Monday, November 28, 2016

Game #62: Dragon Warrior IV (NES) - Curse of the Chosen

I played most of the rest of the game with this sword equipped
I forgot to touch upon one significant mechanic of the game. In this final chapter, only the hero is controlled by the player. There is a modicum of control of the overall strategy the AI uses, but spell choice, item choice, and attack target are decided by an evolving algorithm (one that tried to cast Beat on the final boss five times in a row). The tactics available are rather generic: offensive, defensive, try out, and normal. There's also save mp and use no mp to help conserve precious magic points for bosses (in order to use Beat five times in a row on the final boss).
We found Orin alive, and he had a dire warning about Necrosaro and Balzack
Rather than go directly to Balzack, since I had a full party and the ship, I decided to revisit and discover all the locations now open to me. In the town of Frenor I found Orin, and learned that the golden bracelet I traded away enhances alchemical reactions. This ties into the warning about the Secret of Evolution, which Necrosaro is attempting to use for his nefarious plans at world domination. Everything was peaceful in Izmit; however, anyone that stayed at the inn had the same strange dream.
Whoa, whoa, whoa... this is a children's game
In Burland, I learned that the Zenithian Shield was given to the queen of Gardenbur many years ago as a memento. I also took the time to raid the treasury. To reach Gardenbur, I needed the Magma Staff to break through a collapsed cave. With no other recourse, and no leads on the staff, I continued my travels. A shrine with a strange king collecting amulets found its way along my path. I dropped off all the small medals I had collected, and contemplated my potential rewards.
The metal babble helm is hardly worth the effort
Continuing around the edge of the continent, I eventually came upon Rosaville. There I saw the tower I'd only dreamed about, but I was without a way in. There was a melody in the dream, produced by a strange flute that revealed a staircase. From the townsfolk I learned that the elf girl Rosa cries ruby tears, and for the resulting gems, humans would forcefully make her weep. Saro sealed her in the tower to protect her. Obviously as heroes it's our duty to rescue her, and claim all the gems for ourselves.
Gee, I wonder where that stone that dispels water might have gone off to
The Seaside Village was founded by pirates long ago. Allegedly, they'd buried their treasure hidden behind a cascading waterfall. A Stone of Drought was used to gain access, but it was lost to time. Among the treasures was an hourglass said to turn back time, and the fabled Metal Babble Sword. I continued on until I came to Surene and Santeem again. I decided it was time to face off against Balzack.
Remember the name Meena, it might be important later
Balzack was no pushover. I used my newly acquired FendSpell without fully realizing it also potentially blocked my own spells. This caused Nara to perish early on, although it did protect everyone from the snowstorm attacks. I had to resort to using medical herbs to sustain Mara who had just learned blazemore. We pulled it off by the skin of our teeth.
There's a joke here, I know it...
Evil demonites stole away with Balzack's body proclaiming that the time of the Ruler of Evil was soon at hand... once they found the golden bracelet. With the evil in the castle dispatched, the treasure room was wide open. It contained both the Flute of Uncovering and the Magma Staff. The flute worked to open the way to Rosa; however, she was guarded by a Saroknight that I wasn't able to pass until later.
So much money was spent reviving characters that I hardly bought any new equipment during this time
As advertised, the staff opened the path to Gardenbur Castle. It was populated entirely (or mostly) by women. Per usual I searched every drawer in the castle, but one of the drawers I was specifically pointed towards embroiled the party in the theft of a treasured bronze amulet. To prove my innocence I had to find the one that set me up. The queen would only allow my freedom if one of my party remained behind. I could still add four once I was outside with the wagon, which made the cave to the south a bit more manageable. It still took a number of attempts to reach the thief at the bottom.
And at least one where I "chased" "her" all the way outside
The thief, named Bakor (and obviously male during the fight), was finally caught as I cut off his escape from the room. Returning the amulet gained me favor from the queen in the form of the final key (opens jail doors as well as all others), which in turned granted me the Zenithian Shield. Rumor had it that I needed all the Zenithian equipment to gain access to Zenithia where Master Dragon resided. From him I could learn how to vanquish the Ruler of Evil once the time came. It was during this mission that I gained Vivify, which allowed me to save money for equipment upgrades.
Which is a good thing as most of the equipment found in dungeons are cursed or low value
I think this is the first time I've actually used cursed items to some effect. In Wizardry I immediately removed or sold the offending item as they're all purely worse. Shining in the Darkness had a few, but the only cursed item I used was a robe that nearly wiped out my party; I took it as a sign to avoid them completely. Here, the power upgrade of Multi-edge Sword was offset by a blow back effect on the hero if the enemy was still alive. The Sword of Decimation on the other hand was a bit much to use effectively. Although I didn't risk a battle with 0 defense, I didn't think Taloon could take it. I also ended up using the Demon Hammer, which only hits on a crit. Others, like the Mask of Corruption, tempted me quite a bit. I like the dynamic these powerful pieces give to an otherwise rote system of continually increasing attack and defense.
