Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Game 16: Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements (NES) - Finished!

Why do so many ending screens just say "Fin?"
When encountering an obstacle there are two options, avoid it or tackle it. (Well three if you count do nothing about it until it goes away, but that doesn't usually work in video games). Since I wasn't getting anywhere with the dragons I went to explore the other dungeons in the area. After gaining a level or two, I finally found one that appeared to match my experience level.
Not really, but I have imaginary points to trade in
The Dragon's Lair Cave had a few intimidating enemies with HP more than double my own. The higher level shield spell (the one that cost 8 HP at the beginning of the game) kept me safe, while ducking back and charging allowed me to avoid enemy spells.
What was even the purpose of those flowers?
By the end of my trek I had collected a new sword, ax, and armor for my adventurer. The armor was recognized by the dragon living in the cave as the one used by Magi in ages past. Knowing I was worthy to wear such armor he bestowed up me the water sword, but since I already had water magic it did me no good.
Yeah... Magi...
I spoke with the towns people, and noticed the plot had advanced; I skipped over whatever I needed in the underwater temple. I was now urged on to a cave south of Sull. The spoils from there included a flail, which was better than the ax, and a book that allowed me to translate the language of the fairies.
It's called the Fairy to High Elf Dictionary
Fairies had been gibbering about Taz, the ruler of Zandor, who was taken to the North Tower. I'm not sure what the fairies would have said without the book. Maybe the message would just not appear.
Who's this Taz guy to you?
The North Tower was to the south... just kidding, it was to the north of the main island, and required the part water spell. Enemies surrounding the tower were the standard fare for the over-world, which belied the challenge that laid ahead.

The first time I entered the tower I was wholly unprepared for the axe-wielding fighters. Their great strength over powered my enchanted shield each strike. It was at this point I learned my damage was inherently linked to my current HP. As it quickly fell, I began doing little to no damage. I retreated to the safety of town after fumbling through just one battle.
Tackling the tower while well stocked
I stocked up on food and water, each unit heals 5 HP, and healing potions. I also found out after glancing at thread titles on the GameFAQs boards that the red flasks increase damage. I used these as well to tear my way through the North Tower.
and I do mean well stocked
At the very end I was using my last potion, and my food reserves were nearly depleted; I left the tower with the Wind Sword. Taz was supposedly trapped inside the sword. Taking the sword to the local wizard allowed me to learn the final type of magic, Wind; yet there was still no sign of Taz.
Can he bring Taz back or at least give me wind magic?
Now that I had all magic at my disposal I speedily made my way through the final dungeon in the sky realm to find the sword Tores. Speedily if it weren't for all those monsters. Every single one was immune to my physical attacks. I guess it was time to finally grind. Well, I did find another option.
I had a life?
To grind or exploit? Grinding would take an obscene amount of time. To get from level fourteen to level fifteen took about 40 minutes. Now looking at a FAQ I see the suggested level is seventeen or above with a max of twenty. With the gradual increase in experience necessary to advance my aim of another three levels would have taken about 3 more hours. Exploiting takes a little more time per battle and looks a lot more interesting. I still have no idea why it works though, and I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere else.
I made my way back through the underwater temple to find a different book, which unlocked a message from Magi
I found the exploit accidentally (I suppose it might be more accurate to call it a glitch). I was trying to cast spells doing 1 HP of damage as quickly as possible before taking damage myself. I noticed when I turned away after firing my shot before the enemy info appeared, the enemy's HP would sometimes drop by half. It happened again and again until it reached one-eighth of max HP. Something strange happened though, if I triggered the glitch while their health was lower then it'd shoot back to one-eighth. Seems I'd need to work them down more honorably. Here's a video showing the glitch:
The thing about this glitch is I'd really have to work at not triggering it; an integral part of the game is dodging back and forth, called parrying by the game manual, and doing this while casting a spell can easily produce it. I didn't see any harm in using it during the dungeon to get the final sword, Tores. Without it, I'd have to gain at least one more level, and many, many more trips to the shop.
I fought through five of these magic-users to get to Tores
With Tores in hand my attack power was now high enough to handle the high defense and stand toe-to-toe against any foe (with a reserve of healing potions). I took Tores to the dungeon behind the castle where Darces had taken the king and queen captive. Clearing the dungeon was an easy task, and I took advantage of enemies not spawning until after a night at the inn. Healing potions from general store was all the healing I required.
Some of these cast magic and some attacked physically with no difference I saw in sprite
Darces went down easily. So long as he couldn't kill me in one hit I had enough healing potions to take him on twice. Heavy pause buffering abuse was used to ensure victory.
Darces went down easily with my well stocked arsenal
The ending was just two screens. One singing my praises, and the final one gracing the top of this post.
By the exploits of glitches and the overpowered Tores is more like it
Final rating coming soon. Something about this game made it much easier to write, and it may have been the quickest one to play through. This post might have been out yesterday, but I got distracted.

