Study 22 – Conquest of the Crystal Palace/Matendouji (Asmik/Quest, NES/Famicom)
The studio that would eventually create Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre began in 1998 under a different moniker of Bothtec. This company released one game, The Scheme, for NEC’s PC-8801. After a name change to Quest, the company began working with the NES hardware. Matendouji was the first to be localized for overseas audiences, transformed into Conquest of the Crystal Palace. Later on, Quest focused on their aforementioned Ogre series, which would earn its rightful place as one of the finer strategy RPG franchises on the market. Their work would inspire the creation of Final Fantasy Tactics, thanks to three major members of Quest, Yasumi Matsuno, Hiroshi Minagawa, and Akihiko Yoshida, all joining Square and being a big part of FFT’s creation. Quest themselves would also become a part of the Square-Enix behemoth following the release of the GBA Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, and would lose their company identity entirely.
Asmik Corp, which is now known as Asmik Ace Entertainment, began in 1985 and produced their own games on top of localizing games from other companies. Their best known titles are the Game Boy Catrap (available on the 3DS Virtual Console!) and Boomer’s Adventures in ASMIK World for the NES. As of late they’ve been quiet on the gaming front, but the company still exists and continues to be a part of the Japanese entertainment industry.
Matendouji/Conquest stars a young man named Farron, who is actually a prince of the Crystal Palace. Along with his talking dog Zap, Farron marches off to reclaim his throne from the villain Zaras.
With that brief bit of exposition, let’s get into the meat of this post.
Matendouji’s Famicom box is a little busy, but full of excellent anime designs and motifs. I wonder if Akihiko Yoshida was involved…this doesn’t resemble his present style. At any rate, it’s a fine introduction to Farron’s world.
Asmik’s spin on the box loses a lot of its Japanese anime roots, despite the Samurai armor adorning the big bad (Zaras?) villain Farron and Zap are facing off against. There’s not much resemblance of Farron’s Japanese design. He looks much more European in style. Zap is still decked out in some sort of armor, but it has a futuristic look to it over the more traditional Japanese armor he donned on the Famicom box. The composition isn’t terrible, and the shattering of the edges of the scene are clever…but it doesn’t do much for me, personally.
Screenshots ahoy! Japanese on the left, American on the right.
Quest’s title screen features chibi heads of the main cast, and some huge kanji representing the title. However, there’s something really wonderful about the approach Asmik ran with for the American title screen. I like the mood it creates. Definitely one of the nicer ones of the era.
The key difference here is that the Japanese version uses “lives” while the American uses “rest” to signify extra lives. Not sure why!
Asmik removed some of the more controversial elements of the game, including these skeletal babies that crawl around on the ground. Slugs replace them for America.
And then there’s this. This area is RADICALLY altered for America. The foreground titles are disturbingly fat baby heads. The background is full of freaky zombie faces. And the enemies are ghastly fetuses. In America, all of these were toned way down. The foreground is now standard cavern fare. The background are still creepy face-like things, but it’s not as drastic as before. And the enemies are now spiders and some weird fairy-esque thing I can’t quite make out. Massively different.
From here on in, I’ve only got American screens. I salute Asmik for their mostly hands-off approach to localization here, leaving much of the Japanese cultural roots intact for Conquest.
For example, the heaven kanji under Zap. Farron looks like a fairly typical anime hero, too, with a Japanese flair to him that wasn’t lost in translation.
The use of a scroll, with kanji, and Japanese imagery and artwork. That’s great spritework, I must say.
Here’s the store. Owner Kim has a nice anime look to her, doesn’t she? I love how this game embraces so much of its Japanese heritage, and how Asmik left it alone! It’s a wonderful thing. Even the box art features minute elements, although it was completely reworked into a more American style. On the whole, though, Conquest of the Crystal Palace managed to escape Japan relatively unscathed, and if Nintendo was not as strict with their NES censorship, it may have come with all of the freaky bits from the cave intact, too.
Hardcore Gaming 101 Article on Conquest – http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/crystalpalace/crystalpalace.htm
Joystiq’s Virtually Overlooked on Conquest – http://www.joystiq.com/2008/05/22/virtually-overlooked-conquest-of-the-crystal-palace/
MobyGames Page for Conquest Images – http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/conquest-of-the-crystal-palace/screenshots
Spil:Musset Museum page for Matendouji – http://www.spilmuseet.dk/infotitel.php?id=39640