Posted on August 23, 2018
Boundary Gate: Daughter of Kingdom/バウンダリーゲート
Boundary Gate: Daughter of Kingdom is a dungeon-crawling JRPG that probably nobody living outside of Japan has ever seen before, let alone heard of. Being one of the very few RPGs released for the super obscure PC-FX (both the game and the console being released only within Japan), Boundary Gate delivers an interesting mix of CRPG and JRPG that you don’t find very often, even today!
Is Boundary Gate worth tracking down and playing through? Let’s take a look!
Score – 30/40
Story – 7/10
Gameplay – 8/10
Graphics – 8/10
Music – 7/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Turn-based)
Release Date: JP: January 24th, 1997
Length: 10～20 Hours
Table of Contents
Boundary Gate: Daughter of Kingdom PC-FX Review
Boundary Gate is one of the about 10 RPGs for the PC-FX, and was released at the beginning of 1997. The game is unique due to the fact that it plays like both a CRPG and a JRPG at the same time. Considering the fact that the PC-FX was created to be the “End-all Be-all 2d console” during the 5th console generation (Playstation, N64), the 3d First-person dungeon crawling mixed with the 2d Phantasy Star IV-style combat system compliments Boundary Gate very well!
Boundary Gate is a game that will scratch the itch of any dungeon-crawling fan, but what about newbies to the genre or people that have never played an old-school dungeon-crawler? Is Boundary Gate good enough to keep general both CRPG fans and JRPG happy? First, let’s take a look at the story.
I want to come out first and say that I feel like I might not have fully grasped the story, even after beating the game. That, or the game just kinda slid everything along and just kind of ended abruptly without tying up the loose ends.
The game begins with a swordsman, named フィン(Fin), arriving in the Kingdom of Anbrose. He does what any good swordsman would do as soon as he arrives in town, he heads to the bar. Inside the bar he learns that there have recently been some incidents happening around town in the middle of the night.
Fin walks around town at night, looking for anything suspicious. Soon after, he encounters a demon in the middle of town, which he believes was responsible for the recent damage. After defeating the demon, Fin continues walking around town until he stumbles inside of a building and finds a young girl who is being attacked by yet another demon.
Upon saving the girl, she reveals her name to be リスプ(Risupu, Lisp) and joins the party. The two head to some nearby towns to try to find the source of the spawning demons. Along the way they start witnessing visions of キラル(Kiraru, Kiral), who is the daughter of the King of Anbrose. Kiral tells the party that she is in the processing of opening up the “Boundary Gate”, which will create a gateway that connects the world with an ancient machine civilization (from what I gathered…i’m like 85-90% positive).
The party then sets off to find 4 portals that are being prepared for the opening of the Boundary Gate. Upon finding one of the gates, a futuristic computer terminal appears before the portal. Lisp somehow knows the password of the terminal and knows exactly how to use it, as well as how to close the portal.
What kind of relation does Lisp have to the portals, and why does Kiral specifically know Lisp’s name when she talks to the party during the visions? Can the party stop the channeling of the “Boundary Gate” before it’s too late?
For me, the story was kind of interesting. Due to the fact that the game was very short, I think the pacing of the story was a bit too fast. The beginning of the game didn’t really have much story to it, to be honest the story didn’t really kick in until about half-way through the game. At that point, you have about only 4-6 hours of gameplay left, so that entire 80% of story that they throw at you has to be digested in just a few hours.
The majority of the story is told in the last 4 or 5 dungeons. These dungeons will each take you probably only 20 or 30 minutes each to finish. For me, the fact that they waited until pretty much the very end to do anything with the main villains and characters made it so I didn’t really feel too much whenever a plot-twist or something happened.
This may be different for other players, but I always feel a bit disconnected to the story when games wait until the second-half to start picking up steam, so Boundary Gate’s story didn’t really hit me. The premise was cool, though!
There are only 4 main characters in Boundary Gate. The characters don’t really have much character development, so basically the character that you meet during their intro is the character that you’ll see throughout the rest of the game.
フィン、Fin – A 25 year old traveling Adventurer who comes to the Kingdom of Anbrose in the hopes to find work.
リスプ、Lisp – An 18 year old girl who has traveled to Anbrose from the surrounding village town of ワイスブルーム (Waisbloom), with the intention of meeting the daughter of the King of Anbrose. Lisp hires Fin to become her bodyguard and accompany her while she searches for something…
グレイストーン、Greystone – A 32 year old whose as rough as he looks. Greystone lost his right arm while defending his Lord, and in a gift of gratitude from his lord, Greystone received a mechanical arm. Greystone joins the party in their attempt to stop the opening of the Boundary Gate.
