Retro Games: Randomizers and Other Nonsense

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

I love retro games. When I was a lad, they weren’t retro, they were just “games”. Specifically, some of the best games of all time happened when I was a young man. I’m fortunate to have grown up in a time when Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy IV and VI [because we didn’t get V on time, thanks a lot, Japan] and other hits were in the stores. Nowadays, you have to spend a fortune on them or acquire them in other manners which we won’t go into. However, these are games that I’ve played to death and know basically by heart. For the most part I know everything there is to know about them, other than Speedrunning info. I have zero interest in doing that, but that’s another rant for another day. So what to do once you’ve played Final Fantasy VI a hundred times, but want to enjoy it like when you were young and new to the world? That’s where modders/hackers have come in. There are a variety of fun ways to play some of these games. These are mostly in the form of Randomizers, or mods that make the games more difficult in some way or another. These are pretty much only played on PC unless you have another way to do so [Retro Pie, a modded handheld, on your mobile device, et cetera]. But these are wonderful. There are so many different ones, and I, in fact, found a website that highlights so many of them. You can find that website right here! There are a few sites that highlight them, but this is a favorite of mine.

Randomizer Editorial 1

What are some of my favorites though? Right now I’m actually playing through one for Bottom Tier, and that’s Dragon Quest III Randomizer. What makes it so interesting though? It’s a normal playthrough of Dragon Quest III as far as the story goes [most of them keep the same story, but some do some really weird stuff…] but you make your party, but what they can equip, what spells they have access to, their stat bonuses at level up, these are all randomized! Oh yes, it’s hilarious. My fireball spell affects whole groups of enemy-types and hits for about 200 damage, and that was at level 3. However, many enemies are immune to it apparently. The items in shops and in chests are also randomized, but their stats are also. I’ve found end-game weapons and armor for about 10-50 gp, but they’re worse than some of the stuff my characters started with. My “Club” is better than some end-game swords. Way to go. It really changes how you approach the game, how you level, and how quickly you can/can not go through the game. This one’s been a lot of fun so far.

Randomizer Editorial 2Randomizer Editorial 2

One of the ones I’ve completed was a Final Fantasy VI Randomizer. This one randomized sprite, color palettes, what they can/can not equip. VI provides each character with a unique skillset: Locke has Steal, Edgar has Tools, et cetera. However, Edgar might wind up with Umaro’s “Rage” skillset, so he can no longer be controlled and just attacks relentlessly. Chests are random, as are what each store and each Esper teaches [as well as the speed at which they are learned]. To make it a bit harder, most of the glitches and bugs that made the game easy-mode [vanish-doom anyone?] are fixed, and Espers no longer offer stat bonuses at a level-up. This was immeasurably hard and required me to start over a few times for various reasons. I went through the entire game with almost no useful attack spells or heals. Lots of duplicates on my Espers. It was challenging but insanely fun. I like doing these, because they force me to look at the game in a new lens, to play the game in a different way than what normally works for me.

Randomizer Editorial 3

However, some games just have Roguelike/Dungeon Crawls. There are some for Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy IV, for example. You go through a dungeon with a picked party, you can randomize their skills/equipment they can use, et cetera. These aren’t quite as fun to me, but are still challenging in their own way. I haven’t tried many of them, but I know there are some for Lufia 2, FFIV, Secret of Mana, as I said. There are way more than that though! Then.. there are the comedy changes. There’s a version of Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals that turns almost every character into the comedic badass, Dekar. Even towns are named for him, like “Sundeldkar” or something like that. It’s hilarious and wonderful. That and Final Fantasy X that has all of the BGMs replaced with Tidus’ Laugh. “Tidus Fantasy X”. Some of these are just challenging and interesting, some are going to make you laugh until you pee.

Do you have a favorite rework/fangame/randomizer? Let me know!


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  • Herschel Pilcher III

    I love the idea of a randomized play-through of classic games. As you said, it’s like playing the game for the first time.

    And there is something supremely enjoyable about a feeling of confidence in your knowledge of a video game being turned completely on it’s head when the game goes off in an unexpected direction because of the Randomizer effect.

  • KDH81

    Another great article. I am not a big fan of randomizers etc. as I have not beaten a lot of RPGs over the years. Maybe a total of ten… maybe fifteen or so. And even so, only once or twice per game. But it is interesting to see what others have in mind for a better/different/harder gaming experience. I think my bread and butter was more towards fighting games and side scrollers back then. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post. 🙂

  • Mike Guzman

    Thank you for introducing me to the world of randomized games, they are so fun.