Cristo had a less than powerful weapon equipped because of the slight chance to sap MP points (sic)
Equipment can also provide a side benefit like the anti-magic staff equipped on Cristo during the pirate cave. I swapped out Taloon for Alena as an overall better fighter, and Cristo for Nara as a better damage sponge. There are also usable effects like the sword of malice that casts fireballs, and the Magma Staff which produces mostly the same effect on all enemies instead of just a group. The more powerful equipment doesn't have any added benefit, but Cristo is more effective with the Metal Babble Sword as a weapon. I left the staff on him to help silence spellcasters.
This was very tempting, but I would venture to guess it paralyzes the character or causes confusion
It wasn't as clear where I was to go next, but I hadn't followed up on a clue of a monster infested castle on an island surrounded by mountains. Actually, it was due to that description that I put it off. Turned out it wasn't completely surrounded. I followed a river that led to Riverton (sometimes I question these names). There I learned about an air canister that would allow the party to fly. I just had to find it, rumored buried near the Ruler of Evil. I continued on to a shrine that blocked further access of the island by boat and the monster castle beyond. There a man mentioned something about teardrops, which got me thinking I needed to reach Rosa before continuing onward.
I never really understood why they crumbled or how to prevent that
The slime in her room pointed me to the shrine south of Endor to retrieve the Staff of Transform. This staff helped me sneak around Necrosaro's castle. Using the staff in battle had no effect. Using it in the world map changed the entire party into a random character sprite. Some were monsters, some weren't. It's best to know the difference when sneaking around the monsters' hideout, or so I thought.
Oh that's just mean
All the monsters are really chatty, and drop clues about Esturk, the Ruler or Evil. I managed to crash a monster meeting with Necrosaro about to announce something special. None of the monsters had a clue about where the Ruler of Evil was buried; however, the big news was that humans had unearthed him at the bottom of the mine in Aktemto.
Wait, why is Saro saying it's terrible?
Wouldn't the monsters be thrilled by the discovery? Well, seems the Ruler of Evil is about to revive, and I haven't exactly finished gearing up. I haven't even met with Dragon Master, and my only other lead is for the Zenithian armor inside a cave much too dangerous for my party. Maybe it won't be so bad. All hail Esturk?

Elapsed Time: 8h25m (Total Time: 28h32m)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Game #62: Dragon Warrior IV (NES) - Collecting the Chosen

How do random townsfolk know more about the heroine's history than her?
The little I've learned about the hero (heroine in my case) is that the woodsman is her grandfather. A beautiful nymph girl had a child with his son, but the son met an untimely fate after getting struck by lightning. None of that seems to matter yet. At present, I had the task of assembling the team. Before I could go after Taloon, I needed to cross the desert. A young man named Hector had a covered wago that would allow me passage; however, he'd lost hope in humanity after he was left for dead by a friend in search of treasure.
With all the imposters posing as party members, I can see why he believed that
After fending off a couple of Nara and Mara imposters, I found the real ones. I answered a question only the hero would know (not sure what would happen if I got it wrong), and we reformed the party. We dug out the symbol of faith from under some rocks. Showing this to Hector made him realize that trusting others is essential to life.
We probably could have just taken the wagon
The first town after the desert was Aneaux, a spa town. Had we arrived during the day we would have met a rather shady innkeeper giving tours of the town, ending at his inn where he charges twice as much as the other. Arriving at night allowed us to meet Ruvas, a ghost of an old warrior, who told us that his armor, called the Zenithian armor, was stolen. With no sign of Taloon, we continued on.
The game really enjoys teasing the player
Taloon had just left the port town of Koneber to clear out the monster infested lighthouse to the east. Evil lights emanating from it had been destroying ships at sea. A newly built ship lay in dry dock, commissioned by Taloon, waiting for safe waters. My path laid out, I tackled the tower. I met Taloon at the tower. He welcomed my help, while he returned to and waited in the Koneber.
Since I have the fire of serenity to dispel the evil fire, maybe I should just let them throw me in
The final battle in the tower was a bit close, but we pulled through. Nara has a tendency to perish. Taloon joined the party when we returned, and provided the use of his ship to sail south. We arrived in Mintos hoping to find a map of the world. Old Howden, an adventurer retired to teacher, gave me a treasure map. Turns out it doubles as a world map, but there's a large X I haven't been able to reach. At the inn, Brey sat with Cristo as he lay with some kind of sickness. The princess had left in search of a healing herb called padequia in the town of Soretta. Brey joined us as we traced her steps.
Nope, that's not her
The town had run out of padequia some years ago when they lost the entire crop to a drought. There is hope. A stockpile of seeds was kept in a nearby cave. Of course, it's become infested with monsters. Alena had already joined a different group of adventurers, the same group I'd met in Branca. Apparently they had room for her, but not me. While they were running around in circles, I managed to follow the correct arrow laid paths to the seed. Planting it in Soretta immediately produced the root needed to heal Cristo.
Emotions without words, the silent hero shtick is best when it's a character the player created
Alena joined, with Cristo. As we left, a woman who overheard our conversation told us of Ragnar. He was last seen headed to Keeleon, far to the west. As we departed to retrieve our last party member, Hector decided it was time to part ways. He asked us to take care of Primrose while he studied under Howden. We sailed west.
The arrow shows my current location while the X continues to taunt me
Healie was outside Keeleon, and pleaded that we rescue Ragnar from within. First we needed a magic key. On Healie's advice, we stopped by Haville. Nothing there except confirmation that Balzack was still at large. It took me rounding the continent before I came across the clue that the key lay at the bottom of the cave west of Kievs. The same cave where Orin was hiding out.
Oh, and I've been finding these small medals all over the place
Ragnar wasn't stuck in some cell. He was bursting through the secret passage to challenge Balzack solo right as we arrived. Just six levels higher, the party consisting of the hero, Taloon, Nara, and Mara defeated Keeleon easily this time (save Nara, who perished again). Ragnar joined the party finally. With that, we'd collected all of the chosen. As we left, we learned that Balzack was holed up in Santeem Castle. I made note of the next stop, and rested.
It's amazing these batteries are still ticking away
Elapsed Time: 5h52m (Total Time: 20h07m)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Game #62: Dragon Warrior IV (NES) - Chapters of the Chosen

Game 62

Title: Dragon Warrior IV
Released: Oct. 1992 (Feb. 1990 JP)
Platform: NES
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based
Series - Dragon Warrior

It's not often I run into a classic game on a system I grew with as a kid. We rented most of the well known games, and owned our fair share of RPGs. The only reason I can think for overlooking this one is we had already upgraded to a SNES. We only rented the third Dragon Warrior. I don't remember beating it at the time. This one I have no recollection of playing or seeing before now.
That's not the name I chose
The game started with naming the hero; however, as detailed in the manual, there are four chapters to play through before the hero's. The first chapter is Ragnar's. He's a soldier of Burland. Mothers from the nearby town of Izmit reported their children vanishing. All the soldiers are gathered before the king, told of the situation, and ordered to investigate.
The familiar menu system of the Dragon Warrior series has started to feel a bit antiquated. Including everything in one menu does simplify the question of where to look for a command, but two button presses for talk, and more for door and search is cumbersome.
Especially when there's no wrap around for any menu
Ragnar is a straight-up fighter. He came with decent equipment and a small amount of gold to spend on healing items. I prepared for the journey, and left town. On my way out, a woman named Flora mentioned her husband Alex was missing.
No, I did not... this makes the door command slightly more annoying
Izmet was on the other side of the river north of Burland. The cave I crossed through wasn't difficult. In town, I learned about some shoes one of the kids was playing with before he disappeared. I had to return at night to learn from the school master that the other children may know something about the incidents. A child outside mentioned a man named Alex was in jail for stealing some bread. I'm not sure how they learned his name if he's supposedly suffering from amnesia.
Maybe he just wanted to get away from his wife for a while
Alex directed me to a hidden spot in the woods the kids were using as their new playground. I followed a friendly voice all the way to a pair of flying shoes. I'm not sure how the kids were able to come all the way down here, and make it back out without fighting any of the monsters.
It definitely wasn't with the shoes
The flying shoes took me to a tower to the west where I witnessed a kid dragged away. Before getting too far into that though, I geared up in town to fully explore the cave. I met Healie, a friendly healer monster that joined my party. Thank goodness for him. I don't think I could manage the tower without.
This sounds like one of those cursed swords
It took a few tries to get to and defeat Saro's Shadow. I perished the first time because I didn't risk equipping the Sword of Malice (well, mostly due to Healie dying). A fallen soldier before the boss mentioned the Ruler of Evil was about to be resurrected. A hero prophesied to vanquish him was growing up now. With no lead about which child, the evil forces started grabbing as many as they could. With the kids saved, everyone was happy in the kingdom of Burland once more. Ragnar returned to his king. He requested to go on a quest to find the hero of prophecy. The king agreed. Ragnar left.
