Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
An interesting, multi-window approach, which comes into its own during combat. Menus are cumbersome, particularly in the way they present information, giving a simplistic, half-finished feel. The main viewscreen gets very repetitive when you’re travelling - generally, not very exciting.
Continual, ‘mediaeval’ type of tune -quite atmospheric, but let down by unimpressive spot effects.
Plenty of it - the land is huge and the variety of tasks you need to undertake should keep ardent role players going for a long while. There's lots of variables to juggle with when planning strategy and leading your team. Continual combat gets repetitive, though.
A massive task - the will to win should prove strong. However, it's particularly unfriendly at the start, and may be offputting to novice role players. The movement method, which needs the printed map, distracts from play.
An ideal role-playing game for existing fans - or to graduate to when you’ve exhausted Phantasy Star or Ys. Maybe a bit too daunting and complicated for the novice...
Long long ago the Dark Lord Terarin was released from another dimension and terrorised The Five Lands, flooding it with her evil minions. The place was cleaned up by another arch-quester, a chap called Iason, and everything was peaceful and cosy once more.
But Iason didn’t quite finish off the job he started - and now Terarin and her minions are roaming The Five Lands again. As Iason’s descendant, it falls upon you to go a’questing and put paid to the Dark Lord once and for all. Three noble warriors will join your party, adding muscle to your battles - but first they have to be found and re-incarnated.
In the mould of classic, traditional role-playing adventures, the game comes complete with a large printed map of the terrain over which the quest takes place, and to succeed you have to build up your team and work as a group.
(Image caption) Going shopping in one of the many towns that litter the land.
The main display offers your view of events, and is surrounded by a summary of the party’s possessions - Guilders are the hard currency of The Five Lands, Herbs form your post-combat medikit, Fangs are the most common form of negotiable treasure and the team amasses a Character Points rating from combat performance. (The folks who live in the villages you’ll visit are very aware of a chap’s Character and may refuse to have any dealings with adventurers with a low rating.) Readouts on the experience and strength of individual members of the team help you to decide whether to attack or retreat when combat is in the offing.
(Image caption) During a quiet stroll through the mountains you meet this geezer!
Killing monsters usually results in a harvest of fangs which can be converted into Guilders if you can find a merchant in one of the villages; bumping off the odd unfriendly humanoid can earn you hard currency.
Starting out alone and empty-handed, your first task is to find and kill a few easy targets, gather up fangs, convert them to cash and thence to weapons. Build up your own status and bank balance, and you can acquire the items needed to resurrect and equip your companions in arms so that the quest can begin in earnest.
Don’t forget, weapons wear out with use and will need to be repaired or replaced. Keep an eye on the status sub-window which offers a more detailed analysis of the party’s condition. Regular visits to settlements are vital for trade and for picking up clues and advice - and take the opportunity to chat to friendly travellers.
Moving around is achieved in an unusual way. The movement window reveals a square cursor, placed over a small section of the terrain, shown in schematic form. Close attention needs to be paid to the printed map if you are to keep your bearings - and a fair bit of guesswork is needed at first to relate what is shown in the movement window to what is on the map. (It’s well worth making your own additions to the printed map as you go along as well as drawing diagrams of the more complicated mazes and villages.)
And of course there’s plenty of magic in The Five Lands - spells and magical items can be found, bought or won during the quest and an early appreciation of the appropriate uses of magic is worth acquiring.