Monday, December 5, 2016

Game #62: Dragon Warrior IV (NES) - Choosing From the Chosen (Finished)

Straight and to the point
With a cast of characters larger than utilized in battle, choosing which ones to include comes down to a number of factors. The first thing I consider is balance. I like to use as many options available, which in this case came down to the hero, a fighter, a healer, and a mage. Second is the overall power level of the characters. I used Nara early on, but switched to Cristo due to his higher HP and better equipment options. A first for games like this, characters outside the battle gained experience (except in some dungeons). This meant that characters rarely fell far behind the level curve.
I defeated Esturk under Aktemto, and retrieved the gas canister
An interesting option is to not include the hero in the active party. It feels a bit strange to do so, even beyond the fact that the player would then have zero control over character actions. The hero has a lot of merits: it's the hero's story, there's a whole set of equipment only the hero can equip (and required at one point), and the hero is an all around powerful force. There are a number of unique spells only the hero learns: transform changes the hero into the form of another party member, ironize encases the party in a protective shell for three combat rounds, HealUsAll does exactly as the name implies, Lightning is a powerful damaging spell, and Thordain is the most powerful combat spell--it costs MP from all party members.
Collecting all the Zenithian equipment after defeating Esturk without a direct reason to since technically Esturk is dead and I don't see a need to see Dragon Master to learn how to defeat him
Alena, Ragnar, and Taloon all lack magic. Their skills come down to their equipment options and inherent stats. Alena is obviously the winner with stats. Ragnar has more options than anyone (other than the hero) when it comes to equipment. Taloon is limited in both areas, but has some specialty attacks that occur randomly. I've seen him put bosses to sleep, trip them so they lose a turn, summon a horde of merchants to attack multiple times, and attacking with large critical hit chance. I was using Taloon for most of the game, but Alena won me over. I had her equipped with stiletto earrings by the end, which allowed her to attack twice.
The world tree was at the X of that treasure map I was finally able to reach with the hot air balloon
Nara began the game with a good mix of attack and healing magic, but her low hit points became a liability. She eventually learned barrier, which protects from all non-physical damage, very helpful for Necrosaro's breath attacks if she'd use it consistently. Compared to Cristo though, she completely lacks party healing spells. Cristo also learned Revive, which works 100% of the time. His HP was also double that of Nara's by the end, and I had him in nearly full Metal Babble gear. I had considered doing without a dedicated healer. The hero gained a good number of healing spells by mid-game, which I think makes it a viable option.
While Necrosaro and I were away chasing Esturk, Rosa was kidnapped and beaten to death... Necrosaro took that well
For mage, I started and stayed with Mara for most of the game. The main reason was her luck stat, which outperformed everyone, including Alena. The high luck paired with the poison needle turned her into an instant death killing machine. Her damaging spells were better overall compared to Brey. The only reason to use Brey is for his Bikill spell, which doubles the attack power of the target.
With all the Zenithian equipment collected, it's time to enter the final island
I picked up the Zenithian armor from the cave I mentioned in a previous post, the shield from the queen (collected earlier), the helm from the king of Stancia with the help of the jester that took over for Mara and Nara, and the sword was on top of the world tree. In tow I had a Zenithian who fell and broke her wings. The town of Gottside lay in the middle of that island, which turned out to be much larger when I landed. I picked up the Baron's Horn before heading to the tower that led to Zenithia. Necrosaro was once again on a mission to destroy all of humanity, but instead of resurrecting Esturk, he'd become a being more powerful through the Secret of Evolution and the Golden Bracelet he managed to acquire.
The tower was an interesting dungeon with doors, stairs, and different tiers to navigate
At the top of the tower was a cloud that lifted the party to the floating city of Zenithia. Dragon Master pointed me to the land below Zenithia where Necrosaro was perfecting his evolution. He powered up the Zenithian Sword, and awarded the hero with some experience. I returned Lucia to the castle. In return for my assistance, she asked Doran to join the party. Doran is a baby dragon, basically another straight fighter, but not as useful since he couldn't carry any equipment or level up.
It's almost like you're familiar with this person
We delved into the final cave, and emerged in a strange land. There was a shrine known as the Final Respite. We saved and healed, and even though I could cast Return to this location when I resumed the game I always started in Endor. It was a little disconcerting the first time. To gain access to Necrosaro's castle, I needed to bring down four barriers surrounding it.
The most interesting was a puzzle room where the goal was to reach the other side without touching the enemies as they moved in response to the party's movements
The remaining barriers were rather disappointing in comparison. One was guarded by Radimvice who said he had caused the death of Rosa to lead Necrosaro down the path of hatred. The last two held no navigation puzzles and rather easy encounters. Necrosaro's castle was another interesting dungeon with some of those more puzzle rooms, a couple including elevators.
With double the party members Necrosaro should be a cinch
Necrosaro was pretty difficult. The Baron's Horn was needed to call the full party together before the final battle. At first, he looked like an orange Esturk, but as we damaged him his form and attacks changed. With Alena, Cristo, and Mara, I wasn't able to defeat him and the party was wiped out.
If the party wipes, and the wagon is around, the other party members will jump in and fight
If only I'd equipped all the other party members. They all fought valiantly, but in the end Necrosaro won the first battle. I considered my options. Cristo wasn't very effective, even as a healer. Mara did decent damage with BeDragon, but Ragnar would have done just as well with more defense and hit points to last. I decided to outfit him and Brey (in hopes of getting some use out of Bikill--he used it once). I picked up a Sword of Miracles along the way, which allowed some healing for free each round for Ragnar. The battle against his final form didn't last nearly as long as before, but I could have sworn I did less damage overall. Maybe Alena was luckier with her crits.
Necrosaro's castle began to collapse after he died
Dragon Master swooped in to bring the party back to Zenithia. With the Ruler of Evil defeated once more, and the Secret of Evolution sealed away deep beneath the earth, peace reigned again. The hero passed on an offer to live in Zenithia, and returned with everyone to the world below. As we left, I was able to talk to everyone in the castle once more. Apparently that woman wasn't the hero's mother, and she made it sound like the hero's mother passed away at some point. We returned everyone home, and CelTank retired to her broken village.
The artists made a special sprite just so Taloon could throw his kid up in the air
Elapsed Time: 8h12m (Final Time: 36h44m)

