Thursday, December 29, 2016

Game #63: Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes (TurboGrafx-CD) - It's In Your Hands Now (Finished)

Game 63

Title: Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes
Released: December 1992 (October 1991 JPN)
Platform: TurboGrafx-CD
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based
Series - The Legend of Heroes (Dragon Slayer)

Here's a title that I didn't expect much from, and thus wasn't disappointed. The voiced dialogue is major selling point for the game, but isn't much to write home about. The sixth game in the Dragon Slayer series, this title sparked a new series that continues to this day as The Legend of Heroes. Like other games on the TG-CD, this didn't find much of an audience, and the states wouldn't see another title until the PSP generation.
Let's knock this one out in a single post, apologies for the length
The game is broken up into chapters, although the game world remains completely open. The story begins in the kingdom of Farlayne on the world of Isrenasa. King Corwin ruled over the peaceful land. That peace was upset by a monster invasion, and Corwin fell in the ensuing chaos. Baron Drax, the king's advisor, took over leadership as the heir, Prince Logan, was but six years old. For the last 10 years he's prepared to reclaim the throne.
Let's do this
I'm lucky enough to have the manual, and was surprised at just how much information I'd consider spoilers clearly spelled out. For one, all six chapter titles are listed. Drax is described as ruling with a heavy hand, and an active resistance movement opposing his rule. Ethan is a monk with the resistance yet he hides his true identity, and with the first chapter is titled The Uprising, I'm pretty certain to face off against Drax. The other notable spoiler is that Princess Mica who is engaged to Prince Logan; this is voiced as a surprising event when revealed in the fourth chapter.
*Plop*
Two months before Logan was to return home for the coronation, monsters attacked the island of Exile where Logan had been hidden away for the last 10 years. Even though Elias, his tutor, did his best to keep him safe behind the city walls, Logan would secret away to battle the slimes in the field (but he still started out at level 1). With the impending danger, Elias handed over the royal sword, armor, and shield, so that Logan could survive the deadly monsters that inhabited Who Cave as he journeyed to Sylvan in search of help.
I wonder if it's possible to grind up enough to survive even one battle against the Kowls, and how the game would deal with it
One of the most unique features in this game is the ability to manually assign bonus points (or allow the game to automatically assign stats upon level up giving an even distribution). After the first level, I decided manual assignment was the way to go. There are four stats: strength affects damage and HP, intelligence increases MP, speed allows for more actions in battle, and luck increases critical hit chance as well as evasion percentage. Only armor increases defense. For Logan I focused on strength during the early levels to give him more HP in the long run.
We returned to Sylvan to find Drax gloating about how he sent the monsters to kill Logan and his father 10 years earlier; this is all told through some interesting voice acting
Rumor of Logan's return and capture reached the resistance. Ethan came to his rescue, but unfortunately couldn't recover his equipment (royal gear never to be seen again). The game does well to give a lot of characters unique names, like Keith the Cobra who watches over the secret passage into the dungeon that Logan and Ethan emerged from, and Old Bob who sits in the bar reminiscing about the old days of King Corwin. Neither are relevant to know, but they're there just the same.
There are a couple of times in the first chapter where the game breaks the fourth wall to tell the player to grind levels
Aryn, Elias' brother, leads the resistance, and is thrilled to see Logan alive. He's assisted by Sonia in drawing up plans to overthrow Drax. The first step is to go to The Pits, a mining town where Drax forces the villages to dig up precious resources. Overtaking the commander there was easier said than done; even at level 8 and with Markus' help, a mage that offered to join me as soon as I reached level 6, we were no match for him.
I had to actually go to the next town beyond The Pits to gear up before beating him
We freed the salves, and recruited Giles into the party from their ranks. Drax's forces fell quickly to the overwhelming militiamen assembled in the town of Revere. However, Drax escaped on a boat headed west. Chasing Drax out of Farlayne dispersed the monsters. Logan's mother, Sylvia, thanked and welcomed him home. Chapter 2: The Chase began with Logan receiving his birthright, the Doom's Tear -- a magical jewel with the power to destroy the world, before he set off in pursuit of Drax. No way that is going to end up in the wrong hands.
We raided the treasury before chartering a boat from Nigel to Port Erik in Wyndgard
Towns usually host an item shop, weapon shop, and place to rest, but some or all of these services could be missing. Scattered about the world are wise sages that teach new spells for free, but each character can only know a maximum of seven spells. Places to sleep, the only way to regain MP, are at a premium in some towns. In Port Erik, I needed to rescue a man's son in the nearby Red Cave before he'd offer the party a place to sleep. Every time we rested during chapter 2, a little bit of our money was stolen. Once I'd saved the son, Markus accused Giles (although it was hard to tell who was accusing whom since it was all voiced with no indication), and Giles ran off to find better things to do with his time.