Each chapter has an obvious beginning and end
Alena, the princess of Santeem, is an adventurous young lady. Her first task was to sneak out of the castle. After a harrowing assault on her newly boarded-up wall, she climbed down from her second story bedroom and out the back garden. Her tutors, Brey and Cristo, joined her outside to keep her safe. She arrived in Surene to rumors of problems in the mountain town to the northeast.
Alena is a standard fighter, Cristo a cleric, and Brey a standard squishy wizard. This was my first time having a nearly full party, and it feels good. Unlike Healie, I have full control over everyone. I did have to be careful about venturing too far from town as we were ill equipped for the long journey north.
I sense a slight bias no matter how true
The quiet mountain village of Tempe was plagued by a monster that demanded the sacrifice of young women. Alena, being the hero type, offered herself next. Instead of taking things lying down, she laid out the monster in due course. The village celebrated. Still no free gear.
A new day dawns...
An adventuring hero's work is never done though, so we headed to the next town, Frenor. Someone was impersonating the princess for all the free stuff. Wait, why don't I get free stuff?
I'm the real princess!
The townsfolk spoke of a golden bracelet hidden in a nearby cave. By coincidence, this is exactly what the kidnappers asked the town to hand over after they took the fake princess. I ignored the request for a bit, and traveled past the cave to the south. A bazaar was setup with some hefty gear. I confess; I grinded. I've rarely needed to grind like this in games of the era; however, Dragon Warrior seems to thrive on grinding to make progress. Especially this one, starting the game effectively five times. Mainly, either my gear was ineffective, or a certain level granted a key spell.
I'm sorry... a what?
A soldier from Santeem found me at the bazaar. He told me of trouble back at the castle. I found the king had lost his voice, stolen by some magic. We learned of a similar fate that befell a bard in Surene. To find the solution, I needed to gain access to a man behind a locked door in the castle. Why can't we just knock?
It's 3 against 2, what're we waiting for?
Back in Frenor, we handed over the gold bracelet in exchange for Mia. She gave use the Thief's Key, and departed with her companions. The old man at the castle told us the bard Marone had a similar ailment. Marone said the Birdsong Nectar was key to healing voices. Back at the bazaar, I couldn't find any. At night the merchants discussed how they had run out long ago, but I could get more at the nearby tower inhabited by elves. I think that's the first time I've heard of elves in the Dragon Warrior lore.
Anyone ever wonder who built all these towers?
The tower was difficult, but became manageable once Brey obtained the spell Snowstorm (group damaging). On top I interrupted some elves that fled, dropping the birdsong nectar. The king, voice restored, commended Alena, and allowed her to continue her adventure to Endor where a battle tournament was held. I took a warping well to the other continent.
Ragnar, searching for heroes before it was cool
The town of Endor was abuzz with the excitement of the tournament. A man named Necrosaro was apparently the big shot so far, but they've yet to witness Alena go at it. The bridges surrounding Endor were destroyed recently, so the tournament was the only option. I picked up an Iron Claw and some medical herbs in case it was a solo affair. It was, and I had just enough to see me through to the final match against Necrosaro. He never showed. The princess' hand in marriage was at stake, but since Alena was a woman she was off the hook.
There are a couple of unique portraits for the tournament fighters
At the behest of yet another soldier Alena returned home. This message was delivered shortly before the soldier disappeared before our eyes. In fact, all of the people of Santeem seemed to have just vanished. This mystery is still unsolved. Alena's chapter ended. Taloons chapter was next, the best chapter of the game.
Seriously, who knew running a virtual shop could be so much fun. I was buying and selling weapons while saving up my commission to one day have a shop to call my own. I saved up enough money to gear up and branch out into the world. Rumors of an Iron Safe sent me north to explore a cave. Taloon, during this chapter only, has an incredibly high chance to find a treasure chest after battle. Unlike other chests, these contain weapons and armor at higher levels than possible otherwise.
Taloon can also push this old man to the House of Healing for some extra gold
The iron safe protects gold in case of a party wipe. I never needed to confirm it, but it eventually became a vault overseen by Taloon's wife, Neta. We'll hear more about her once Taloon is able to afford the shop in Endor. The bridge still required repair. The kingdom of Bonmalmo was preparing for war with Endor, buying up armor at inflated prices. I made a bit of cash selling to them while I looked for an architect to repair the bridge.
