Royal Stone is another game that was sadly never released in the U.S. Can you guess what game this is related to? If you said "Crystal Warriors", give yourself a pat
on the back! Royal Stone is the sequel to Crystal Warriors, a little known strategy game for Game Gear that while appreciated, was hidden behind bigger Sega published titles like the Shining Force
games. I like this game more than Shining Force because I feel it has more of an emphasis on strategy and the story telling is more elaborate in my opinion (the story scenes are rather
dramatic). The tale of Crystal Warriors dealt with a young princess named Iris who was blessed with the element of Earth. She had to fight many battles and she found warriors of other elements (fire, water, and wind) to help her fight in a war to protect the four crystals of Arliel to stop evil from using the power of the crystals to wreak havoc on the world.
Royal Stone follows the story of Eva, a former Knight of the Kingdom of Marltalia who is exiled from her kingdom for betraying the trust of the people and "turning against" her own squad (The story
will elaborate more on this obviously). The people of the city decide that she should be executed for her crimes and so she is going to be tied to a stake and cast out at sea to drown beneath
the ocean depths. However, due to the powers that be (and a guardian angel of sorts called Kokotto), you are destined to survive your plunge into the icy depths and you later get back into your battle gear, rile up a rag tag group of followers who will pose as your own capable army, and bring back honor to your family's name as well as defeat the one who has framed you. Along the way, Eva will have to fight against friends and loved ones and unravel the mystery behind the war in the world of Anzeria as well as bits and pieces of her past...all of this will take place as you find out about the "Royal Stone". Sounds pretty epic if you ask me.
Graphically speaking, the game is stunning overall for an old handheld strategy-RPG. The graphics of the NPCs and locations are bold and beautiful, and sometimes I have to ask myself if this is a
Game Gear game or an SNES or Genesis game! The battlefield graphics are pretty similar to the previous game, though initiating a fight is much more of a "visual feast" compared to the
first game. All of your units look different, even if two characters are of the same class and characters are large during battles. Depending on the terrain you are standing on when combat is initiated, the battle background is different. For example, if you are standing in water when you attack the enemy, the battle background will be covered with water. Spells also look nice and the game looks great.
The audio is also great and there are numerous battle themes that play depending on who you are fighting. The music obviously has a "war" theme to it, but it tries to sound dramatic...and succeeds in doing so. Strangely enough, the music can also sound very merry and upbeat in certain places, but it's usually when you are shopping and the like. The music is solid in generally every situation and it also helps in moving the story along. The sound effects aren't anything out of the norm, but they shouldn't pose as a problem. If you liked the audio of Crystal Warriors, you may love the audio present in Royal Stone.
One of the things I like most about the game is the ability to walk around towns, talking to various people and getting characters to join my cause, though you can't hire or call many units like games like Ogre Battle. You get a set number of characters and you can only hire one character if they happen to be at an inn. You can also get monster characters occasionally by completing special requirements during certain battles. Another element to this game is that different characters have different innate elements, which means certain characters will have the advantage (as well as disadvantage) over certain units, so you must move your party across the field with a hint of caution. Any character can wear any weapon or armor, but certain characters are better when equipped with a weapon they are skilled with. For example, you can equip a mage with a claymore if that's all you have and they will benefit from wearing it, but if you have a good staff, they may benefit from the staff more...even if the sword may be more powerful than the staff in the hands of another character.
The game has a few spells that are useful and there are variables to consider such as terrain and the like. Characters of the wind element are good at moving through forests while characters of water are good at moving in water, etc. and you can use up to 9 characters in battle. Different classes also have different abilities. Some can defend against attacks while others can't. They may have some special attack that inflicts great damage while dealing a small amount of damage to themselves. You and the enemy both get two actions during a face-to-face encounter (with the aggressor attacking first) and if you are wounded, you can attempt to escape from the enemy. It is also worth noting that battles are fought in "phases" where you move all of your characters first and the enemy moves their characters after you. Magic doesn't cost you anything, but you can only cast one spell per turn if you cast the spell from a distance. If an enemy initiates close range combat with a mage, they can then cast two spells since you get two actions during close combat. Characters will only gain experience points by defeating enemies. Aside from combat, Royal Stone also has shops to buy items and magic (as well as a "?" mark shop that sells mystery items). If Eva dies at any given time during a battle, the fight automatically ends so you must keep her alive at all costs.
The game does have some faults though. The game is fairly short. There are about 15 or 16 rounds and characters can only reach a maximum level of level 16. Like the previous Crystal Warriors (or Arliel: Crystal Densetsu), once a character dies, they are gone forever. The only characters that seem to change class are healers and magicians (into bishops and wizards)...Also, the last four battles in the game can be truly evil in terms of difficulty if you don't know what you're doing...so what's the final verdict? I love this game, and I'd recommend it even above the tried and true Shining Force titles for this system simply for the fact that you'll generally always here people mention Shining Force and most people don't even know that this game exists. Okay...so the game gets harder near the end, but what good is a strategy game that doesn't make you think? The story is dramatic, the battles are fairly challenging, and I feel it is one of the most balanced RPG/strategy-RPG for this system. Crystal Warriors may have been decent, but the title for this one says it all. This gemstone is fit for a queen.- Written by Vyse the determined -