This is my second submission to Tasvideos - a classic (in my opinion) Sega Genesis RPG called 'Sorcerer's Kingdom'. This game was originally released back in 1992 by Treco (who, coincidentally enough, published the first game I TASed, 'Warsong').
Total play time, from start to final input, is 1:01:40. For comparison's sake, a full WIP by maTO in the Sega Genesis forum posted a recorded time of 1:25:25. The biggest differences between our runs is the time spent grinding and farming for gold/equipment. I strove throughout to minimize these two aspects, as much as possible.
Aims for fastest time Heavy luck manipulation
This story places you in the role of a young man (named A4326, in-game) whose father, a renowned adventurer named Kanan, failed to return from a quest to destroy an unnamed, ultimate evil power. Desiring to follow in his footsteps, the maturing lad seeks an audience with the King to set out as an adventurer, himself. The game takes place in the Kingdom of Landale, where various areas are being overrun with monsters and evil powers.
Throughout your quest, the King gives you progressive 'titles' as you complete certain events. You start with the rank of 'Adventurer', and eventually earn higher promotions such as 'Fighter', 'Knight', and 'Sword Master'. Such titles grant you (and your future party members) significant increases in HP and other stats, which bring me to the game's...
Somewhat similar to Final Fantasy 2 (NES), Sorcerer's Kingdom's leveling system rewards players by increasing statistics which are actively applied in combat (or passively, in camp) Along with HP and MP, the game's primary statistics are: OFFENSE, STRENGTH, and LUCK.
OFFENSE, basically, determines your ability to successfully hit a target. If your Offense isn't high enough in this game, you won't land a single shot. It don't matter if you have the strongest weapon in the game equipped - all of your hits will strike air, unless your Offense stat is sufficiently trained. I like to think of it as a world-class boxer vs. a guy who can murder a heavy bag, but has never sparred in the ring. The strongman, though more powerful, doesn't have the skill to land any of his shots, while the boxer has all the ability in the world to land punches at will.
By necessity, there are two instances in this game where I grind my offense high enough in order to sufficiently damage bosses. Fortunately, I developed a way to "game the system" a little bit, significantly cutting down my grinding time in the process!
STRENGTH determines the number of hits a character can attempt to land per round, up to a maximum of 10. This creates an aspect of balance in the game; presumably to prevent you from building enough gold early on to purchase higher-end weapons. Sure, you can purchase that 8,000g Halberd any time in the beginning - but you'll only get 1 hit with it in battle (if it even lands!). Strength and HP progress at about half the rate of Offense. However, the cumulative stat boosts given by the titles I receive by the King are more than enough to get me through the entire game.
LUCK, I believe, may affect the critical hit rate. I've never seen it increase in battle, nor do I know of any way to do so. My strategy in this run wasn't dependent on landing consecutive critical hits, so I didn't put much thought into trying to raise it. Even so, I was rarely able to manipulate critical hits in battle. This leads me to speculate that the stat is either naturally low, or more dependent upon the weapon type you have equipped during battle.
As for magic, only max MP is affected by consecutive use. A slightly randomized amount (6-8) is gained each time you spend enough, either in battle or by healing in camp. My spell casters had enough MP throughout the game to prevent having to grind (with just one exception). Magic power is 'fixed', in that each spell has its own damage range, which is only affected by an enemy's magic defense. Lastly, newer spells are granted upon promotion by the King; with the strongest spells wielded only by those with high rank.
I broke Sorcerer's Kingdom's strats down into seven 'Acts', based on when the King of Landale granted you a new title. Here are my stage comments, as follows:
One difference from maTO's WIP is that I decided to buy a Short Sword in the beginning, instead of the Hand Axe. The Short Sword offered higher damage potential (25 ATK x 5 hits) over the Hand Axe's superior power (30 ATK x 3 hits). This benefited me by being able to manipulate one-round kills faster against the Goblins on Wizard's Hill, thus preventing me from taking any damage (and having to heal). There were 16 roaming Goblins in the area that needed to be smashed. I broke this sequence down into seven fights;, to space enemies out far enough apart to prevent from being counterattacked. I collected gold from treasure chests, afterward, to better arm myself for the Kobolds in Lerouk Woods. Monsters hit hard in this game, and every point of defense counts more than you would expect.
Along the way, I also collected potions hidden about as I cut through Crale Village (this game LOVES to hide items). This further prepared me for the first boss battle, while cutting down on unnecessary time spent in a shop. The boss Kobold fight was a big success, as I wasn't sure that my under-leveled (and under-armed) hero could be manipulated into getting a victory. Being able to pull it off was definitely reassuring, and kept me motivation high!
One potion remained from the boss fight, which was used in the next Act in place of an Inn.
Using the Magic Map acts as a teleport spell in this game. Naturally, I use this form of fast-travel as often as I can.
