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Sting RPGs

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Page 1:
Introduction
Solid Runner
Treasure Hunter G

Page 2:
Baroque

Page 3:
Evolution

Page 4:
Riviera

Page 5:
Yggdra Union

Page 6:
Knights in the Nightmare

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by Kurt Kalata and Amanda "Atma" Graham - January 20, 2007, updated on June 26, 2011

Nowadays, developers are constantly moaning about how expensive it is to make next-gen games, and how difficult it is to survive in the marketplace. Yet, there are at least a small handful of Japanese companies still hacking away, and doing quite well, including Nippon Ichi, Idea Factory, Gust, and Sting. Sting might not ring too many bells, but some of the Game Boy Advance games - Riviera: The Promised Land and Yggdra Union, both published by Atlus - have become cult favorites in America. Both Riviera and Yggdra Union are part of the "Dept. Heaven" saga, with the next game - a strategy game for the DS called Knights in the Nightmare - to be released in 2008.

Sting has actually been around for quite awhile. The company was founded in 1989 by Kazunari Yonemitsu, who was in charge of Puyo Puyo and Madou Monogatari during his tenure at Compile. Their first big game was Treasure Hunter G, which was published by Square at the end of the Super Famicom life cycle. They also created the dark, underground dungeon crawler Baroque (which didn't leave Japan until 2008, over ten years after its initial release for 32-bit systems) and the cutesy Evolution series, known as the first real RPG on the Dreamcast.

In general, Sting is notable for creating RPGs that are at least a little bit different from the norm. Nearly all of their games have some health dose of innovation, which keeps their games fairly fresh. There do apparently have a fetish for filling the screen with large letters and tons upon tons of stats, making their games occasionally intimidating. Since they are a pretty small company, they've mostly stayed on the portable platforms, with the exception of the PS2/Wii remake of Baroque. They began the "Dept. Heaven" series starting with Riviera, which, while only vaguely related to each other, seeks to integrate their titles into some kind of canon. These include Riviera, Yggdra Union, Knights in the Knightmare, and Gugnir.

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)


Treasure Hunter G (トレジャーハンターG) - Super Famicom, Wii Virtual Console (1996)

Japanese Manual Cover

Sting's first RPG - a tactical RPG hybrid called Treasure Hunter G - was also Square's last entry of the 16-bit era. Although it was never released in America or followed up with any sequels, it's a solid RPG that's built up a bit of cult following.

Unlike the in-house Square projects (Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, etc), Treasure Hunter G didn't exactly excel when it came to storytelling. Our heroes are Red and Blue G (yes, "G" is indeed their last name), two young lads who yearn to see their absent father, who left to explore the riches of the world years before. But upon exploring a nearby cavern, the two seem to find their father unearthing a fantastic flying device and sailing into the sky. Inspired by this, the two set out on an adventure to find their missing patriarch - but as soon as their journey begins, monsters strike and burn their village. The foul creatures are also apparently after a mysterious young girl named Rain and her pet monkey. And then there's something about the standard resurrection of an evil dark overlord from hundreds of years ago. So you're not only adventuring to find your dad, but also to save to the world.

Characters

Red

Confusingly named Red despite his blue hair, this is the hero of Treasure Hunter G. He's the older and strongest of the young lads.

Blue

Blue looks and acts like a whiny little girl, even though he's actually Red's little brother. Even though he's constantly crying, he can wield a spear quite well.

Rain

The token mysterious young girl taken in by the eldest member of the G family. She can use magic and appears to be the target of monster attacks. She can also converse with Ponga.

Ponga

A rad little monkey fellow who can't technically communicate to anyone other than Rain, although he can play a mean violin solo.

