Tobira no Densetsu ~Kaze no Tsubasa~

Tobira no Densetsu ~Kaze no Tsubasa~ is a free RPG originally released in 2007 (though with several, apparently pretty substantive additions since then), written by Denjirou Jr. of doujin circle Door. It is available at Freem and Vector.

Original title: 扉の伝説~風のつばさ~

HP (internet archive) vndb

Story

Lucia Maverick has worked as a maid in the remote village of Cust, home to many fleeing their pasts, for the last five years after the death of her parents. But her sick little sister, Anna, grows weaker by the day, and so Lucia plans to set out on a journey to Lestaria in hopes of finding employment as a Royal Guard on her fifteenth birthday, thereby securing funds for Anna’s treatment. But things do not go as planned, and the return of a past terror is just the beginning of a small yet massive adventure…

(shamelessly stolen from vndb)

Review

Tobira no Densetsu ~Kaze no Tsubasa~ (or tobiden for short and hereafter, even though that is actually the name for the series) already has a couple of English reviews, so also check them out (here and here, some additional impressions here and here); my overall impressions are very similar (spoiler: it’s a good game), but I will try not to repeat them (too) much.

To be very brief, tobiden is a huge (over 100 hours long), open-ended JRPG.

After the two prologues (because for a game of this scale a single prologue is not enough) there is a partly linear series of basically self-contained quests that will be unlocked in turn and form the backbone of the game and the main story; however, a huge percentage of the gameplay will be doing a variety of sidequests in a world that becomes almost completely open pretty early; actually the main story itself could be considered a sidequest for the initial main objective as given in the prologues.

The main story itself goes from “get a job” to “the destiny of the world depends on you” (as is par for the course for a JRPG) but the whole picture is revealed so piece by piece that the developments feel completely natural, and in any case once any particular development begins you will be on the edge of your seat the whole time. You will also love to hate the enemies, a completely unhinged bunch of merciless sadists the like I don’t think I’ve seen much elsewhere. The main character Lucia is also a great protagonist and a big reason the story is so fun to follow.

One of the best realized aspects of the writing may be the pace. Once any particular quest begins (specially the Fortune Events, self-contained episodes with more or less complicated requirements that are the main way of actually progressing), the action will not stop and the stakes will not stop rising until the end and you will have no good timing to just put the thing off and go yeah I’ll finish it tomorrow because you need to finish it *now*.

Though personally the aspect that impressed me the most was the worldbuilding. With minimum infodumps (though there are actual libraries where you just read encyclopedias), it naturally develops all the countries and their relationships and geopolitics and even economy; sure, you are actually told that Lestaria is an agrarian country, but you actually feel it when you can buy cheap grain there and sell it at huge profit at the maritime state-city that of course will always be short on food.

An absolute ton of NPCs each with their particular troubles, many times totally unrelated to the main party, also goes a long way in making the world feel actually lived and not just a backdrop for the party to do their adventures; related to which, having many other actual adventurers you meet also help giving width and depth to the world. And this depth is also dynamic; almost all locations change in the course of the game, thanks in a big part to Lucia’s action though not exclusively, and the world at the end will be and feel a very different place from at the beginning; and Lucia’s impact in it and in its people will be evident (actually I don’t known of a ton of games where the people’s impression of the MC is so evident).

Most of those tidbits of lore and worldbuilding do also end up being relevant; it’s actually impressive the length to which everything ends up being connected, and how e.g. a random book at the very beginning foreshadows some development near the very end. Though I do think it ends up going somewhat overboard in making every single thing connected to everything else.

(Spoiler warning) Qvq Erqjvpx arrqrq gb or Yhpvn’f tenaqsngure? Ab. Qvq vg nqq nalguvat? Ab. Qvq vg npghnyyl znggre? Ab.

You also want to talk to absolutely everybody and everything

Gameplay wise, the main feature from tobiden is the Information System. Frequently during the game, you will learn some particular information that will unlock its correspondent icon on a special menu; selecting that icon will unlock different dialogues from particular NPCs or hidden items or locations that will allow you to progress on a particular sidequest or even on the main quest.