As a kid, I loved watching the Dragon Rock scene play out, as a near-death Elrad fires his last spell at the surrounding group of hell hounds closing in. Just before Elrad submits to this cruel fate, the Hero rushes in to save him, with lightning flashes all around. Intense storytelling. As a small speed/entertainment trade-off, I spent a few extra frames killing off the first hound closest to Elrad (33 frames, total). I wanted to keep the storytelling aspect of this scene intact. I also manipulated the hounds into not using their fireball attacks, saving considerable time.
Yarb Woodlands: Part 1
Before braving the swamps and taking on the Basilisk, I needed two things: Offense and new gear! My first trip was a simple treasure-grab, snatching every (mostly hidden) valuable item to take back with me into town to sell. Along with optimizing movement, I also strove to make all walking routes as entertaining as I could. If it were possible to move within one frame of a monster without initiating a battle, I did it. Creating atmosphere, I believe, is just as important as saving frames in a TAS - provided you're not wasting any time.
New equipment upgrades included Chain Mail, Leather Boots, Leather Gauntlets, and the Armet Helm. This is also the last time I'll ever visit a shop to purchase new equipment.
Yarb Woodlands: Part 2
Now time for grinding! My current Offense was at 511, just enough to have the Basilisk snort and laugh at me. I needed to bring it up to at least 693 to do respectable damage. The Basilisk has 1000 HP, and I wanted to be able to defeat him within 10 rounds. After calculating, I determined that I only needed 14 battles to manipulate enough stat gains to take him on. Unlike runs where the guy just runs back forth to spam the same fight, I strove to add variety by carefully choosing which fights to get into around the swamp (without sacrificing time). For instance, if there was a group of three Trolls ahead, I fought two and left the third just off-screen to engage immediately after. In both cases, I manipulated the number of hits landed, and hits taken, to secure the level-ups I wanted.
This is how you "game the system" in Sorcerer's Kingdom. Generally speaking, OFFENSE, STRENGTH & HP gains are calculated by 1) The total number of rounds you attack, and 2) The total number of rounds an enemy hits you. With this formula in mind, you can manipulate gains faster by intentionally parrying hits, and accumulating attacks by hitting every round for less damage than you're capable of. You can even 'whiff' an attack entirely for 0 damage, and still have it count toward a stat gain! This is actually very similar to how stat gains are abused in Final Fantasy 2.
After finishing, I grabbed the last hidden Mega Potion in the swamp before initiating the boss encounter. From build-up to victory, this carefully constructed sequence took an entire weekend to pull off. My hero took quite a few beatings to figure out the minimal level of Offense needed to win. I'm not proud enough to admit that Basilisk had me a little intimidated, going in :D The fight manipulation went great, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had just enough HP to make it through!
During playtesting, I found out that Elrad is a beast. His spells inflict much more damage than A4326 can currently put out, and he only gets better as he rises in rank. From this point until later in the game, Elrad runs the show. Programming-wise, my only regret is the fact that they didn't include "full-ether" items. Only Magic Potions are available (restores 50 MP). Otherwise, I would have focused even more on building Elrad.
Like Wizard's Hill, the Taurus Plain has a bit of a Goblin problem (upgraded species called Bugbears). 14 total this time around, and they're normally a pain to deal with, even in smaller groups. So it was only natural to manipulate 9 of them on-screen at the same time! Easy pickings with Elrad's Fireball spell, which only cost 20 MP. With 290 max MP at his disposal, Elrad had just enough to fry every last one. A normally frantic battlefield was cleared in just two fights.
No grinding required inside the Serbia Volcano. As always, I made enemy movement as interesting as possible to create atmosphere. Recovering at the Magic Circle before the boss room saved time over staying at an Inn.
Elrad's Silence spell worked wonders in the boss encounter. Naturally, this spell has a lowish success rate - very cool that I was able to mute three targets!. I'm not quite sure how this following exploit works, but I was able to manipulate the remaining Wizard(s) into not acting at all while I fired off spell after spell. It may be some sort of rare AI routine, due to having multiple party members. Either way, this "no-act" exploit only works when casting magic spells.
'Knight' 'Wizard' 'Bishop'
My last two party members (rather unceremoniously) are now joined up. Astina acts as my healer, and becomes invaluable toward the end of the game. Midi tanks a little, while providing a very crucial spell later on. It saves me, literally, at least 6-8 minutes of time grinding!
Pistata Lake is a bit bland. I also thought the musical score wasn't as inspired here, in an otherwise exceptional soundtrack. I did my best again to create interesting scenery by manipulating 'close-call' moments with monster movement.
The boss Hydra normally packs a nasty punch, but I neutralized most of it by manipulating it to attack with its weakest strike routine on Midi. Otherwise, she would've been dead in just a few rounds. Having to revive dead characters costs over 600 frames at the Church back in Landale. It's simply faster, all around, to keep my allies alive.
Elrad's ice-elemental magic made remarkably quick work!
