Review: Rance Quest MagnumPosted 15 March 2012 by Moogy
Rance Quest Magnum
Presented by TADA, the majestic king of the Hannies
All right, I’ve been spending a lot of time working my way through the postgame of Magnum recently so I figured I might as well write a review. This poor blog desperately needs some content anyway, now that teru has abandoned it for the doubtlessly alluring nectar of… whatever it is that teru is doing. Ah well, let us put such trivialities as blaming teru for all that is wrong with the world today aside and proceed to pursue more meaningful discourse, such as determining just how many girls Rance fucks this time around.
For better or worse, this review will be a bit more bulletpoint-y than usual. The Rance series does not have a particularly deep plot full of subtext and underlying thematic elements to analyze, and so I am left to provide increasingly subjective criticism of such crass elements as the gameplay grinding interface and aesthetic presentation. Do bear with me here; I know you all visit my blog daily in hopes of stumbling across some new, utterly insightful analysis of a Japanese porn game no one has ever played, but some days even a genius of fictional scrutiny such as myself needs to afford his mighty brain a rest.
To abruptly transition into concrete information pertaining into the game, Rance Quest Magnum is an expansion to Rance Quest, the eighth game in the Rance timeline (if you don’t count 4.1 and 4.2, anyway). For all intents and purposes, this review covers both games, as Magnum is really more like the definitive edition of Quest, rather than simply an add-on. You see, Quest, though quite fun for fans of the series, disappointed a lot of people due its lack of any really relevant plot tying the events of the game into the saga overall. Sure, you got to meet Reset, Rance’s daughter, and the ending tied into the Helman chapter, but honestly that was really about it. In Magnum, Alicesoft has taken some steps to correct that with an entirely new campaign available after finishing the original game’s. Not only do all the annoying loose ends from the original Quest get tied up, but now Magnum feels like a proper entry in the series with relevant contributions to the setting – unlike the original, which could be said to be more of a fandisc. Sure, it still isn’t a “main” entry like 3, 6, 7, and 9, but I think it fits into the series rather well now and some of the foreshadowing and setting elements in it are definitely going to come into play in a big way later. It also helps that Magnum is roughly two times the length of the original game, assuming you’re crazy like me and want to do all of the content in both – and if you add in the new World 2 and World 3 content, you’re looking at maybe 100+ hours if you want to do everything from scratch. Alicesoft also heavily tweaked many gameplay elements based on user feedback, making the game a lot less of a pain in the ass to play in a lot of regards. I have no real qualms with declaring the system superior to 6′s at this point.
All that said, I really think Alicesoft should have just released Magnum to begin with instead of giving us Quest back in August 2011. They were and still are hot on the heels of Daiteikoku, a major flop, and I think it kind of hurts their brand image to essentially release a game in two parts like this. I did quite enjoy both Quest and Magnum, though, so I’m not going to be all gloom and doom and say Alicesoft is on their way out, at least. To put things in perspective, I actually lost my save data for the original game and ended up playing back through the entirety of the original campaign in Magnum, so that tells you how dedicated I am to the game and series, at least.
Let’s proceed with the review proper after the break.
I’ll be frank and state that I heavily dislike Sengoku Rance’s gameplay for a number of reasons that I won’t bother getting into now. As such, I was quite happy that Alicesoft decided to return to the traditional JRPG style of gameplay seen in Rance 6, my favorite eroge RPG and indeed one of the best RPGs I have played in general for any platform. For people who enjoyed the obtuse and uninviting gameplay of Sengoku, I suppose it’s a step backwards, but I honestly couldn’t be happier with this decision.
The gameplay itself is relatively simple to sum up – take quests from the base camp, go to dungeons from there, and then complete said dungeon while battling random encounters along the way. It’s obviously a bit more complicated than that, but I’d like to set the actual game progression aside for a bit and discuss a particular element, or philosophy, really, that Alicesoft has been bringing to the table in the Rance series since 6 – namely their decision to limit the player’s actions. Fans of Sengoku will be familiar with actions per turn and turn limits on generals in battle, while anyone who has played 6 knows that characters are simply limited to participating in a certain number of battles per dungeon excursion. Alicesoft’s approach in Quest (hereafter referred to as simply 8 for convenience’s sake) is a bit different, but I feel stems from the same fundamental design philosophy – here we have a set number of charges or usages for each and every skill in the game, including basic attack skills. Run out of skill charges on a character and they’re no longer useful as anything but a meat shield.
