Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Game 20: Dragon Warrior II (NES) - And Win!

It's nice to finally see this screen
Let's put another game behind us, shall we? While Dragon Warrior II's final area wasn't as bad as replaying Wizardry, I think it does live up to its name as one of the hardest NES Dragon Warrior games (possible one of the hardest RPGs, but we'll get to that). We'll get to confirm that over the next few years, but the final battles came down to sheer luck.
When last we left, I was dying for the fifth time on the road to Rhone
After the floor with many pits, in the cave to Rhone, was the maze of madness (my name for it). It twisted back on itself so many times that I finally had to break down and map the rooms on paper. The mind boggling aspect came from the rooms existing as individual parts instead as a cohesive path. Dungeons in in this game have areas of darkness when transitioning from one room to another, and this was used to great effect to link rooms in weird ways.
Reaching safety on the other side
Upon exit from the cave, I had a very uneventful expedition to the nearby monolith. Inside was a cleric that offered full services for free, and saved my game. This location acted as my hub for the remainder of the game. I then proceeded to die more times in Rhone than my current total for the game thus far.
Every encounter in Rhone has the potential to wipe out the party
As expected, the end game required a good amount of grinding. The enemies here offered great experience, although paltry gold, compared to any I had faced. All in all, this final stage took about 4 hours of leveling up while I explored the castle and surrounding area.
The white background looks strange on the desert backdrop
Hargon's Castle presents the player with an illusion of Midenhall. It's obviously fake as none of the stairs go anywhere (same with the travel door), and chests are all empty. Any changes made inside the illusion are reverted after leaving or dispelling it. Breaking through this final trap is easy with the Charm of Rubiss. Once shattered, the false image reveals a castle filled with damaging tiles and ghosts. Deep inside there's no obvious path; it's only revealed through the use of the Eye of Malroth.
I'm not deceived, mostly annoyed
While in Rhone I gained a good number of spells. The princess learned Explodet, and the prince learned Defeat. Explodet does about the same amount of damage as the hero, but with the potential of hitting all enemies (and a greater chance to miss). Defeat has the potential of wiping out a group of enemies, but frequently misses.
And the award for most useless spell goes to...
Then there are the useless spells, like Sacrifice. It was used on my own party, and completely wiped everyone out. When I got it I expected to use it for the same effect. While this is overwhelmingly overpowered for enemies, it is completely underwhelming in my hands. It kills all enemies, destroying Lars in the process (the one person with a Revive spell), but the party gets no experience or gold. What's the point? It doesn't even work on the bosses. The next useless is the Open spell, which could take the place of keys. Why not just keep the keys?
I saw lot of this
Many attempts at even reaching the castle met with failure. I tried my hand at the castle after a few good levels, but was stonewalled at the first mini-boss: Atlas. Sorry for the lack of screenshots, I didn't remember to take them for two of the bosses. I really need to get into the habit, but I normally rely on recordings and taking stills after the fact.
Guess what I'm going to buy
I saved up my gold, thinking a Mink Coat would increase Lars' chance of survival. I got some lucky drops such as the Sword of Destruction and Gremlin Armor, and invested every 8000 gold into a Dragon Killer. Since gold is cut in half upon each full party death, items are the only way to keep milestone values. No one should bother to get the Mink Coat. It's overpriced, and seemed to have a worse defense against magic and breath attacks compared to the Magic Armor. In fact I should have just invested in three Shield of Strengths, which heal the user when invoked in battle.
You mean, Kailin tried to distract Bazuzu with the bodies of the fallen and failed
Only one thing left to do, grind more. The grind didn't feel too bad since I mixed in attempts on the bosses. I finally broke through Atlas after trying to use Sacrifice on him (surprise, it doesn't work). Bazuzu was next; he's a spellcasting boss, who was a pushover on the second attempt. The only way I managed through him is Atlas remained defeated upon my return. Likewise Bazuzu and Zarlox remained defeated on the second attempt at Malroth.
I never did try the 'no' option
Throughout my time in Rhone I just wanted it to end. I felt like a lot more grinding was ahead of me, but I had hope as soon as I defeated Zarlox. As I made my way through the castle I noted a lack of random encounters from the floor with Atlas on up. This made the ascent manageable. All that remained was Hargon, and then the expected hidden final boss.
This definitely brought back memories
Since I was weakened by Bazuzu and Zarlox, I barely defeated Hargon and was subsequently trounced by Malroth. Anyone able to get through all five bosses in one trip? It doesn't seem doable at the level I reached, nor with the equipment I had. I noted after the end that I missed the Sword of Thunder, tucked neatly in a corner of the cave to Rhone. Also, no guide suggests the Mink Coat, so that was a bad decision as I suspected.
You aren't very good at predictions
The final battles were a bit one dimensional for my taste. Prince of Midenhall (the hero) could only attack. The other prince and princess could not physically damage any of them, so I relied on spells. The problem with that is most spells were useless. Increasing my defense or reducing the enemy's modified damage by only a point or two. While these buffs and debuffs seemed to stack, the damage I received forced me to heal nearly every turn. I didn't even bother to try Sleep. Stopspell was my only hope, and the princess healed. The additional party members were little more than meat shields.
Now that's a final boss; look, his sprite even obscures the display
In the end, all five battles came down to luck. I was lucky Atlas didn't take out the princess, and instead focused on hitting the Gustavyo (the hero) each turn. Bazuzu never cast Sacrifice, and stopped healing long enough to die. Zarlox actually didn't take much effort, so I'm not sure what massive spells he neglected. Hargon in the first battle didn't heal, and in the second I landed an early Stopspell. This was followed by him spamming a sleep breath that never landed.
What do you mean you just watched?
Malroth was a different beast altogether; during the first battle he basically spammed full heal interspersed. In the second, he cast it the first two rounds, but then promptly forgot he had the ability. None of my spells seemed to work against him. Kailin cast full heal on whoever was attacked the previous round. Malroth could two shot any character, and a few times he happened to change targets rather than finish off a character. Poor Lars wasn't that lucky.
Anyone else tired of castles collapsing when the boss dies?
After Malroth fell, Rubiss revived Lars and fully healed my party. Then I was left standing outside the fallen castle, still in control. There were no monsters.
News travels quickly, huh?
For some reason the game felt the need to have me search for the ending. Returning to the start was the most obvious option, so I took it. The hero's father, and a procession of guards, waited to greet me. I wonder if I missed any special dialogue somewhere though. I sold the Dragon's Potion, so I couldn't check if the dialogue was different. It was for every other save NPC. Anyone have any interesting insights regarding this? I'm curious, but not enough to play through the ending again.
Not this again!
The throne was forced on the hero while the other prince and princess were charged with assisting in the future. Everyone cheers. Then peace returned, again.
Until the next game...
The end grind really wasn't too bad, but in the end it was due to luck that I even pulled out a win from that level. I imagine others grinding well into the 30s. In fact, someone over at GameFAQs posted their final stats, which were 6 levels higher. I think I got out easy. Better get out of here before my luck runs out.
Google has an auto gif creator now, but I think it runs a little fast -- what do you think?
Elapsed Time: 6h29m (Final Time: 24h18m)


