June 30, 2013

Deep Dungeon - Ranking

Story & World

As with most dungeon crawlers, Deep Dungeon isn't going to win any awards for riveting storyline or immersive world.  There are a few friendly NPCs that give obvious hints and I appreciate that I had the option to fight them as well as listen to them.  I will also be granting an additional point for Ruu's original, if not horrendously flawed, master plan.  3/20

Character Development

As basic and linear as one would expect from such an early crawler.  New equipment just adds on to the existing attack and defense stats.  In fact, the equipment pretty much drives said stats as increasing in level adds very little other than increasing HP.  The magic items at least injected a tiny modicum of strategy into otherwise tedious battles.  3/20

Combat & Monsters

Mash A button.  Repeat.  Repeat more as both character and enemy alike dodge multiple times in a row.  Be prepared for wildly variable damage, regardless of monster difficulty or character level / equipment.  Rage as the last two healing breads decide to randomly give barely any HP back.  Rejoice that magic items only cost one HP to fuel and use them liberally.  Recoil in disgust at the ugly monsters but have fun trying to guess what the hell they are.  3/20

Graphics & Sound

While I focused more on the poorly drawn monsters, some of the others weren't all that bad (druid, Ruu).  The game did rely quite a bit on palette swapping, though, both for monster sprites and the dungeon levels.  Music was atrocious and ended up being disabled for most of the game.  Part of the problem also lay in the lack of variety in tunes.  Props to the developers, though, for including a way to turn off the music with a single button press.  2/20

Gameplay

The economy might just be the strongest point of the game (which still doesn't say much).  Winning a battle doesn't always give a monetary reward and even when it does, most monsters give a paltry amount.  The amount of gold found in treasure chests or trash piles are random and usually on the low end.  It's only after finding large, respawning caches on the lower levels that money becomes less of an issue.  I only exploited the respawning feature so that I could purchase and experiment with all the magic items, most of which I ditched anyway (due to space limitations).

Even for someone such as myself that doesn't mind hand-drawing the maps for any grid-based dungeon, I found the level of detail decreasing sharply in the late game.  My map for the final level is just a couple of lines showing the general direction where to go.  Contrast this with my Wizardry maps where every single square on every single level is accurately drawn and places of interest annotated.

In order for a dungeon crawler to be successful, the dungeon needs to be packed with stuff to do and discover.  There's none of that here.  Thankfully, Deep Dungeon isn't that long of a game but it sure will feel like it.  4/20

Final Ranking:  15/100

June 27, 2013

Deep Dungeon - End Game

I was correct in assuming that not much would change from level four on (eight levels total).  Level five had some water areas that required a ship item in order to traverse but visually it looked the same as the regular dungeon (there's just some text saying I reached the river).  Traps finally showed up but not only were they just the damage-dealing variety, they did so little damage as to make them entirely pointless.

Ouch!  Dammit... stubbed my toe.

Incredibly, the sprites for the monsters got even more ugly as the levels got deeper.  Here's a gallery of some of the worst offenders.

And the winner for least amount of time
and effort put into it is... *drum roll*
Oh my!  It's Undead Fencer!

Though the dungeon generally lacked in NPC interactions, there was one character who bears mentioning.  Standing alone in his single square room, staring at candles, a peckish druid asked for some of my precious breads.  After giving him a whole loaf, he asked for another.  Then another.  Then another.  I cut him off after four and he got all huffy and left.

God damn hippie druids.

The dungeon layout is good in that the ladders connecting the floors are easy to access once found (often with not a single random encounter).  This was crucial in reducing potential rage since healing is only available on levels one and three.  Even so, I still found myself wishing for a warp spell of some kind.  I had to stay close to the exit when mapping a new level in case a few bad fights drained my healing breads.  I knew there was a warp spell and thought maybe it would just be found at a deeper level.  At level six, I still hadn't found it and started to get concerned.  At any rate, I had found a regenerating cache of treasure chests (re-entering the level refreshes it) on level five and was working it for awhile to be able to afford the magic items available at the town on level three.  Once purchased, the item can be used over and over again and drains just a single HP from the character.  The standard array of effects are here: damage, sleep, paralysis, and spell prevention.  Whilst navigating the store menu in order to get the expensive Wood (damage) spell, I accidentally went too far and, lo and behold, there was another item available there.  This, of course, was the warping Cloth spell I had desired for so long.  See, being the efficient manchine that I am, I always exit a menu by pressing the cancel button as oppose to scrolling to the bottom of the list and selecting the exit option.  This lead me to believe that what I could see on the screen was all that there was available.

