Saturday, September 21, 2013

Game 20: Dragon Warrior II (NES) - Erdrick's Heirs

Game 20

TitleDragon Warrior II
ReleasedDecember 1990 (January 26, 1987 JP)
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn Based
Series - Dragon Warrior

After the mediocre sampling of RPGs recently, it's nice to get back to a mainstream title. I think this is one of the first games that really hooked me into the story, even though by now I hardly remember anything beyond getting the companions. The cart I had required the NES was powered to keep the battery alive between play sessions.
When Dragon Warrior II was released in the US, Japan was already enjoying Dragon Quest IV. It's interesting that such a long period of time elapsed between releases, but I do enjoy the touch-ups the developers added. One the of most enjoyable was a completely new opening sequence showing the fall of Moonbrooke Castle.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first example of a game introducing the back story through the in-game engine. Phantasy Star I and II had stills paired with text. It's now commonplace to give some back story before the game begins, but most games I've played for the blog so far have just plopped you into the game.
So far the music has really impressed me. The range they got out of the NES so early in its life is amazing. While the title music is probably one of the most recognizable, I feel the file selection/creation score is the best so far.
The ancient history given in the prologue, and more in depth in the manual, is that hero we played last time married the princess. From their love grew three children who moved from the land of Alefgard to found the kingdoms of Midenhall, Cannock, and Moonbrooke. Peace has reigned for the past 100 years.

That peace was broken when an evil force attacked Moonbrooke, an evil believed to be brought on by Hargon. The King attempted to get the princess to safety, but they were overwhelmed by demons. Only a lone soldier, heavily wounded, managed to drag himself from the besieged castle all the way to Midenhall (I'm not sure how he managed as I could barely make that journey).

Upon his arrival, he relayed his story to the king of Midenhall. It spread quickly from there as normal townsfolk commented on the fall of Moonbrooke. The king, too old for such an adventure, appointed his heir to the task, and suggested he seek out his cousins from Cannock and Moonbrooke. I named the main character Gustavyo, which helps to determine the names of the prince of Cannock (Lars) and princess of Moonbrooke (Kailin). I can just imagine the schoolyard arguments about what their real names.
This is about the point where the Japanese intro begins

Erdrick, Erdrick, Erdrick... it seems that's I all I hear about
The interface is similar to the first game: menu based actions for talk, search, and other normal actions. One improvement is that stairs are accessed immediately by walking on them instead of through the menu.
*Plop*... finally ;)
I remember seeking out the companions immediately while keeping my level low was a good strategy since it keeps everyone's level at about equal pace. I forgot exactly how annoying this was to accomplish.
I remember these moon ga... I mean traveling whirlpools
Lars, the prince of Cannock, is the easiest companion to get. He only appears after chasing him down from his castle, to the Spring of Bravery, to Midenhall, and finally to Leftwyne. I suppose this is to help the hero get his feet wet, gain a few levels, and some gold.
Uhhh, this is Midenhall...
Kailin, the princess of Moonbrooke, was in the castle during the attack. Hamlin, a village nearby, acts as a base to explore the area. Here a dog follows the party around when spoken to, a hint that something isn't quite as it seems.
There really is no excuse for getting lost at this point
I ran into quite a bit of trouble trying to make it through this area underleveled. Dying is quite a setback. Only the main character is brought back to life, and half the party's gold is taken as payment for those services. There's still the cost to raise the other party members. I broke down after my first few attempts and gained about 3 levels before I tried again.
Seriously? I'm trying to save the world here
In Moonbrooke, which is overrun with monsters, the ghosts of the inhabitants haunt the ruins. The king's spirit tells the hero that his daughter was turned into a common mutt. Piecing together a couple of hints, one from another spirit that tells us where to find the Mirror of Ra, and a randomly informed NPC, I found the mirror and broke the transformation spell.
Reflect, like a mirror, gotcha
Why is it called the Mirror of Ra?
With the party fully assembled, I went back to the starting area to explore the land. I learned from the Spring of Bravery that the Token of Erdrick would play a role. I ended the session on a return trip to Midenhall, on my way to a monolith to the south. I learned about that from an old man who spoke of his brother staying there.
You'd think they'd keep better track of their family heirlooms
I was looking forward to playing the following night; unfortunately, my cart (more accurately my save) was struck down by a faulty battery. I thought I had a different cart. Apparently I either have the original, or this one has the same problem. At least it happened at the beginning of my adventure instead of half way through.

