Welcome to -- RETRO GAME DAISUKI ! -- a blog about the wonderful world of Japanese retro video games (ARCADE / PC-88 / X68K / MEGA DRIVE / SATURN / PlayStation / PC-ENGINE). Re-live the strangest games from the 80's and 90's. Retro games were our youth!
Author : HERZOG
-- Playing video games since the 80's ! --
Still trying to translate all the posts from my old blog. Please see this post for more info.
Also, please excuse any grammar and any other related errors you may find on this blog, as English is not my first language.
As the chosen hero of the boddhisattva AKASAGARBHA - You must embark on a crusade to recover the stolen ashes of Buddha and bring peace once again to the holy land of Gandhara.
● Title: ガンダーラ -仏陀の聖戦- ● Genre: Action・RPG ● Release Date: 1987.05 ● Developer: ENIX ● Publisher: ENIX ● Media: 5" 2D Floppy Disk x2 ● System Specific: PC-8801 Series
GANDHARA is a top-down perspective Action RPG developed by ENIX. Although the game itself is a fairly conventional and old-fashioned Action RPG. Its premise is rather unique, as it revolves around Buddhist mythology, a theme very rarely used in video games.
In GANDHARA the player assumes the role of a wandering hero named 「SITTHARU」(or however the player might wish to rename him). One day while traveling SITTHARU came across a knight of Gandhara who had been mortally wounded in battle.
Before succumbing to his wounds, the knight tells SITTHARU that he was part of a crusade sent to recover the ashes of Buddha. These ashes - whose power has long protected the holy kingdom of Gandhara - have been stolen by the 「DEMON KING」who surprisingly had been resurrected.
SITTHARU promises the brave knight that he will carry on the crusade on his honor. And after giving the knight a proper burial, he sets off to make good on his promise.
GANDHARA is a pretty straightforward ARPG that focuses on combat and exploration. At the time of its release the game seen as a very console-fashioned ARPG due to its simple and accessible design.
The player's character has a set of 3 different basic actions. You can attack with your sword. You can defend against enemy projectiles with your shield. And you also have a ring enchanted with 「Houriki」 (Buddhist magic or power) element.
The reach of your sword attack is ridiculously short, though. Which leads me to believe that maybe the programmers originally intented to use the traditional 「pushing into enemies」attack style of PC ARPGs, but ended up deciding against it for some reason.
Originally, this peculiar design was conceived to make these types of games easier to play with only the keyboard, as joypads didn't really become mainstream among PC players until the late 80's -- And a matter of fact, the original PC-88 version of GANDHARA lacks joypad support, which is somewhat ironic. --
That said, the game plays does play just fine as it is. But I think things could have been a bit more dynamic if you could attack simply by pushing towards the enemy, rather than by being forced to stop and and attack with the extremely short reach of your sword.
Of course the most praiseworthy aspect of the game isn't the gameplay, but the graphics, which are actually quite good considering the limited hardware capacites of the PC-88.
The colorful anime-styled graphics in GANDHARA have a certain DRAGON QUEST vibe to them, although the game wasn't illustrated by AKIRA TORIYAMA but by former ENIX collaborator TADACHI MAKIMURA, whom at time was also working for the PC game & variety magazine 「POPCOM」.
The game's music was done by the renown composer KOICHI SUGIYAMA. Although, personally, I wouldn't say that this is one of his best works. The BGM tracks are just too short for my liking.
GANDHARA was released on pretty much all of the Japanese PC platforms of the time. And while the game's overall graphical quality remains the same across all versions, the screen scrolling is a different matter.
As usual the MSX2 version gives out the worst performance, as even accessing the status screen feels aggravatingly sluggish. The PC-88 is basically standard version, while the X1 and FM77AV versions (and probably the PC-98 one too, though I haven't tested it myself) have noticeably smoother scrolling and less screen tearing issues.
But as good-looking and accessible as the game is, it does have one relevant downside, however. And that is that it can be a monumental grindfest.
It's not that the game is hard, mind you. Quite the contrary, I think the game is rather easy. The problem in this case has more to do with the lack of equipable healing items.
There are only two ways to restore your HP in the game. The first one is by meditating under any of the bodhi trees scattered around the field. This action will completely restore you HP at the cost of 100 beads (your currency in the game).
The second way is through random enemy drops. Unfortunately, these item drops will only restore a small amount of your HP, so trying to fully recover your HP this way can be a very time-consuming grindfest on its own.
So basically, in order to survive the arduous trip from the nearliest bodhi tree and all the way to the dungeon boss - whom you obviously will need to beat afterwards - you will need to spend a lot of time level grinding until you have enough HP to make the task doable.
Luckily, the game allows you to save and load data at any time, so you can quit and resume your progress whenever you feel like it.
Those willing to cope with a couple of minor questionable design choices, as well the rather slow flow of the adventure, will no doubt find GANDHARA to be a fun and interesting traditional ARPG.
Its simple gameplay mechanics, charming graphics, and its Buddhist mythology based storyline, definitely make of it an ARPG worth checking out for genre enthusiasts.