Early in the game, when you have few characters to use and even fewer charisma points with which to switch them in and out, this forces an almost roguelike approach to each quest, forcing the player to learn the most efficient path through them by retrying them several times each. Later on, once you have a wide selection of characters to choose from and the charisma to facilitate switching them in and out, the game is all about forcing you to balance your usage of characters wisely in order to both actually proceed through the increasingly lengthy individual quests and make sure you’ve still got the resources to tackle whatever bosses await you at the end. 6 is similar in this regard, but I think 8′s huge number of characters facilitates strategy to an even greater extent. Maybe you want to get the Magnum bonus for each quest, so you raise a bunch of attackers who can take the heat and send in multiple teams of them throughout the dungeon – or maybe you just want to get things over with as quickly as possible, so you run through with small parties lead by a Ranger and just run from every encounter. Once you figure out how to work the game efficiently, I think coming up with your own playstyle and deciding which characters to use is a lot of fun.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s your standard JRPG, this time with third person dungeons and first person battles, as opposed to 6′s first person dungeons and third person battles. Due to the game being based around the concept of tackling individual quests, no individual dungeon is terribly long (save for a few endgame ones), so the game generally moves along at a fair clip, which is always good. There’s a lot of text to read throughout the game, sure, but it’s mostly genuinely entertaining in one way or another and, more importantly, you never have to jump through hoops to reach the actual gameplay, which is something most modern console JRPGs get very wrong and that I am glad that eroge brands like Alicesoft and Eushully still get right. Battles themselves also move extremely quickly by default thanks to snappy attack animations and can even be sped up further if one so desires. The fast pace of gameplay and lack of orb grinding as seen in 6 really makes 8 easy to just pick up and play, moreso if you’ve already seen all of the cutscenes… Anyway, I think Alicesoft’s approach to the actual flow of gameplay is top-notch, and there’s never a dull moment even with the huge amount of text as compared to a console RPG.
Nippon Ichi is pretty much the only console RPG developer I know of that’s still making games without worthless forced NPC dialogues, grandiose and slow moving cutscenes, sprawling (and slow to navigate) 3D environments, and other flow-breaking elements that classic JRPGs on the NES/SNES (and even into PSX era, I suppose) never had to deal with – so, like I said earlier, I’m glad that there are people in the eroge industry still willing to carry the torch of efficient and involving gameplay flow. In other words, I am praising the hell out of Rance Quest for moving so quickly at all times and realizing that players don’t want to sit through 5 hour summon animations just to deal with a random encounter. For reference, I’m at 2500 battles on my save at the moment, with only around 60 hours total played. I played through from the beginning and skipped all of the text I had read back in the original last year, but I’d still say those are some pretty decent numbers.
Also worth noting is that the postgame and grinding elements of Magnum are much improved over the original. Unlike 6, there’s no real plot involved with anything after finishing the main scenario, but it’s still good fun to run through the game a few more times with the tweaks Worlds 2 and 3 introduce. The game as a whole I would say is a bit grindier than 6 overall, especially if you’re looking to raise a ton of characters, but if you’re just looking to play through the entirety of both campaigns it’s unlikely you’ll run into any real brick wall enemies except possibly the final boss of Magnum. Battles and dungeons move extremely quickly anyway, so if you do have to grind out a few levels from time to time it’s not really a big deal. That said, the Rance series does have a bit of a propensity for valuing straight up numbers over strategy once you get into battle, so people who want to eke by with a minimum of grinding might have a bit of a tricky time in places. Not to say that there’s only one way to approach any given battle, but the design is a bit oldschool in terms of “We want you to be this level here” in places, which is something I’m fine with personally, since it actually forces you to get your shit together when you’re lagging behind.