Duh-'oh!

Now that I could do some deep exploration with less worry, things moved along pretty well.  The best equipment in the game was not available for purchase and had to be found.  Correction: had to be found and defeated.  In a move jacked directly from Wizardry II, the best weapons and armour are animate and, after being beaten in combat, can be used by the character.  These pieces are the equipment of the legendary Ruu, whose hints and musings can be found etched on the wall at various points in the dungeon.

Yeah, thanks Ruu.  I'm pretty sure
I'm not going to miss an entire town.

Strangely enough, I was actually able to rescue the princess before fighting the end boss.  She shows up back at the castle and urges me to find and finish off her kidnapper.  I'm pretty sure the deal was to just rescue her but after checking my contract with the king, I guess he did also include "this land" in things I had to save.  The final dungeon level had a string of tough fights that had to be endured before taking on the final boss.  I Clothed my way back to the town to fill up on healing breads for the ultimate showdown.  In a baffling twist, the final boss turns out to be... Ruu?  The same guy whose hints led me to gather up the equipment bearing his name?  The same equipment that I was now using to most likely kick his ass with?  He first asks if I'm willing to give him the equipment and join him in being evil.  I refuse and so it's a fight to the death.  So... let me get this straight.  His master plan was to get me to gather his equipment for him, presumably because he could not do it himself.  Then he relies on the extremely low chance that I would agree to join him.  I mean, he knows I rescued the princess and am most likely a good guy.  If I say no to his little request, there's no way he can think that he'll win in a fight.  If I'm able to defeat the animated equipment that he can't, then increase my power even further by using his own equipment, he has to know that he'll lose in a fight.

I don't think you've thought your
cunning plan all the way through.

Furthermore, how did his equipment get away from him in the first place?  Magic spell gone awry?  Curse from some unmentioned god?  Maybe he should have just approached me before the king and offered me the job?  I'm sure he could beat the 200 gold pieces the king initially paid me.  Anyway, this fight was pretty boring because none of the magic items work on him and so I just had to pummel him with his own sword until he succumbed.  Finally, I was rewarded with the ending scene.

Whoops... hold on a sec.


Ah, here goes.

But it doesn't end there.  A cliffhanger (being generous using that word) sets the stage for the sequel which was also released for the FDS and, incidentally, will be the next game to be processed.  Will it somehow lower the bar even further?


June 22, 2013

[Game 037] Deep Dungeon: The Heretic War (FDS - 1986)

Translation by KingMike & satsu

So Deep Dungeon III was recently translated (also by KingMike) and DD IV was already in the master list so it got me curious about the first two installments of the series (I always prefer to do a series in order if possible).  Turns out that both of these were released only on the Japanese-exclusive Famicom Disk System.  Since the FDS is an add-on for the Famicom itself, the two games technically still count and so have been added.  Unfortunately, Deep Dungeon IV was coming up in a few games so there wasn't a lot of space to spread the games out (like I was able to do with Dragon Quest).  So it'll be a string of dungeon crawlers for the next while.  A fitting punishment for not being more thorough in the beginning (I won't even try to blame the Cyber Police this time).  To add to the punishment a bit, the major advantage of the FDS to be able to save a game without using a password has been rendered useless by modern emulation.  However, the big drawback of using floppy disks is still in full effect.

Ahh, this takes me back.

After entering one's name, the game wastes no time in getting the preliminaries out of the way with just a line or two from the king.

Load Generic Quest #001 - Princess Rescue.

A few equipment purchases later and it's off to start mapping and exploring.  The levels are a decent size (30x30) and mapping has been pretty easy so far.  Most sections within a level have an innate sense of symmetry and there's little in the way of orientation-confusing traps.  While battles are turn-based, the encounter rate itself is not.  Standing in one spot will eventually see a monster stumbling in and initiating combat.  Strangely enough, hitting the Start button to pause the game gets rid of the music (which is horrible, btw, and never changes) but doesn't prevent battles or movement.  It's just there to stop the music.  It's like the developers knew people would only be able to take about five minutes of that isht before turning the volume down but wanted the music off option so that players could still hear the three or so shitty sound effects.  Accessing the menu actually acts as the pause function here.  Pausing to map isn't really needed as the encounter rate is very low and gives plenty of time to map n' explore.  It's just too bad that there isn't much to discover.  There's a few fellow adventurers who give a fairly unhelpful one-liner and piles of trash to look through (resulting in either finding a monster, less than ten golds, or nothing).

