Monday, January 26, 2015

Dragon Quest II (Super Famicom, 1993)

Time for the second half of the Super Famicom remake double-header. To put it bluntly, I don't like this one as much as the first. It makes heavy use of mountain ranges to constantly block you off from exploring the overworld at your leisure, so it loses a lot of the open world feeling... even though it is, technically, a pretty open game. Aside from that, the game seems poorly-balanced in general. But if you like fighting baboons on the overworld for 80% of the game, it's a good time.

Regardless, it's fun in a classic sense, and this version has improved graphics. Let's get to it. And if you haven't, check out my posts on the NES version of the game.

This intro sorta reminds me of the nonsensical intro of Highlander: The Raven. Nick The Cop is all "I met Amanda, and together we brought light back to the world."

What does that even mean? The worst part is that they do nothing of the sort on the show, they just diss each other a lot while solving murders. Because Highlander was actually about Cop Stuff all along!

 I digress. In any case, this game brings us a new villain, Hargon. He's no Dragonlord. At least the intro is well-done and looks a lot better than it did on the NES.

 Giggling little imp-gnomes wreak havoc on Moonbrooke Castle, setting fires and jabbing people with tiny sticks.

The last survivor of Moonbrooke limps to Midenhall, the castle of our hero. All three of the characters in this game are royalty, descended from the esteemed Cockburn of the first game. This is a hundred years later, which means it's time for the Sinistrals to return. Enough exposition, let's start the gameplay.

 After the last soldier of Moonbrooke tells us of the encroaching armies of Mordor, he collapses. Enter Prince Methos, our hero. That's right, I went with a long-overdue name for this one. As an added bonus, in battle his name will be shortened to "Meth". Hilarious!

...wait, no, it won't, because this version displays full names. Taste the 16-bit power!

Gotta admit, I had a tough time picking a name this time around, and I waffled between a few possibilities.

Time to set out. someone going to pick up the dead guy?

First order of business, as in the previous game, is to obtain a Copper Sword... only this time you get it from a chest right away. There's a reason for this; the enemy crowds outside would eat the hero alive if he went out without a weapon. Rather than lower the enemy stats, they just gave the hero enough equipment to get started sufficiently.

I like how the original game gives you the choice of buying weaker weapons at less cost right off the bat, or saving up for a strong weapon that will take a bit longer to get. I vastly prefer this to the standardized "one new weapon in every new town" setup found in so many other RPGs.

Alas, some aren't pleased at all that Methos is going out on an adventure:

What? Who?


Cliche awkward Japanese female character who-has-feelings-but-doesn't-outright-state-them-even-though-it's-made-incredibly-obvious at 11 o' clock! Cliche oblivious Japanese male character who-has-no-idea-she-likes-him-and-scratches-the-back-of-his-head not included.

Actually, this one NPC is the only particularly intriguing NPC in this place. Who is she? What is her history with the prince? Does she someday birth the DQIV hero? ...or more likely, Taloon? I'm sorry, lady. I'm so sorry.

 The beginning of the game is a fair amount of grinding, as is beloved series tradition. Here Methos locks horns with a pair of supple breast implants.

That guy said "peed"! No wonder this game didn't get an American release.

Caves are much easier to traverse in this game since you aren't functioning within a spotlight anymore. They also look vastly better than the caves in the NES version.

Second character acquired. From what I understand, the game randomly assigns names to the other characters, and if you don't like them you're out of luck unless you want to replay the first hour of the game.

 As for the Prince of Cannock here, he's basically a weaker version of the hero from the first game. He's a battlemage (or spellsword) and not very good at either. He gets useful utility spells, at least. I think he's supposed to be the Red Mage of the game. Probably my least favorite character.

The main dude doesn't get any spells, but he's vastly stronger physically than Rolando. The third character is a pure spellcaster who gets some potent offensive and healing magic.

Since I'm in a hurry to get to the third character before I do any kind of grinding, I flee from a lot of fights. This leaves me under-leveled and vulnerable to vicious gang-beatdowns from local rats.

 Here's the castle from the intro, which has been thoroughly sacked. The Princess escaped, and she'll be the third party member. But don't get any ideas about her hooking up with the hero, because the three characters are all cousins of each other, and this isn't Alabama.