There are some elements of the original game’s design that I could complain about, namely the steep difficulty of the early game, but Magnum’s balance fixes and skill tweaking have pretty much eliminated my complaints entirely, which is the reason I’m not afraid to say it’s better than 6 as far as the system goes. Since I don’t want to go too in-depth about the system in a review, I’ll suppose I’ll go ahead and sum up my thoughts on the gameplay here: The snappy flow of Rance Quest combined with the unique strategic element of limited skill charges makes for an irresistible treat for any RPG gamer who enjoys puzzling out the most efficient way to approach gameplay. People who love to sperg out and grind will also find the high-level content mostly satisfying (I personally think 6 is better in this regard), while the oldschool approach to difficulty balance is a welcome change from the hand-holding JRPGs pervading the market nowadays.
Honestly not a lot to talk about here, I don’t feel like spoiling every element of the story so I’ll just say that, unlike Quest, Magnum has a pretty satisfying main scenario and introduces a number of plot elements that will come into play a bit further down the road.
Some people have complained about the writing, since there are some new people on staff now, but I honestly didn’t mind. It reads a bit differently from 6 and Sengoku in places, but it’s the same old Rance we know and love at heart. One of the major draws of 8 is getting to see a ton of characters from throughout the series, and I think Magnum especially succeeds in that front. Plenty of fanservice for fans to the series and the new characters aren’t half-bad either. Or more like, Reset is just damn adorable and every scene with her is the most disgustingly cute thing ever. So yeah, classic Rance humor, all the characters you know and love show up, and the setting even gets expanded a bit. No real complaints here.
It should be noted that this is the main area where 8 lags behind 6 in my opinion, though. 6 is an extremely long and involved game with a fairly lengthy scenario to complement it, whereas 8, though made much longer by the Magnum content, is just not lengthy enough to feel truly epic like 6 did – this is of course not helped by the fact that 6 is a main chapter in the series, but 8 is simply the stopgap between 7 and 9 in terms of plot progression. So yes, 8′s scenario and overall scale may be just a bit disappointing if you were expecting another grand adventure like Kichikuou, 6, and 7, which is, I feel, its one major weakness in the end. That said, the Magnum campaign really does take steps to correct this, so it’s not as bad as it was in the original.
By the way, Sill is still frozen as of the end of the game in Magnum, but she does get briefly unfrozen here, unlike in the original. I know some people have perhaps gotten the wrong impression from some of the CGs in Magnum, so I figured I’d go ahead and make that clear. She likely won’t be unfrozen until 10 at this rate, maybe at the very end of 9, if you ask me. Speaking of which, Magnum also retcons the rather downer ending from the original, which is another plus.
Anyway, not as majestic as Rance’s major adventures, but still a serviceable scenario that I think manages to carve out its own place in the series thanks to the Magnum additions.
Rance Quest heavily utilizes 3D graphics for both dungeon exploration and enemy display in battle, much the same way that Toushin Toshi 3 did. Unlike TT3, however, dungeons are now free-roaming instead of tile-based, which I think is quite a nice change. I was messing around a bit in TT3 the other day and was surprised how restrictive the tile-based movement feels after having played Quest, actually. I must admit that I don’t have much of an eye for 3D graphics, but the models are all generally serviceable for what they’re meant for and the game runs better than TT3 did, so I have no real complaints other than the fact that sprites are no longer being utilized, which is more a sign of the times than anything, I suppose. I do appreciate that map movement uses a chibi 3D representation of Rance and the scale of the maps themselves is roughly what you’d find in a SNES RPG; in other words, dungeons might be 3D, but they’re not the slow-moving 3D which so plagues modern gaming in general. I’d also say the dungeon environments look nicer and are generally more varied than TT3, where everything starts looking the same after about the 1000th dungeon map or so…
As for the 2D art – in a word, brilliant. Orion has evolved to a level which can only be described as “miracle worker.” I really cannot overstate how much I absolutely adore the artstyle and character designs in this game – in fact, I am prepared to state that as far as style and designs go, Rance Quest has my favorite art of any eroge. There might be artists with better composition than Orion out there, but the quality of the character designs in Rance Quest is simply unmatched for me. If it is an eroge’s goal to present its heroines in an attractive manner, than I would have to say that Rance Quest succeeds for me like no other game does in terms of physical appearances; I do believe that I am actually a fan of the majority of the female designs in Rance Quest, which is a ratio I found unthinkable in anything before playing this game. The game is just a pleasure to look at because of how damn great all of the designs are, and I think this goes a long way toward facilitating long-term play for me, at least.
