Tsuki no megami III no densetsu: Shin jidai (月の女神IIIの伝説:新時代) – Nintendo Super Famicom, 1991

The third entry, Tsuki no megami III no densetsu: Shin jidai (Legend of the Lunar Goddess III: A New Era) was released for the Super Famicom system in Japan in 1991. Equipped with both more powerful hardware and battery-backed memory, this game was very ambitious in scope and used the largest cartridge size available at the time. The system is very similar to its predecessor, with a text-based on-screen parser, similar to LucasArts’ SCUMM engine, accompanying graphics and character portraits in a visual novel style. Battles are now real-time, rather than turn-based, in a similar style to Square’s ATB system. The game also incorporates a day/night cycle and a time limit, requiring the central mystery to be completed in seven in-game days. 26 different endings, lettered A-Z, are possible, and the Star System returns as a rough grade: achieving three stars is possible for endings A-N and doing so unlocks a new game plus mode.

Selene takes on the identity of a murder victim in 1950s Tokyo after Inspector Takahashi sincerely wishes on the moon to learn the mysterious girl’s identity and killer. Selene is forced to find information not only on the killer but on the identity of the victim, Yuki; a series of late-game conversations rely strongly on information that Selene has been able to ascertain and affect the ending. In addition to Takahashi, players encounter Akima the Reluctant Oni for the first time, and oblique references are made to the Eclipse King, though he does not appear.

The world map has been replaced with a smaller but more detailed map of Tokyo, with various buildings taking the place of dungeons and caves. Exploring these allows Selene and up to one follower to build combat experience, find items, and even uncover certain otherwise unavailable clues. Six different followers are available, including Takahashi, Akima, and two secret characters.

A major success in Japan, the game nevertheless inspired some of the earliest ROM hacking attempts as players tried to remove the seven-day time limit, which many felt was restrictive. Since some characters can only be encountered at certain times of day and in certain locations, it was possible to softlock the game extremely easily into a state where only the bad ending (ending Z) was possible. Illicit cartridges with the “time travel version” were circulated, and Kyopro eventually released their own as Tsukimeg III Easytype.

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