Rummaging around in a swamp gets you this mirror, which shows the true form of people who gaze into it. Insert Rush Limbaugh joke here.

Use this mirror on a dog in a nearby town, and she turns into the princess.

Fun Fact: These three are the descendants of the guy from the first game, while the guy from the first game is the descendant of the guy (and/or girl) from the third game.

Fun Fact 2: Even though the princess never speaks, she's still a better character than Seena.

Fun Fact 3: When Seena pees outdoors, the ground dies screaming.

Linda, huh? She starts at level 1, which is a bit of a setback when her HP are already the lowest to begin with (for now... Rolando later gives her competition in the low-HP department). That said, she also starts with Healmore. Which is awesome. Now I can safely grind away without wasting experience. You get the same exp from fights regardless of how many characters you have.

I wasn't sure in the first game, but now it seems pretty clear that this remake significantly brings down the amount of grinding required. Enemies give a lot more exp and gold than I remember at this point. Early-game grinding in the NES version of Dragon Warrior II was very tedious, since the overworld enemies stayed the same for about 80% of the game's runtime. Thus, it'd take a ton of fights to level up if you were fighting around a town.

Next stop: A tower. Are we sure the Sinistrals aren't involved?

Regardless, I would be able to just walk there, but there's a single-space mountain blocking the way. I can still get there, but I have to go the long way around. The game does this a LOT with narrow mountains. I'm alright with being walled off from places I can't go to yet because I need a boat or whatever, but I'm not so cool with having the obvious path to the next area get blocked by a narrow wall that is just there to slow down game progress.

Yep, time for the looooong way around. At least this beach route is memorable. It's fairly unique.

In the NES version, I didn't go to the north Dragon's Horn tower until late in the game. This time, I do it early. The yarn is in a different spot in this SFC version, one of several odd layout differences inside of dungeons. I had to rummage around looking for it blindly, and it took a while.

Before long, you acquire a boat and can sail across the sea. Already we've surpassed the scope of Dragon Warrior 1. Funny thing is, the first place you're likely to see is Alefgard, the overworld of the first game. Here are Tantegel and Charlock, the two castles. It's a scaled-down version of the continent, but the fact that it exists at all is awesome.

Charlock Castle is pretty much the optional side-dungeon of the game. It isn't too difficult, and it gets you one of the best swords in the game. Not THE best, no... there are three or so better swords out there. Much like DDP Yoga ain't your mama's yoga, this ain't Dragon Warrior 1.

The Dragonlord's great-grandson is hanging out down here, just chilling and minding his own business. He's no fan of this new Hargon guy. As for Hargon "growing to enormous size"...


In the NES version, stationary enemies could respawn. For instance, the Mad Clown here, which drops the Staff of Thunder, would respawn every time you reset the game. You could then sell the staff for almost 20k gold, which totally eliminated any late-game money troubles. Well, that trick doesn't seem to work here. One negative aspect of remakes that fix things is that you often lose helpful bugs too. Luckily, it isn't as hard to farm gold as I thought it was towards the end.

The Princess' best armor. I've always liked the little quest that you have to undergo to get this. It's one of the things this game does well. It's a simple game, but it's a lot of fun. No twenty-minute cutscenes for characters to talk in circles about Fal'cie or some shit like so many modern games.

"HEE HEE" says the tailor as he starts to get naked. We're outta here.

The Sea Cave is like a mini-me version of the dreaded Cave to Rhone, and a notable difficulty spike. Surprisingly, you can walk on the lava, but it does damage. The lava is much nicer to look at than the NES version, at least.

Times like this, I wish this game had a HealUs spell. That one doesn't get invented until the third game. ...which is a prequel. I guess Linda just sucks at being a healer. Thanks a lot, LINDA.

Shhh, everyone quiet. That there is the rare Metal Babble, the most sought-after beast in the wild. These things give a cool 10,000 exp, and to put that in perspective, the toughest endgame fights only give about 1,500. Fights at THIS point only give about 400. Later games in the series would one-up this by including the gigantic Metal King Slime. I'm not sure, but I suspect he gives up 100,000 exp. Future games should add a Metal King Babble, and if you somehow defeat it the whole party just has a collective orgasm.