The first mini-game in a console RPGs! There's no reward for it, but it's one of the hardest Othello/Reversi AI I've ever played (not that I'm a serious player)
To the south I freed the besieged town of Fort Muir from an onslaught of imps. Someone named Danial spoke of Wyn Tower to the north where I might be able to find the Calm spell. It's a spell that creates a barrier that prevents everyone from casting spells. The man that ran the item shop decided to leave town to stake a claim in the town of Grimwulf. I then visited Grimwulf, and Rokberg beyond, but I found myself a bit stuck plot-wise as I couldn't find any clues about Drax. This is where the game took a bit of turn for me.
To progress I had to randomly return to Fort Muir after visiting Grimwulf, for no good reason
So began the search for the hidden plot triggers. I returned to Grimwulf to find Drax had taken over. I tried to take him out, but was overwhelmed by his Coma 4 spell, which has 100% of knocking a party member unconscious. Status effects are useful only to enemies as things like venom knock the target unconscious after a number of turns rather than damage, and by then I'd have killed them through straight damage. Damaging spells aren't much better as they're a fixed amount adjusted by elemental weaknesses. Drax's speed allowed him to cast it twice before I could react. Losing is a scripted event the first time that moved the plot along. I knew what I needed, the Calm spell from Wyn Tower. However, the place was locked, along with another cave in the area. I scoured the land, but came up empty handed. Eventually, I fell to talking to everybody in every town until I found the one man who could help.
No thanks, I don't need any items, oh wait...
Two hours after the Drax incident, I finally found the previous shop owner of Fort Muir had returned as a locksmith. I'd spent so much time in combat that I eventually turned on the auto-battle system. The number of options here are pretty amazing for a game of this era. A basic auto-attack, plus auto-healing and limitations on spell use and item use give it a fair amount of depth. I left the auto-healing on for most of the game, which is independent of the auto-attacking. I used some clay to make a mold for the key, and returned to town.
I'm sure nothing will happen between now and then
In the morning, Markus was gone, and so was the Doom's Tear as well as the key to Wyn Tower. We raced off, but were too late. The inscription beyond the door detailing the Calm spell was marred and undecipherable. We'd been betrayed. All seemed lost, until Giles showed up. He'd been tailing us since he left, and managed to follow Markus into the tower. He pulled out the missing chunk of tablet. With it fitted into place, the party learned the Calm spell. A single casting of the spell sent Drax running; however, the townspeople were still missing. Even with a rather explicit clue it took at least an hour to realize I could push a table to reveal a staircase below the town.
I didn't catch on that I had pushed the cabinet as well
Along with the others we found Markus beaten and bruised. He was paid to retrieve the Doom's Tear, but as soon as he handed it over, Drax beat him senseless without pay. While he recovered, the party chased Drax's trail to Rokberg to the north. The mayor's brother Matthew was said to live there. When we found him though, he was acting strangely, and everything seemed peaceful. Reporting this to the mayor of Grimwulf was the key to finding out Matthew has a scar on his left hand. Confronting the Matthew we found in Rokburg blew open the ruse that monsters had taken over, posed as people. We found the missing townspeople in the basement of the castle, and learned of a hermit that could help us gain access to Strom, the monster general.
Getting to Strom required I remove all my equipment to pass through his doorway, described as a reverse magnet... Of course, I carried them through and put them right back on on the other side
Chapter 3 began as Drax once again made a hasty retreat. I'm still not sure how we kept letting him escape. King Rowan chartered a boat to Norland. It first stopped in Fort Muir where we picked up Sonia to fill in Markus' slot. Honestly, he didn't really fit in with the rest of the five letter named party. During our journey we were waylaid by pirates. They demanded we surrender.
This eventually repeated after refusing to surrender for the 10th time
Captain Morgan and Mr. Sneed oversaw the pirates cove of Skullrock. Luckily he knew Giles, otherwise we'd be slaves of the pirates. Since Fort Nors was roaming with monsters, we set out for Red Pier instead. Before heading off, Morgan fed us the red-gill fish, said to be prized for their aptitude at swallowing treasure from the bottom of the sea. There wasn't an item shop here; however, the pirates liked to play a game that rewarded items. Consecutive wins rewarded better items. I never won past the fifth, and I wonder how varied the items become.
The second mini-game is a game of chance, and completely random
