Friday, January 11, 2013

Dark Wizard (the end)

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For the few who are curious about how it came about, this Dark Wizard Let's Play was kind of a fluke. Basically, I wanted to play the game again, but decided to involve others in naming the units. People wanted to know how their units were doing, so I decided to make an LP of it.

It started at the Mabinogi World Forum, but I also brought it to the Ragnarok Wisdom Forum. However, the MW forum underwent an upgrade, and many of the users did not stick around after that. Then, the RW forums died completely. After that, I kind of abandoned the idea, but then my friend Rikkuni pushed me to continue it, all the way to the bitter end. So I ended up posting it here, instead. It's a bit sad to think that the original players probably didn't see it, but that's the nature of life, isn't it?

Regardless, I learned a lot (mostly that LPs are hard work. I probably won't be doing something like this again any time soon). I like to think that at least a few people learned about a good old game, too. I mean, Dark Wizard isn't a great game, but it's still fun to me, even though a lot of it is nostalgia. I recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind old-school graphics and who likes strategy games. Since it lacks permadeath that Fire Emblem etc. have, it's not a hard game, either.

For those curious on the technical aspects. I used Fusion364 emulator to play the game. Every time I played, I used the emulator's built-in recorder to record the game, making more or less a video for every in-game turn. Then, I'd convert the video into a lossless avi using Virtualdub and the Lagarith lossless codec, just because seeking using the original encoding is very slow. Then, with the new video, I used Virtualdub, paused on the frame I wanted to capture, and used the "copy frame to keyboard" option (hotkey control +1) and then pasted the frame into whatever image editor and saved the image as a png.

Originally, I had used the emulator's screenshot feature, but it wasn't very efficient since I had to play the game very slowly and often missed taking pictures that I wanted. Taking a video was much better, and, in the end, actually faster since I didn't have to worry about pausing the game while playing it. I could just play the game naturally without worrying about taking screenshots or missing good shots.

Anyway, after I gathered enough screenshots for an update, I used Irfanview's batch processing to remove the black bars that the game has on the top and bottom. Open the batch function in Irfanview (hotkey B), and then select batch conversion, set it to png output, and click the advanced option and choose "auto crop borders" and then run the batch. Irfanview is also useful for batch renaming files. You just reorder them in the "input files" window

After this, I would go through the screenshots again, removing the ones that weren't interesting, or that I forgot why I took a screenshot of it, or that didn't fit all that well into the story. At this point, I also cropped down the dialogue-only images and combined the multi-page dialogues.

Gifs were easy to make with virtualdub. Use the half arrows (tool tip "mark in" and "mark out") to specify the start and end point of the animation. Then Video -> Filters and Add a "null transform" then click "Cropping" and the cropping window pops up. Navigate the video to where the planned animation is, and then drag the window to center on the animation until all you see is what you want to see in your gif. The excess will get cropped off in the formation of the gif. Close out of these windows and make sure your Compression settings is on the default (not Lagarith) and then File -> Export -> Animated gif and presto, you've got a gif.

The gif from Virtualdub tends to have a large filesize, so I used Trout's Gif Optimizer to reduce the filesize.

In making the video clips, I used virtualdub (obviously). I'm not sure if this is the best method, honestly, but I used "mark in" and "mark out" as in making the gif to set the clip I wanted from the main recording, Then I did File -> Start Frame server, saved the file it prompts you to make to the desktop, then drag and dropped this file into zarx264gui program and used the middle option. It then makes the video for you. You can turn off the frame server after it's done. zarx264gui was designed for anime music videos, but I found it worked fine for me.

All these programs are freeware or donationware so you can do it too! It seems complicated but it's really not that hard. I'm not really in the mood to find the links to all the programs, but I hope the name is enough to find them if you're interested.

If you wanted to play Dark Wizard yourself, just google "Dark Wizard Sega" and you should be able to find it from any rom hosts that show up.

