Review by Pluvius

"This translated game gives Westerners a rare glimpse at the board-game RPG, a genre that was popular on the Famicom."

Here's a weird one from Technos, the guys who made Double Dragon and (more relevantly) the Kunio-kun games, the most popular of which are arguably River City Ransom and Super Dodge Ball. As with most of the Kunio games, these two go away from genre standards; one is a brawler/RPG hybrid while the other is... well, I'm not sure how to describe it. Obviously Technos can make strange games that are good, but I did not know that they ever did this outside of the Kunio franchise. And so we have Sugoro Quest: The Quest of Dice Heroes.

As the name suggests, Sugoro Quest is an RPG played in the style of a board game. Exactly how does that work? Well, the basic idea is that there are several boards which you can choose from, and you move along them by rolling a six-sided die and advancing your character a number of spaces corresponding to the result, as with your average board game. Special things happen on certain squares, while the "normal" squares lead to random battles. Each board depicts a different quest, starting with you learning what the problem is at a village or castle and ending with you fighting a boss (though some boards have multiple bosses). There are different routes on each board which you take depending on how you answer people's questions or what you've done or found before reaching the branchpoint. There's even a special route that you take if the boss ends up defeating you (assuming that you have a resurrection item in the inventory) that allows you to heal up and maybe quit the quest and lick your wounds. You have to complete the boards in order, but once a board is beaten you can come back to it at any time.

Before doing a quest, you prepare at the main castle of the kingdom of Siland, which is beset by the usual problems with monsters which are led by the evil Hades, the final boss of the game. There you can talk to the king and learn some hints and backstory about the quests, buy useful items (including items that manipulate dice rolls on the map), and purchase equipment. All of the equipment is available from the beginning of the game, but you obviously need money to buy the good stuff. You also have four different characters to worry about. One is your generic hero character with good physical and decent magical skills, while two others are your usual stupid powerhouse and your typical frail sorceress respectively. The fourth character is the most interesting; she is the opposite of the hero (better magic than attack) and most of her magic involves manipulating the dice both on the map and in battle.

So how does battle work in Sugoro Quest? Both you and your opponent throw a die and get a result between one and nine. The one who gets the higher result wins the round and hits his enemy or casts a spell; the effect that the attack or spell has increases depending on how much the dice roll is won by. In case of a tie, you roll again and again until someone wins and gets multiple indefensible hits, which can be devastating depending on how high the tying rolls were. The amount of damage done is based on the usual attributes (strength, endurance, intelligence) as well as the attack dice range and the magic dice range. This range determines the maximum and minimum dice rolls you can make for a physical attack or a magical spell respectively; for example, the Fighter class starts out with an attack range between one and three but at Level 30 has a range between one and nine. I didn't max out the Dwarf, but I expect that at Level 30 he has a range between three and nine, or even higher. The Elf and Half-Elf, of course, are the same in the opposite direction, with a higher magic range and a lower attack range.

The latter two characters get a lot of use out of Dicemen, which can be called into battle using the Call command. You roll a six-sided die and a Diceman comes out to aid you until you dismiss him; the higher the roll, the better the Diceman is in general. Not only do they appear to sometimes have superior attack and defense scores than your character, but they can sometimes do special things. For example, Diceman Six can throw the battle die right at the opponent, knocking him out and keeping him from rolling dice to defend himself. This can be very helpful against bosses, which tend to be stronger than you.

The way attributes improve is through your standard leveling system. Leveling is very quick, however; the meter is capped at 64K, and the later boards give lots of experience, so with a little luck you can max out a lagging character with just one or two board playthroughs, especially if you use a stronger character to get money and equipment first. Money is also capped at 64K and is also easy to get later on, so the amount of grind is very low, especially since some of the boards have a high replay value anyway due to nonlinearity. The ease of character progression unfortunately makes Sugoro Quest quite short, but as I've said in the past, hard-leveling is a liability anyway.

As I said, each board has a number of special squares to land on. Besides the various buildings that you automatically land on when you reach them, there are several different types of square that have to be landed on with a precise dice roll. Many of these squares are springs which increase your HP and MP; some of them enchant your equipment, making it slightly more effective; some more are wandering people who give you helpful hints and items. Sometimes you have to land on these squares to progress, especially on Stage 5, which can be really annoying if you miss a square. Fortunately, the aforementioned dice-manipulation items and spells allow you to roll twice, roll a specific number, or slow the rotation of the die, making it easier to land on those squares. There's also a Look command that allows you to search squares for items, but I didn't get a lot of use out of that.

Oh, and a quick word on the graphics; they're in a super-deformed anime style, and are very cute. The enemies are also quite large, some of them taking up about a quarter of the screen. This cuteness also extends to the simplistic plots of the quests and the overall storyarc; it's even kind of cute when one of your characters gets captured by Hades towards the end of the game.

From what I can tell from my time looking at Japanese Famicom games, board-game video-games are or were very popular in Japan, and come in many different varieties. Sugoro Quest is one of the few translated into English, though, so now Westerners can see what the fuss is about. The translation has a few bugs and grammatical errors, but those don't get into the way of enjoying a short, simple RPG with a twist.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 08/14/06

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