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Thread: Solstice (NES) and Equinox (SNES)

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    ServBot (Level 11) Edmond Dantes's Avatar
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    Default Solstice (NES) and Equinox (SNES)

    So recently I got into these games. Moreso Equinox, but Solstice fascinates me as well.

    That said, Solstice is a game I can't see playing un-emulated... YET. Doing some practice though.

    But question: how many games with similar isometric views and adventure/puzzle focus can you think of? I'm aware apparently Solstice was inspired by ZX Spectrum games like Knight Lore (and apparently there was even a Batman game in this style) but that's where my knowledge fails.

    I know about Altered Space on Gameboy, and Landstalker and Light Crusader on the Genesis. Are there others?

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    Hmm i was thinking of the immortal for nes and genesis those play in a isometric view as well with puzzle elements.

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    I completely forgot about The Immortal. I actually own the Genesis version, but never got far in it because, well, its The Immortal.

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    I thought my Famicom Disk System version of Knight Lore the worst version.

    For isometric perspective puzzle games I like:
    AquaAqua -PS2
    Bombuzal/Ka-Blooey -SNES
    Die Maus -Gameboy Color
    Echochrome - PS3
    Etherborn - PS4
    Ice Age 2: The Meltdown - Gameboy Advance
    I.Q.: Intelligent Qube -PS1
    Looney Tunes: Twouble! -Gameboy Color (for it's isometric sections)
    Otto's Ottifanten Baby Bruno's Nightmare -Gameboy
    Rock n' Bolt - ColecoVision, but I play the SG-1000 version
    Wetrix -Dreamcast/N64


    For isometric action adventure games with puzzle elements I like:
    Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker -Wii U/3DS/Switch
    D/Generation -Amiga CD32
    Head Over Heels -Jaguar (PIKO)
    In Nightmare -PS4/PS5
    Juka and the Monophonic Menace -Gameboy Advance
    Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris -PS4
    Lumo -PS4/Switch
    Monster Max -Gameboy
    Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas -PS4/Switch
    Penny-Punching Princess -Switch/Vita
    Scurge: Hive -DS/Gameboy Advance
    Swagman -PS1/Saturn
    TechnoMage: Return of Eternity -PS1
    The Sexy Brutale -PS4/Switch
    Twinsen's Little Big Adventure -PS1
    World To The West -PS4

    I've found that the isometric perspective in newer games is often described as quasi-isometric.

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    Okay, so I'm on the final dungeon of Equinox now.

    I usually play games in order, but I decided to buy a real cart of Equinox first (the game had issues on emulators and I wanted to put my recently-acquired RetroTink 2x Pro thru its paces) because I had a chance to get it for a low price and its the more pricey of the two (I payed around forty bucks for it). I did do a few practice runs of Solstice on emulator but didn't get too caught up in it.

    I had tried to play it before, of course... but I remember immediately putting it down. Back then, I didn't know much about this duology, I just remember this one ad that used to run in magazines and getting curious.

    The site hosting the scan is missing a part, by the way--in a lot of magazines, on the next page would be an additional sidebar showing that the quest to beat the game had been handed off to the player's grandson. I remember constantly missing that when I was a kid, and being surprised when I finally noticed it, so I'm not surprised that website missed it as well.

    So one reason my early exposures may not have gone well is the afformentioned emulation issues, but also because I went in thinking this was gonna be a Zelda or Landstalker-style game.

    Then you get touched just once, die, and the room you're in resets. I remember being like "WTF?"

    Now that I actually know things, I get whats going on.

    If you're familiar with Solstice though, its clear Equinox took a few cues from Zelda. For example, combat is a heavier part of the game. Shadax in Solstice had like only one means of attack (a potion) and it was in such limited amounts that you used it only when absolutely necessary. His son Glendaal though, gets a knife almost right away (go Southwest from the starting position) and there are a few puzzles where you have to kill enemies, including some "kill everything in the room" situations.

    (Incidentally, part of me is wondering why Shadax was a typical fantasy-style wizard, but his son has this Arabian thing going on. I'm guessing that was just a fad in Glendaal's generation that his father was completely okay with).

    The difference though is that Equinox is all about puzzling and exploring. Despite some misleading terminology in the manual, there's no visiting towns or talking to NPCs.

    And if it takes after any Zelda game... its Zelda 1 on the NES, because Equinox is not above being cryptic. To be fair, its Doom levels of cryptic--there are, for example, hidden doorways to secret rooms, but usually something in the room will clue you in that its there, or you'll have seen it from a previous room and you'll be like "wait, this room should be on the other side of that one, I wonder..."

    Thankfully, its nowhere near as unforgiving as Solstice. You can save by leaving the dungeon, and later you get a spell which is basically an in-game version of savestates. Your "health" is basically your lives counter, but you get so many that eventually game overs won't be a thing... especially if you're like me and you get in the habit of retreating to the overworld to refill your magic by fighting bats (who always drop potions).

    By the way, yeah, most of the game is about exploring dungeons. There is an overworld, but its mostly just walking to the next dungeon or dungeon entrance... though you can also fight bats and trolls. Fighting trolls each time you get a new weapon extends your life meter, so its worth doing, but I notice in a lot of areas they just don't wanna show up, and I'm not sure what triggers it.

    One important thing about Equinox dungeons: A lot of them have multiple entrances, that start you in a different place. I don't THINK its possible to make the game unbeatable, but I personally recommend exploring all the unlocked rooms you can access, and then saving BEFORE you ever spend a key to open a locked door.

    ..... All that being said, it does have a "frustration factor."

    The big one is, of course, the perspective. Unlike Landstalker on the Genesis, Glendaal does not have a shadow to indicate exactly where he's gonna land or what he's lined up with, and sometimes your depth perception can mess with you. Lots of times, you'll swear you hit a platform but wind up missing it. But the bigger issue is when you're trying to get over spike balls and such. Believe it or not, sometimes you CAN just jump over them, but the positioning is exact, and the depth perception can make it look like you totally cleared it, but then you get the death wail anyway.

    This can even happen in rooms where you simply walk around spikes. Brief tip: the spike balls that Glendaal is standing below are always slightly closer to you than they appear, while the ones below you are actually a bit farther away than you think. You get the hang of it.

    By the way, note about jumping: you can actually "plan" a jump by holding down the B button. When you let go, Glendaal jumps, and if you're holding a direction, he'll jump in that direction. This can be an issue though in some later jumping puzzles where the key is to either do bunny hops or move fast, because sometimes it felt to me like I pressed the button and Glenny-boy just didn't jump.

    Incidentally, for beginners, I recommend holding the controller at an angle, since this game moves you up-right when you press up, for example. A slightly tilted controller helps account for this. I almost forgot to say anything though because I got used to it.

    Also, some of the puzzles can be insane.

    I'm gonna confess, I looked up a FAQ a few times... and each time, it turned out I had the right idea, I had just failed so much that I said "no, this can't be the intended solution, there has to be something I'm missing..." but I wasn't missing anything, I actually had the right idea, and this game really is just THAT sadistic.

    For example, the game doesn't indicate to you if an object has conveyer belt properties for yourself or objects like boxes. But you might suspect such a thing if, say, you see a box you can push onto what looks like a hall of spikes. Why would you do that? Because you just have to know. But when I saw this room, I thought "no, there has to be invisible steps or a spell that reveals them or something." But again, my first guess--that there's an invisible conveyer on the spikes that'll let you ride on a box after you push it on--was the right answer.

    Other times the game expects you to take advantage of its quirks. Like you'll soon realize that you can stand just off of blocks in ways that actually look like you're not really touching them, or that you can jump from just off corners.... and the game expects you to do exactly this. Lots of "impossible" jumps are indeed possible.

    Thankfully, death is a slap on the wrist--the game just puts you back at the door to the room you're in, and respawns monsters and items if you haven't cleared the room yet. You can "clear" a room by killing all monsters AND grabbing every single item, and then exiting through a door, which makes it so the monsters stay dead permanently. Some rooms will require you to do this, but in most cases its just for convenience, and in a few cases, I only clear a room if I really need the apple or magic potion that the last enemy drops or which happens to be present.

    Your ultimate goal in each dungeon is to find twelve tokens and then get to the boss (the boss won't appear unless you have all the tokens). Each dungeon also has a new weapon and a new magic spell for you to find. Finding a new spell also increases your magic meter, so its recommended (you also get expansions of health and magic whenever you beat a dungeon).

    And yeah, a lot of vicious puzzles are in the token rooms. Though there are a couple "haha fooled you" where it looks like the token spawned somewhere unreachable but then it zips to where you can reach it. Oh Equinox, you little scamp....

    But yeah, when playing Equinox... never underestimate its capacity for insanity.

    Except with its boss encounters. Despite Glendaal technically only having one hit point, the bosses tend to be pathetically easy, especially once you've gotten their patterns down. I also find with some bosses the perspective works in your favor because attacks that look like they should hit you, wind up not doing so.

    One last thing:

    GLITCH ALERT (and fix!) -- So at a certain point of the game, you'll have this ability to play a harp on top of these medical symbols, which teleports you. One of them will take you to a new land.... but sometimes it just takes you to the middle of the ocean (since this is in the overworld, it doesn't kill you). Thankfully, just play the harp again and you'll go back. I found that if you get this glitch, just run to the nearest dungeon, then exit, and try to get to the medical symbol without fighting bats or trolls, and this time it should work.

    Apparently using cheat codes makes that glitch more likely to happen. Thankfully, I don't use said codes.

    And I leave you with this terrifying thought: imagine someone doing a Kaizo hack of Equinox....

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