I haven't been able to find a game like it. Brigandine on the PSX is vaguely close (emphasis on vaguely. It has hex-based combat, at least). The Battle for Wesnoth looks similar (also hex-based), but I haven't yet played it to make an assessment. The Fire Emblem games are also kind of close (but not hex-based), but I never found myself really liking them. Shining Force are good, too, but have to watch out for the action rpg variants. Fantasy General is also supposed to be close, but like Wesnoth, I've yet to play it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dark Wizard 62

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I reload a save before defeating Velonese and keep him alive until 10 days have passed since the seal on the Jewel of Light was broken.

The only important thing that happens is our Dragon Rider gains his final class change before we defeat him again.

HP +30, Attack +23, Special Attack +41, Defense +1

And when we defeat him, we get a different cutscene of Velonese's defeat. It's amusing, please watch.

And we find ourselves in "God's Castle" facing a dark god.

One last rally speech.

We have no castle to be our base of operations.

Each corner of the castle holds a summoning circle with an already-summoned dragon.

And on the far side awaits Arliman at 1500 HP.

Testing his strength with Blade Storm. Only 1499 to go!

The dragon comes down the next turn, so we send Jim up to block up the summoning circle. If you don't block them by having a unit stand there, Arliman will sometimes summon more dragons through them.

You can place units anywhere -- as long as it's around the leader. Since there's no castle base, unlike other maps, we can move Amon and then place units.

One thing I meant to show off, but forgot, is that there is no MAP or SAVE function here. It's the end. Considering how long this battle can be, it's awful that you can't save at all.

He summoned a Wyvern instead of a dragon in this corner. We haven't seen them since Sheena.

Oh, another thing to note about this map is that archers cannot shoot over walls, nor can you fight units from another side of the wall. I was surprised.

Link, at the bottom there, cannot actually attack that dragon on the other side of the wall. It's fairly well implemented and gave me a bit of trouble -- what do you mean I have to position my archers strategically? -- and it's strange to me that they came up with this for only this one single map that most people won't even see; usually people who play this game are going to beat Velonese without ever using the Jewel of Light.

Anyway, the point of this screenshot was to show that even with 500 HP I'm scared to have Kefkai melee Arliman, so I have the dragon use its eruption breath so that the dark god cannot counterattack him.

Damage isn't bad. Most of our melee units will only be able to do around 20 damage to him. Basically, this is a sand-bagging battle where we just keep wearing him down. In good news, he does not have Mega Restore.

Looks like I made Amon get too close. But we've seen Wind Bolt before so it's not all that scary.

Finally he starts summoning monsters at us. Greater Harpies and Golden Chimeras, and a Cerberus.

I decide to use Fluffy to absorb Arliman's melee counterattack.

And Fluffy barely survives. Yikes!

Kefkai bites the bullet and attacks Arliman. This is what a god looks like.

And yes, the graphics do mess up like that in the game. It's not a problem with the gif. Also note that his HP is set to 999 because the battle screen can't render HP with over 3 digits.

We have Kefkai lead the attack every turn, and keep him alive with Mega Restore.

Over the next few turns he uses magic we've seen before. Hellfire and Ice Blade. We are able to kep ourselves healed up. We do have a lot of priests, after all.

A long and boring battle later, we have him almost down.


A rather evil-looking second form. Dragon Quest-esque, even!

After one turn we can only take off a little over 100 HP. This is going to take a while.

Instead of relying on pitiful magic, he decides to murder us outright with his melee. Vespera is just the first of many.

In her spot, he places an easily-defeated chimera.

Then he murders the unit I put there. Uh, at least Andrew is not needed to beat him.

The menu bugs out a little. We've worn him down this much.

RIP Bubba.

Another chimera. Ad infinitum.

Sorry, Sairek.

Even a fully-healed dragon cannot tank him.

Absurdly, Link CAN tank him.

This is it. The turn we can defeat him in.

(Please don't have a third form, please don't have a third form)

He had a heart attack.

Then, we get one last cutscene for Arliman's death.

Then the game plays the normal ending cutscene (Andrew vs. Amon) and the credits roll.

Next: Maybe some closing thoughts or a look at our end-of-game unit roster.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dark Wizard 61

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The next region is so straightforward that we did not bother to commission a map.

