I’ll kick-off with the bad news. I’m not a RPG connoisseur. So, I guess, a whole bunch of people have just pressed ‘back’. Muttering something like “What does he know?” – Well nothing probably but then , hey what has changed? Never mind. Who is left? Not many. It is on the 3DO, so we only had the waifs and strays to begin with anyway. Right? OK.
The only RPGs I have ever played have been Final Fantasy VII, Skies of Arcadia and Paper Mario 2 and these, it should be fair to warn you, are my primary points of reference. And I never actually completed Final Fantasy VII.
Microcabin and Square in 1993 were all part of some alliance called DOG. And every so often while playing Luciennes Quest you get a strong whiff of Final Fantasy. A posing Cactus fire needles at me. Ogre punch. Fighting a box called Mimic. Meteor Storm. Ringing any bells? Perhaps this is just naïve of me – perhaps all RPGs cross pollinate each other but the little dance at the end of each battle had me wondering.
The story, such is the want of these type of games, has you playing a 15 year old female apprentice wizard; Lucienne. Who via some deft use of mystical powers and the greater use of some smoke and mirrors, convinces Ago, the male lead character, into embarking on an adventure and taking her with him.
Plot wise things are revealed in a way that made it enjoyable for me to play. The goal is to initially wreak revenge on the people who have made Ago a Jujin. A Junin being a sort of half beast half human creature but once it’s established that this condition is not actually so bad, and the people who did it to him were not so bad after all, the game moves on to saving the world from the evil Death Shadow. Ago agreeing to remain a Junin until the mission is put to bed.
Progress through the world, admirably, is achieved by helping people. Initially you have to help Miminaga, an early member of your team. He needs to discover that he isn’t a coward. Other missions have you clearing a town of monsters. Rescuing a team member from slavery and capturing a pig like creature that will help you get across the desert. Although these sound exciting and varied what they amount to is battling through a mine or dungeon, killing some nicely varied monsters and ultimately wiping out the end of level boss. Nicely varied monsters, its true but sadly not nicely animated.
From the creepy, Deadful Creepy, to the amusing Takokibandy to the semi-realistic Lesser Dragon. It is just a pity they all seem to be a bit arthritic in the animation department. Each character has about 3 frames of rickety motion. In my opinion, in general, the graphics don’t really exploit the power of the 3DO machine. It’s often said the 3DO multiplayer was a handsome 2D graphics shifter but other than a couple of impressive looking bosses, you never get to see this with Luciennes Quest.
However this eclectic mixture of enemies to chop at is similar to the mix we found in the later FFVII. As per every game I’ve played in this genre, some creatures are more susceptible to different types of magic. There is no obvious clue and I figured it out via trial and error.
Difficulty was targeted at the impatient. A blessing for an Arcade whore like me. I never lost a battle and I think I died once throughout the entire game when fighting an early end-of-level boss. And no matter how much I screwed up my tried and test strategy, the game forgave me. Which meant as far as I was concerned there was more exploration and less re-treading of familiar ground. I liked that. I liked it a lot. I found it enjoyable to play as it was very lenient. I cannot abide some homicidal RPGs that slay you at the drop of hat and have you traipsing around, trying to remember what you had already done. I think it’s confusing and turns the telling of nice little story into a chore.
The battles are strategic. Objects such as trees and boulders litter the battle-field and can be used for cover or later even as projectiles. They also get in the way of your attacks on the enemy. Which magic to use and when was reasonably logical but battles did get a little repetitive. Have Lucienne speed up your team using “Speed” and then have her slowing down your opponents with “Slow”. All the while have your big hitters smashing into your foe and the weaker Lucienne patching them up with “Heal” as necessary. Repetitive? Yes. For the hardcore RPGer? Nope. Did I mind? No. Not at all.
This leads us on nicely to a thorny issue: Random Battles. A somewhat necessary evil of RPGs so it seems. You need skills? You need to level-up? You need money? You need to Random battle. These have to be as balanced as they can, because even with my minimal exposure to the genre, they rapidly become boring. Especially if you have just random battled your way across the map, only to realise you forgotten something. The realisation then hits you. It is that realisation you have to go back. So, through clenched buttocks, snarling teeth and spitting you need to random battle your way back. Luciennes Quest overcomes this kind of scenario by offering you the ability to Teleport. For example: Say you have just battled your way to ‘Hole of Goat’, and then you realise you need the Chief of Mirados’ permission to pass through said hole. All that stands between you and throwing the joypad down in utter rage will be 17 or 18 random battles. Fear not. If you have 60 MP (Magic Points) remaining you can Teleport back to Mirado. What you can’t do is then Teleport back to ‘Hole of Goat’ but it will re-knit your nerves at least in part.
The other feature of Random Battles is their ability to wear you down, and ultimately kill you. It doesn’t take Sun-Tsu to figure out that battling ‘Fluffy’ the mostly harmless goblin 4,000 times will indeed eventually kill you, no matter how weak and puny he is. During the times where random battles can be most irritating, which is on the world map, Luciennes Quest allows you to rest, thus restoring your attributes and allowing you to save. Fool proof. Well – almost.
When you find your team of miscreants in a mine, dungeon or underground area, usually performing a mission, the battles are not random at all. They happen in exactly the same place each time. Is this good or bad? I liked it. Others might not I guess.