メリッサ、Melissa – A 22 year old bad-mouthed beauty. Considered an outstanding magician, Melissa joins the party after they help her escape captivity inside of a dungeon.
The graphics in Boundary Gate are for the most part good. As I mentioned above, the PC-FX was designed to be the specialty 2d system, so Boundary Gate being a 2d game should mean that it looks pretty spectacular. Well, it doesn’t quite hit the “spectacular” mark.
The problem is, the overworld/dungeon-crawling aspect of Boundary Gate is displayed in a faux-3d style. Due to this, the game plays like your average SFC/SNES first-person dungeon-crawler. When you move in a direction, your character just kind of jumps/warps one space ahead and the next background jumps in-front of you.
Although the PC-FX was a 5th generation console, it literally lacked actual 3d capabilities, so something like smooth scrolling or movement just wasn’t possible. In this regard, the first-person view plays just like any game of the same genre from the previous generation, such as Wizardry 5 or Shin Megami Tensei.
In terms of the actual environments on the overworld, they look pretty good for a game of this time. Environments are decently detailed, and there’s a lot of variation in the maps that you’ll explore. Most areas have unique tile-sets, except for a few select sewer sections in the game.
In town, NPC sprites are again similar to what you would find in Shin Megami I and II. Most NPCs are just kind of a dully drawn human, without any real facial features. This goes for even the more important story-related characters, too.
While playing the game, you’ll often run into anime-like cut-scenes that have a still-picture with some dialog below it. These look pretty cool, are quite detailed (hand-drawn), and still look goodeve when stretched out on an HDTV. These cut-scenes really give off that “Japan-only” feel of the PC-FX, as it’s a style that you really never got to see until the PS1/PS2 days in the West, but was rampant back in Japan.
Now, onto where the graphics excel in Boundary Gate, and that is in the 2d battles. The battles look quite similar to Phantasy Star IV, where you fight with your party’s back facing you, with the enemy monster in the middle of the screen. After selecting your attacks, your party members will jump infront of the enemy and attack it with their weapon, showing a cool weapon-specific attack animation, or casting a spell with really nice effects.
The battles in Boundary Gate aren’t very smooth, though. The attacks and spell animation are choppy, so you can tell that they are being played out frame-by-frame, but speed aside the battles look pretty good. Your characters have fluid dodge animations, enemy sprites are really big and detailed, and enemy sprites are never re-colored and re-used, which is really great in my opinion.
My favorite thing about the battles are the higher level spells. Now, i’ve played pretty much most of the most graphically-intensive games for the SFC (Star Ocean, Seiken Densetsu 3, Final Fantasy IV, Romancing SaGa 3, Chrono Trigger…), but I haven’t seen a game that gave the impression of such devastation from casting low/mid level spells like I saw in Boundary Gate!
Healing spells show the typical rainbow-colored flashing party members, but the attack spells look awesome! Casting a low level lightning spell will turn your entire screen blue, with your party members covering their eyes while bolts of lightning fly across the screen for several seconds. Casting an end-game fire spell will engulf the entire screen in red hellfire, with the backdraft almost ripping the capes off of your party!
For me, overall the graphics were fairly good in Boundary Gate. As a half 2d/half 3d focused game, it’s not going to come anywhere close to a dedicated 2d game on the Playstation, like Legend of Mana, or a dedicated 3d game like Chrono Cross. Even though it probably won’t blow any minds, Boundary Gate certainly doesn’t disappoint, and was actually so cool in the magic department that it made me change my play-style and try to add more magic occasionally just to watch the spell animations!
I kind of mentioned it above in the graphics section, but i’ll go over it again. Boundary Gate is a dungeon-crawling game, similar to Wizardry, Shin Megami Tensei, and Might and Magic. You move tile to tile in first-person, entering rooms and fighting monsters. The overall “feel” of the game is like any classic dungeon-crawling CRPG. But if you put aside the appearance, all CRPG traces vanish.
At its heart, Boundary Gate is your typical JRPG. You have pre-determined characters with pre-determined stats, abilities, and equipment types. You randomly encounter monsters while walking, which leads to turn-based combat with your typical “Attack, Magic, Item, Run” commands.
Since each character’s growth progression is pre-determined, you can basically grind as much as you like and you’ll just keep getting stronger and stronger, without having to worry about screwing up your build or stats like in a CRPG. The speed at which you grind can be decided in the options menu. You can choose from “Many, Regular, or Few” encounters, which vastly changes the pace at which you encounter monsters.
