Monday, November 23, 2009

Amethyst Reviews: Rosenkreuzstilette ~Blades of the Rose Cross~

Rosenkreuzstilette ~Blades of the Rose Cross~

Release date:
December 31, 2007.

Publisher(s): [erka:es]
Developer(s): [erka:es]
Platform: Windows PC
Genre: 2D > Action > Platform > Doujin soft
Mode(s): Single player
Content: Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Language

In an sea of endless Mega Man games as far as the eye can, everywhere you look there's another Mega Man lurking in the shadows. So shouldn't it be time the series has meet its end already? ... Heck no. Besides, Mega Man rules. And it if weren't for him, we wouldn't have this little gem from [erka:es], Rosenkreuzstilette ~Blades of the Rose Cross~ for the PC.

So the basic promise of the story goes something like this: thousands of years, Magi, human beings born with the gift of magic roamed the earth. However, these born with such a gift where treated to a life of persecution, hatred, and being feared from the Holy Empire and the Orthodox Church. One great Magus and his eight disciples fought a great war against the Holy Empire and the Orthodox Church. In the end, that great Magus sacrificed his very life, but in the end, he succeeded in ending the persecution of Magi when Empire accepted them into their fighting force. Thus creating the RKS, Rosenkreuzstilette: the Blades of the Rose Cross.

Decades later, our heroine, Spiritia Rosenberg along with her fairy friend, Lilli, returns home after her six months of training and they are on their way to meet up with Count Michael Zeppelin's daughter, Iris Zeppelin. Upon their arrival and some idle chit-chat, Iris gets abducted by a dragon and makes off with her with Lilli in pursuit. Though it was not too soon when an attack out in the distance had begun. Spiritia and Lilli rejoined after the forest where fairies lived was set ablaze, and the culprit behind the forest burning was none other than Spiritia's childhood friend, Freudia Neuwahl. Freudia, and most of Spiritia's fellow Magi in the RKS have started a war against the Holy Empire
and the Orthodox Church into creating a new world for Magi. Spiritia, like the girl scout that she is, refused to take part of the war. She was branded as traitor to the organization and now must put an end to this madness.

Rosenkreuzstilette, if you haven't guessed by now, is a Mega Man-clone based on the Mega Man games on the NES. So if you have played any of the Mega Man games on the NES before, you should know what the basic gist of the gameplay should be. But for the sake of convenience, I'll explain it to you anyway. In Rosenkreuzstilette, you must go through several stages and defeat the boss waiting at the end while taking enemies, dodging traps, and picking up power ups along the way. After defeating that boss, you get a new weapon. With that weapon, you could use it on a boss who could be weak against it, hence the rock-paper-scissors element of the Mega Man games. But when I say this is a Mega Man-clone, this is a Mega Man-clone. Right down to the old-school 2D gameplay, the menu screens, the difficult and challenging gameplay, and even the password system, Rosenkreuzstilette is perhaps one of the only Mega Man doujin softs out there that stays true to the original pedigree.

The visuals of the game are beautiful. The Castlevania- and Touhou-style setting and themes is a nice change of pace from the usual futuristic theme of the Mega Man franchise. The backgrounds and the beautiful settings has to be one of the visuals strongest points. Character, enemy sprites, visual effects, and the characters themselves are also wonderfully done. Rosenkreuzstilette also has a wide variety of stages; from graveyards, to sky palaces, and a factory filled with death traps, this is one visually pleasing game. Especially for those who loves old-school 2D games.

Audio for this also incredible. A rock-solid cast of Japanese voice actors coupled a great soundtrack of music ranging from haunting orchestral styles of music that of the Castlevania series to energetic music similar to Mega Man, you are bound to find a favorite piece of music somewhere in this game. Rosenkreuzstilette also has one of the most solid storytelling you'll find in any Mega Man game; a plot filled with betrayal, tested friendships and an unforgettable cast of characters, Rosenkreuzstilette has easily one of best storylines in a Mega Man-clone to date. The game, however, is Japanese. So for those can't read Japanese wouldn't understand a thing they're saying. But don't worry, there is an English-translation patch for the game made by the good people of Schwer and Schwer Alike and Darkside Translations and a Chinese-translation patch available.

Gameplay as mentioned earlier is derived from the NES Mega Man games while elements from later games in the series is apparent in Rosenkreuzstilette such as charging up weapons, sliding, switching between weapons on the fly, its all there. One thing that Rosenkreuzstilette does differently from the original Mega Man games is the Desperation Mode. Whenever a boss is half-way towards defeat, they will up the ante and perform different attacks from what they did before. This gives the boss battles in the game an extra edge when it comes to the challenging aspect of game and it helps makes the battles much more interesting.

isn't just an homage to Capcom's fabled Blue Bomber; Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero, Castlevania, other various video and computer games series, and even a few anime series is paid homage in Rosenkreuzstilette as well.
You can chose to play the game in Story Mode if you want to play through the game's storyline, or skip it altogether in Arcade Mode. And like other doujin soft out there, you can save snapshots and replays of the game and share them amongst friends.

Now for the downside. For starters, this is a Mega Man game, and if you've played Mega Man before, then you've already played Rosenkreuzstilette without even knowing about it. Not to say this totally a bad thing, but Mega Man has certainly been around much longer than Spiritia Rosenberg has. This is also, as mentioned before, a hard game. So to those who are complete novices to the NES Mega Man games (or any of the traditional Mega Man games for that matter), you might get frustrated dying over and over again.

But don't fret gamers, Rosenkreuzstilette is nowhere near the likes of, let's say, Twilight Frontier's MegaMari - Marisa's Ambition. Another cause of concern is the game's system requirement. You will (might) need a decent computer to run this game at its best. Otherwise, you might suffer through long load times and/or slowdown. Trust me, I've tried playing this on the computers at my school, which aren't that good of PCs, and it could happen to you.

