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Video Game / Madou Monogatari

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Madou Monogatari is a Role-Playing Game series originally created by Compile. First appearing on the MSX, most entries follow a young mage-in-training named Arle Nadja, and chronicle her adventures in a world filled with colorful characters and monsters — everything from a fish with human arms and legs to the Prince of Hell himself is here. The cast of these games was later used to create a puzzle game by the name of Puyo Puyo which went on to become infinitely more popular than its parent series.

Most Madou Monogatari games are first-person dungeon crawlers whose most distinguishing gameplay trait is the near-complete lack of numerical stats: health, attack damage, and the amount of magical power the character has remaining are inferred through text cues and by reading the portrait of the player character, who becomes increasingly distraught as their endurance wears down. The games did experiment with other RPG formats, however, including some with normal stats.

In 1998, Compile sold the rights to Puyo Puyo to Sega in what was thought to be a temporary measure to get out of financial trouble. This included all of the characters and much of the music in Madou Monogatari, but not the series itself. Ultimately Compile failed and went under, leading to the rights to Madou Monogatari finding their way to D4 Enterprise. D4 and Sega have worked together more than once for re-releases of previous Madou Monogatari games, but the only new console or handheld entry since Compile's closure is Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God, a game created by Compile's successor company Compile Heart that features none of the original characters. That said, Compile Heart announced in an October 2023 interview that a Madou Monogatari 4 is in development by Sting Entertainment, with Sega onboard to allow the original cast to return.

Retail games in the series include:

  • Madou Monogatari 1-2-3: A first-person RPG consisting of three separate stories: Arle Nadja's graduation from kindergarten, the battles against Schezo Wegey and Satan, and finally the encounter with Rulue and her bodyguard Minotauros. Initially released on the MSX2, it received a Darker and Edgier port on the NEC PC-9801 before being sold individually on the Game Gear. Madou Monogatari I received remakes on the PC-Engine CD and the Mega Drive, the latter notably being the final licensed Japanese Mega Drive game.
  • Madou Monogatari A-R-S: A prequel released on PC-98 consisting of three separate stories: Arle's very first adventure, Rulue's introduction to Satan, and Schezo's ascension to the title of Dark Wizard. Arle's story received a Game Gear port, Madou Monogatari A: Dokidoki Vaca~tion (Fan-translated as "Sorcery Saga A: Vivacious Vacation").
  • Madou Monogatari: Hanamaru Dai Youchienji (Fan-translated as Madou Monogatari: Big Kindergarten Kids): A very loose reimagining of Madou Monogatari I for Super Famicom. Arle has to find eight magical stones, spread in various locations, before she can take her kindergarten final exam. Uses more traditional RPG maps, but retains the original games' lack of numerical stats.
  • Madou Monogatari (commonly referred to as Saturn Madou or simply Saturn): A traditional RPG for the Sega Saturn, involving the ARS trio, Lagnus Bishasi, and the villainous Yogs.
  • Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God (Sei Madou Monogatari in Japan): A Roguelike created by Compile Heart for the Play Station Vita, featuring Captain Ersatzes of the Compile-era cast. It was localized by Aksys, with this localized version later being ported to Steam by Ghostlight.
  • Madou Monogatari 4: An upcoming title announced by Compile Heart in collaboration with rights holders D4 Entertainment and Sega and developed by Sting Entertainment.

Smaller games included in Compile's disk magazine "Disc Station" include:

  • Madou Monogatari Episode II Carbuncle: A prototype version of the second game in Madou Monogatari 1-2-3, released in MSX Disc Station's Christmas '89 special edition.
  • Madou Monogatari: Michikusa Ibun (roughly Sorcery Saga: Strange Wayside Story): A dungeon crawler in the style of 1-2-3 and A-R-S for PC-98. It is essentially a playable version of the first arcade Puyo Puyo's backstory.
  • Bayoeen Wars: Daimadou Senryaku Monogatari, Daimadou Senryaku Monogatari '95: Hexagonal-grid Turn-Based Strategy games for PC-98, where Arle and her familiar enemies summon monsters to aid them in combat.
  • Madou Monogatari: Hachamecha Kimatsu Shiken (roughly Sorcery Saga: Chaotic Final Exam, often abbreviated to "Final Exam" or "The Final Test"): A first-person dungeon crawler, in the style of 1-2-3 and A-R-S, for Windows 95. Arle is taking her school's final exam, but during her test of skills, she sticks her nose into ruins that hides ancient history...
  • Madou Monogatari: Madoushi no Tou (Sorcery Saga: Tower of the Magician): A first-person dungeon crawler for Windows 95 starring Schezo Wegey and Witch, with Schezo trying to find former world savior Wish in order to steal her power for himself.