Motherfucking Shade. Enough said. Impossibly hardcore battle themes and crazy smooth dungeon tracks combine to create an OST that won’t embarrass you even among the VGM tops. Shade is by far the best composer working in eroge and Quest is another excellent entry in his catalog – which is something I actually found quite reassuring back when the original came out, since Daiteikoku’s OST is rather lackluster in a lot of ways. Then again, I suppose that describes Daiteikoku as a game in general…
So yeah, up there with Sengoku and TT3 for me. Great stuff, if you’re a fan of any of his previous work you won’t be disappointed. Slice of life tracks aren’t half bad this time either, which is a definite improvement over TT3, heh.
By the way, Shade recently left Alicesoft due to health issues and will be working with them as a freelancer from now on. Here’s to hoping he can both manage to finish out the Rance series and keep his health in check.
As the Rance series is unvoiced, there’s nothing else to discuss in this section. Other than perhaps the fact that Alicesoft went full nostalgia mode this time around and included SNES-style beeps and boops for dialogue text as it scrolls across. Quite amusing if you remember the days when games actually used this technique, but unfortunately rendered ineffectual if you use instant text display like I do. Still a nice little feature.
By the way, if you’re going to complain about a game in 2011-2012 being unvoiced, you don’t understand Rance as a series. Voice just… would not work at all, and I’m glad Alicesoft has enough integrity to stick by their stance of never adding voice to the series.
Rance Quest, and especially Magnum, while not a main entry in the Rance series, more than holds its ground when compared to the big hitters it’s up against (in this case, Kichikuou Rance, Rance VI, and Sengoku Rance, also known as the only other Rance games with decent gameplay) and manages to carve out its own place in the timeline thanks to some well-implemented foreshadowing and one or two major plot developments. The gameplay can also be seen as an essentially more refined take on 6′s approach, and should be more than palatable for anyone who hasn’t forgotten the days when JRPGs were more than just cutscenes and autobattle. Meanwhile, in terms of aesthetics, none of Alicesoft’s other games even come close, imo, but your mileage may vary. Sengoku and TT3 give it a run for its money in terms of soundtrack, at least.
All in all, a very enjoyable game and worthy entry in the Rance series. Given what they’ve been pumping out recently, it’s also definitely Alicesoft’s best game since TT3… which may not be saying a whole lot, but at least that game had a proper system and story, even if the latter was horrible. Here’s to hoping that they continue in this direction and make Pastel Chime 3 and Rance 9 worthwhile too… Or more like, I am really damn excited for Rance 9 after Magnum, so they’d better not fuck it up!
By the way, since it’s very likely that most people reading this have only played Sengoku, if they’ve played a Rance game at all, I’d like to note that 6 should be played before 8 no matter what. I still consider 6 the better game (thus, some people might be inclined to play 8 first), but it’s also a much better introduction to the series than 7 or 8 are, not to mention the fact that the graphics, art, and music are… shall we say, lackluster, compared to 8′s. For someone new to the series, I’d probably recommend playing 6 –> 02改 (remake of 2, not a very good game but worth playing for the amusing text and introduction to several important characters) –> Sengoku –> Quest. Feel free to throw Kichikuou in wherever you want; it’s an alternate what-if scenario branching off from 4 (4.2, really) and covering the entire rest of the timeline. Its gameplay is most similar to Sengoku’s. None of the other games are really much fun to play, either due to being outdated, bad, or both, but they’re also all very short so if there’s an event or character you’re curious about it shouldn’t take more than 5-10 hours to play through one of them. And if you’re curious, major entries in the series released so far are 3 (Leazas), 6 (Zeth), and 7 (JAPAN). I personally hope they remake 3 at some point, like they did with 2, since the highly outdated adventure style interface makes it quite the chore to play through the original now.
Anyway, that about wraps it up for now. Hope I’ve managed to shed some light on a non-Sengoku entry in the series and explain a bit of the direction the series is taking in terms of gameplay. Let me know if you want a review of 6 as well.