Norland was facing a terrible time since monsters invaded. The royal family here consists of three brothers. King Magnus was crowned yet fled at the sight of the monsters. Prince Hanz took over and charged outrageous taxes. The last brother left many years ago. Well it's time for a family reunion. It turns out that Ethan is actually Prince Evan, and everyone assumes he's returned to set things right. The party found King Magnus in the city of Vonheim hiding away from the invasion. At our arrival, he appointed Evan/Ethan the royal emissary to handle the situation. 
We had a strong talking to with Prince Hans and Lord Liston, and they decided to stop their evil ways
After a bit of a trip around the continent, stopping at Port Nors, then at Samantha the dragon priestess' hut, we finally found Hans and Liston in the town of Levy sitting on their ill-gotten gains. One of those pieces of treasure was Samantha's special stone called the Seeker Heart, which allowed her to seal the power in the Port Nors drawing the monsters to the town. With the monsters banished, Port Nors returned to normal; however, Castle Darkheim remained overwhelmed by monsters.
No way could I fight through all of these, plus they seem to constantly respawn
To move the plot along once again required a number of hoops. First, we had to return to Vonheim to find Magnus kidnapped, and the monsters required the Doom's Eye in exchange. That item was sealed in the royal tomb, but the key was stolen by raiders. So we paid a visit to Morgan who said he threw it overboard near Port Nors. It was obvious to me I needed to find a fisherman that might have fished up a red-gill, but I couldn't find one until I found one man in Red Pier.
I must have walked by this guy three or four times without talking to him, but it's hard to keep track of the NPCs as they always walk about and rarely change what they say
So, back on track, I found Carlos and the key, although he wouldn't give it to me. Ethan described the Sun Stone set the in key, but it didn't have it. Morgan was tight lipped about it, but obviously he held on to it. To get it back we had to find his mother Helga, who smacked some sense into him. The stone set perfectly into the key, which opened the door in the tomb, and allowed the party to retrieve the Doom's Eye. We arrived in Darkheim to confront the monster commander, named Girius. Like most bosses, he went down without much of a fight. Quite possibly due to the extra levels I'd gained from all aimless wandering.
About as useless as the bosses are the priests overseeing the churches
The localization is a bit of a joke. The translators inserted a lot of pop-culture references, but they stick out like a sore thumb, and Heinlen is one of the least obvious. Running into Wilma, Fred, Barnie, and Betty makes me wonder what else may have been altered from the original world building. I'd almost assume this was a Working Designs translation, but their name is nowhere on the game. Back to the story, Morgan took ill, and exchanged some explosives for some Nitro from Darkheim's hospital. The explosives allowed the party to blow through the cave leading to Sordis.
It's funny, looking back through my videos and noticing when exactly I walked right past a key NPC to advance the plot (I circled the building and didn't notice her wandering outside)
Castle Havlok was enthralled by a dancer called Sandra. Even the king was bewitched, and wouldn't give us an audience. Cardis was a sleepy little town to the north with a dragon farm, and a lazy dog that liked burying round things. A gypsy camp to the west by an oasis sold many suspicious looking items such as Midas Shoes for a single gold coin, and a sponge for 30,000. Port Sord housed a famous inventor named Isaac who was working on a flying contraption. What it really lacked though was a plot point I could wrap my hands around. That is, until I ran into that one NPC I missed the first time through Havlok, the queen.
Monsters actually wander around invisible until an item called a tele-lens is used
Queen Clair told Logan that Drax was beyond the dance party blocking the door. A dark beast named Naja seemed to be driving Drax towards darkness, but someone named Jessie in Cardis would know more. Jessie said Naja was an evil dragon that at one time was bent on destroying the world. Back at the castle the lady in waiting suggested we enter through the roof. I spoke to everyone in town again, and then left to Port Sord where I was sure Isaac could help out. He called his design perfect, but didn't have a strong enough material to withstand the stronger winds.
Well that's convenient, isn't it?
Long story short, I wondered around a bit more, found a newly laid dragon egg missing, dug it up near where the dog sleeps, and then it hatched thinking Logan was his mother. Cambell was so grateful that he prepared the dragoncloth for the party, and we used that to launch the glider off Jin Tower, to the east of Havlok. The flight was successful, and the party faced off against Sandra who bewitched (confusion) everyone except Sonia. Drax fled again, this time with Princess Mica in tow, but challenged Logan to a one-on-one battle at the Hollow Cavern. Logan unwittingly believed he'd honor the request, and told the rest of the party to wait in Havlok.
You've chosen poorly... magic doesn't work in the Hollow and neither does Drax's warp wing
After the battle with Drax, a random flunky of Naja's named Damius showed up to ambush Logan. Strangely, magic worked during that battle, and luckily the rest of the party decided flying solo wasn't the best idea. Mica was still missing though, and as we reported back, the chapter changed to 5 and a man showed up that suggested she might be at the oasis. The camp was deserted, so we took a boat north to Mortavia. A land full of thieves, we bumped into so many that stole 10 whole gold pieces. We blew past Port Mor, Cape Via, and Acadia without much incident: some rumors of girls being kidnapped, and a possible sighting of Mica in Ghilan.