Riding on Puyo Puyo's success, Compile also created several side novels for Madou Monogatari. Perhaps the most famous of these is Shin Madou Monogatari, built based on a rejected story outline for the Sega Saturn Madou Monogatari; the first volume contains the "Madou Monogatari Chronology", a unified timeline for the Madou Monogatari and Puyo Puyo series with questionable canoncity.

Tropes that appear in the Madou Monogatari series:

  • Aborted Arc: The Shin Madou Monogatari timeline featured many, many unreleased names of games and novels. Shin Madou Monogatari itself was supposed to receive a second part, but by the time the first part completed in 2001, Compile was on death's door.
  • Actionized Sequel: Or in Madou Monogatari I's case, Actionized Remake. In a departure from the turn-based menu combat it's known for, the Mega Drive version features real-time battle encounters where Arle can jump, crouch, and even defend against enemy attacks. All of her spells are bound to a button command performed on the D-Pad while holding the A button, such as pressing "down, left, up, right" to cast Ice Storm. Because the battles play in real time, skilled players can rapidly churn out spells and possibly defeat enemies before they could even touch Arle.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The Game Gear ports of Madou Monogatari 1-2-3 combine the general look of the original MSX version of 1-2-3 with elements introduced in the PC-98 port.
  • Antagonist Title: The Game Gear port of Madou Monogatari III is called Madou Monogatari III: Kyuukyoku Joou-sama, with Kyuukyoku Joou-sama translating to "Ultimate Queen." The "ultimate queen" in question is Rulue.
  • Art Shift: The PC-98 versions feature realistically-proportioned characters, unlike the superdeformed style of the other versions.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: A very jarring example when taking its spinoff series into account. There is not a chance in hell a Puyo Puyo game would ever depict bloody decapitations.
  • Boss Corridor: The chamber leading to the final battle with the Dark Prince in Madou Monogatari II; it is a Carbuncle-shaped one at that!
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: In Saturn Madou, many characters fall under mind control via mysterious plants planted by the Yogs. After defeating a mind-controlled victim, Carbuncle uses the laser beam from his gem to destroy the plant, snapping them out of their trance.
  • Breath Weapon: In Madou Monogatari I for Mega Drive, one of Mrs. Eve’s attacks is to summon a large penguin that fires a huge laser from its mouth.
  • Call-Back: Sorcery Saga has a cross-continuity example. Its tutorial sees heroine Pupuru climbing a tower in order to retrieve an orb that will guarantee her graduation from magic school. This is almost identical to the plot of Madou Monogatari I, where Arle climbs a tower in order to retrieve three magic orbs that will guarantee her graduation from kindergarten, down to how they both qualify for the tower climb: they left it to a pencil roll to decide their answers. The difference is that Arle passes, while Pupuru fails.
  • Canon Immigrant: Serilly and Ragnus, characters from Puyo Puyo Tsu and Puyo Puyo Sun respectively, were introduced in later Madou Monogatari games, Ragnus in particular having a major part in both the Saturn Madou Monogatari and in the Shin Madou Monogatari novels.
  • Canon Welding: Several attempts are made, to connect Madou Monogatari and Puyo Puyo, which only serve to make the Schrödinger's Canon situation even more murky.
    • Madou Monogatari: Michikusa Ibun is more-or-less a playable version of the 1992 Puyo Puyo's backstory.
    • The Kadokawa light novels start as sequels to 1-2-3 and eventually adapt parts of Puyo Puyo games, namely Rulue no Tetsuwan Hanjouki and Waku Waku Puyo Puyo Dungeon.
    • The Shin Madou Monogatari light novels, particularly the Madou Monogatari Chronology, infamously attempts to weld the vast majority of Madou Monogatari and Puyo Puyo together via a centuries-long battle between Arle and the Creator, leading to the destruction of the Madou-verse and subsequent recreation by the Dark Prince into the Puyo-verse.
    • Inverted once 2002 came and the two series were divorced from each other; Puyo Puyo underwent a Soft Reboot while Madou Monogatari was forced to throw out everything except its name.
  • Company Cross References: The series features a few appearances from characters hailing from other Compile titles.
    • In Madou Monogatari II’s MSX version, Owlbear from Madoushi Lulba (an adventure game by Compile with a similar theme to the Madou series) appears as a common enemy. He’d soon start appearing in other Madou games, most notably Madou Monogatari A as a recurring boss, where he’d carry over his telepathic abilities and fierce demeanor.