Session Time: 5h10m (Final Time: 14h21m)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Game 16: Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements (NES) - Unlocking the Magic

There's something intriguing about a game that allows for exploration and discovery. It's part of what I consider a good RPG. Alchemy and runes have a mysterious nature that lend themselves to this wondrous aspect. But, as tempting as such a system is to investigate, the experience is sullied when there's very little feedback. Such is the case with Dungeon Magic's magic system, but I'll get to that shortly.

Last I left the game I was told to seek out the wizard in Bell. In exchange for my newly enchanted sword I was offered earth magic. I tried to take the sword instead to the fairy magic wizard in Granville, but he refused. Earth magic allows me to heal status ailments. This magic is necessary for the next dungeon.
If that's all you're offering I guess I don't have a choice
At the next town, Sull, I was directed to the Galess Maze where I was to find a ring of flight. The worst enemies in this game are the magic wielding ones. While my physical shield is powerful enough to block nearly all damage, my magic shield blocks only a quarter. In addition to that the spells have chance to darken my vision, paralyze, hurt, curse, or poison. Poison is what the enemies in this dungeon did. Without a way to rid myself of it, it would mean certain death.
Where's my poison spell?
I continued to notice the majority of my time was taken up by mapping. So, I decided for the next few dungeons I would hug the wall and hope for the best. Eventually I should get fairy magic which has a map spell.
The HP difference is starting to scare me
With the ring of flight I found myself floating up to the island of Temrass (according to the map). The only point of interest here was a cave. Townsfolk of Sull suggested I'd find a ring of sight that would allow me to see something currently invisible. My plan worked well and I found the ring in only one loop of the cave. Stepping outside I found a fortress that wasn't there before.
Okay, now it's getting a bit ridiculous
I recklessly charged into the Versus Temple. Everything was going well until I managed to get myself killed. Isn't that the way it usually goes though? I forgot that my character gets weaker the longer I stay away from an inn. It also doesn't seem to be a gradual weakness. This is another area where there isn't enough feedback to make good judgement calls. Luckily I hadn't lost too much time.
These guys cast darkness
My second attempt went much smoother with a rest at the inn between the cave and temple. I found an already enchanted sword at the bottom of the temple. Returning this to Sull allowed me to learn the magic of the fairies. Finally I had the ability to display the current map, my character's stats, and the enemy's stats. I was a little underwhelmed when I saw I could only see physical attack power and defense.
Every sword I'm finding is apparently a sword of Magi
I was next directed towards Gran where there was mention of a sword frozen deep in the forest. I remember seeing a strange figure, statue, possibly frozen object in the forest. It was easy to find again. I tried a spell from the fairy magic I had just received and managed what I believe was a fire spell. This shattered the ice and left a sword in its place.
I was fairly certain this was the fire sword. Taking it to the flame spout nearby enchanted it with fire magic. This was by far the easiest sword and magic to obtain. Why, if they were all this easy I'd probably be done by now. Only wind magic left.
And enchanted a mere 15 steps away
Going from plot point to plot point seems to only require going to the nearest town, and then being directed to another town. Alternatively, if you're already in the correct town, then you'll get a slightly cryptic NPC suggesting something you've never heard before.
Why do I want this flower?

The Darius Maze near Zandor was fairly easy, and I picked up the flowers without much trouble. Returning to town I received no more clue about what to do with the flowers, and instead was directed to Deirus. In Deirus I was told of a Legendary Temple under the sea south of Bell. Well, I guess that's my next sto... wait; how exactly do I go under the sea?
The map shows monster locations as M, treasure as T, and points of interest as solid squares
It seems one of the spells in the game allows me to either walk on water or possibly breathe underwater. Well, that's simple enough; I'll just try every spell I can. Of course that's easier said than done.