  1. Congratulations!

    I definitely don't remember the GBC version being this brutal. I knew it was easier, but didn't realize that the original was so punishing.

    Looking forward to your next game!

    1. For the era it's not actually that bad. Even adding another 5 hours for additional grinding would be less than it took to get through Phantasy Star II, which had far larger dungeons. I'm sure Unfy will chime in eventually to describe just how possible it is to wipe out even at max level.

    2. Congrats Zenic!

      Yes, a fully maxed party can still be wiped out.

      Defeat and Sacrifice knows no bounds.

      Crits and losing the PoC more than once is a game over as well (given you can only have one Leaf and PoC is only one to gain revive).

    3. Thank you. It was good having you along, even though you had to bite your tongue on more than one occasion.

      PoC was just too squishy to keep alive during the Malroth battle. Never should have gone for the Mink Coat.

  2. Good job! Odd how memories come back with just seeing the bad guy's picture overlapping the text boxes... Thanks for toughing this one out!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Hargon is the one I remembered most clearly, well him and Zarlox (although I thought he was blue for some reason). It makes me think that I may not have reached Malroth on my own.

  3. That's a neat way to end. I like the idea of being able to explore and see how you've transformed the world. However, that would depend on a lot of work being done to make it worth it, which I'm guessing is rare, haha.

    1. Next game that does this I will definitely take more time to explore the world. I really wish it gave me the option to save because the world was just too large, and the night too short. It was definitely a nice touch.

  4. Congrats! I finished the game at roughly the same levels you did, the prince and princess were each level 30 and I think the Hero was 31 or 32. I did wind up going through the gauntlet of end-bosses in a single run though. Guess I was lucky.

    1. Or better equipped. I just watched the TAS for this game, and I shouldn't have been surprised it was less than an hour long. It makes me rethink my choice to stick with the Light Sword instead of risking the Sword of Destruction. Knowing me I would have seen the cursed message, and then bolted for a house of healing to get rid of it.