    • Madou Monogatari ARS features cameos from characters from other Compile games, including Samurai King Megason Z, Seirei Senshi Spriggan, and even more characters from Madoushi Lulba, either acting as enemies or as NPCs.
    • Madou Monogatari I for Mega Drive features a subversion; two unique enemies appear in this version: the hot blooded swordsman Billy Burn and the penguin queen Mrs. Eve. As it happens, both are related to characters from Compile’s platformer series JUMP HERO, with Billy Burn being the brother of series’ protagonist Billy de Babinenote , and Mrs. Eve being the mother of Prince Ivan the penguin. The two would show up in JUMP HERO Gaiden a few months later as their first proper appearances in that series, making their debuts in Madou Monogatari I something of a Production Foreshadowing.
  • Compilation Rerelease: By the hand of D4, Madou Monogatari Ultimate Collection, a set of limited-run PC ports of the original Madou games, coming in four volumes.
  • Cute Slime Mook: Puyo Puyo, eventually renamed Puyo in their namesake series, are adorable entry-level slime monsters that wear exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Darker and Edgier: The PC-98 port of 1-2-3 is this compared to the original, eschewing the light-hearted and cutesy aesthetic in favor of a gritty, realistic one (the battle sprites normally display a Super-Deformed look - the PC-98 port replaces it with realistically proportioned ones) and turning monster-type enemies into actual monsters (i.e. Harpy being drawn like her namesake instead of an angel). The port is also infamous for being much more violent than the original, as it features blood, on-screen decapitations, and applying fatalities on certain monsters with the right spells.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Exploited in Madou Monogatari II, where the sixteen-year old protagonist Arle is captured very early on in the game. She uses her sex appeal to snag the key to her cell from some demon guards and escape.
  • Easter Egg: As Madou Monogatari Saturn is a CD, you can stick it into a CD player to try and play it. You end up getting scolded by Arle for being reckless with technology.
  • Here We Go Again!: Arle and Rulue, despite coming out of the dungeon alive in Chaotic Final Exam, end up getting sent to another one as a make-up exam, and for beating up the Masked Headmaster (actually the Dark Prince), mid-exam. It was just a farce, though, as he already marked a passing grade for the both of them.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Floor 2F in Tower of the Magician utilizes one involving "アイ"note  as part of a puzzle. All over the floor, Schezo could find Ice Creamnote , Eyeshadownote , a card with the letter "i"note , and an Ironnote . None of those are the answer. You're supposed to cast Ice Stormnote  at the door. Behind the door is the Master Keynote , and it opens a door to Incubus, who has a Present of Lovenote . When Schezo takes in Tenori Zoh, he calls him his partnernote .
  • In Name Only: Sei Madou Monogatari (Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God) is a legally-necessitated example, as Compile Heart had none of the rights to the original cast of characters.note 
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Game Gear Madou Monogatari games only limited you to nine item slots per bag. You would have to discard an item if you found another and want to keep it.
  • Isometric Projection: Though Saturn Madou starts out in traditional RPG perspective, the game after the prologue plays out in this fashion.
  • The Last Title: Madou Monogatari: The Final Test.
  • Lost in Translation: There are technically two separate novel series called Shin Madou Monogatari: One series created by Tsuyoshi Yamamoto (released under Kadokawa) focusing around Arle, Rulue, and Schezo (with the second and third parts serving as a sequel to the original Madou Monogatari light novels and the second part doubling as a sequel to Rulue no Tetsuwan Hanjouki), and the other series being the infamous Canon Welding novels from Kenji Oda (released under Famitsu Bunko). The former series uses the kanji for "New"(新), while the latter series uses the kanji for "True"(真), both of which are pronounced Shin. The fandom uses New Madou Monogatari and Shin Madou Monogatari for the Kadokawa and Famitsu novels, respectively.
  • Market-Based Title: "Madou Monogatari" was turned into "Sorcery Saga" when Sei Madou Monogatari was localized.
  • Mood Whiplash: While it's terrifying to watch 4-year-old Arle get lost in a dark forest in ARS, the first song that plays when you start the actual game is the upbeat, triumphant "Fiend Empire".
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: According to the Madou Monogatari Chronology, the Dark Prince created fake replicas of every resident of the Madou-verse that can never age (or even think about growing up), following the Final Ragnarok (the war between Arle and The Creator of the Madou world), which killed everyone who resided in said world.
