Game 347: Mirai (1987)

From The CRPG Addict


I believe these characters translate literally as “not yet come,” which is as good as any way to say “the future.”

     

Mirai

Japan

Xain (developer and publisher)
Released 1987* for PC-88, PC-98, MSX, and Sharp X1

Date Started: 13 November 2019
Date Ended: 17 November 2019
Total Hours: 6
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard (3.5/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at time of posting: (to come later)
*Various sites have Mirai‘s releases between 1985 and 1987. I’m persuaded that its earliest release was probably 1987 for the PC-88; some of the other platforms may have followed in subsequent years.
       
When I was compiling my master list, I rejected from the main list any Japanese game that didn’t originally receive a western release. This was because I assumed that everything in the game would be in Japanese, and that it would therefore take me too long to translate the text, given that (unlike, say, German or French) I can’t even type the characters into a translation tool. Yes, I realize it’s possible to use some tools by taking pictures or even scanning over the screen, but none of these are fast or accurate enough to make gameplay truly possible. I tried with The Dragon & Princess (1982) but ultimately couldn’t get anywhere without a full translation from helpful commenters.
However, I didn’t count on the fact that a number of early JRPGs were in English, or at least mostly so, even in their original Japanese releases. We’ve had some speculation as to why this was true, but nothing that’s ever fully satisfied me. Whatever the reason, I’ve been slowly re-investigating some of the titles originally rejected, to see if they are in fact playable in English. Mirai was one of those that made the cut, and it recently came up in a more-or-less random sort of my backlog.
The title means “future” in Japanese, which is why it is also the name of a Toyota hybrid sedan and a 2018 animated film about a time traveler. Several sites have translated the backstory that scrolls up the screen in katakana: It is the year 720 in the space era. Because of the destruction of the Earth’s environment, humanity is seeking other planets to which to emigrate. Seven planets have been identified in the “Reinbow Nebula,” but they are swarming with ferocious aliens. (These aliens are totally not just protecting their home.) Enter the protagonist, a legendary soldier, with his jetpack and power armor.
        

The game’s primary RPG credentials are found in its inventory.

           

Mirai is a side-scrolling action RPG. The player begins on Planet 1 with 200 energy, 100 fuel, and 100 cash. The joystick moves the player around, including up and down, expending fuel with every move. Energy is like hit points–when enemies attack, it depletes–but it also serves as an emergency fuel reserve.

Enemies start swarming from the game’s opening seconds, and they vary in lethality, durability, and patterns of movement. Mostly they damage you by hitting you directly, though a small number are capable of firing missile weapons. There are frog-like aliens that seem to move around randomly, colorful ships that always attack in a line, making them hard to avoid, and little flying saucers that like to swarm the moment you enter a tight corridor. You have to be quick on both the trigger and the movement keys. As with the recent Deadly Towers, once you fire your weapon, you can’t fire again until it hits something or the missiles clear the screen, so it’s important to time your fire carefully.
          

Grinding outside a warp center.

           
Killing enemies increases both experience and the “Shoot P” statistic. Each jetpack level has a “warp center.” Finding it is a priority. There, you can change your “Shoot P” numbers for cash, then spend cash on fuel and energy (which are relatively cheap), weapon upgrades, and special items. After some grinding on the first level, I went from a “Beam” weapon to a more powerful “Needle” weapon to a “Triple” blaster that shoots three shots in a spread every time you fire.

There are also special items to purchase. I don’t know what some of them do. “U_Jump” allows you better jumps on underground levels (more in a second); “P_Barr” creates a defensive barrier temporarily; “P_Hour” stops time for enemies temporarily. The ones I’ve figured out are useful enough that there’s a real incentive to grind for cash.
           

“M_Scan” makes a little minimap of the level.

         
The warp centers are also the only places to save the game. It costs 80 credits to save. I like the idea of having to pay in-game currency to save. Only a few titles have implemented such a system so far.
        

Having to pay to save means the player is encouraged not to save-scum.

       
Levels have occasional boss creatures. When they appear, their names show up in the lower-right screen along with their hit points. On the first level, they were flowery things called “B_ameda” that were able to shoot missiles. (Some of you Japanese-English experts tell me what all the underscores are supposed to signify.) They were also immune to the starting “Beam” weapon, so I had to upgrade before I could kill them.
          

Shooting the “B_ameda” with the triple blaster.

         
Killing boss creatures is necessary to activate various portals between areas of each level. Once you pass through a portal from a jetpack area, you find yourself in an “underground” area where gameplay is very different. Instead of flying around with a jetpack, you walk around, and instead of shooting enemies, you punch and kick them. It looks to me like you’re playing a female in these areas, too, although I’m not sure how that squares with the backstory.
          

Near a portal to the other half of the level.

          
You move around by climbing ladders and jumping from platform to platform, and the rules of both are different in Mirai than any other platformer I’ve played. You can’t grab ladders in the air, for instance. The only way to use them is to start climbing on them from the bottom. When jumping you can move latterly a little distance in the air, but not very much. It’s frankly hard to nail down the specific rules.
          