Oh game, you don't even
know how right you are.

Speaking of trash, I've encountered about eight different monsters so far and they're all terribly drawn.

This monster passes as a bear, but just barely.

Damage in combat has a high variance for both player and monsters alike and this can lead to a quick death if not paying attention (not that I wasn't paying attention... *cough*).  Expensive bread is needed to heal while out in the dungeon and a few unlucky hits from an enemy can get costly (damage healed by bread is also variable).  There is no guarantee of finding gold after each fight but, when given, the amount of gold is the same for each monster type.  The weapons and armour available to be purchased at vendors straightforwardly increase Attack Power or Armour Class.

From the looks of this guy, I'm
surprised the items weren't cursed.

There isn't much more to say.  Deep Dungeon is like Wizardry but without the multiple characters, high difficulty, cool loot, combat tactics, or deadly traps.  You know, anything that might make the dungeon interesting.  There are some pricey items I haven't gotten around to purchasing yet (focusing on armaments) so maybe those will add a little flavour to this otherwise very bland gruel.  I've just started level four but have a sneaky suspicion that not much is going to change for the rest of the game.  *raises glass* Here's to hoping for less than ten levels!  Cheers!

June 18, 2013

Dragon Quest IV - Ranking

Story & World

You might wonder how five full chapters, a large cast of characters, and an immense land can all fit in a such a small cartridge.  Well, I can't help you because I don't rightfully know myself.  Space magic, I s'pose.  Regardless, I'm grateful because having all the characters brought together in the final chapter after their respective quests just rubs me the right way (though most of the characters lose their individual personalities here (except for Taloon) and just become battle options).  Being privy to Rosa and Saro/Necrosaro's backstory makes the main villain so much more than just another Foozle to kill.  Revisiting castles and towns in chapter five gives a sense of familiarity that adds credence to the tale's epicness.  While most quests follow the tried and true MacGuffin fetch formula, twists such as Taloon's rise into capitalism are a welcome change of pace.

And let us not forget the plethora of minor NPCs that wiggled their way into our hearts only to rip it out and stomp on it after changing everything about them that made them so endearing.  Okay, I'm just talking about Healie here but it still hurts, dammit.  One thing I did noticed about NPCs is that some of them end up in the dungeons/towers/caves where the quests take place.  A slight distraction from monster killing but I appreciated it nonetheless.  18/20

Character Development

Though the levelling up is just as linear as always, it's spread over eight characters in the final chapter.  With only four being allowed in the main party at any given time, it could be thought of more like a single entity with modular components (even the Hero can be sent to the wagon).  While this setup works great in DQ III, that is because the player is allowed to directly control all the characters actions.  Here, the AI often makes terrible choices when controlling spellcasters.  For example, as soon as Cristo got the Beat spell, he would use on creatures that could easily be handled by melee or he would spam it on bosses where it never works.  Even with the tactics set to Defensive or Save MP, he'd still do it.  Another example; Brey has some nice buff spells (Bikill and Defense) but he'd rarely use them or he'd used them late in the battle when it makes little difference.  As a result, the spellcasters are doomed to sitting in the wagon while the melee characters take on the majority of the battles.

Equally damaging to the modular party system is that characters in the wagon continue to receive experience as if they participated in the combat (some dungeons don't allow for wagon entry but this didn't seem to matter much in the end).  There isn't any incentive to tolerate and build up a spellcaster to see if they get better later on.  This shared experience makes the game easier but, in my opinion, not better.  Spellcasters are suppose to suck at the early levels and then outclass fighters at the later levels.  Getting access to the spells like Explodet (massive group damage) is suppose to be the reward for putting up with multiple trips to the healer for resurrection.

Both of these factors combined make for an extremely unsatisfactory magical experience.  On the plus side, the controllable Hero has an excellent selection of spells himself and having an all-melee party isn't so bad when Taloon's antics always manage to bring smiles.

The equipment selection is better than average and there is a good number of invokable pieces for melee characters to use.  Unfortunately, the AI uses the items just as poorly as spells and usually results in a wasted turn.  Still, having weapons and armour made out of the corpses of freaking Metal Babbles is such a huge turn on.  8/20

Combat & Monsters

Due to the suckiness of magic usage mentioned above, combat inevitably becomes melee-oriented button mashing.  I did experiment with the spellcasters during grinds when I don't care so much about retaining MP.  The offensive magicks were somewhat effective; damaging spells are always appreciated but buffs are generally only needed during boss fights.  The healers I found to be much too unreliable by not casting their spells early enough and risking a death should a particularly agile beast get the first strike.  It's fun enough for awhile to watch them do their own thang but when it's time to get down to serious bizness, it's just annoying.

There is enough variety in the types of monsters to satisfy; many have abilities beyond just melee attacks.  There's also a high number of unique boss encounters, which would have been far more fun if I was allowed to tactically use magic.  Sorry to harp on this but it really is a major disappointment; having battles that rely heavily on chance just isn't my cup of tea.  AI control of party members should have been optional.  8/20

Graphics & Sound

Graphics range from decent (most of the enemy sprites) to impressive (settings such as Necrosaro's castle).  I particularly enjoyed the enemies that are so large that parts of their sprites bleed over into the dialog boxes.  The range of colours is also used to good effect, with everything that needs to stand out doing so.  Music is outstanding, as is the trend in the DQ series.  Keeping the same composer for the sequels tends to do that (Koichi Sugiyama in this case).  Start with a hefty amount of familiar themes, add a good dose of original tunes, blend until smooth, and then funnel that shit straight into your earhole.  17/20

Gameplay

With eight characters, each having four equipment slots to fill, gold is always in short supply until the very late game.  Even then, extra cash can always be converted into casino coins and gambled away.

The pacing is extremely well executed throughout all five chapters and there is never a dull moment to be had.  As long as any grinding is intelligently done in the areas frequented by the "metal" family of monsters (slimes, babbles, and Kings), progression should carry on at a good clip.  The majority of the game is linear; only the last half of chapter five allows any real freedom for exploration.

The menu interface is tight and is quite helpful when comparing differences in equipment (as well as which characters can equip it).  Hell, give an item to Taloon and he'll give a nice, detailed appraisal of it (for free!).  The only thing I missed that the previous DQ SNES remakes had was the universal button that did whatever needed to be done on screen (e.g. open a door or talk to a NPC).  In all fairness, though, the NES doesn't really have extra buttons kickin' around for my convenience (select maybe?).  18/20

Final Ranking:  69/100

June 16, 2013

Dragon Quest IV - End Game

My fear of becoming a greasy Shen-stain is unfounded as I hit the ground with all the grace and finesse of a ballerina unicorn princess.  The journey down to the underworld is not frightful at all; in fact, I dare say that it is even pleasant.  Sure, there are plenty of monsters assaulting us at every turn but with three Miracle Swords from the Small Medal King and Metal Babble Armours for all those that can equip it, I'm having quite the jolly time over here.  Upon reaching Underworld Hell itself, there's a Zenithian who has set up a last refuge for the others and I to conveniently heal at.  He also informs me that before entering Necrosaro's castle, I'll have to break down four magical barriers.

The mysterious force of game padding.

The four barriers are just small castles with a minor boss in it.  None of them are very difficult but then again, all the main players in the party are at level 40 and kicking all kinds of ass.  With the barriers down, I get my first good look at the architectural considerations that Necrosaro must have made whilst constructing his fortress.

I'd lease it.

The Necropalace has, in addition to the regular bevy of monstrous monstrosities, a few simple movement-based puzzles to figure out.  It's nice to see that N-saro has an intellectual side to him as well (however slight).  Exiting out the castle's back door finds me at the base of a mountain which is a shorter climb that I expected.  At the top is the big man himself, just chillaxin' in his throne.

You just wait there while we heal, restore MP,
equip weapons, swap items around, etc.

After we hash out our tactics via football huddle, we engage the Final Boss with an all-out offensive from our bestest and brightest melee fighters.  It's going swimmingly and, once again, Taloon shows everyone up by being the muthafuckin' man.