Some heated words were exchanged.

The battle starts with a righteous bang.

Beyond that, this battle is fairly boring, so you'll have to forgive me if I gloss over the combat. You've seen it all by now, anyway.

The ruins of castles litter the landscape. Nothing of value was found inside any of them.

Days later, we find ourselves in a barren wasteland. The terrain serves Velonese little advantage, since his troops are slowed down just as much as ours.

As we approach, Velonese brings his magic to bear.

His own men are not safe from his wrath.

Akatzki has proven his skill with a bow.

And our skeleton has grown in strength, too.

For what it's worth...

We knock Velonese down to about half and then unleash our best on him.

Why stop there? Let's just go. To the end!

I think the enemy's threats would have more meaning if he'd cut it short.

(click to enlarge)

We took the time to commission a map, this time. Velonese is on a small island, accessible only by a small bridge on its eastern side. We'll have to make our way all the way around the island, and fight our way across this bridge.

Velonese immediately casts magic.

He revived one of his demon generals, Aqua. Our pitched fight with him seems so long ago now. I can barely remember it.

250 HP? He'll be no threat at all to us.

We send our liches out ahead, paralyzing everything in their path. It will make to going easier for our warriors following in their wake.

Then, our king stops to contemplate the beauty of the Jewel of Light and Sabrina's majesty.

I put up a video of this conversation, but it's rather boring. Watch it only if you want to hear Sabrina's voice acting. It's not hilariously bad, like Velonese's is. I've put the conversation below.

She recognizes Amon's vampire-ness immediately.

In effect, we have 10 days (40 turns) to finish this map in. If we don't, well, it's not game over, but ... well, we'll see!

We're making our way down the coast.

Until we reach the bridge. This is it, Velonese's last stand!

It really is a pitched battle here. I send in Link because he can sometimes Critical Hit like this to instantly kill an opponent, allowing us to replace the defeated enemy and make progress. He defeats the Death Dragon, but the little Wyrm next to him still blocks the path, so actually my plan failed and no one can move in.

Basically, to get past the bridge, move up all your ranged units and also your magic users who have high ranged spells. Meteor is a god-send here; its range is 5 hexes.

When the path is finally open, flying units like Vespera can pile up in there, effectively trapping Velonese's units on the island.

Boxxy's flight is very useful here. Too bad his damage sucks (relatively) on the dragons. He's pretty good vs. the skeletons though.

I had put Bob in there the previous turn just to block the path, and fortunately he survived.

This is the one battle where the MER SHIP item is useful. I had given it to Euld so now he can move on water, allowing me room for another land-based unit to take his spot.

Susan's undead-ness gives her the same advantage.

Enemy skeleton has 131 HP.


There is no getting offa this train you're on, Link. Don't die, please.

This is also the battle where the dragon rider shines. His damage is extreme against enemy dragons, which is all that Velonese summons by now. As you see, by the end of this turn, we've made some progress.

What? When did he resurect Karmak? I honestly wasn't paying attention. Still, his tanky 600 HP gave us only a little trouble. By now, I have so many ranged attackers and magic users piled around the island that we can easily dispatch him.

Link isn't doing so hot, so we Mega Restore him. Cheap, yes, but it's not like the enemy doesn't do the same.

We stuff Andrew into the only available spot. I'm a little worried for him since he has less than 200 HP.

But the enemy has his eyes on someone else. Meteor hits very hard on Susan since she is undead, so I'll have to heal her.

Or maybe I should heal Firehaze. The enemy dragons have done a number on him. This feels like the only battle it pays to have (undead) dragons on.

And now that we're too close to Velonese, he begins to use magic, and this time with some precision.

So many tanky dragons aargh!

But now that we're broached the island, it's obviously not hard to take them down. Aqua, of course, went down without a hitch.

You'll have to try harder than that, son.

We spend the day knocking Velonese to about half HP. And then, of course, take him out.

There's no dialogue: the game goes immediately into a cutscene and then the ending credits. Enjoy!

Next: But what if we took more than 10 days...?

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