Making money in role-playing games often boils down to killing monsters or selling off low-level equipment you no longer need. But the terrifying Laplace no Ma (roughly Laplace’s Demon in English) takes a more novel approach, allowing you to accrue a small fortune by taking glamour shots of skeletons, ghosts, and other assorted horrors.
Laplace no Ma (first released by Group SNE for NEC’s 8800/9800 series computers in 1987 before being ported to the Super Famicom in 1995) takes considerable inspiration from the Call of Cthulhu tabletop role-playing game. A string of child murders and disappearances haunts the dreary, Massachusetts town of Newcam (an obvious reference to common H.P. Lovecraft setting Arkham), and it’s up to you to investigate the mansion at the heart of it all: Weathertop Manor.
Immediately upon starting Laplace no Ma, you’re asked to assemble a group of adventurers. Where normal role-playing games like Dragon Quest might let you choose from classes like Warrior and Mage, however, Laplace no Ma’s characters hold more mundane occupations. Detectives act as the game’s front-line brutes, for instance, dispatching enemies with guns and fists, whereas Scientists utilize so-called “Spirit Machines” that can be customized to examine monsters, deal damage, and buff allies.
Of course, as soon as I saw the Journalist class, I knew that was the one to assign to my main character.
Journalists in Laplace no Ma come with a variety of skills but are relatively weak in the combat department. Where they really shine is in their unique ability to take photographs of the monsters you encounter in Weathertop Manor. By equipping a camera, the Journalist’s main attack command is replaced by the option to photograph whatever creatures are currently assailing the party, from the mundane to the supernatural.
When it comes to surviving the constant horrors of the decrepit mansion, the Journalist is almost entirely useless (ouch), but the role’s true worth reveals itself when you eventually make your way back to town.
The front desk clerk at Laplace no Ma’s health- and sanity-restoring hotel is, for some reason, willing to pay top dollar for your disgusting photos. Apparently, the dude’s never seen a basic house spider before, because he shells out $20 every time you bring him a picture of one. Same with bats. And the rewards only go up from there: $40 for a slime, $80 for a ghoul, $100 for a ghost—there’s even an evil door that respawns every time you exit and re-enter Weathertop Manor that garners $300 a pop. It really adds up, especially when film costs only $2 a photo.
While Laplace no Ma is a pretty middling experience otherwise, I love when RPGs provide these sorts of class-based mini-games. I never went back and finished Bravely Default II, but the several hours I did experience were spent obsessed with the Beastmaster job, which is essentially just Pokémon if you set your captured monsters free after a single attack. If I had to guess, my affection for Dragon Quest IV, specifically the chapter devoted to merchant Torneko Taloon, probably comes from the same place.
Simply put, it’s cool when role-playing games let you play a role that doesn’t exclusively involve killing things. The introduction of classes that take pictures or tame creatures or are just really good at buying and selling things goes a long way toward making these fictional worlds feel like real places and not just arenas for living out our most violent power fantasies. Don’t get me wrong, I love lighting up zombies with magic spells as much as the next guy, but it’s always nice when games treat characters who have more going for them than physical prowess as valuable members of a team.