Turns out Giles is the long lost grandson of the bandit leader Big Giles, and to win his freedom has to complete a simple task
Actually, whether or not Giles manages to obtain the Silver Horn, the story plays out just the same. Giles is forced to agree to take over the business, but goes back on his word in the end. Big Giles and his boys escort Mica back home while the rest of the party investigates some beast named Gaius at The Tower (confirmed they ran out of names) near Karkus. We delivered some sleep mist to an insomniac, but didn't find much else we could do at the tower. Back in Ghilan we found old man Giles in bed badly beaten. He told us he was ambushed on his way to Sordis, and Mica was missing once again.
It's nice when finding the plot is this easy
The gold card they were fighting over is used to access the doors at The Tower. We followed the Prime Minister of Karkus up there with his army. They were overwhelmed, and ran, but we held off the spectres. The Prime Minister retrieved the gold card during the battle, and gave it to the party in exchange for our help. Colin, an archaeologist in Acadia wanted the card to help explore The Tower. We escorted him there only to lead him into the clutches of Gaius. Before we were attacked, he managed to decipher some documents that described a Light Elevator and a control unit in Dog Tooth Gallery.
Don't you see, it's so simple, we can reuse the same quest item for something completely different and make the player retrieve it a second time
Whether successfully retrieved or not, the Silver Horn was back in its resting place inside the Wolfjaw Cave. Before getting it back, I successfully scaled The Tower and rescued Princess Mica. None of the other kidnapped girls seemed to be around. In fact, it's possible they all died because they still didn't show up after defeating Gaius. We met up with Markus, Isaac, and Daniel on our way out, and they agreed to take Mica back to safety. With no way to the fifth floor, I finally managed to piece together that the silver horn was back in the cave rather than another missing obscure plot point. Gaius was in a trance, communicating with Naja. His spirit returned as we inspected his body, so the party had a limited time to take him out before he regained his power.
If the battle goes on for too long, he merges and is nearly unstoppable
Dying in battle gives two options, restart the fight or restart in town with the loss of HP and MP. Running is always an option, and as far as I could tell always successful. Gaius went down after two attempts, and the final chapter began with the hunt for an ultimate weapon called Sword Blaze. Colin, the archaeologist and also revealed as Giles' father, helped decipher an ancient book once we resolved some trouble in the prison community of Doomkeep and Jagri Pit. Strangely, there weren't any enemies left in the overworld, or in the cave, so it was a lot of running around triggering dialogue, one of the easiest parts of the game.
The only weapons that can damage Naja are "Lazers"
Colins described Naja's lair as an impenetrable island that no ship could reach. As luck would have it, my dragon was grown up enough to fly the party anywhere in the world. I stopped by a few places to stock up on Nitros and Elixirs, and also found an island called Hiddenbay with every spell in the game (well, every available spell, Coma4 is still missing). The final dungeon was a maze of staircases filled with enemies, some whose only weakness was magic, which I'd unfortunately completely replaced with status effect spells since I hadn't been using them.
I also forgot torches, the only light source in the game
So, I spent a lot of time maneuvering around enemies I couldn't kill, and wandering around in pitch blackness. In the middle of all of this, I came to find out that the Nitros and Elixirs I'd saved up were in fact completely useless. They're described in the manual as a full HP and HP+MP restore, respectively, but whenever I used either it merely stated, "no effect." I'm not sure if they're bugged, or I was using them wrong. This made the battle against Naja much more difficult. I should have stocked up on potions and mage fruit instead. In fact, I considered reloading my save outside the dungeon to do just that after the third failed attempt.
Something about putting repel on Ethan made him a big target for all the ineffective spells
The key to winning this battle was to keep him busy targeting Ethan while the rest of the party buffed up. I managed to get a few potions from the regular enemy drops, and cast calm during the battle. I guess the game is kind of broken for letting me mute the final boss. As Naja fell, he proclaimed to be nature's last defense against the overwhelming influence of humans over the land. With his reign at an end, Logan felt maybe they had done a terrible thing. Ethan suggested that it was now in their hands, all humankind, to take care not to upset the balance of nature.
Ha, ha, like that's going to happen
I wonder how often someone was inspired or even listened to these end of game words of wisdom. I've noticed them in a number of games now. It seems to me that they'd fall on deaf ears as kids are elated to just have beaten the game. Does anyone remember any endings like this that really moved them?