Big brass ones on this guy, I tells ya.

Unfortunately, I'm the only one with healing abilities.  Alena and Taloon both have items that heal but they choose not to use them at all.  We get defeated but manage to get Necrosaro to his final form.  Just as all seems lost, the remaining crew jump out of the wagon to avenge us!  Too bad the spellcasting nosebleeds fare much, much worse.  Moron Cristo tries multiple times to cast Beat (instant death) on the End Boss which, of course, WILL NEVER WORK.  Necro also has a Bounce spell in effect which reflects back offensive spells, meaning Mara and Brey end up hurting themselves more often than not.  A few rounds later and it's the first full party death of the entire game.  Well played, Necrosaro... well played.  The next attempt goes much better as I realize that I'm allowed to swap one member out for another once per round.

Round 2... FIGHT!

In classic style, as soon as Necrosaro dies, the entire mountain range begins to collapse.  Master Dragon swoops in to save the day and takes us all back to Zenithian to kick off the end credits.  Also in classic style, I return all my teammates to their respective hometowns, in all their celebratory goodness.  I then return to my own hometown and somehow resurrect what has to be my girlfriend and end things with a big ol' hug.  A touching end to a truly epic tale.



June 11, 2013

Dragon Quest IV - Zenithian Enlightenment

Since the world is now my proverbial oyster, I order Taloon to break out the treasure map.  I still can't get to the X but I can see some smaller islands that I know haven't been visited yet.  I pick one at random, relying on my heroic destininess to steer me in the right direction.  I end up at Stancia, where the king is bummed out that the Evil Ruler is resurrecting and so has issued a proclamation to find someone who can make him laugh.  Hilarious humour is right up my alley so I swiftly head to the throne to carpet-bomb the king with a couple hundred dick jokes.

Hrmm... okay.  A slime, a drakee,
and Necrosaro walk into a bar...

I guess I have to get a professional comedian so it's off to Monbaraba to recruit funnyman Panon.  He doesn't even attempt to get the king to laugh but instead gives a heartfelt speech about how now is not the time to laugh but to hope.  The king agrees and places his hope in me, the Hero.  He bequeaths to me the Zenithian Helm, one of the four items I need.  Wow, I hope they're all this easy.  My next stop is at a tiny island where I meet the Small Medal King, who collects small medals.  Small medals are hidden all over the world, sometimes in ridiculous spots, but, regardless, the king offers some pretty sweet equipment in exchange.

The Helm is probably as much a pipe
dream as the casino's Shield is.

I got my eye on the Sword of Miracles so I'll have to come back a bit later.  I got a hot tip in Stancia that the Zenithian Shield lay in Burland Castle (Ragnar's home).  Well, the hot tip turned out to be outdated by about a hundred years, as that was when it was moved to Gardenbur, which is conveniently cut off from the rest of the civilized world by recent volcanic activity.  While in Burland, however, I hear about how many people have recently had a powerful, reoccurring dream while staying at the inn in nearby Izmit.  This smacks of being an opium den, so I heroically go and investigate and test the theory.  Five bong hits later and I'm having this totally lucid dream about an elf named Rosa at the top of this tower and her boyfriend, Saro, comes over to hang out for a bit.

Aww, honey, did you get picked
last in soccer again?

Well, that was a nice distraction but I have to find some way of getting through the mountains to Gardenbur.  Perhaps a Magma Staff of some kind would help?  I don't know where I can get one but I do know that Mara and Nara's nemesis, Balzack, is back in Santeem Castle again.  I don't use either of the sisters very often in the main group but I figure that they're still entitled to their pursuit of revenge.  Still, I'm not letting them take up half of the main party so they'll have to roshambo for the fourth slot.  After we arrive at Santeem Castle, Balzack boasts on for quite some length about how badass he is now and even thinks he'd be able to take on Necrosaro.

An obese lizard thing with wings that can't
possibly function and armed with a hunk of
wood NOT EVEN PROPERLY TRIMMED!