Despite some minor flaws, Rosenkreuzstilette is an excellent game for Mega Man fans. This also goes to show that Rosenkreuzstilette is more than a Mega Man-clone; its a wonderful trip to memory lane.

Rosenkreuzstilette gets a 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

RKS 1.06a - Replay Speed Increase

They really weren't kidding when they said they increased the speed on the fast-forward.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Blades of the Rose Cross Update

Hello, everyone.

As many of you already know, [erka:es] released Version 1.06a of Rosenkreuzstilette, which corrects a variety of bugs and allows the game to run on Vista and Windows 7. The staff of Darkside Translations and Schwer and Schwer Alike intend to release an update to our localization to incorporate these bugfixes into the English executable.

We'd like to take the opportunity to address any issues with our original release that we previously overlooked or ignored. To that end, if you have any suggestions or comments about our release, we ask you to send them our way, either by posting them as a comment to this blog update or by emailing us. We've received next to no constructive feedback on the quality of our localization, so we're wondering which aspects of our work need improvement.

As of this writing, there are three issues we intend to address:

1) The Start Menu shortcut to the RKS Online Manual currently points to the project page and not the English translation of the manual. The updated release will include a shortcut pointing to the proper URL.

2) Two Germans strings in our initial release were deliberately left untranslated. Namely, we left the "Die Zeit vergeht schnell..." ("My, how time flies...") in the Replay Mode fast-forward screen and the "Waffenenergie" ("Weapon Energy") on the Status subscreen as they originally were.

Because of its layout, it would be impossible to add an English translation to the Replay Mode text -- we'd have to remove the all-important timer or replace the German text with its English equivalent. From the outset of this project, we had no intention of removing any of the German text, so this line will remain unchanged.

As for the Status screen, we weren't able to come up with a translation layout that we felt looked good with both a full and empty inventory, so we decided to scratch adding the English translation altogether. If you check our proof-of-concept screenshots in the comments sections of an earlier blog post, you might find a shot of one of our attempts. In any event, we intend to experiment with the layout some more and see if we can come up with an attractive way of integrating an English translation.

3) As Kilgamayan pointed out in his Let's Play videos, we chose to translate the English name for Zeppelin Stage III as "Xanatos". This was my own idea. I didn't want to repeat "Thanatos" twice on the same screen, so I decided to use a variant of the name to convey the same reference (like using Kerberos instead of Cerberus). Other alternatives for the name included "Death" and "The Grim Reaper", both of which undermine the "subtlety" of the Castlevania shout-out.

In retrospect, the order in which the names appeared should have been reversed. "Thanatos" is the official nickname of the stage's boss, whereas "Xanatos" is just a variant. We intend to reverse the names in the updated release.

That said, please let us know what you think of our work. If you didn't like how we worded a line, didn't like the fonts we used, or thought that a graphic should have been nudged just one tiny pixel over, point it out and we'll give the matter some thought. We can't fix anything if we don't know it's broken, so fill us in!

Oh, and those of you who recognized Xanatos as the last name of Jonathan Frakes' character in Gargoyles: good job!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

RKS Freudenstachel Delayed... Again!

Billion pointed out in the comments of the last post that Freudenstachel will not be released at Winter Comiket as originally planned and is slated for release next year. I guess we'll be seeing it at C78 next summer. Welp!

New RKS Patch Fixes Game Breaker

I apologize for the negligence I've been showing to this blog and RKS as a whole. I've been busy with a bunch of other unrelated things, but with this patch release, I can hopefully get back on track.

This is actually part of the reason I haven't done anything RKS-related lately. A huge bug was discovered that caused the game to completely fail to load and cause strange graphical errors within Windows, thanks to certain graphic driver updates. Whenever I would execute the game, my monitor would start blinking, and after a moment, my Nvidia drivers would inform me that it just recovered from a crash. This appears to have happened to someone else as well, as they sent [erka:es] a report on it that was shown in their last blog update. Well, it would appear that the new patch fixes this problem, making it possible for people like me to once again play this stellar game.

Unfortunately, there's a new issue. I haven't been able to test this completely yet, but the original RKS's 1.05c->1.06a patch does not work on the rks_e.exe file within the English "Rosenkreuzstilette ~Blades of the Rose Cross~" folder, and I don't know if the English patch will work on a 1.06a version of the game. Due to these developments, we will get to working on an update patch or something for the English version, which may very well require an entirely new installer. Luckily, there are no hitches with the current version of the Freudenstachel web trial, so that works out okay.

I'll be providing further updates by Saturday on what's going on, so stay tuned!

Also, I got this in the mail today. (I ordered a free sample thing back in August, and it JUST showed up.) I have to cut off the ad part, but I think it's pretty sweet for a (bumper) sticker.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Comment Moderation is Back On

I'm starting to get spam comments, mostly for PRESCRIPTION DRUGS or HOT WOMEN XXX, so I've turned comment moderation back on. Sorry, everyone. :(

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time Attack Results

Final Times:

1st Place - Tanin - 04'47'69
2nd Place - Killing_Doll - 04'21"45

I am sorry to report that two other contenders, Cremator and ViperAcidZX, have been disqualified. Both Cremator and ViperAcidZX went to other stages during the course of gameplay, adding time to their replay outside the challenge guidelines. Tanin tried to pull a clever trick by running the timer on the password screen, but I deducted the time spent on there, because really, come on.

It would seem that the specifications were not as precise as I could have made them, and the challenge was ripe for exploiting. The next one will not be so... open.

Congrats to Tanin for winning, and thanks to everyone who participated!