Now we’re done and dusted with Rance 01: The Quest for Hikari, it’s time to turn our attention to the second installment, Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens. This game is actually in something of an interesting position compared to the title we’ve just played, because although it’s a sequel to the first game, its 2009 remake actually came out before the 2013 remake of Rance 01.
Not only that, its remake then got a second pass, known as Rance 02 Kai or Rance 02 New, which brought the whole thing in line with established series lore and incorporated some other tweaks. It’s this latter version we’ll be exploring over the course of the next few articles, but if you buy the English version from MangaGamer you actually get both versions to fiddle around with.
Like Rance 01: The Quest for Hikari, Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens has its roots in late ’80s Japanese home computer gaming. The original Rance II (once again distinguished from its later remake via the use of roman numerals rather than the “02” designation) was originally released in 1990 for PC-88 and PC-98, Sharp X68000, MSX 2 and 2+, FM Towns and PC88VA.
The game’s origins are quite a bit more evident in Rance 02 than Rance 01, because this was the first Rance remake project that Alicesoft took on. The initial release of Rance 02 was very similar to the original version of Rance II, making use of a very similar script and supposedly even very similar coding to the prior version.
Rance 02 Kai (as we shall refer to it hereafter) had some minor tweaks to its gameplay, but the most noteworthy change was the completely rewritten script. Since the Rance series was getting back on track and starting to build towards its dramatic finale around the time of 02’s release, Alicesoft decided to make a specific effort to make the game less of a “novelty” (for want of a better word) and more something that actually fit in better with what had become established canon.
With that in mind, if you’re planning on following the entire series in canonical order, Rance 02 Kai is probably the version to play — though of course bear in mind that at the time of writing, Rance 03 is not yet translated into English (though it is being worked on) and the fourth Rance game and its two spin-offs have not yet had a remake even in Japan. As such, as this feature progresses we’ll likely skip to Rance 5D: The Lonely Girl after our coverage of Rance 02, then come back for 03 (and 04, if it happens) at a later time.
Anyway, as we wrap things up for another week here at Rice Digital, I thought I’d provide some initial impressions from a brief delve into the Rance 02 experience. Obviously there will be a lot more to talk about in the game as I progress further through it, but some initial impressions are definitely worthwhile, particularly since the game is quite different in execution from its canonical predecessor.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, mind; one thing the Rance series has always done from one installment to another is pretty much completely reinvent the gameplay side of things. This was evident with the initial English release of Rance 5D and VI, which are very different sorts of game — and only became more and more apparent with the release of Sengoku Rance and Rance Quest Magnum. But, as Rance 01 and 02 show, it’s been a feature of the series right from the start.
The concept behind Rance 02 — which is teased during Rance 01’s ending — is that Rance’s slave Sill has taken a job from the town of Custom, which has had a bit of a magic-related problem. The town was protected by a friendly old wizard, who had taken four cute girls as apprentices in an attempt to ensure that the settlement remained safe after his death.
Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong; the four girls rebelled against their mentor, stole his immensely powerful magic rings, blew up most of the town of Custom, sank it underground and placed a magic seal on it so no-one could leave.
Our questionable hero Rance is, of course, annoyed that Sill took on a job without his permission or knowledge, but he warms to the idea when learning of the number of attractive young women his new adventure will involve.
We’re not given any initial explanation as to why Sill took the job during the opening hours of the game — but given that she herself is a mage, it’s possible to draw a few conclusions beyond her simple desire to ensure that she and her master continue to have enough money to support themselves, particularly after having had to flee their home (and leave their riches behind) during the final moments of Rance 01’s ending.
Rance 02 initially looks to unfold quite similarly to Rance 01, being more of an adventure game with RPG-style trappings than vice-versa. Your initial moments will be spent walking around the ruined town of Custom, looking at things, talking to people, asking about information and occasionally pondering if Rance might be able to get away with sexually assaulting someone. As in Rance 01, any initial attempts to do so tend to result in amusing rebuttals; Rance girls aren’t easy, even when we take scenes of questionable consent into account.
During your initial investigations in Rance 02, you’ll have the situation explained. The four “witches”, as they’re referred to, have holed up in a dungeon that’s appeared adjacent to Custom, and it’s up to Rance and Sill to delve into said dungeons, kick some magical girl arse and restore peace to the town. This will likely be a dangerous process, of course, since said dungeons are full of traps and monsters — not to mention an already powerful magic-user with her abilities substantially increased by her magic ring — but Rance is, of course, the greatest adventurer who ever lived, so this will be no problem for him.