If you are looking for a floor to this beginners RPG, then Luciennes’ big let down was the script. It was a bit patchy in my opinion. There are some great moments. For example: During one particular sequence a team member is trying to break open a prison cell. He grunts and groans and puts an enormous amount of effort in. During which he passes wind. It was, at the time, pretty funny. The banter between the team members is actually very good and the personality of the individual characters shines nicely. Sadly, this was ruined sometimes where the script seems to grind to an uncomfortable halt. After completing a necessary mission, you are forced to return to the town elder or leader of a region so you can progress. On more than one occasion this conversation amounted to little more that ‘Cheers, bye then’. This was my biggest gripe with the whole game.
As the game moves-on, you need better weapons, better spells and better armour. All of which can be bought at the various friendly villages. They can also be found or bequeathed upon you by grateful in-game characters or on completion of a quest. It doesn’t take a BSc in RPGs to figure out the economics or what is going on. What I found was that there was a great deal of buying and selling after every boss had been defeated. Weapons aren’t hugely varied but scale nicely and are never unaffordable. Although you will find yourself short on cash from time-to-time and the need to random-battle your cash flow up, however, it was never a huge amount. Some weapons can hit two enemies simultaneously – things like the bow and arrow and the lances. Some weapons are crossed with magic. Although don’t get to excited about this, a Fire Sword is Sword that can either be just a sword or give you the option of using ‘Fire’ magic. They aren’t combined.
Just like Final Fantasy the game is split between looking for the next location by wandering the planes of the map, being in a village or fighting you way through an enemy location to defeat a particular boss and then sequences of story to reveal some more of the plot.
Another element of RPGs, something that is essentially akin to a big plate Okara Nimono for naive RPGers’ is that of ‘Side Quests’. In Luciennes quest, they appear to be entirely missing or so minor you needn’t worry. A quick scamper round the obligatory underground maze, and yes, there are few minor detours to collect extra special weapons or magic but no 40 level chasms of doom to traverse. Which for me at least, was a good thing. Since mid-1998 when I very nearly finished FFVII a single nagging doubt has eaten away at me. A suspicion that approximately £10.00 of my initial £40 outlay on FFVII lies uncompleted. £2.50 of never beating Seproth and £7.50 of Chocobo breeding. Which I would never have done either way.
What else has Luciennes Quest got or not got?
It does have GFs. The ability to summon powerful Gods to give your chosen foe a good kicking. They lack the graphical splendour of Final Fantasy but like I said, so does the rest of the game. Still, summon Earth Spirit and you get a picture of a fat bloke for your MP and effort. Summon the Lightening Spirit and you get a picture of what might be a stylised Snail head. These aren’t so powerful. By the time my characters had gotten into the 40Exp area some of my team could smash into the baddies causing upwards of 600 points of damage, in contrast my GFs could only manage no more that 200. Maybe it’s because I didn’t use my GFs much and their experience didn’t grow but there was no suggestion it could. Some GF would also heal and another acted as a portable shop.
A few things of note was the detail in some of the levels. I liked the way the ‘Towers’ had secret rooms that could only be accessed by moving furniture around. I liked the snow effect on the later levels. I liked the oozing dungeon and the inter-personal conversations between the characters.
Most of all; I liked the lead character – Lucienne. Female and 15 years old, but a pleasant enough character with right amount of courage, girlish charm and personality. She was funny, witty, intelligent, conniving and I liked her. I don’t know how big her chest was. There was no cheat to make her nude. In fact she was little more than 10 x 10 pixels on the screen. Yet she was easily one of best female characters in any game I have played. Lara, Samus and Jade can clear off. Lucienne is the real female role. Only in my opinion of cause.
Finally we reach the key topic and the one that true hardcore RPGer will be begging to know: Value for money. Yep. RPGers may spend more time than is healthy looking for lost jewels in unpronounceable places but at least they are thrifty. Lucienne doesn’t have 120 hours of game-play. But then neither do I. I have friends. Family. A life. Better things to do. …and even a job. Despite the almost unified chant of ‘We want more game-play time’ any game that requires more than 30 hours will find itself relegated to the ‘one-for-ebay’ pile in this house. Luciennes Quest has, about 20 hours. Probably about the time needed to breed a black Chocbo.
Luciennes quest then can be summed up as the quiche eaters RPG. A Role Playing Game for the middle-core. To play it you still need a console that has been obsolete for 10 years and detective powers of MI6 to track it down – The Soft-core need not apply. Yet, it lacks the depth, the longevity and the value for money most dedicated RPG gamers today would demand, but in just over 20 hours I beat it start to finish and I enjoyed every last single minute.
I'd like to know why Kokindo (Luciennes teacher) was with Death Shadow. I'd like to know if Ago had his curse lifted. I'd like to know if there was a sequel...
…but I want to summerise – I need to. I can’t leave it there. OK. It’s not perfect. Yes I know. I did love it. It was the characters. Sure they are clichéd and cheap. And the plot? Well - It’s never going to change the world. However, when the credits had finished rolling up the screen and the word “Fin” appeared, I did feel a hefty twang of sorrow. I admit, I didn’t want it to end. In classic style, it was necessary to switch the machine off – and I choked.
PS: If you are looking for 3DO Kid exclusives below is the only image of Kokindo (Luciennes Wizard teacher) Death Shadow and Death Shadows Dragon and Death Shadows house - just as it crumbles to the ground!