  • One Game for the Price of Two: Zigzagged with Madou Monogatari 1-2-3, which is three games in one...that were later sold separately on the Game Gear. (Granted, the Game Gear version of II and especially III modify many plot details and feature exclusive enemies.) It appeared that Madou Monogatari ARS, which is also a 3-in-1 package, was going to receive similar treatment; however, only the A(rle) portion actually saw a separate release.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted franchise-wide for "Lucifer". In the Kadokawa light novel continuity, Lucifer is Arle's teacher. However, in the Madou Monogatari Chronology continuity, Lucifer is a previous name for the Dark Prince.
  • Psychotic Love Triangle: In the Game Gear Madou Monogatari II, Schezo comes to Arle's aid when she confronts Dark Prince and they ask her to pick between the two. If she picks either of them, Dark Prince will beat Schezo. If she picks neither, Schezo will take her power and Dark Prince will take her soul, resulting in a game over.
  • Rare Candy: Golden Apples give you an instant level up. Some are in chests, others...are in weirder places. In Final Test, you have to run straight into a wall to find one!
  • Recurring Boss: Parodied in the Game Gear version of Madou Monogatari II. In it, you face Schezo several times...however, each new encounter ends up easier than the previous one due to him getting increasingly tired. One encounter is even delayed, because he faints on the spot from exhaustion before catching up to actually engage in battle.
  • Recycled Title: Subverted with Madou Monogatari for the Sega Saturn. There were many Madou Monogatari games up to that point, but there was never a game named "Madou Monogatari" without any kind of suffix. Regardless, the fandom referred to the game as Madoh Monogatari for years in an attempt to differentiate the specific game from the series as a whole.
  • Rule of Cool: Very first games in the offical series? You're fighting demons! As a six-year old girl! Or even better, fighting monsters as a four years old in Madou Monogatari ARS: Side “A” (Arle’s story)!
  • Schrödinger's Canon: Not only does the Madou Monogatari Chronology located within Shin Madou Monogatari serve as the only bridge between Madou Monogatari and Puyo Puyo, it is just about the only thing keeping Madou Monogatari itself from landing somewhere between Broad Strokes and full-on Negative Continuity. The contradictory usage of the Chronology by Compile just muddies things even further.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Ultimately, Tower of the Magician ends with Schezo gaining nothing out of his pursuit of power, sparing Wish for another day out of personal honor. He found his adventure entertaining enough to take the loss with grace, though, and it made him consider training for himself, as opposed to stealing magic, to get stronger.
  • Shows Damage: The portrait in Madou Monogatari is a visual indication of how much HP you have, looking more worried (or about to keel over even) as stamina declines. Enemies will also look beat up as they take damage. Later games such as Big Kindergarten Kids and the Windows games would reflect this too, with the battle stances looking labored when low on HP.
  • Vague Hit Points: How much HP you have is based on the text descriptions the game prints out during battles, such as "I feel great!", and Character Portrait changes as more damage occurs.
  • Vague Stat Values: The game displays none of its stat values. Your only numerical value is how much money you have. Instead, things like the Vague Hit Points, Mana, and attack power are determined using context clues such as Character Portrait changes and the wording of character descriptions such as "I have plenty of magic!".
  • Vanity Plate: The Game Gear Madou Monogatari games have Carbuncle parody the classic MGM lion.
  • Voodoo Shark: The Madou Monogatari Chronology, which was originally billed as the end-all Madou Monogatari timeline, doesn't even choose a canon version of 1-2-3 (or, in 1's case, Hanamaru Dai Youchienji or the Mega Drive / PC-Engine ports), some of which offer radically different takes on their respective plots. The closest thing to clarification is that, judging by the descriptions of the unused Saturn stories, one of the versions of Madou Monogatari I featuring Fudoushi is likely canon.
  • Weird Currency: Big Kindergarten Kids switches out the common gold currency for cookies.
  • You Can Talk?: Occurs in Saturn Madou, once Arle and her party encounter Nomi the flea. After initially having some difficulty in trying to pinpoint where a high-pitched voice is coming from, they're left in shock at seeing Nomi berating them for their inability to notice him at first.