After the laughter died down, I promptly started things off with a critical hit and then Ragnar got one the next round and it was pretty much downhill for Balzack after that.  Amidst our barrage of soccer kicks on his pudgy, dying body, I wondered if Balzack now realized that mass doesn't necessarily equal power.  I congratulated Nara and Mara on their revenge get and was further elated as I found a Magma Staff on-site.  After I melt a couple of mountains, the city of Gardenbur is accessible.  Gardenbur is almost entirely populated with ladies who ended up not being as boy crazy as I had initially hoped.  In fact, I'm in hot water after being framed by a thief who stole some old hag's bronze amulet.  I smooth talk the Queen into letting us prove our innocence on the condition that we leave one member in prison (probably for PR purposes).  They initially take Ragnar but one wink from me and the Queen lets me sub in a more appropriate choice.

Make sure to check his vitals every
hour as he has a tendency to die.

The thief didn't get too far; it was pretty obvious that he was in the only cave in the vicinity.  He's a tough little bugger, too.  He raises his defense early on with an Increase spell and absorbs a lot of damage from my melee intensive group.  In the end, though, it's still four vs. one and he eventually falls.  My good name is cleared and, as a bonus, the Queen gives me the Final Key as well as the Zenithian Shield.  She also gives me a none-too-subtle hint about heading south to Rosaville just because.  Lo and behold, Rosaville is the place that I dreamt about in Izmit while tripping balls on opiates.  The dwarves of Rosaville inform me that since Rosa cries ruby teardrops, humans have been coming and abusing her in order to get their hands on some.  Rosa's boyfriend, Saro, had locked her in the tower I saw in the dream in order to protect her from those pesky humans.

Again, why did you want to
become human, Healie?

After talking with Rosa in the tower, she tells me how Saro has become Necrosaro (the hell you say!) and is intent on destroying humanity.  She implores me to stop him by heading to Dire Palace which is where all the cool monsters hang out.  To do so, I'll need to sneak in by using the Staff of Transform to disguise myself and the others.  The staff is located in the Royal Crypt near Endor and, resisting the temptation to hit up the casino, I break into the crypt using the Final Key.  To my surprise, the crypt is full of XP-heavy metal babbles.  They are tough to kill but worth so much XP that I stay and hunt them for days on end.  The levels pour in for everybody and getting the staff ends up being cake.  Taloon really shines during this hunt as he'll often do various actions during battle, each with a different effect.  Here's a montage of him being the man at various points throughout my quest.

Taloon's got game.

With everyone now significantly powered up, the crew and I sail to a little cave just north of the island of the Small Medal King that was previously too difficult to tackle.  Good thing I remembered this spot because it holds the Zenithian Armour and now I just need the sword to attain Zen mastery.  But first I'll head to Dire Palace like I promised Rosa I would.  En route to the palace, I sail into Riverton and find out that I can't just navigate the ship directly there.  Oh no, I have to cross a small lake first.  Any rafts around?  No?  Well, then I guess I'll climb up this ginormous Colossus and drive it across the lake, mecha-style.  Entering at the feet, it doesn't take too long to ascend to the lower torso area.

Oh my... well... er... um...
pew pew pew, I suppose.

Upon reaching the cranium, this obviously complex construction of gears, gyroscopes and heat sinks is put into operation by flipping a single lever.  The only lever at the control panel, mind you.  My hopes of firing off autocannons and racks of SRMs at Dire Palace are dashed as the colossus just crosses the lake and drops us off.  Entry into the palace requires us to use the Staff of Transform which changes all of us into a random type of creature.  The first invoke turned us into tigers but since the staff has infinite charges, I decided we needed to look a little more monstrous.

Forty charges later...

Utilizing the clever disguise, I infiltrate the infernal board meeting room of the damned and wait for the session to begin.  As a skeleton goes through the minutes, a casual vote is taken on whether or not to go to Tim Hortons™ or Starbucks™ for cappuccinos during the break.  All of a sudden, Saro himself teleports in with breaking news that the Ruler of Evil, Esturk, is resurrecting at the mine in Aktemto!  The opportunity for a preemptive strike has presented itself and I immediately capitalize on it.  Using the magic of Return, the party and I rush to Aktemto and dive straight into the mines and seek the deepest part.  We catch Esturk on his first yawn and start stabbing him with pointy things.

Aw, come on you guys, I haven't
even had my first cup o' joe yet.