Treasure Hunter G often tries to be dramatic, but the characters are flat and the situations clichéd, so it never really takes off, despite the constant presence of a sword-wielding monkey in your party. But that's ultimately not important, because the game has one of the most brilliant combat systems in a 16-bit RPG. Similar to Chrono Trigger, there are no random battles - either they're visible on the field, or surprise you at set intervals. Fights are similar to tactical strategy RPGs like Shining Force, where each character has a certain number of action points to move around the arena, whack enemies, or use items. Most of the strategy revolves around hitting bad guys from behind or taking advantage of enemy positions to hit as many foes as possible with your attacks. Each of your characters are controlled directly with the d-pad, and attacking an enemy is as simple as walking next to them and hitting the attack button. Since you only use menus to use items or execute special attacks, the battles move quickly and don't suffer from the glacial pace sometimes found in strategy games (for example of this kind of system done poorly, see Square's Live-A-Live, another 16-bit RPG that was never translated.)

Much like the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Treasure Hunter G attempted to make the Super Famicom compete against newer systems by using CGI rendered characters. They haven't aged quite as well as other spritework from the day, but it does give the game a unique feel. Other than the standard Mode 7 overworld, the rest of the graphics show some pleasing design here and there, but ultimately isn't anything too spectacular. On the other hand, the soundtrack is of extremely high quality - most of it was supplied by soon-to-be-legends Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata (known for Ogre Battle, Final Fantasy Tactics, and many others), as well as a handful of more obscure composers. It's much more upbeat than the gloomy, orchestral style featured in many of their games, featuring songs composed of rousing drumbeats, along with your usual peaceful town themes.

Even though the world is quite small, and the whole tale isn't as epic as it'd like to be, the outstanding battle system and quality soundtrack elevate Treasure Hunter G to cult classic status. Thankfully, the ROM's been translated by Metalhawk for English speakers to enjoy.

Quick Info:

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  • Kazunari Yonemitsu

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Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)

Treasure Hunter G (Super Famicom)


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Additional Screenshots


Solid Runner (ソリッドランナー) - Super Famicom (1997)

Japanese Super Famicom Cover

Although Solid Runner is not listed on Sting's webpage, nor are they credited at the beginning of the game, it was still primarily developed by them, although it was published by ASCII. A late Super Famicom title, Solid Runner takes place in a town known as Solid City, which despite being technologically advanced, is overrun with crime.

Characters

Shuu

Shuu is a detective in Ion City, although he still has to pinch pennies to help keep his mech up to speed. He's engaged to Eileen, the daughter of the chief of the Shadow Dragon organization. But both are murdered in cold blood, leaving Shuu delving into the underground gangs of the city to take revenge.

Ion

A girl who ends up as Shuu's partner, although she supplies support rather than fighting alongside him. She becomes something of a love interest after Eileen is murdered.

Most of the game involves taking up missions, investigating them, killing some bad guys, and then collecting a reward. A lot of this involves running back and forth between various destinations, although most navigation is handled through a simple map screen. Once you actually get into the action, you climb aboard your mech and search the area. All of the battles are one-on-one, and while they're turn-based, there are no menus. Each button on the controller corresponds to one of your four equipped weapons, which range from machine guns to rocket launchers to melee weapons. With the exception of melee weapons, each weapon needs to be reloaded after firing, requiring that you waste a turn to prep your select weapon. You can also dodge while attacking, which lowers your accuracy but increases your agility. Holding down the L button will activate the Boost command, strengthening your power momentarily, although doing this too many times will overload your mech.

While all of this gets pretty tedious due to the high random encounter rate, it's a nice change from the norm. There's obviously some inspiration from Front Mission (the atmosphere, the mech customization and the music) and Snatcher (all of the detective work, complete with a little mech buddy who helps out) despite it playing nothing like either of them. It's not quite as deep as either of those two legends, but the homages do make Solid Runner a bit more interesting than your average non-Square SFC RPG.

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Solid Runner (Super Famicom)

Solid Runner (Super Famicom)

Solid Runner (Super Famicom)

Solid Runner (Super Famicom)


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Additional Screenshots



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Introduction
Solid Runner
Treasure Hunter G

Page 2:
Baroque

Page 3:
Evolution

Page 4:
Riviera

Page 5:
Yggdra Union

Page 6:
Knights in the Nightmare

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