Climbing a ladder, although it looks more like a vine.

         
In the underground areas, all creatures are “boss” creatures, and there are only a few per level. The first one I played featured monstrous mushrooms called “Blueka” and beholder-like blobs “Dminga.” A later area had something I can’t even describe called “Norm” and little round balls with teeth called “goblins.” To fight them without losing too much health, you have to time your approach carefully, trying to punch or kick them from the rear before they have time to react. There are no warp stations in the underground areas, so you need a stock of good gear from the jetpack levels.
          

The freaky “Dminga.”

        
There are places where you can get stuck, unable to jump out unless you have one of the “u_jump” items from the store. These effectively double the height you can jump but also seem to make your jumps more maneuverable.

Eventually, after you’ve passed through enough portals, you meet the level boss. Special items don’t seem to work in his presence, so defeating him is a long process of learning his patterns, hitting him while his back is turned, and using jumps to avoid his missiles.
            

The level boss kills me as I take this screenshot.

          
Once I defeated the first boss, I found myself on the second planet. It also proved to be a trade-off between jetpack areas and walking areas, with different enemies and different bosses. Eventually, I got stuck in a small area that has a warp center but otherwise no exits. I thought maybe I’m supposed to grind here until I get enough money for one of the “U_Teleport” devices, but this warp center doesn’t sell items. Unfortunately, I saved over the only save slot at this warp center.
       

This warp center has suit shops, but I’m low on cash.

        
Even if there was a way to proceed, it took me about 6 hours (with quite a bit of reloading; I’m not good at action games) to reach this point, and it’s hard to see spending another 36 hours, assuming that each planet takes the same amount of time. One level, one boss sounds about right for a side-scrolling action game that barely achieves RPG status.
          

Micro-bosses on Level 2 are “beetles.”

      
If you’re curious about the end you can see a one-hour LP of the MSX version done by someone who cheated with maximum power-ups at the very beginning and had a map. The levels get more elaborate, the enemies more numerous and quicker, the bosses tougher, but the game remains fundamentally the same. The final boss is named Kariguls. Unfortunately, the conclusion in this particular video is in unpunctuated, poorly-translated English.
           

The hardness of the world the seven two one cosmic century the war of aggression at Reinbow Nebula was brought to the end as a result of an increase in population many war had been over again I think you had a hard time of it in the case human forecast the future feel uneasy and cherish a desire but hope love and peace I wish you happiness.

             
Glad we cleared up. On the GIMLET, I give it:
          

  • 1 point for a bare minimum game world, including a framing story that isn’t well-referenced in-game (who is the woman?)
  • 1 point for the most minor kind of character development with no character creation.
  • 0 points for no NPCs
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. I like how JRPGs often feature boss-level creatures that force you to adjust tactics on the fly, but the implementation of that system is at its most basic here.

           

The female hero fights a “mool” on Level 2.

       

  • 2 points for magic and combat. There are some minor tactical considerations in combat.
  • 3 points for equipment, its most developed RPG area.

         

I never figured out the use for some of these items.

        

  • 3 points for an economy that works well, rewarding grinding and conservation of funds.
  • 2 points for a man quest.
  • 1 point for a barely-acceptable interface, mediocre graphics and sound, and sluggish keys.
  • 0 points for gameplay. This is a highly subjective category, but there wasn’t really anything I liked about it. Far too linear, far too large for its limited content, and by the second level it was already getting too hard.

         
That gives us a final score of 15. I doubt even players who like side-scrolling action games would find a lot of value in this one. As for me, it’s probably my least-favorite sub-genre, and I’m going to want to see a lot more RPG and story elements (like Nihon Falcom’s Sorcerian from the same year) before I invest any more time in one.
            

This ain’t no soft action RPG.

         
Xain, also known as Zainsoft and Sein-Soft, published only a handful of games in its short history in the late 1980s. It is best known for Tritorn (1985) and its two sequels, which are also on my backlist and are also side-scrolling platformers. The company’s last title, 1990’s Valusa no Fukushū, is also a side-scrolling action game, but I don’t think I’d call it a “platformer” anymore.

Although side-scrolling action with platform elements isn’t what most players would later think of as “JRPGs,” it’s notable how many early Japanese entries featured these characteristics. The earliest was perhaps Xanadu: Dragon Slayer 2 (1985), although there are quite a few 1984/1985 games I haven’t yet investigated. Later ones include Sorcerian (1987), Zeliard (1987), Castlevania II (1987), The Scheme (1988), and parts of Zelda II (1988). The sub-genre is virtually unknown outside of Japan. But of course Japan had also led the way with non-RPG platformers (Donkey Kong, 1981) and side-scrolling platformers (Jump Bug, 1981, and most notably Super Mario Bros., 1985). It makes sense that some developers in that country would try to attach RPG elements to a successful template.



Original URL: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2019/11/game-347-mirai-1987.html