It's a daunting task to say the least. There are 5 types of magic, of which I have 4. Each type has  4 runes; one is shared between all magic, so really there are 3 per type. The one rune shared by all magic if used first seems to always cast the same spell. Each spell can have one, two, or three runes. That means there's only 12*13*13 + 12*13 + 12 possible spells: 2196 spells if my math is correct. Luckily I only got as far as two rune spells inside the same type of magic before I found it.
The majority of magic spells seem to be attack spells, but there isn't a noticeable difference. Some look like fire while others look like ice. There are purple ones, green ones, and sometimes yellow. Do any of them have status effects, lower enemy attack or defense, or take advantage of elemental weakness? I found six different shield spells, but I don't know if they increase physical or magical defense. It's interesting that so far all the attack spells have had a unique animation.

Well, I wasn't going to spend more time with spells than I had to, so off I went to the underwater temple. There I found formidable foes; in fact a foe so formidable it forbade further forward progress.
This guy wasn't too bad, but I'm only doing 20 damage
This guy on the other hand took 1 damage from my spell and 0 from physical attacks thanks to 201 defense
I was at a bit of a loss for what to do; I searched the temple as much as I could, avoiding the dragons. Eventually I came to a point where all paths were blocked. I needed to find a way past. I tried magic, but even a 10 HP spell only did 1 damage. The book hidden within will remain until I find my way.

I tried other dungeons, but so far they've all proved more than I can handle. I hadn't been avoiding combat, so I don't think I'm under-leveled. In fact, I ran through the floating island dungeons twice so if anything I should be a level ahead. Maybe there's a spell I'm missing that would be really helpful at this point.
Doing 51 damage and taking 2
Math checks out, it seems combat calculations are very basic
The problem with playing such an obscure game on such an obscure blog is I can't really reach out for help the way Trickster and Chet do; however, if there just so happens to be someone that can point out what I'm missing I'd be grateful for the assist. It's either that or I try to grind some levels and test more magic. Both are something I'm sure viewers wouldn't exactly find fascinating. As I see it though I'd have to double my damage to even have a chance at killing a dragon.

Session Time: 4h55m (Total Time: 9h11m)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Game 16: Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements (NES) - For the Love of Nostalgia

Game 16

Title: Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements
Released: July 1990 (November 1989 JP)
Platform: NES
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Taito
Genre: Action-RPG
Exploration - First-Person
Combat - Real-time
Series - Standalone
That's an oddly specific saying
I remember having a lot of fun with this game: creating spells with the runic magic system, mapping out all the dungeons, and being immersed in the story. Now that I've begun playing it again I can only assume those are false memories or I'm thinking of a different game. All the details are present (runic magic, mapping, some kind of story), but a lot of the fun is missing. I'm honestly not sure how I enjoyed this game as a kid. Still, I'm eager to get back to it.
You shall rue the day!
The game was developed by Natsume who is best known today for their Harvest Moon series, and has since grown into a large publisher. Dungeon Magic is their only foray into the realm of RPGs I can find. Creating a first-person action-RPG seems like an odd choice, and I can only guess they tried to capitalize on the notoriety and success of Dungeon Master.
Not again...
The story in the manual supplements the three screen intro above (three screens that take two minutes to play). A long time ago, a great warrior, MAGI, defeated Darces with the help of six swords and magical armor. Darces was exiled instead of destroyed. Now, 500 years later, Darces has returned. Time to reclaim Magi's swords and defeat Darces for good (or banish him for another 500 years).
The game starts out in the middle of Granville. The character is a nameless warrior. One of many apparently drawn towards fame and riches, or maybe the good deed of ridding the land of evil...
Definitely the fame and riches
With only the clothes on my back, not even a weapon to my name, I spoke to the townsfolk. Helpfully I was approached by an old man who gave me a compass. Now if only he left me a map as well. Others told me north of town is the castle Grades and the king would give me a sword.
The King and Queen ready to greet all new adventurers
At this point the game didn't really provide any leads. Someone mentioned the town of Deirus and a water spirit, but no one would tell me where that was. Luckily I have the manual, which suggested learning magic from the water wizard Sura (one of the five wizards in Granville), traveling to Deirus through Gran (different town from Granville), and visiting the Sanctuary of Selle with an elemental sword received from a spirit at Sara Spring. By the end of this post I'll have done all this, but getting all this information before even starting the game left me bewildered.
And where is this town exactly?
To get there I needed a map. This game requires a map. Either someone else's or your own, but I don't see any chance of getting through this without one. A map was included with the game, which lays out the general location and names of places, but a map on graph paper is the way to go.
Scanned the original map in case anyone needs it. I have the manual around here too.