Elapsed Time: 19h33m (Final Time: 19h33m)
Oh yeah, and Logan married or reunited with Princess Mica; it's not really clear which
Combatant - I glossed over much of the combat because it's a standard fare of attack, defend (remains useless across many games), over priced magic, and items. Possibly due to wandering around lost too often, I was generally overpowered and breezed through them. Rewards are well balanced though, and levels come often. There are some item drops, but many went unnoticed. This isn't a game to play for deep strategy as the auto-combat can take care of most battles.
Rating: 3
Sadly the cutscenes were limited to intro and endings
Admirer - The ability to customize each character any way you want is the only reason I could recommend this game. Although Sonia comes into the party as a well balanced mage, there's nothing stopping her from becoming a fighter (although she's better off as a mage). Even though any character can learn any spell, it's the MP available that dictates if a character can use it. Allowing the game to automatically assign points is wasteful as it'll dump points into intelligence even on fighters. I focused Logan on strength and speed, Ethan in strength and luck with some intelligence for healing, Sonia and Markus had nearly everything dumped into intelligence with some speed and luck, and Giles had moderate strength with high speed and luck. It was a good mix.
Rating: 6
Art and graphics were separated in the credits, but I'm not sure which is which
Puzzler - Although the main quest got away from me a few times, I have to give credit for including some non-combat scenarios and actual mini-games (even though the rewards were lacking). There's only a single painful path through the main quest, although Wolfjaw did allow Giles to fail to obtain the silver horn the first time and keep the game going forward. Unfortunately, the Othello/Reversi game gets locked out once the third chapter starts. It would have been nice to play again without starting a new game.
Rating: 5
I'm a bit sad that I couldn't work some sample of the unique voice acting into the blog
Instigator - The story had some nice twist and turns, and the previous towns changed their tune with each new development. Deep descriptions were definitely lacking. It wasn't clear why Drax was doing what he was doing beyond his initial grasp for power. From taking over Farlayne, to settling on the small town of Grimwulf felt like a step down. The Doom's Tear and Doom's Eye were keys to unlocking the Lazer weapons, but the Doom Key was stolen and never spoken of again. For all his bluster, Naja just sat back letting his flunkies stumble about with no pretext about why he was hiding away. I also didn't feel like an integral part of the story as I progressed through it, and the one dialogue option was a thinly veiled "but thou must."
Rating: 3
Like how Sonia is voiced by a sassy black woman
Collector - There are actually a lot of completely useless items in the game (not counting the supposedly useful yet bugged elixirs), but nowhere to store them. Also, trying to afford them while they're available is nearly impossible. Especially, the trader in Nigel that always seems to have sold out all items to Drax. The economy grows outrageously large, but even with all the over-grinding I couldn't afford to fully deck out my party with the best available prior to going through the last dungeon. Other than rods, which had a special attacks, every piece of equipment merely has an attack or defense stat.
Rating: 3
I suppose these are the people to thank and blame for the Beatles and Flintstones references
Explorer - Even with the dated graphics, the I felt the game was comparable to other 16-bit games. The music is exceptionally well done. The world itself is fun to explore even if there are few areas to discover outside the necessary quest event locations. Once the world completely opened with the acquisition of the dragon, there's only the sage island to provide additional variety, which only acts as a central location for all spells. The world remains open throughout, and revisiting past locations is a nice way of looking back on what has been accomplished.
Rating: 5