The prince had things other than war on his mind
The architect da Gardi was trapped inside a group of foxes illusory town. Freeing him required a dog to chase them away. Tom's (the old man) son had a dog, but he'd been away from home for a long time. Turned out he was stuck in Bonmalmo's dungeon. Instead of an elaborate jailbreak, he only needed a wing of the wyvern to return home. In thanks, he handed over his dog, which dispelled the foxes, and finally allowed da Gardi to repair the bridges.
Taloon also meets random merchants in the field
In the letter to princess Mia, prince Reed expressed his love, and informed her of the impending war. The king of Endor proposed a marriage instead, and the king of Bonmalmo agreed this would suffice as the prince would be next in line. Having successfully brokered peace, the king of Endor gave Taloon permission to own a shop in the city. While one was serendipitously available, it was priced a bit beyond my current funds.
I suppose I should return Tov at some point
A rich old man claimed price was no object  for a valuable silver statue. Following rumors of a cave to the north, I delved in and collected all the treasure. The statue (plus the bit of coin I'd made getting it) paid for the shop . The shop was a stepping stone to greater things though. I returned to Neta to tell her the good news. Taloon moved his family down. Neta manned (womanned?) the shop during the day, and wouldn't you know it, she was even more successful a merchant than Taloon. She sold nearly everything every day, and at a mark-up of 50% compared to regular shops.
Best... wife...
So, each day I spent all her hard earned money buying up equipment for Neta to gouge whatever sorry saps happened into our shop. While this was fun, it didn't feel like I was making enough progress to pay for an expansion to the nearby tunnel. An old engineer had started building it, but ran out of money. He estimated the cost to finish at 60,000 gold. It so happened that the king had need to outfit his army, and commissioned Taloon for 7 broadswords and 7 pieces of half-plate. Providing these rewarded me enough to pay the engineer, and finish the tunnel to the eastern continent. Taloon continued his quest for his mercantile victory of world domination.
The next chapter followed the story of two sisters. Mara, a dancer, and Nara, a fortuneteller, are seeking revenge for their murdered father, Edgar. They left their promising professions behind in Monbaraba. Balzack, Edgar's killer, wasn't exactly hiding out. He'd taken over Keeleon Castle and started collecting a harem.
Their hometown was on the way, so they stopped there first. In Kievs they learned that their father's apprentice, Orin, was still alive. Rumor was he was gravely injured in the battle that took Edgar's life, but he escaped.
How goes the years of recovery at the bottom of a monster infested cave?
The sphere of silence was said to seal away the evil magical power of Balzack. Before heading to Keeleon, I decided to scout out the rest of the continent. I wandered into Aktemto, where I picked up some gunpowder, and Haville, where I learned I needed a pass to gain passage on one of their ships.
There's a lot of flavor text like this that I'm not sure will become important later on
The gunpowder keg was used to spook the chancellor in Keeleon. Following him as he fled led us to the secret thrown room Balzack had holed himself up in. The fight was simple with the use of the sphere. However, the evil source of his power, the king of Keeleon, showed up to stop us himself. They gloated about discovering the Secret of Evolution, apparently the source of conflict that caused Balzack to kill Edgar. Keeleon was unstoppable, and easily trounced the party in just a couple turns. We awoke in the prison where a fellow prisoner gave us his boarding pass for the ship about to depart from Haville for Endor. Orin sacrificed himself by rushing the guards so that we could escape. The sisters' story was done as soon as they boarded the ship.
The real game began on an average day in the life of the hero. She's lived her 17 years in peace inside a small remote village where no one ever left or visited. That day though, a stranger entered the town, a portent for change. The day started like any other. CelTank took her father's lunch to him by the pond. She greeted her friend Celia lying in a field of flowers, the guard by the entrance who let in the traveling poet lost in the mountains, and her mentor who promised to teach her the spell Zap after lunch: a carefree day like the last 17 years.
Then the fire nation attacked
It's not really explained why the monsters found the village that day. All other villages seem impervious to the rampant monster infestation in the fields. As soon as a wandering poet arrived, it was all over. The entire town banded together to protect the hero. The entire town was wiped out for its efforts. After Celia's sacrifice, Necrosaro was overheard gloating.
The last momento of Celia where she laid just moments before, daydreaming
In a daze, I wondered south. Coming across a grouchy old woodsman, I moved on to Branca castle after raiding his wardrobe. I passed by a group of adventurers off to save the world. I would have joined them, but they were already full. Hearing of a fortuneteller in Endor, I made my way there via the tunnel dug by Taloon. It was Nara. She recognized the hero immediately. We picked up her sister in the casino, apparently already blew all the money they had, and began the journey to collect the rest of the chosen heroes.
Sounds like our next companion to find
Elapsed Time: 14h15m (Total Time: 14h15m)