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)


  1. Ok, so I'm far from an expert programmer (I can code my way out of a paper bag, but probably not a cardboard box), but I have taken a CPU class. My first thought was you have a situation where you have a number overflow, which is common in old games, but that tends to be more random. Dividing exactly by two each time and only when a specific action is taken sounds like an error in register use. It sounds like the game was coded in assembly, and when you take a specific action it is either dividing the wrong memory address, or the wrong register by two. So instead of dividing the value it should be by two, it is doing the enemies health. What worries me, is it means there is some value that *isn't* getting divided by two.

  2. Well, if all you get is two screens for an ending, at least one is lauding you for your efforts and the other is a fairly nice piece of artwork.

    I did a quick Google search; someone by the name of TSA on the Playstation RPG forums has an answer to "why do RPGs say fin at the end?"

    "Fin is the term that used to accompany old silent films at the end. El Fin or il fin - "The End" in the romance languages - is the appropriate ending text because of the origins of theater. But in reality, they're just being modernists and paying homage to the classical narrative mediums."