Defosen

The end result is that you need to actively search this sprawling world to get anywhere, giving tobiden a much larger actual roleplaying component than other conventional JRPGs and making it closer to western CRPGs*. And you can do most stuff in almost any order; besides, tobiden non-linearity is not only that there is no order to do the quests, you will actually need to revisit almost every place several times to see everything. Navigating some of the towns will have become almost second nature by the end.

The Information screen as it will eventually be

The battle system is the default one from RPG Maker 2000, a pretty standard Dragon Quest style where you and the enemies (which take the full screen) take turns attacking or using magic or items or whatever, if you played any JRPG you know it. Though not revolutionary by any means, a wide variety of skills and of enemies with different abilities and needing different tactics means it doesn’t really get old, and a comparatively low level cap and the characters not increasing their defense value with leveling means you never get to the level where you just curbstomp everything. A fairly big roster also means that you have quite a few options for building your party. In battles you get, in addition to XP, CA points you can also customize your characters, choosing which skills to learn or raising their stats.

Lucia’s customization screen including some skills I never managed to unlock

There some minuses, though.

I just said that the big roster gives you a variety of options; it also makes it pretty annoying to raise new characters since they usually start up underleveled (you do get an option to share exp but it is later on and though very useful is far from unlimited). This means it’s hard to just “try out” characters, especially since the non-linear character of the game means it is sometimes hard to say when things will start Getting Real, and you can change the party composition only limited times per day. Add to this the fact that most characters just kind of… suck**, and it is probably better to just stick to the same party once you find one you are comfortable with (to be fair there is no real downside to that***).

The Information System makes investigating and searching for the way to progress one of the main gameplay elements; unfortunately the triggers are sometimes way too obscure for their own good. I said the pace was good, but that’s once things start; you are also as likely to just get stuck going around the world with no idea what to do for hours, which will kill any momentum you had. And to top things some of those obscure events are permanently missable, and missing them means not getting the conditions for the Best End. You won’t just want to use a guide in parts; you will want to check it since the start to confirm you are not irreversibly getting stuck.

(For reference this is the aforementioned guide)

To be fair, the things you are screwed if you miss are just a few, and are neatly explained in the guide so be sure to check it.

Finally, the Information System is honestly not terribly smooth to use, and actually cumbersome if you are trying to do two or more quests at once (though this seems in big part to be due to the system limitations).

As a whole, the open-endedness of tobiden means that when things are going well you feel great resolving mysteries that open new areas or give you new clues for resolving other mysteries; when things are not going well you will waste a whole lot of time not getting anywhere. I guess your impression may depend on how much you get of one or the other; or just abuse the guide, since anyway the main meat is in the Fortune Events for which the above does not apply (…actually unlocking them is a different matter).

Nevertheless those negatives though, tobiden is completely worth playing and one of the best JRPGs I’ve played. It’s huge and sprawling and open ended and has almost everything you could conceive in some form inside. If you like JRPGs and can tolerate the fact that it was made in RPG Maker you should at least give it a try; the first prologue gets interesting almost right away and will give you some idea of the kind of rhythm the whole game has.

The last boss name is dumb though.

Score: 10

 

*disclaimer: I have barely played any CRPGs

**No, Milka doesn’t

***Except a single character who you need to have leveled up to clear a particular quest

 

Addendum:

Tobiden fan and proselytizer Quof made a Comfy Version, slightly editing the base game to give better warnings when doing stuff that can permanently lock important events and ultimately having a safeguard so you can avoid being locked out of the best ending. If you don’t want to play while continuously checking the wiki just in case feel free to check this version (haven’t actually played it but should work fine)

https://mega.nz/#!j5phGYAC!F1kOlUwFO-ZrKKXj_MpEtn2GLJnRgi4ZNOGT5ESa77Q

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