Ken to Mahou / Sword & Sorcery (Dark Age of JRPGs)

Ken to Mahou (剣と魔法) / Sword & Sorcery - PC-80, PC-88, FM-7 (1983)

Last week I didn’t get to do another entry unfortunately (although I technically didn’t announce this as a weekly column anyway), and this one is rather brief as well, as we have another rather impenetrable game at hand. The Japanese title for Koei’s next contribution to the genre is literally translated from the term “Sword & Sorcery,” and that’s what it also says on the title screen of some versions.
Once again the player controls only a single character, but this time one gets to chose from a range of predefined archetypes. Pictured is the PC-80 version, which builds its graphics entirely with the computer’s text character set. The PC-88 and FM-7 versions have more or less defined sprite graphics. Below a screenshot of the PC-88 version from a Japanese site, notice how the Elf got changed into a “Fairly”:
After chosing the character, the game shows a list of all the different enemies. In the character-only version, the most impressive are the “Demon C” (row 1 column 3), giant spider (row 2 column 2) and dragon (row 3 column 1). I also like how the torso of the princess that’s supposedly to be rescued (lower right) is made up of a heart shape.
The game always starts out with the hero in between a town and a castle, although their colors and positioning slightly varies each time. It’s hard to tell whether the complete world is randomized, or just the starting point within it.
They wouldn’t let me into the castle, but the town has the usual RPG mainstays that can be visited by typing numbers from a menu: a church, an inn, a smithy, a marketplace, private homes, a mansion and the slums. The slums are rather interesting: You can let your character search for magic items, but it consumes time and health. In the above screenshot you can also see how the status screen to the right gets all messed up when you make a false input.
If you wander off from the first screen, you can only guess what kind of terrain the colored characters are supposed to represent. I figured the red triangles were mountains and the blue strucutre a lake, but I could still walk through them. I still never got very far though, because:
Every few seconds a random encounter is triggered, which brings us to this combat screen. This one is closer to Wizardry than Ultima, but since there’s only one hero, the options to chose from have been expanded a bit. The first three are all different kinds of physical attacks, followed by the movements “charge,” “avoid” and “stoop.” The final two are “magic” and “escape.” All this makes the combat sound more deep than it actually is, though: In each round simply both the hero and the monster lose some amount of health, and it goes on like this until one of them drops dead. For some reason the “attack” and “defense” values in Japanese to the left differ from the English ones to the right. I can usually win one or two battles (but not when it’s a dragon) before succumbing to the ever attacking random monsters.
Some FM-7 version screenshots from Oh!FM-7: