If you have a lot of experience with video games, it can be easy to figure out the basic mechanics of a game you start up for the first time. But sometimes these assumptions can be used against you. I learned this firsthand when I recently interacted with a devious tanuki in an old-school role-playing game.
The first game took place last week Tengai Makyo Franchise – also known as Far East of Eden outside Japan – received an unofficial English translation. Tengai Makyō: The Wedge debuted in 1989 for the PC Engine CD-ROM² and quickly grew in popularity alongside RPG powerhouses like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest thanks to the extensive voice acting and high-quality music enabled by the console’s CD-ROM format. The series remained a priority for its developer Red Company until 2005 – a 16-year history that saw only one North American release as a fighting game spin-off in 1995 Far East of Eden: Kabuki Clash
Since I’ve always been in the mood for a bit of classic turn-based RPG, I took some time to patch and play it Tengai Makyō: The Wedge over the weekend. The game put me in the role of Ziria, a young boy trained as an heir to the legacy of the legendary Fire Clan in order to resist an ancient evil called Masakado upon his resurrection. The eponymous hero is instructed by his mentor to enlist the help of other Fire Clan descendants, although Ziria is confident that he can defeat Masakado alone and sets off.
I was impressed Tengai Makyō: The WedgeIt’s similar to Dragon Quest, particularly in its first-person combat and use of menu commands to talk to NPCs and explore my surround ings, but I didn’t have much time to delve into the mechanics before I hit on what I considered my own first party member.
While exploring a nearby town, Ziria meets another youth named Kinta, a self-proclaimed “Fire Hero” who has been waiting for our protagonist to arrive and joins the group. A villager notices how similar Ziria and Kinta are, but then simply dismisses it because the boys are distant relatives. Kinta encourages Ziria not to worry about purchasing equipment. Since I was only in there a few minutes Tengai Makyō: The Wedge and I hadn’t made much money on the short trip from Ziria’s home, I assumed it was the game itself telling me I hadn’t bought any new gear. So I followed Kinta’s advice.
Oh, how wrong I was.
After trapping Ziria in a dead end, Kinta reveals himself to be an evil tanuki who advocates for Masakado’s return. He disguised himself as a little boy to ambush our hero. It didn’t take long for Kinta to destroy me in the resulting fight, as I hadn’t previously upgraded Ziria’s equipment, and I felt very foolish for loading an earlier save to correct my mistake. With only a simple longsword in hand and basic armor, Ziria proves to be far too much for Kinta, forcing the false ally to step aside and even provide vital information on how to get past the giant boulder blocking the way to blocked at the front.
Play hundreds of video games over a few decades and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the medium has its own shortcut. We all internalize common mechanisms so much that we soon subconsciously take them for granted in a genre or even in gaming as a whole. Tengai Makyō: The Wedge exploited my assumption that I would have to put in a bit of effort before I could afford better equipment, thereby reinforcing Kinta’s deception. Ziria wasn’t the only one deceived; I also felt like a huge idiot for blindly believing the advice some stranger had given me.
Tengai Makyō: The Wedge Maybe it’s not entirely original or doesn’t measure up to other RPGs of the time, but in that one small moment it taught me to appreciate it in its own way.