Sofia - How to play (because it's awesome!)

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By wyrdwad

Paladin (676)

wyrdwad's picture

29-07-2018, 09:59

So in the "Best virtual worlds in games" topic, I mentioned a game developed by YMCAT and published by Denpa/Dempa called "Sofia" that I... really never hear people talk about, despite the game containing very little text (and what little IS there is in English!) and thus being playable by basically anyone. Not to mention the fact that it's honestly VERY good -- probably one of my favorite platformers on the system to date!

I can only assume the reason it's not more well-liked is because it's one of those games that doesn't really explain anything, and while you CAN figure out most of it through trial and error, it's much easier to appreciate if you go into it knowing what the items you find actually do, what your goal is, etc. So, I decided to create this topic in order to help people come to grips with the basics of the game, so they can go out there and enjoy it!

Basically, you play as Sofia, and you start the game by being sent into a parallel world in order to obtain a missing crystal ball (that's what the wordless "PROLOGUE" is depicting, which you probably would never be able to figure out just by watching it!). Your goal, then, is to find the crystal ball on the other side of the world map, and bring it back to the start screen so you can take it back into your own dimension.

It's not quiiiiite that simple, though: in order to "release" the crystal, you need to find a bible first -- I think if you touch the crystal without it, you die? But I'm not sure.

Additionally, in order to break the curse on the crystal, you need to find the magic scales (sometimes called the "balance"). You can complete the game without them, but you'll get the bad ending, as Sofia will succumb to the crystal's curse; in order to get the good ending, you need to find the scales BEFORE returning to the start screen.

And that's basically it! The entire game is just Sofia trying to find the bible, then the crystal, then the scales, then a path leading back to the start screen.

Along the way, you'll be solving puzzles strictly by jumping. That's Sofia's ONLY action, aside from checking what's in her inventory (controller button 2). When you jump in certain spots, however, it may cause certain blocks to disappear, often revealing items or treasure chests (or it may cause blocks to appear, too, giving you a boost up to areas you couldn't reach otherwise!). If you've ever played Super Pitfall on the NES, it's kind of like that, except 100000x better and more intuitive -- generally, the game's level designs in Sofia are superb, making it fairly intuitive simply by examining your surroundings when and where you might want to try jumping. See a platform you can't quite get to? That probably means there's a spot nearby where you can jump in order to make blocks appear. See something completely buried in the ground and inaccessible? That probably means there's a spot nearby where you can jump in order to make some of the blocks around it DISappear.

The game does get tricky at times, though, with certain screens making blocks disappear to reveal an item when you jump at a certain spot, but if you then leave the screen and re-enter it, and jump at the same spot again, it'll instead make blocks appear, boosting you up to a higher location -- there's actually a much-needed continue hidden via this method only a couple screens away from where you start. So never assume you can cross a screen off your list until you've REvisited it, as it may have new secrets to reveal on second inspection!

Also, if you're REALLY in doubt as to how to reach an area, always remember your knockback when you get hit by enemies. Wink

Here's a list of all the game's items and what they do:

  • APPLE: Restores 1 life heart.
  • BAG: Next time you walk under a tree, one apple will fall from it for every bag you've collected.
  • RED MUSHROOM: Restores 1 life heart.
  • GREEN MUSHROOM: Takes away 1 life heart.
  • CROSS: Changes all enemies on the screen into red mushrooms.
  • PERFUME BOTTLE: Gives you an extra life/continue. Hoard these, because you WILL need them!
  • CRYSTAL KEY: Comes in different colors. Each one unlocks one door of the corresponding color.
  • PLAIN KEY: Unlocks one treasure chest (jump on top of the treasure chest to use it).
  • ANTIDOTE: Makes it so green mushrooms no longer affect you.
  • BRACELET: Makes it so you can walk through shallow water.
  • BIBLE: Unlocks the crystal ball so you can actually take it.
  • SCALES: Un-curses the crystal ball so you get the good ending.
  • CRYSTAL BALL: Your goal, but also has an added effect: if you jump in place after you've gotten this item, you'll shoot out balls of energy that can kill enemies!