I played the entire game using the “Many” option, and I basically ran into monsters every 2-5 steps. Normally this would piss me off, but the PC-FX controller comes with a built-in Turbo Mode, so you can set that on and just hold 1 (basically the confirm button) while walking through dungeons and kill stuff no problem.
This might have led me to being over-leveled, because I killed most monsters except for those in the last 2 dungeons within one turn. Just to test the “Few” option, I turned it on once while leaving a dungeon, and I was running into monsters every 15-25 steps. A huge difference from “Many”, but in turn, a huge loss of EXP. I’m not sure you really need too many levels in Boundary Gate thought, because the game seemed super easy. I didn’t even see the game-over screen.
As far as gameplay goes, there didn’t seem to be any optional stuff in the game. Games towards the end of the SFC’s lifespan, as well as some early PS1 RPGs started to get into the whole post-game content, side-content, and New Game+ trend. Boundary Gate doesn’t seem to have any post-game or side-content from what I saw. It’s a straight-cut dungeon-crawling RPG from start to finish, with no frills and no breaks in the action!
The music in Boundary Gate didn’t stick out for me too much, to be honest. The game overall is quite atmospheric, and the OST has a lot of creepy and atmospheric/ambient songs in it, so it actually is quite fitting. This game does kinda have “that song”, but other than that it was a pretty basic soundtrack.
There doesn’t seem to be a PC-FX version OST on Youtube, and while there is a version for the PS1 port, the soundtrack seems to use different instrumentation (the PC-FX version is super MIDI-y!). We’ll have to make due with the PS1 version’s OST for this section, this time.
First, i’ll start of with “that song”. It’s one of the first you’ll hear, as soon as you step into Anbrose for the first time. Sounds nice and peaceful, and gives the complete wrong impression of how the rest of the game will be.
Next is one of the creepier sounding songs in the game (there are tons).
Last, we’ll hear one of the dungeon themes in the game. Sounds like it’s straight out of a Survival Horror game, huh?
Most of the OST sounds like the last two songs posted above, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and to be honest the two songs above fit the mood of the game the most. I just prefer a little bit more variety in my OSTs, rather than slight deviations of the same sounding stuff all the way through. Overall, a pretty average OST in my opinion! Not too bad, not too great!
Should you play it?
I’ll give a couple of different points of view on whether Boundary Gate is worth playing or not. First off, as an RPG on the PC-FX, since there’s such a lack of RPGs on the system I think anyone who’s a fan of either CRPGs or JRPGs should give Boundary Gate a shot. What I will say though, is that I don’t think Boundary Gate is worth going through all of the trouble of finding a PC-FX and shipping it overseas just to play the game. If you already have a PC-FX though, I say definitely try to pick up Boundary Gate! Even if you don’t love it, it’s short enough of a game that you can blow through it in a weekend.
My other point of view is that Boundary Gate is such an obscure game, even in Japan. This means that you won’t find ANY guides or information about this game in English, and so I assume that means in any other language besides Japanese too. If you can’t understand Japanese, you’ll mostly be fine in the battles, but you’ll have a hell of a time trying to progress at all in the story without knowing Japanese. There won’t be any stuff on Gamefaqs or anything like that that’ll have walkthroughs for some translation patched version of the game that you can fall back on if you get stuck.
Since there is such a lack of ANYTHING about this game on the internet, I truly need to warn anyone interested in playing the game that it will honestly require Japanese knowledge in order to beat the game in any sane amount of time. Even if only at a basic level, if you’re able to understand some Japanese, then the game is definitely worth a try!
Which version should you play?
As far as I know, there are only two physical versions of Boundary Gate – the original PC-FX version and a Playstation 1 port. I’ve only played the PC-FX version, but checking around I was able to find a video of the PS1 version in action. The movement is super smooth in the PS1 version (most likely due to having the ability to actually render 3d), so just from looking at that alone I would almost be eager to recommend the PS1 version.
Aside from the smoothness, the OST also sounds a bit different in the PS1 version. The songs are the same, but the PS1 version seems to have dropped the old-school sounding MIDI OST for a more clearer sounding OST.
One more really important factor is that the PS1 version is probably a lot easier to play if you going for a physical version of the game. Finding a PC-FX with all of parts attached and finding a PC-FX version of Boundary Gate will run you about 160$ in Japan, so importing these from overseas will probably run you over 200$, easy.
Buying a cheap Japanese PS1 and the PS1 version of the game will only run you about 50$ in Japan, so probably less than 100$ overseas if you import. When you compare the price differences, it seems a lot more logical to grab the PS1 version, but if you want those huge obscure Otaku points, you’ll have to get the PC-FX version!
Final Score – 30/40
Story – 7/10
Gameplay – 8/10
Graphics – 8/10
Music – 7/10