With no precious caffeine to enhance his performance, Esturk goes down faster than your wife/girlfriend/mom after half a bottle of port.  The rebirth of the Ruler of Evil has been prevented but there is still Necrosaro to deal with.  I nab a gas canister on the way out of the dungeon which I'll need to power the hot air balloon being built in Riverton.

It's no airship but it'll do in a pinch.

With the balloon, I can finally check out that X on the treasure map that's been mocking me this whole time.  Turns out to be a place called Elfville which is also home to the World Tree, a humongous tree that can be climbed and also plucked for leaves that revive any character.  At the tippy top, I find a Zenithian named Lucia who fell into the tree and broke her wings, the poor dear.  I agree to let her join me as I'll be going to Zenithia as soon as I find that dang sword!... oh, here it is, slightly to the right of where Lucia is.  With all the Zen equipment accounted for, it's finally time to head up into the clouds to have a talk with Master Dragon about all this Necrosaro business.

I'll take a cloud over a balloon any day.

Master Dragon tells me that Necrosaro must be stopped (duh) and that he's holed up in his palace in the center of the earth.  He drops a bunch of XP on me and juices up the Zenithian Sword to actually be a decent weapon choice (I've been using the Sword of Miracles).  Before leaving, I visit Lucia who rewards me by lending me her pet dragon, Doran, to be used in a NPC capacity.  Doran is alright in combat but I don't think it can really hold up compared to my other homies.  To get to the center of the earth, all I have to do is jump through this hole in the clouds, plummet several thousand metres to the ground, and enter a large, foreboding cave which leads to Necrosaro's lair.  I'm not so much afraid of what lurks down in that hellish underworld but falling thousands of metres in heavy armour does cause me some concern.  I'm going to have to have a few drinks in me before attempting this stunt.  Now, where's that Zenithian bar at?

June 02, 2013

Dragon Quest IV - The Chosen Nung


Finally, I get to have a slice of the action.  I've just been sitting here for the past 16 years or so, chilling out in this remote, hidden village while everyone else gets to have adventures (I assume).  Life is quiet and pristine in this village, which is cool and all, but it's also the reason I'm still at level 1.  All dad ever does is fish and mom just makes lunches all day.

Shut up, mom!  I know how to JRPG!

Thankfully, the village gets attacked by monsters but before I get a chance to snag some XP, I get dragged to an underground bunker where I have to hide.  Apparently, I'm some big hero who will be able to destroy any evil being but they feel I'm not ready yet (maybe I should have been fighting slimes instead of sitting around).  I can hear all the excitement above me as the villagers get slaughtered.  Some chick who I think is my girlfriend comes to say goodbye and then polymorphs herself into a duplicate of me and sacrifices herself to the monsters.  Believing I am dead, the monsters leave and I stroll out of my hiding place to find the village in total and utter ruin.  Now I can finally get my grind on.

♪ I'm going to make it after AAALLLLL! ♫

Gah, I wish I would have had some better training because I'm getting whupped out here.  Thankfully, the city of Branca is nearby and I invest heavily in the inn there.  I guess I also know the Expel spell, which gets rid of creatures in combat but I don't get any golds or XP from them.  No one from Branca is willing to team up with me so I head west to Endor.  There's a casino there but I have no money to spare right now.  I did try to hit on this hot babe who was working the slots but she dissed me.

Ooo, is your sister as hot as you?... *Smack!*

I meet her sister, Nara, who is a fortune teller and she detects that I am the hero that they have been searching for.  Just like that I'm up two allies who both have far more levels than I do.  While I can't control them directly in battle, I am able to assign a general tactic for them to follow.  There are six to choose from and, thankfully, one of them instructs them to use no magic in fights.

Laurent from Chapter 3 badly needed this.

I've mostly been setting it to No MP or Save MP and switching it to Offensive for major encounters.  While Mara and Nara are both sweethearts, I think that this party needs a little more testosterone so we're off to cross a desert in search of Taloon.  In order to get across the desert, I have to convince some baby named Hector to let me use his wagon.  He's all pissy because a former friend ripped him off and now he trusts no one.  Finding an item called the Symbol of Faith somehow changes his mind and he's all for lending the wagon.

Actually, it's a Metal Babble
Shield but whatever.