Dungeon crawling in Rance 02 is a bit more “traditional” than the card-based gameplay in Rance 01 — though it still stands out in comparison to modern RPGs by more resembling a board game than a computer RPG. You move around a top-down map of various parts of the dungeon, passing from space to space, with monster encounters randomly showing up every few steps. In a space, you can search the area for anything interesting, specifically look for a monster to fight, or set up camp.
As you explore, you’ll come across noteworthy areas, which will pop up a little window showing the location you’ve entered, plus any characters present. Various events will occur — some of which are more relevant to the ongoing quest than others — and in this way you’ll progress through the dungeon.
You’ll also encounter interactive adventure-style situations in various places, allowing you to choose between different actions to resolve a situation. A simple example comes when discovering a treasure chest; looking it over allows Rance and Sill to assess the difficulty of opening it (expressed as a tabletop RPG-style numerical rating) and the likelihood of discovering traps, while attempting to open it sees Rance retiring to a safe distance while Sill attempts to get it open.
As you explore, you’ll encounter shortcuts that allow you to get around more easily or perhaps without having to walk through dangerous areas. In this way, you can make multiple expeditions to the dungeon, retiring to town when you need to stock up on items, upgrade weapons or just get some healing from the scantily clad nun of questionable faith (and morals) hanging out at the town’s church.
Battles are fairly simplistic; the “chip” system from Rance 01 is long gone, replaced with something rather more traditional. Each turn, Rance is able to choose to attack, use a special move, badmouth the enemy (the usage of which has not yet become clear to me at the time of writing) or rest. The former options — including basic attacks — all make use of Rance’s stamina, while the latter allows him to recover a portion of it by doing nothing else for a turn.
Sill, who accompanies Rance throughout his adventure this time around, acts on autopilot, making use of her magic to deal damage, heal Rance and herself and take breaks when her own stamina points get low. For the most part, she has a decent (and floofy) head on her shoulders, though the early-game encounters are unlikely to challenge you too much; it remains to be seen if she continues to hold her own as the game continues.
Between battles, you’re free to set up camp, which allows you to rest and recover your stamina completely, save your game and call Willis the level god in order to level up if you have enough experience. Willis is a fixture in the Rance series, and it’s really kind of heartwarming to see that between Rance 01 and 02 she managed to achieve her goal of becoming a level god after simply running a level shop in the first game. If you followed through her events in Rance 01, you even helped her out a bit with this process — though not without her paying a rather sexy price for Rance’s services, of course.
There’s already a number of nice bits of series consistency evident in Rance 02. The “Camp” theme is heard multiple times throughout the series, for example, as is Willis’ theme. After it only showing up during the finale sequence of Rance 01, it’s also nice to hear Rance’s iconic theme “My Glorious Days” (based on the national anthem of the former East Germany, fact fans) a bit more often in Rance 02 — even if it typically accompanies him exhibiting his absolute worst behaviour.
We’ve also got plenty of iconic enemies to encounter in the dungeons — including some returning baddies from Rance 01, as well as more in the way of recurring series classics such as numerous variations on Hannies, the delightfully ineffective Can-Cans and plenty more besides. Plus Rance’s tendency to talk trash during combat is very much present and correct here, with a variety of fun context-sensitive comments according to who he’s fighting and how it’s going.
And, of course, there’s the fact that several of the characters in this specific game — notably Maria and Shizuka — would go on to become series regulars in their own right. It’s fascinating to see their “origin stories”.
So far Rance 02: The Rebellious Maidens seems like a lot of fun. It’s great that it keeps the smaller-scale sense of adventure that Rance 01 has, because one of the most interesting things about the series is that it gradually expands in scope and ambition by an impressively significant degree. While early-series Rance is all bluster about how much of an amazing adventurer he is, he eventually lives up to his own legend by the latter part of the series — and that sense of growth is all the more effective if we’re able to see first-hand how relatively humble his early exploits are.
My initial reaction to Rance 02 is that it’s probably not quite as solid a game as Rance 01 was, but this is understandable given that it’s not as substantial a reimagining of the original as Rance 01 is. Instead, the intent here was to provide a modernised experience that is still very true to the original game — and so far, at least, it feels very much like it’s succeeded in that regard. I’m looking forward to diving deeper.
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