I thought about deviating from the suggested path by choosing fairy magic, but I ended up going with water. If I remember correctly fairy magic has a lot of utility spells such as showing a grid based map of the area and displaying player and monster stats. Water magic is suggested for the defensive powers.
Gaining water runes
Only one type of magic can be selected, and once chosen, the other wizards will shun the character. The wizard apprenticed under is the one who will advance levels as the character gains experience. You'll notice the character starts at level 0; very strange to see this in a game. I wonder if there are any other games that don't start at level 1.

I'll dive more into magic once I experiment a bit more with it. Currently I'm using the spells suggested by the manual. One such spell was ||| ||| |||, described as a powerful shield that blocks most attacks. Magic costs HP instead of a separate pool of MP. So I found myself drained of 8 out of my meager 12. My powerful shield somehow failed to protect my flanks.
I guess I need to be a little more careful with what I cast
The majority of my time so far has been mapping the world properly. Most of the area is wide open with only a smattering of forest and ocean. Couple this with active monsters and we have a great recipe for getting lost.
These flies require backpedaling to avoid their shots
I slowly built up my equipment and levels, and then ventured out only to find nearly the same starter equipment in scattered treasure chests. I found it strange just how much starting gear I found: boots, headbands, and gloves. My conclusion, I had stumbled upon the last resting places of failed adventurers. Why else would such pitiful gear be stowed away?
Already two pairs of boots, and the treasure ahead has a headband

Putting those morbid thoughts aside, I made my way to Gran, which had very little to offer. Deirus to the west hinted of a demon guarding the water spirit. In reality, it was merely a scorpion monster I had faced many times already.
This spirit was hard to find; turn left and you miss her
I noted early on the general lack of music while exploring. It is dead silent when standing still. If an enemy is close they'll make attacking noises, and walking has footsteps falling, but in general it's quiet. Then all of sudden, the music blasts when entering a shop, or gazing upon the water spirit. It's a bit jarring. All the tunes I've heard so far are nice (although I'm not the best judge), especially the intro music.
Free swords! Free swords for all!
The spirit was really lonely, and she gave me a magic sword for visiting. I can't actually wield the sword, so it doesn't have much use other than as a plot item. People from town changed their dialogue afterwards. They now pointed me towards the Sanctuary of Selle where a strange sculpture was said to reside.
Seems you know more about this sword than I do little girl
Before heading to Selle I decided to explore a little more and found a cave to the south of Deirus.  Well, let's just say I wasn't ready for that location yet. I quickly returned to Selle after exploring a nearby woods.
Nope! Too soon...
Selle was fairly simple. No big surprises. It's three levels deep, and while there are some generic maps in the manual, I made my own. At the very bottom was a sculpture. I couldn't make it out very well as I got hit by a darkness spell, but what I think were eyes glowed red followed by the new sword glowing blue.
Kind of looks like a ... dragon? Demon?
I completed the exploration of Selle with quite a pull. It's sad to see so much equipment just laying about, but it's best use at the moment is to sell it. Back in Deirus someone new suggested a wizard at the town of Bell would take interest in the glowing sword. I guess I'm off to Bell next, so long as my game cart will allow me to play.
I thought it was merely dirty
But on another occasion it locked up completely
Luckily the most time consuming activity is mapping. In fact, during my exploration of Selle I let evil win again an hour in. It only took 10 minutes to get back to where I was. There aren't any random encounters; monsters are in fixed locations per map and don't respawn until the map is reloaded. I believe the maps reload only after staying at an inn. There's no save option; the game is saved every time I stay at an inn.
It was this one that killed my character the last time
I'm still learning about the game. Little things like the longer I stay out, the weaker my character seems to get. Staying at an inn refreshes him, but also respawns monsters. Magic is going to take investigation, but I can't imagine attack spells ever being useful as they quickly drain HP. Defensive spells definitely have a noticeable benefit even if it's hard to tell what that is. Luckily the manual gives me the incantation for a physical shield and a magical shield.
This is a physical shield: note the cyan circle over my character's shield
This is a magical shield: note the cyan circle over my character's shield
I think I'll choose fairy magic as my next school of magic, and hope the information on my adventurer includes these values in addition to the adjustments from spells.

Session Time: 4h16m (Total Time: 4h16m)