My introduction to Tengai Makyo II

I’m not sure why, but I have a distinct memory of buying, in late 1991, an issue of Super Gaming magazine from the Electronics Boutique in our local mall and then flipping through said magazine while walking around the mall with my parents and older brother.

At some point during that leisurely stroll, I stumbled upon the following preview:

I’m not sure I’ve wanted a game as much as I wanted Tengai Makyo II in the moments–and days and weeks and months and years–following that discovery.

Sadly, Hudson’s mammoth RPG never made it stateside, despite the promises of many game publishers and magazine writers. Thankfully, a rather detailed walkthrough of the game can be found at gamefaqs.com, so if I ever get the PC Engine CD-ROM2 attachment–and a copy of Tengai Makyo II–I’ll finally be able to give it a go.

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22 Comments

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22 responses to “My introduction to Tengai Makyo II

  1. I know exactly how you feel, Bryan, and I do mean exactly because a little magazine blurb (perhaps that very same one) was my introduction to Tengai Makyou as well. I was pretty excited about it, not only because it sounded like such a great game in its own right, but because the lack of epic, traditional-style RPGs for the Turbo to that point was such a downer, especially since I’d seen just how immersive and extraordinary a 16-bit adventure could be with Phantasy Star II for the Genesis.

    Of course, I had to wait years and years to finally get TM2, but the wait was well worth it: It really is an incredible game. Plus, it’s easy to get nowadays for a mere five bucks or so, and for that small price, you get 40-50 hours of adventuring.

  2. My first magazine-inspired PCE CD crush was Dragon Knight 2. EGM ran a feature on games that we would never see in the US, and I tragically decided to really, really want that game.

  3. Haha, I think they even gave DK2 an award one year, didn’t they? Like, “hottest girls you’ll never see in the US,” or something to that effect.

    That’s another spectacular game, one of my absolute favorites. At least we were crushing on sweet titles, my thing for Genocide notwithstanding.

  4. IvaNEC: The lack of real RPGs on the TG-16 certainly played a role in prompting my obsession with TM2, but I think I would have been wowed by it even if the system had been swamped by such games. For starters, the graphics — esp. those in the cutscenes — blew me away. (They still blow me away today, to tell you the truth.) And then there’s the bit — mentioned in another early blurb about the game — about a conquered tower transforming into your mode of transportation.

  5. Zigfried: I’m pretty sure I crushed on that game, too. I eventually got over it, though, because — I think — I assumed I’d never be able to play it. After reading IvaNEC’s review, though, I may have to give it a shot someday. Is it worth trying even if you don’t know a lick of Japanese?

  6. “After reading IvaNEC’s review, though, I may have to give it a shot someday. Is it worth trying even if you don’t know a lick of Japanese?”

    Dragon Knight II is definitely, definitely worth playing, even if you don’t know any Japanese at all. In fact, it was one of the very first import RPGs I’d ever played through (possibly the first) back when I couldn’t read even the slightest bit of katakana. I wrote a guide for it as well, which might help–I think I link to it in my review on Duomazov if you ever need it.

  7. Great! I think I’m going to need to re-read your review, IvaNEC, and check out that guide, too.

    BTW, remind me to ask you for advice RE: learning Japanese someday. I’ve always been interested, but I’m just not sure how to go about it (if you even consider it a worthwhile endeavor).

  8. “BTW, remind me to ask you for advice RE: learning Japanese someday. I’ve always been interested, but I’m just not sure how to go about it (if you even consider it a worthwhile endeavor).”

    Actually, Zig would be a great person to ask about that. He truly knows his stuff, whereas I started studying Japanese but only bothered to learn enough to get me through PC Engine games, haha.

  9. OK, I’ll ask Zig sometime soon. Still, can I ask what you did to learn whatever amount of the language you learned? Did you take classes, buy something like Rosetta Stone or use textbooks/websites?

  10. I did borrow some books from a friend, but web sites can actually get you off to a great start. Katakana is very, very easy to learn and doesn’t really require much of the learner except repetitious chart study. A lot of character, enemy, and item names in PCE RPGs are written in katakana. After that, it was more chart study for me, this time of hiragana, but that’s a different, more advanced ball game (as katakana basically just spells out words from other languages, often English, making it very easy to pick up on). Then I learned some common Kanji and that’s really about as far as I got. I did intend to go much further and maybe someday I will, but I realized that I’d picked up enough to get me through the games I was playing, and that was the only practical use I had for it at that point anyway.

    Oh, and I might as well mention in this thread that you’ll want to have a hiragana chart on hand for Tengai Makyou II. There’s a heck of a lot of going back and forth between places, and unless my memory misleads me, most of the place names are written in hiragana. So even though Justin’s walkthrough will tell you exactly where to go, if you can’t take the location names it’s giving you and recognize them when they’re written out in hiragana, you’ll be stuck.

  11. If you can find them, start with the books “Easy Katakana” and “Easy Hiragana”. My library had those (they’re a bit old). It will require some rote memorization, but they will teach you the phonetic pieces of the alphabet straight-up. It’s something that’s easy to learn in pieces. Having both of those under your belt will help tremendously when it actually comes time to tackle Japanese proper.

    There’s also a book called “Easy Japanese” in the same series, but it’s not nearly as useful (although it’s still plenty interesting if you work through it — just take it with a bit of salt).

  12. I would also suggest learning hiragana first, as katakana is a shorthand form of that. Learning hiragana will make katakana go quickly, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true.