Combatant -Combat is well balanced despite the lack of control in the final chapter. The party AI does well to learn what works and what doesn't over the course of many battles. Despite only having a single controllable character, there's a lot of strategy involved in boss fights. Regular encounters aren't much trouble. There's a steady reward system, and levels increase stats, which matter quite a bit.
Rating: 8
I wonder what changed that made this screen necessary
Admirer - Unlike the previous title in the series, this one snapped back to a set party. Although more customizable than the first two games, the characters themselves have a linear progression. I awarded some extra points for the potential of challenging party compositions such as fewer than four, and a hero-less party.
Rating: 3
The trio responsible for the heart of the series
Puzzler - The main quest is well defined, and each next step is directly explained. There are a couple side quests that lead directly to treasure rather than a reward from an NPC. The puzzles are well done, and fit well with the world rather than used as an arbitrary device.
Rating: 5
Some fair-weathered friends for the road
Instigator - I enjoyed the story. It was fresh and new. The world felt lively and interesting. The motives for Necrosaro were at the same time reprehensible yet understandable. It's strange, but even though I was the hero, it felt more like Necrosaro was a main character set down the wrong path, and we were there to set things right. It's nice when the villain feels like they play an equal role in plot progression rather than used as a set piece at the end of the game.
Rating: 5
Thank you for the English!
Collector - There are a lot of items in the game, and I didn't even get all the ones I knew about. The economy never exploded like it does in other games. I could have spent a lot more time in the casino trying to get that metal babble shield, but a meteorite armband was a nice conciliation prize. The vault to store items was helpful while I was collecting small medals, and didn't yet know where to deposit them. It would have been nice to gather the strength of equipment through Taloon's appraisal, or how many medals I'd found compared to the total.
Rating: 5
English names :o
Explorer - The graphics are looking dated now that we're in the 16-bit era, but they aren't disappointing. The enemy sprites in combat are a vast improvement with a lot of unique characters. The world this time felt smaller, and less rewarding to fully explore. Still, the world is completely open once the right vehicle is obtained. Even so, there just wasn't a lot to do with that freedom.
Rating: 6

Final Rating: 32 [53%]
Celia may or may not have been resurrected
I enjoyed this title, but not as much as the third. The direct approach to the main story seemed ill-fitting with the previous titles providing an open world of exploration and discovery. When it came time to find the other party members, I thought I might need to seek out clues and track them down. Instead, it was a direct quest line where I was told where to find the next member. Even finding the Zenithian equipment seemed really straightforward. I was never left wondering where else to look.
I just realized this random castle was Zenithia
And now we bid a fond farewell to the Dragon Warrior series. The next title to arrive in the US wasn't until the PlayStation era with Dragon Warrior VII in 9 years worth of gaming. It's hard to imagine where I'll be in that time, but I hope to arrive there in good spirits. Next up, we finally get around to playing Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes for the TurboGrafx-CD. Somehow this title slipped through the cracks when I made my original list. Luckily someone in chat brought it up, and I managed to get a copy before I passed the release date. I'm already about a third of the way through it, and it's at the same time rather bland and basic, but also exciting and unique. It's hard to explain, but I'll try to do so next time.


  1. "even though I was the hero, it felt more like Necrosaro was a main character set down the wrong path"

    Not that strange after all, really. In the DS remake for DQ4, there is a Chapter 6 where you recruit "Psaro" instead of defeating him as the new Ruler of Evil and with him along with the rest of your party you hunt down Radimvice for his betrayal. Its really a great extra bit for the game as an alternate ending and really makes the game feel more complete and satisfying from a defeat-the-true-villain sort of view.

    1. But didn't I kill Radimvice to destroy one of the barriers? That sounds like bad fan-fiction. Still might be fun to explore, although I don't think I'd go out of my way to get the game on DS.

  2. Maybe I missed it but is the disappearance of Alena's father and the people of Santeem Castle ever addressed in Chapter 5? Does it ever explicitly say what happened to them or are we suppose to assume that they were all killed?

    1. It isn't ever explained. Although, at the end of the game when everyone returns to their home towns, everyone is back in Santeem so they didn't die... taken prisoner, perhaps.

    2. Thanks, I'd forgotten about that sequence. Not a very satisfying resolution to that particular plot point but the rest of the story was a step up from the previous games in the series so I'll forgive them. I had this game in the early 90s when I was a kid and really enjoyed it at the time.

      What stands out to me about it after all these years was all the silliness that Enix put into it that wasn't there in the earlier games. Things like Taloon's chapter, visiting Dire Palace in disguise, or that one part where a monster casts Return and hits his head on the dungeon ceiling and is knocked out. They really seemed to have a lot of fun with the game engine in this one.

      Also, I always thought the structure must have strongly influenced FFVI (meet a bunch of different characters in the first part of the game then gather them together for the second part). But maybe there are other games from that era that had a similar structure.

    3. There was definitely more humor than previous titles.

      This might be the first game that has a traveling party larger than the combat party with predefined characters. I can't really think of another, so the first in the west at least.