It really is a cool game, and there are LOTS of secrets -- in addition to having two endings, there are also some pretty significant easter eggs hidden in the game, including a series of rooms that give you various messages from the developer, and even one that gives you the developer's address in Japan! (Though I assume their offices are no longer present there 30 years later! Heheh.) To find them, just remember: after you pick up the crystal ball, the entire world map changes, so even if an area LOOKS the same as it did before, never assume that it is.

So, yeah! That's Sofia in a nutshell -- a game I highly recommend everyone check out, as it's a whole bunch of fun.

For your reference, here's a complete walkthrough of the game (in Japanese, but it includes a full map, so it could be really helpful regardless if you get stuck): http://web1.kcn.jp/kyoto/Sofia/index.html

As well as a full playthrough of it on YouTube, which shows off a lot of the game's hidden items, but crucially not ALL of them -- and it doesn't show any of the easter eggs!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQZBTKHgj1E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9hKKCAxkvo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fRt5JvnkE0

Also, it's probably worth noting that the developer of this game, YMCAT, is still an active game developer, making games for smartphones which include Sofia 2, as well as a sequel to another MSX classic: The Demon Crystal! You can keep up with his releases via his Twitter -- though again, it's all in Japanese, so you might have to rely on machine translation a little:

https://twitter.com/info_ymcat

Sofia was also available on the Sharp X1, and the game seemed to spawn two Japanese memes, weirdly enough: if you mention this game to Japanese fans on the internet, they may respond with いいえ、ソフィアです ("No, it's Sofia"). This is the punchline to a Japanese meme that was presumably started by people watching footage of the game and asking if it's a Pitfall game -- the full conversation is:

ピットフォールですか? ("Is this Pitfall?")
いいえ、ソフィアです。 ("No, it's Sofia.")

...I didn't say it was FUNNY, but it does seem to be a relatively common meme associated with this game. The internet is just weird sometimes. ;)

The other meme is related to its publisher, Denpa. "Denpa," in Japanese, can mean either "electromagnetic waves" or, more specifically, "radio waves." But whenever the publisher writes their name in English, they seem to like spelling it with an M, as "Dempa." This isn't entirely uncommon, as a fairly popular Romanization scheme for writing Japanese dictates that all Ns preceding consonants should be changed to Ms for some reason -- Nihonbashi in Tokyo is often written on signs as "Nihombashi," for example -- but linguists hate this particular Romanization scheme, and apparently, so does the internet. Whenever a title screen that lists "DEMPA" in its credits is shown in a video on NicoNico, you'll inevitably see a flood of comments that just read デムパ -- basically, spelling "denpa" with an M in Japanese, to make fun of the nonsensical reasoning behind doing so in English lettering.

...Again, I didn't say it was funny, but I do think it's kind of fascinating to see Japanese memes in action. Makes you appreciate the fact that anywhere in the world, memes can and usually are quite inane and stupid! Heheh.

Anyway, that's all I've got for now! I hope this topic leads some of you to seek out and play this awesome game, though, and maybe follow YMCAT on Twitter as well -- I'm following him, myself, because he makes some really cool games, and it's neat to see him still active in game development 30 years on... even if it is strictly for (sigh) smartphones. ;)

-Tom

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By FiXato

Scribe (1503)

FiXato's picture

29-07-2018, 15:25

What a weird little game Smile

By DamnedAngel

Expert (87)

DamnedAngel's picture

29-07-2018, 16:26

Hi Tom,

Nice teaser. I can't say I am not willing to try Sofia now. Thank you for putting the effort to make this little manual. Shouldn't rich information like this be put in MRC's Wiki, under Software/Games (not that the forum's topic is not welcome, though!)?

Question: is there some way to know the % of completion of the game, including finding all the secret rooms and Easter Eggs?

Lastly... just a curiosity, about "N" being changed to "M". In Portuguese, there are no "N" preceding "P"s and "B"s. In these cases, it is always used "M". "N" can come prior to other consonants, though. But you cannot, with rare exceptions, end words with "N".

