The name Tengai Makyou is probably an unfamiliar one to most gamers this side of the Pacific. Better known as Far East of Eden in North America, the series has been a virtual unknown in the West, although it has acquired a cult following amongst importers and fan translators. Produced by RED Company, developers of the now legendary Sakura Taisen (Sakura Wars) series, Tengai Makyou is finally coming West on the Xbox 360.
It comes as no surprise that Sakura Taisen and Tengai Makyou share a common father: Ouji Hiroi. His and Red Company's signature humor is rampant throughout both series, which has been one of the major reasons neither has seen Western release. Tengai Makyou makes heavy use of puns and Japanese cultural references, most of which would leave Westerners scratching their heads if they were not already informed as to the context. Thankfully, as anime has become more mainstream, the tropes of Japanese comedy have become more accessible to the West. For this reason, Hudson has found it feasible to bring Tengai Makyou to North America.
Tengai Makyou: Ziria was first released on NEC's PC Engine CD(TurboDuo) in 1989, making it the first CD-ROM based RPG. Developer mentality was still fixed largely in the age of 16-bit design, and Ziria didn't take full advantage of NEC's new hardware. It was not by any means a poor title, however, and garnered a large fanbase in Japan.
History repeats itself, at least in part, and this holds true for Tengai Makyou. At first glance, most players will probably not be thrilled by the visuals. The models, although high-poly, lack in textures and detail. The simplicity of the models was intended to re-express the anime themes present in the original, but cel-shading would have served Hudson that much better. It's an unfortunate oversight, considering the character models are the game's only real weak point. The overworld is gorgeous, the town environments are visually engaging, and the spell effects in battle are spot-on. Even more interestingly is how well enemies animate, even down to little twitches when they die. It's unfortunate that such a level of detail doesn't extend to the character models themselves, or Hudson would have a much stronger visual product.
Graphics faults aside, Tengai Makyou promises to be an aural treat for audiophiles. Hudson plans to reunite the entire Japanese voice cast from the original for a full reworking of the game's audio, while retaining the musical score fans know and love. Hudson could not comment on the English cast, although there is hope that when the game comes West, both Japanese and English vocals will be available options.
The game's battle system has changed rather dramatically. Where the original was reminiscent of Dragon Warrior in its first person perspective, its modern remake places the characters right in with their opponents, making for a much more dynamic perspective on fights. Additionally, the combat system now makes use of a menu wheel, replacing the more traditional menu system.
A strong point for Tengai Makyou has always been its artwork. Players are welcomed first by an anime intro featuring some very nice production values. Fluid and detailed, the animation looks reminiscent of anything from Studio GONZO (Last Exile, Kaleidostar, Gate Keepers 21), an excellent recreation comparable to the work done on Lunar for the PlayStation. One minor annoyance was the inability to skip the intro, although this may be fixed with the North American release.
With any RPG, the story is an important factor, and the remake promises a completely overhauled story. Although Hudson didn't have time to comment on the details, players can rest assured that the humor remains intact, and Tengai Makyo's land of Jipang will remain as wacky and strange as ever.
Tengai Makyou Ziria: Harkuanaru Jipang was released in Japan on March 23, 2006, and will come to North America as Far East of Eden Ziria - Tales from Distant Jipang. No North American release date has been announced.