physical and magic (you have to pay for it of course and that's where your money will go) in order to gain physical strength and acquire new skills. The success/failure rate of each training sessions is based on the fatigue level of your character, so your party will have to get some rest if the fatigue level is high (and that too will cost $$). If you are running low in cash, you can choose to do part time job in order to gain additional training fund (however, it will raise your fatigue level). Other than training and rest, you can also choose to talk to your party or to give present (rare treasures) to the girls you like. If the love index of the girl is high enough; it will trigger specific side episodes with respect to the girl where you can sit back and watch a short story between you and her.
Now, time for a more in depth analysis (or a comparison with respect to Asgaldh) of some of the major components of the game (I felt obligated to do this because I don't want to just give out a top-level review which can be misleading). The CG work, character design, music and sound effect are pretty much the same as Asgaldh, no dramatic improvement (which can be either good or bad based on individual preferences). Despite the fact that the battle system is identical to the previous game, the enemy encounter rate has been fixed. The battles are also more challenging (unlike the previous game). Plus there are only two versions of patches, after that, it's almost bug free even if you play that in English Windows. The only thing that really bother me is this episode based RPG side of the game; it is way too easy to miss certain events, no more huge map to explore...sigh. For a hard core RPG fan like myself (self acclaimed), I just couldn't give the RPG side a good rating.
The level of Japanese required to play this game is not high at all; because most of the episodes are relatively short and straight forward (it's actually hard to get stuck in the game). If you look at the credit, you should be able to notice that Studio e.go! is on the credit list!
Despite the draw back for the game, I would still recommend this game to anyone who want to play their first Japanese H-RPG and those of you who wouldn't mind spending 20+ hours to look at some high quality H-CGs
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