  13. Thanks for the pointers, IvaNEC — and you, too, Zigfried! I’ll definitely look for copies of the books you mentioned sooner rather than later — and when I do, I’ll start with hiragana first…

  14. Such an epic game..and I’ve never even finished it lol. IvaNEC suggested it to me very early on in my PCE days..and so glad he did. One of the top games that deserves a full translation IMO (as well as the rest of the series).

  15. Really, it’s too bad the folks at NEC — or Working Designs — never followed through with a translation. There were quite a few rumors at the time (in EGM and TurboPlay, especially) that suggested it was being considered, but I’m guessing they eventually decided it wouldn’t be worth the cost and effort.

  16. I remember those rumors, and frankly, I think NEC of America had no idea what they would be getting themselves into when they talked about bringing the game over here. They were considering it because Manji Maru was selling like crazy over in Japan–and I think that’s all they really knew about it. I probably sound like a broken record, but MM is ENORMOUS; when I finally played through it, I realized there was no way in hell it would have ever made it over here back in the day. When (or if) NEC of America really got around to taking a look at it, they would have realized that the time and resources that would’ve been required simply were beyond what they could devote to one project, especially since they were already carrying a huge burden due to their failure to garner much support over here as far as third parties go, not to mention that there wasn’t already an audience of any significant size that they could count on reaching with the game, as the Turbo CD was flopping horribly.

    This isn’t necessarily related to what happened with MM, but I’ve been thinking about how Ys’ “lack of success” impacted the decisions NEC made subsequent to its release. Ys was a much, much larger project than any they had attempted for the US audience up to that point, and they must’ve spent quite a bit of cash on it considering the many legendary voice actors they managed to bring in. The game received glowing reviews, and sure, among Turbo owners, it was very successful. But it did not come anywhere close to being a “mainstream” hit and didn’t exactly cause Turbo CD units to suddenly start flying off store shelves. So I wonder if NEC took a look at things and said, “Hey, even though we spent all this cash, and even though we took all this time, and even though all the critics loved it, we STILL didn’t have a breakthrough.” As we all know, very, very few adventure games made their way over here after that, and certainly, none were allotted the sort of budget that the Ys project had. Sure, we got Ys III, but that was a much smaller game, a much easier title to bring over, and all the fantastic voice actors who appeared in I & II were ditched in favor of stiffs. Sure, we got Cosmic Fantasy 2, but that was Working Designs. Sure, we got Dragon Slayer, but it seems like Hudson had to foot the bill for that one themselves.

    It would be typical NEC thinking. Instead of identifying the real reasons that the system was struggling, the real reasons that a masterpiece like Ys wasn’t achieving the sort of success it deserved, and trying to address those issues, they called a moratorium on quality projects and looked for easier, cheaper ways to climb out of the hole.

  17. Thanks for the thorough comment, IvaNEC!

    I have to imagine you’re right about the relative failure of Ys setting off a sort of chain reaction at NEC USA. I wonder, though, if that would have happened, though, even if Ys had been a bigger seller?

    Unfortunately, I think the Turbo was doomed from the start — 0r, at least, from the point NEC decided on Keith Courage as the pack-in, hired horrible cover artists, etc. It was an uphill climb from day one, wasn’t it — and I’m not sure it had to be.

  18. “Unfortunately, I think the Turbo was doomed from the start”

    I totally agree. NEC blew it right from the start. They had so badly mishandled so many different things that there was simply no way Ys could have been the success that it deserved to be and that they needed it to be. Dreadful surrounding circumstances dictated the game’s fate, and the awful situation was largely of NEC’s own making. That’s what I was touching on in the final paragraph of my post: Instead of examining and trying to address the blunders they’d been making, they essentially cut epic adventure games and bigger-budget projects–basically, titles that would’ve required time, money, and effort–out of their plans and continued to blunder away with convenient (and often mediocre) releases and inane “strategies.”

    I think it’s impossible to speculate about what might have been had Ys been a major success story because such a hypothetical would require circumstances being different right from the very beginning. Something that sometimes gets lost in the what-if fantasies of Turbo fans, though, is the remarkable job that Sega was doing with the Genesis. While NEC floundered, Sega flourished and basically did no wrong from late 1989 to early 1992. The Genesis completely pummeled the Turbo and did a number on the Super Nintendo too for a while; there really wasn’t any 16-bit “race” to speak of until the SNES got Street Fighter II. The battle certainly would have been more interesting had NEC come better prepared, but they still would’ve had to succeed in virtually every single area that they failed in (establishing good third party relationships in particular would’ve been crucial) if the Turbo were to have had any chance against the Genesis. That period was Sega’s time to shine.

  19. RE: Sega flourishing between 1989 and 1992 — I completely agree. They really had the average gamer’s attention during that time period thanks in part to some amazing games and in equal part to some amazing marketing.

    If the folks at NEC USA had done even a fraction of the things the folks at Sega did during that period, the TG-16’s fate in NA may have been somewhat different — although I’m honestly not sure it would have finished better than third place regardless, as it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking the Nintendo-Sega stranglehold at the time.

  20. Pingback: Don’t call me a Tengai Makyo virgin « i was a teenage pc engine fan

  21. Pingback: OK, so I lied … « i was a teenage pc engine fan

  22. Pingback: 20,000 screens of overhead maps, eh? « i was a teenage pc engine fan

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