Yes, a great shame
I have two options at this point: emulate or marathon the game in a single session. I'm leaning towards emulation as I, 1) already have the game, so don't feel so bad about doing it, and 2) it keeps play time in sync with posts, so I can get feedback from you guys. If I played the game straight it'd take up an entire weekend, I'd get dirty looks from my family, and either create one gigantic post or have to piecemeal my experience up to certain parts. I won't have time to play this weekend in any case, so I'll mull over it in the mean time.
This is my only lead for something to do other than random exploration
I'll work on getting a save to the same point, and then continue on from there unless there's a great calling to burn through this game in a single weekend. I can now stream an emulator, so for those that watch the stream you'll still have that option.
There's also this, but I have no idea where it is; Oh, and that's Lars the ghost
Session Time: 1h33m (Total Time: 1h33m)

Edit: I've since run through the same actions (with less dying and meandering), and am at the same point in my now lost save file. Kailin, the princess, is 1 level higher since I didn't waste money on a fairy water that prevented some overland battles. I have a precedent apparently where I just add the time it took to get back, and I'm pretty surprised it only took 30 minutes.
I also got a lottery ticket, which I'll talk about next time; one added benefit to emulation is true resolution screenshots
Session Time: 0h30m (Total Time: 2h03m)


  1. Best of both worlds: marathon an emulated version? :)

    1. :D My only fear for a marathon of the game is getting stuck at the end.

  2. Oh God this game. I have all four Dragon Warrior games on cartridge and it took me two years of non-dedicated playtime before I beat Dragon Warrior II. The end-game grind is awful.

    1. That's what I hear. I'm really not looking forward to it. Is there really no good strategic way to avoid it? Most times on have it averaging around 30 hours. We'll see how accurate that is.

    2. Zenic,

      The end-game grind luckily throws monsters at you that give beaucoup experience. I don't think it's as bad as everyone is making it sound. Take this with a grain of salt, though, since it's been a few years since I've played this game.

      I love the entire Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest series, even VII (though I've only played through that one once). For some reason, although I've beaten this one multiple times, there are certain parts I still always forget about. Still, it's a great game. I expect it to rate fairly high, at least on par with Swords & Serpents.

      Good luck!

    3. Yeah, the end-game grind monsters do give you a lot of EXP, while balancing that gift with the fact that many of them will one-shot the entire party before you even take a turn. It is very frustrating and time-consuming and all for no good reason, since there is a save point pretty much right before the final castle. So you end up spending hours trooping back and forth in front of the revival shrine/save point, trying to grind EXP and suffering a party-wipe every eighth battle.

      The only advice to be given is to make sure your equipment is how you want it prior to entering the final area, as the constant death will keep your gold reserves at a very low level. I wound up beating the game with sub-optimal equipment (no Shields of Strength) and my God what a relief it was.

    4. Well, monsters already seem to have the ability to one-shot the entire party. I don't see that changing much since leveling up only gives a couple HP most of the time. The main hero, just reached level 17 or 18, and only has 75 HP. I'll be sure to get optimal equipment, although I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford the Mink Coat.

  3. The Game Boy Color version of DW2 had a secret code that let you name all three characters whatever you want... so long as "whatever you want" is no more than four letters long.

    And I say, emulate! You already have the original game, as you mentioned, and I certainly don't want to see your wonderful blog slowed down by battery failure.

    1. Yeah, this is what I'll be doing. I've already worked on a game during off time and am back where I was (although the princess has an extra level).

  4. I'd suggest a third option of replacing the battery, but that would take more time and money than you probably want to invest in one game for this blog.

    Also, the priest/healer's dialogue posted above is my favorite bit of dialogue in any 8-bit RPG.

    1. Ever since I learned of the term "Midden" meaning garbage heap, I've been unable to take the name "Midenhall" seriously.

    2. If I were a little more motivated I might consider doing that, but I don't have the tools to do it. I am definitely enjoying the levity in dialogue in this game. I will now refer to the main town as Junk town.

  5. I'd got for an emulation then. I remember this one! I played this on the DWI and II GBA cart. I didn't finish it though; I set it down for a while and forgot where I was and what I was doing.

    1. Well, if you still have your save, then you can catch up on what you don't remember through my posts and pick up your game without too much trouble. :D

      Also, I see that my slow posts have caused you to catch up on the reading. This week has been quite busy, and I don't expect that to change until next week. I may be able to squeeze some time in tomorrow night, but most likely am going to pick this up again on Sunday.

  6. Nice to see another classic I actually remember playing.

    1. Do you remember completing it? I sure don't. :D

    2. I remember completing it!

      I stopped by the Princess' castle during the ending to chat with some NPCs, and got a little misty-eyed...

  7. Enjoy the music while you can. About an hour after you get the ship, you're going to loathe the music. Also, sometimes when someone gets killed - it's refreshing to wander around with only 2 party members (it reverts the music).

    The game isn't terribly slow if you know where you're going, keeping your levels low while gathering party members is NOT a requirement at all, and enjoy the Cave to Rhone. Don't be afraid to use graph paper (which after S&S, I suppose ya won't be).

    I still haven't done my science experiment concerning end game max level runs success rates yet. Looking forward to it. Oh, another caster recently posted a video of solo PoM (prince of mindenhall) all the way to the end. Poor guy, that's not fun to attempt :(.

    Good luck, Zenic!

    1. I did notice the music changed with each party member I got. I think I enjoyed the music prior to getting the princess more than the current one. It's awesome someone went for that as I had a passing curiosity if it was possible, but I'd never bother with character limiting challenge runs. Class limiting is about as far as I'll go.