Final Rating: 25 [42%]
Well that makes it all worth it... I guess in the end we did slay a dragon
While playing, I was reminded of Traysia in a way: how the game was split between chapters, and the magic system played little importance to combat. Although, it has those same traits in common with Cosmic Fantasy 2. High cost magic seems like a theme of TurboGrafx and Genesis RPGs. It would have been nice to track this series across the many iterations, but it wasn't meant to be.
There's three different title screens in this game
In other news, I seem to have successfully repaired my TurboDuo. It survived a 20 hour RPG without a single blip in the CD quality audio. The A/V cable is still a bit loose, but I can manage through that. Next up we'll cover Exile on the TurboGrafx-CD. It's an action-RPG, and includes some additional scenes censored out of the Genesis version. I may have gotten the order of games a little mixed up, but precise release dates for the US are hard to come by, especially for an obscure system such as this.
Here's the main one
Thanks for sticking through to the end, and I hope you enjoyed reading my experience with the game.

3 comments:

  1. There's something charming about the RPGs Japan was producing for the PC-88 and PC-98. What few ports came from those systems to the PC generally retained their graphics, but console ports like this one end up looking very blurry.

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    1. Part of it is my capture setup, which looked fine for 8-bit, but higher colors look blurred. I'm considering upgrading my setup to capture at 60fps and a better resolution as we start to get deep into 16-bit and beyond.

      I wonder how many gems were left in the PC-88 and PC-98 library untranslated. Super Hydlide was a good one, and this wasn't too bad. The style definitely stands out.

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  2. I remember the ending of Lufia II and BFII really moving me. The first one because I didn't know at the time that the game was a prequel and the fate of the protagonists shocked me deeply. The second one is kind of a funny case, Breath of Fire II really resonated with me even though I only understood like half of it (my English was really bad back then).

    BFII was the first RPG I played in a foreign language. As a child, I constantly wondered why Capcom never bothered with a translation. The concept of something text heavy like a RPG not being available in my own language (German) threw me for a loop. Anyway, it still somehow managed to move me, even though it was in a language I barely understood at the time. Should count for something, right?

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