After making it across the desert, I learn that Taloon is trying to fix a cursed lighthouse which is disrupting the trade ships and, therefore, profits.  I find him on the first bloody floor just wandering around randomly and he asks me to basically do his quest for him.  He doesn't even help me out, the bastard.  But I do it anyway because that's what heroes do.  To his credit, once the lighthouse is operational again, he does join the group as well as letting me captain his newly built ship.  Since it is Taloon's ship, he suggests that we all head south to try to get our hands on a treasure map he's heard about.  Let's not let the end of the world get in the way of getting our hands on some fresh golds and jewels.  A short jaunt south has me at the town of Mintos where I easily procure the treasure map from an old dude named Howden.  All I had to do was pass his Zen-like quiz which required one to not answer at all.  The map is pretty useful as it shows the entire world as well as my position in it.  The treasurey X on the map is inaccessible at this point, which is fine because another quest pops up after I visit the inn.  A chancellor named Cristo has been afflicted with Unknown Disease #42 and needs the Padequia root to cure him.  His friend, Brey, implores my help which I dutifully give (I'm really getting into the swing of this hero thing).

Isn't it also a superfood with
high levels of antioxidants?

Of course, the town which normally harvests the Padequia plant, Soretta, had been hit by a drought which eliminated all traces of the Padequia.  The only remaining seed was hidden away in a cave by the former king.  I hesitate a bit to help out these poor fools who fail so badly at basic agricultural techniques but then remember about Cristo.  The cave which holds the seed is pretty chill; there's conveyor belts all over the place which whisk us around like a roller coaster.

I can see why there are so many
monsters in this cave. Wheeeee!

After finding the seed (and having a few more rides), I exit the dungeon and give the seed to the king of Soretta.  The plant instantly grows to full size so Cristo won't have wait for months for his treatment.  I just love how the world of DQ is setup for maximal convenience.  At any rate, I return to Mintos and freshmaker Cristo back into health.

Oh, he just had an acne breakout?
Cristo, you pansie.

With Cristo back to normal, he joins our group as well as Princess Alena, who had also been searching for the Padequia seed but failing.  With our party an impressive seven strong now, a bard rushes up to me as I'm leaving the inn and tells me that a soldier named Ragnar has been searching for me and was last heading to Keeleon Castle.  Mara and Nara know this place well and so offer to lead me there.  I order Taloon's ship to carry us west and when we arrive, I find that I am unable to open any of the castle's doors.  I do find something that infuriates me to my very core.  Something that should not be, but is, and is not explained in any way, shape, or form.

Healie's a human now? Noooooooooooooo!

Not only is Healie inexplicably a human now, he doesn't even get his own unique sprite anymore (he gets the oft-used bard sprite).  He probably can't even heal anymore.  I would have easily... EASILY offered him a spot in our group, even if it meant kicking someone else out.  As it is, he's lucky I don't slay him on the spot.  Ugh, I'm just so disgusted with Humanie.  Like there isn't enough bullshit humans around, making the world a shittier place for everyone.  He had the intrinsic ability to heal whatever he touched; there is no way that he could not do good in his healer form.  Whatever, the thing formerly known as Healie tells us that we need a Magic Key to open Keeleon's doors and that we may find some clues at the northern port town of Haville.  A merchant there gives us the skinny on the existence of such keys.

In a land filled with magical weapons,
armour and spells, this is totally...
UNSURPRISING!

The Magic Key (which does exist) is located in a hidden chamber in the same cave where Mara and Nara found Orin.  New monsters have moved in but with Taloon and Alena both packing a decent melee punch, they prove to be none too difficult.  The key is smoothly recovered and as I explore Keeleon's corridors, I spot Ragnar being escorted by two guards.  When Ragnar sees me, he gets a burst of strength and hulks out on his escorts.  Together, we enter the king's chamber and Ragnar takes on three guards by himself while the rest of us deal with the monstrous Keeleon.  Keeleon is a tough boss but Cristo smartly uses Stopspell and Surround on him to severely hinder his magical and melee attacks.  After Keeleon is dispatched, Ragnar nods approvingly and joins the party.  The Chosen Ones are now united and together we will bring an end to the Ultimate Evil.  In order to do so, I must gather the fabled Zenithian items but have no real leads to go off of.  Exploration of the world now begins in earnest and we pack the ship full of supplies before heading away from Keeleon Castle into the great unknown beyond!

Yeah, farewell forever, you fucking sellout.