Cosmic Fantasy 2 stands as the lone installment of the Cosmic Fantasy series to make it to the US. Although I had never heard of Cosmic Fantasy before, Cosmic Fantasy 2’s combination of great art, a well-written storyline, and well-executed gameplay made me a fan of the series. On a personal note, CF2 is also the game that first acquainted me with Working Designs’ mostly fantastic translations.
CF2 takes place on the planet Idea, and stars a young teenage boy named Van. Van lives on Clan Island, in the same village as his childhood sweetheart Laura, and he is a very carefree and free-spirited youth who dreams of someday becoming a great hunter. One day, while slacking off in some fields outside of his village, Van sees an explosion in a nearby village.
As he surveys the damage in the village, Van finds out from the surviving villagers that an evil wizard named Wizda has attacked the village in search of the princess of Idea. The princess of Idea is the key to enormous power, and it turns out that she has been living on Clan Island all along, hidden away from the powers that be.
Van also finds out that the princess can be recognized through her royal pendant. After learning more about this royal pendant, Van recalls that Laura has the exact pendant that the villagers are describing. Realizing that Laura is in grave danger, Van rushes back to his home village to save her.
Upon his arrival, however, Van discovers that Wizda’s forces have already arrived. As he tries to save Laura, Van finds that he is powerless against the fury of Wizda, and can only watch, bloody and bruised, as the evil wizard takes Laura away. As soon as he recovers, though, he sets out to save his sweetheart.
The underlying premise of CF2’s storyline is obviously very pedestrian (the save-the-princess theme is incredibly tired). However, CF2’s storyline turns out to be excellent. There are plenty of exciting plot twists (trust me, the game does not end how you think it might), and the overall storyline is immersive as well. In a welcome change from the majority of RPGs, the mood of the storyline is very lighthearted, though there are plenty of poignant moments, too. The characters aren’t extremely well developed, but they show a lot more personality than those of the overwhelming majority of other RPGs do.
Working Designs’ classic translation here is very similar to their more recent efforts, but it’s even goofier and more over-the-top than most of the newer WD games. Toilet humor and innuendo (which are actually very common in Japanese games of this nature) abound, and pop culture jokes are thankfully kept to a relative minimum. In typical Working Designs fashion, spelling and grammatical errors are kept to a minimum, and the dialogue is interesting and has a lot of personality. Although the dialogue doesn’t flow quite as well as that of WD’s later efforts, I fully enjoyed the translation here; few games have made me laugh as hard with their humor.
In terms of gameplay, CF2 is pretty much all standard RPG fare. Enemy encounters are random. Your characters can use weapons, items, and magic to fight these enemies. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a single feature that makes the gameplay stand out, other than the fact that it is well executed.
The gameplay does have some weaknesses, however. There is loading time before and after each battle, and there are a lot of battles. These load times aren’t annoyingly long, but they are significant. In some locations in the game, the battles are annoyingly frequent. In addition, the difficulty is poorly balanced. You’ll have to spend significant amounts of time leveling up at certain points in this game, particularly at the beginning. Shopping for new weapons and armor is also more time-consuming than in other RPGs because the shop menus don’t let you know if a particular weapon or armor will raise your character’s attack or defense. You have to buy a weapon, check your status with your old weapon equipped, equip your new weapon, and then check your status again to compare the relative effectiveness of two different weapons or armor pieces. And finally, this is an oddity rather than a flaw, but you’ll find a lot of poison antidotes throughout the game. The strange part of that is, I wasn’t poisoned a single time in this game, and I’ve played through the import twice and the domestic version once.
Control is excellent in CF2. The onscreen characters can move in 8 directions, and they are very responsive to the control pad. They move at a quick pace in the area maps (towns, dungeons, etc.). On the world map, they move slower, but fortunately not annoyingly slow.
Control does have one flaw, and it’s a significant one. The menus are very poorly designed in this game. Instead of making a full-screen menu with all of your main options on one page, CF2’s menu screens only take up a third of the screen, and you have to go between pages to get at all of your main options. This makes navigating CF2’s menus a tedious chore. It also doesn’t help that some of the menu screens require significant loading to access.
CF2 also sounds great. The sound effects are pretty ordinary, but the soundtrack is very well written, and because it’s in redbook, its sound quality is noticeably superior to that of most 32-bit games today. The songs are memorable; I was able to remember almost all of the individual songs for years after I stopped playing CF2. The world map theme kind of reminds me of the Sesame Street song, but hey, I like it. The only two weaknesses with the soundtrack are that the individual songs are very short (they’re typically less than a minute long each), and the limited number of songs (I think there are less than 10 total songs in the game) make the soundtrack somewhat repetitive as you get further in the game.
The WD voice acting is good in CF2; it’s not as strong as in the import version but is still better than the overwhelming majority of US games. There is a fair amount of voice acting throughout the game, and the voice actors fit their characters well.
CF2’s graphics were good for their time, but don’t hold up extremely well today. The lack of colors in the backgrounds is stark, as is the lack of detail in onscreen characters, though the enemies you fight look good even today and have a high level of detail. The animation and scrolling are pretty smooth, but unfortunately the enemies you encounter don’t animate in battles.
On the other hand, the character designs and art are among the best that I’ve ever seen. Characters generally look great, and the female characters are way kawaii. Parts of the story are told in partially animated anime stills, and these are among the best that I’ve ever seen on the Turbo. Graphics-wise, they’re still not quite as nice as the anime stills of today, but art-wise, I think they surpass most 32-bit anime stills.
One noteworthy aspect of the art is the cover art for the US version of the game. The domestic CF2 has perhaps the worst cover art (relative to the art in the game) that I’ve ever seen (this, of course, does not figure into the numerical score of the game). Despite what anyone might tell you, the cover art of the domestic version of CF2 is nothing like the cover art of the import (which is much, much better). I bring up this point because it should remind us of how fortunate we are that the majority of domestic software box art uses the Japanese art nowadays.
Cosmic Fantasy 2 shows its age a little when compared to RPGs of today. However, great RPGs always hold up to the test of time, and CF2 is no exception to the rule. To my knowledge, it can still be ordered from the Working Designs website; if you have a TurboGrafx-16 or a Turbo Duo, CF2 is definitely worth checking out.