Now that a recent Warriors Orochi 4 Ultimate character leak has sent me spiralling back into pining for a western release of Aizouban Houshinengi, I figure I might as well explain why it’s been sitting pretty on my “I still want these games in English” list for the better part of two decades.
Back in 2002, Koei released a game called Mystic Heroes. In some ways, it was the Warriors spin-off before Warriors spin-offs were a thing. Unlike recent titles, however, it had no attachment to an existing series. It was just a strange Dynasty Warriors-alike with oddly chibi visuals, more of a taste for magic, and a plot that felt like it never got explained enough.
In fact, watching the opening movie, I’d sit there and think “wow, this takes so many turns, they could have fitted like 2 more games in here” but was mostly resigned to the fact that Mystic Heroes was adamant not to explain anyone or anything that cropped up and would rather you just fight some monsters, throw some fireballs and have fun, no questions asked.
Years later, I discovered I was actually on to something. Mystic Heroes was the third game in a series, coming west with no precedent to disappointingly little success. The first of these was an SRPG released on the PS1 back in 1998, known as either Fengshen Yanyi or Aizouban Houshinengi. As the Dynasty Warriors series draws from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Fengshen Yanyi is inspired by a Chinese novel of the same name. This novel was also the inspiration for the anime Houshin Engi (or Soul Hunter), both of which make finding anything about it a complete pain and calling it Aizouban a lot easier.
Aizouban was a tactical strategy RPG, where each playable character is assigned one of five elements which determines their advantage or disadvantage in battle in a rock-paper-scissors style system. In addition, characters have differing proficiency in a variety of weapons and magic types, some of which can even be used to affect the terrain, which is a key element of battles. All in all, it’s a detailed battle system that makes my Fire Emblem-loving heart race.
A second, more action-based game, followed, somewhat bridging the gap between the very different gameplay styles of Aizouban before it and Mystic Heroes after. This sequel made it as far as Korea, but still never released in English. Shortly after, Mystic Heroes followed up again, leaving us with the brief glimpse into the series’ captivating world and story that we have.
I’d be happy to see anything of these games resurface, though it makes sense to begin at the beginning. Sadly, the game has long since withered away in the Not Outside of Japan zone, leaving me crying into its opening movie at what could have been. It’s wonderful, just look at it:
I live in foolish hope, however. With SRPGs finally getting the praise they deserve more abundantly, and remakes popping up left, right, and centre, now feels like as good a time as any for Aizouban Houshinengi to make a comeback too! If that’s (quite understandably) asking too much, then port it somewhere! Just. In English, please.
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