[]'s

By Grauw

Enlighted (7525)

Grauw's picture

29-07-2018, 16:32

Maybe the custom comes from that then, from back when the Portuguese were one of the first western countries to trade with Japan.

I watched the Youtube vids btw... nice game Smile

By wyrdwad

Paladin (676)

wyrdwad's picture

29-07-2018, 20:10

Yeah, the idea behind changing N to M in those situations probably does come from that, as those who defend the practice insist that phonetically, it's impossible to pronounce an N sound prior to a P or B sound in particular -- your mouth naturally converts it to an M sound.

...Personally, though, I can do it no problem, so I've never understood that. Wink But maybe if I grew up speaking Portuguese, I'd have more trouble with it?

Also, I don't think I was even aware of an MRC wiki existing. I can look into adding this information to it, though!

Regarding knowing % complete, no, there's no indicator. The easter eggs are pretty easy to figure out, though, if you explore thoroughly -- the key to getting them is to hoard keys, since you can only get to them if you use as few keys as possible over the course of the adventure, and just bring a bunch with you to the final area. The only downside to this is that by doing so, you lock yourself out of the good ending -- it's impossible to beat the game with the good ending AND see the easter eggs in a single run, and also impossible to see ALL the easter eggs in a single run. So in order to see everything the game has to offer, the minimum number of times you'll have to play through it is 3.

-Tom

By Juanmi

Resident (58)

Juanmi's picture

30-07-2018, 08:36

In the last MSX AREA (December 2017) I wrote a complete article in perfect spanish about Sofia, Dempa and YMCAT.
I also made the map that can be downloaded for free from here:

image

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By wyrdwad

Paladin (676)

wyrdwad's picture

30-07-2018, 09:34

Oh, very cool! Man, I want a poster of that Sofia box art -- it's just so cute! Wink

-Tom

By dr.slump

Rookie (18)

dr.slump's picture

31-07-2018, 10:10

I tried this game before, need to play through it properly...

DamnedAngel wrote:

In Portuguese, there are no "N" preceding "P"s and "B"s. In these cases, it is always used "M".

I think there's some sort of rule like this in English, too (and probably other European languages). "in" and "en" become "im" and "em" before b p or m (imbalance, improper, immobile, etc.) I don't know the details or what the logic behind applying this to Hepburn romanization was, though.

By ~mk~

Master (222)

~mk~'s picture

01-08-2018, 04:24

Very nice review wyrdwad, I love this game too.
I also finished it with the good ending, and I remember one thing about this game which you did'nt mention and I think it's quite unique. Maybe you know it too. The map is not linear. Most of it is, but I remember getting into a "one way" labyrynth which is not shown in the youtube video you linked. You could go on in one direction as long as you had keys, and then when you go back the screen was not the same as the previous one. In other words you can't make a full map of this game. At least not in two dimensions Smile
When I finished it, somehow I was able to get out of that place. I don't remember how.
I also remember the game has a bug. You can reach some high unreachable places if you go back and forth at the edge of the screen (switch screens very quickly while jumping). Not easy to pull off but with practice you can reach the top of the screen.

By ~mk~

Master (222)

~mk~'s picture

01-08-2018, 04:41

Just finished reading the whole thread.
Juanmi since you made a map you might know better than I.
At the bottom left in your map there is a screen which says gate of labyrinth.
Did you try going that way?

By wyrdwad

Paladin (676)

wyrdwad's picture

01-08-2018, 08:26

I know how you got out from the labyrinth. Wink You can't, if you go one way. But if you go the other, there's an exit that takes you into the sky above the goal, and you're able to drop back down into the world. If you do this, you ARE able to beat the game, but only with the bad ending -- in order to even get that far, you need to hoard so many keys that it basically means you've definitely chosen not to go get the scales.

If there's a way to get the scales AND find and escape the secret labyrinth, I'm not sure I've found it, but that sounds like a good challenge!

Also, didn't know about the screen-switching jump glitch. I'll have to experiment with that!

-Tom

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