'Sword Master' 'Druid' 'Archbishop' 'Specialist'
I stock up on Magic Potions (approx. 7) to last me through the rest of the game. Using these potions in battle is much faster over the time it would take to grind up Elrad's max MP to fire off more spells.
Speaking of, Elrad finally gets multi-target attack spells! Fireball burns through multiple enemies, and is crucial to winning the next boss encounter. I also uncover a hidden Rune shield (2nd strongest in the game) along the way to boost A4326's defense. Like Pistata Lake, the Ice Cave seemed to be a bit underwhelming in terms of level design and musical score. A shame, really.
Not to contradict my above statement, but I had Elrad grind one fight inside the Ice Cave to boost his max MP a little. This allowed him to launch six consecutive Fireball spells during the boss Yetis fight, with Astina recovering MP with two Magic Potions. The final hit landed on A4326 was rather amusing; something you wouldn't quite expect from a giant snow sloth :D
Afterwards, a key item (Leather) was quickly collected in Argel village before finishing the chapter.
'Hero' 'Warlock' 'Paladin' 'Expert'
Second key item (Lumber) was collected in Crale Village. The leather and lumber are needed in order to create a set of hang-glider wings to fly to the next destination. ...no kidding! At least this game didn't rip off the airship idea. Points for originality.
While navigating through the Ancient King's Ruins, I collected more pieces of the Rune Armor set (Armor, Helm, Greaves), along with the Earth Sword. This is the second strongest weapon in the game, with a base power of 200. Getting this equipment was needed to begin my second session of grinding to prepare for Lich. I needed around 4600 Offense to deal respectable damage, with my current Offense at a paltry 3157. Like in the swamp, I abused every fight in the room before Lich's chamber to maximize my stat gains. Along with the number of hits landed, I also parried a lot to generate two Offense gains, per fight.
Offense gains 'scale' as you increase in power. In this particular case, each individual gain netted me over 60 points of Offense. By abusing the level system, I was able to obtain over 120 points a battle (two stat ups).
During the Lich fight, I took advantage of one of Midi's support spells to reduce grinding time even further. Her Weaken spell, basically, lowers the required amount of Offense needed to hit a target (about 600-700 points, worth). I've estimated that using this saved me around 6-8 minutes of time! The fight, itself, went according to plan, albeit a little longer than I had hoped. Elrad's spells eliminated Lich's cronies, while 13 rounds hitting with the Earth Sword were needed to knock Lich back underground.
'Lord' 'Sage' 'Saint' 'Master'
No more grinding :D About 7400 offense is needed to do manipulate significant damage to the final boss. Midi's Weaken spell, though, brings that total down to A4326's current level of 6682.
Elrad makes quick work of the sub-bosses within Blood Island, nuking enemies with his newly-acquired Explosion spell. I didn't have enough MP on hand to nuke the Gargoyles twice. However, one Magic Potion and two more Spark spells were enough to do them in (which is likely just as fast as using more Magic Potions).
As for the Black Dragon fight, I wanted to make it memorable in its own way. Besides obviously saving time, there's also a reason I strove to keep my party members alive up to this point. Having the fight play out like it did, I believe, added a sense of drama. I again used the "no-act" exploit from the Wizard boss to sneak in a few shots before the old Black Wings could act. Additionally, I had a mysterious streak of RNG luck as I was able to land '777' damage three rounds in a row - in the same frame sequence. ...no idea how this works! Maybe I could've keep it going if I didn't have to heal...
- Experiment with LUCK stat to determine influence on critical hit rate.
- Better RNG is ALWAYS a possibility!
- Better OFFENSE grinding exploitation could save having to fight a battle, or two, in the Swamp.
- Using Silence on Bugbears may cut down on overall battle time.
- Maximizing spell damage RNG in Wizard fight could possibly save a round of combat.
- Equipping Midi's 'Power Gauntlet' would have gave me one more potential hit in combat against Lich, at the expense of lower OFFENSE.
- Not sure if this tradeoff could save time...
- Ditto on the 'Power Gauntlet'. Having an extra hit with the Element Sword might save time, provided grinding the extra battle for OFFENSE doesn't cancel it out.
Sorcerer's Kingdom is a turn-based RPG published by Treco in 1992. In addition to an exceptional soundtrack, the game features a leveling system similar to Final Fantasy 2 (NES), in that your characters gain stats based on the actions they perform in combat. The plot places you in the role of a young man whose renowned father turns up missing after seeking to rid the Kingdom of an ultimate evil power. Desiring to follow in his footsteps, the lad seeks an audience with the King to set out as an adventurer, himself.
Normally, this game requires ample amounts of grinding up your OFFENSE stat in order to damage bosses. ars4326's run minimizes this aspect down to its bare requirements, by using heavy luck manipulation and exploiting the game's leveling system. In doing so, the final boss is slain in just under one hour. Not bad for a day's work!
feos: Accepting and publishing...