Royal Stone is a tactical, turn-based fantasy RPG with combat and magic that was released for the Game Gear – in Japan only – by Sega in 1995. Thankfully, an English fan translation does exist, so that we – non-Japanese-speakers – can now understand the storyline and enjoy the game in full.
The story follows a girl who’s been accused of treason against the Empire and is trying to revive memories of her past in order to revenge the death of her father. This leads to her searching for The Royal Stones in order to bring down the evil Empire and restore “equilibrium” to the land. The Empire is trying to do the opposite: destroy the stones and bring chaos to the land.
The structure of the game is basically broken down into two distinct stages. You get a combat segment, then afterwards an exploration, conversation and shopping segment in a town or village where you can also save your game at an inn. When you’re ready to leave you choose your team and set off for another round of combat.
Battles are turn-based and you begin by issuing moves to your individual units and can enter combat if any are adjacent to an enemy unit. While in combat you usually choose between three options: fight, block, or flee, although this differs depending on the type of unit. Some have special skill moves that you can initiate and some can cast magic. Spellcasters also get to cast a magic spell (chosen from a list of those available) after moving. You can use ‘scan’ magic to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of enemies. This turns out to be a vital element of combat because some of your characters are much more effective against certain enemies, so it pays to make a mental note of who’s good against who. You can end a round at any time by taking out the enemy leader, or you can try to eradicate all enemies for more experience.
Combat is not dissimilar to that seen in the Shining Force series, rather than a regular turn-based RPG. In fact: Royal Stone is more of a tactical combat game than an RPG, but it does have RPG elements like earning experience points and levelling-up.
Access to shops is staggered between levels. At intervals you’ll be given access to weapon and armour shops, and magic shops where your spellcasters can buy extra spells like heal magic, buffs and debuffs. Occasionally you’ll also get to hire extra characters to fight for you and expand your team.
Royal Stone has a number of nice touches, like characters looking back at you when levelling up, or monsters who will join you if beaten by a specific character. The combat animation is very good; in fact: the combat is excellent overall, which is good because it is the crux of the game. It can be tricky keeping your team alive at times, but prudent use of healing with your spellcasters can bring them through challenging situations.
Overall: Royal Stone is a neat game. It has appealing, colourful Zelda-like graphics and absorbing gameplay. Now that there’s an English language fan translation it’s a game finally worth tracking down and playing.