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)


  1. While the Nintendo DS remake of Dragon Warrior IV has updated graphics, bonus postgame content, and the ability to fully control party members, a ton of additional dialogue with various party members was unfortunately cut from the translation.

    From what I've heard, the additional dialogue of the remake is in the mobile version, so that's the version I recommend to players today, unless they're after the authentic NES experience.

    1. Strange that they'd cut dialogue. I wonder if it was in error.

  2. I never made it to ch5 on the NES version, but I'm sure I would have hated the lack of direct control over anyone but the Hero. Fortunately they rectified that on the DS.

    1. The DS version balanced giving the player full party control by making bosses notably more difficult to beat. Of course, that's arguably a good thing.

    2. The lack of direct control isn't too bad. There are exceptions, like we'll see in the next post, but probably the most annoying is keeping Wings of the Wyvern on an NPC has a good chance of getting the party whisked away to a random town. There's no "just attack" option. I would welcome the full party control.