The Sea Cave is a torturous maze of stairwells, an M.C. Escher-esque puzzle for the ages. ...until you realize you just need to go into that one stairwell on the left to get to the end, and can walk right over there.

One HUGE upgrade this game has over the NES version? Spell animations. Here we see Rolando dishing out his strongest attack. Linda gets a stronger spell, Explodet, but not for a while after Rolando gets Firebane. In other words, for a while, Rolando is the strongest offensive spellcaster.

Using the Eye of Malroth in this swamp opens the entrance to the infamous Cave to Rhone. It might as well be the entrance to the Mines of Moria, given how dreaded this place is.

I've always found it odd that the last of the Crests is found in this dungeon. Basically necessitates multiple runs at the place, since you need to backtrack to hand this in.

Of course, the Crests are the big objective of the majority of the game, and getting all of them lets you acquire Rubiss' Charm. Gotta say, the room where the exchange goes down is MUCH nicer-looking than it was on the NES.

Back to the Cave to Rhone. This might well be the most difficult dungeon in any RPG on the NES... definitely is from what I've played. The place is incredibly confusing to get through, and trying to navigate your way to the exit is like trying to find M.C. Escher's wife's clitoris.

Another quick detour gets me the Thunder Sword. Best sword in the game. It makes the Sword of Erdrick look like a Cypress Stick.

That said, the Falcon Sword, which attacks twice (with low power) is better for Babble-slaying. There's also the buyable Light Sword, which hits for a lot of damage and can be equipped by Rolando. Suffice to say, there are a number of better options than the Sword of Erdrick.

While I'm on the subject of the Cave to Rhone, the SFC version doesn't scale back on the difficulty much either. Now when you fall through an invisible pit, the pit stays visible onscreen when you return to that room. That's the only change, and while it does help, you still need a map and a lot of luck to get through here without being overleveled. 

Finally, I reach Rhone Plateau. This is basically the last third of the game, and my favorite part. Why? A) It's snowy. B) It's a level-grinding paradise. C) It's like a reward for getting through that hellish cave. D) In the Latin American version of the game, this wasn't snow, it was Grade-A Dominican Coke. Go on mon. Take a heet.

Returning to this shrine between fights gets you a free revive/heal for the whole party. Combine this with the enemies here giving vastly more exp than anywhere else in the game* and you've got a recipe for leveling mayhem that makes any previous grinding look like a waste of time.

* - About 7x as much as previous overworld battles, and 2x to 3x as much as battles in the Cave to Rhone (the rare Metal enemies notwithstanding)

Those free revives aren't just a money-saving convenience; they're totally necessary. At level 20-ish, these battles were DESTROYING the party.

Now I just need a good grinding song...

There we go, perfect. Let's do this.

A little less conversation! A little more action please!

A little more bite a little less bark!

A little less fight a little more spark!

Satisfy me! (Satisfy meee!)

To go along with the very compelling equipment lineup of the main hero, I get Rolando equipped with his best armor: A Tyler Breeze fur coat. He immediately takes a selfie while making duck lips. What monster have I created?

These Bullwong things can, as the kids say, GTFO. They're horrible, and accounted for about 70% of my deaths during this grind-session. They seem to be much more powerful than other enemies in this place, though the gold apes have a habit of casting Defeat on the whole party.

The good news is that lots of highly-pricey cursed equipment is dropping. I don't lose those upon death, so even though my gold keeps getting cut in half, I can go sell a few of those at 10k a pop if I need money. That allowed me to get thee 65k Fur Coat easily.

ProTip: As long as you don't save anywhere besides this shrine, the Return spell warps you back here. you're free to take the shrine portal back to the overworld and go back to earlier areas, as long as you don't talk to any save-people. Then a quick Return spell puts you back here for more grinding.

Come on come on! (Come on come on!) Come on come on! (Come on come on!)

Don't procrastinate don't articulate! Girl it's getting late gettin' upset waiting arouuuuuuuuund!

OWWW a little less conversation a little more action please!

Finally, this is it. Hargon's Castle. I decided to grind to the max level, just like I did right before the final fight of the previous game. The SFC versions have quicker leveling up, so I figured why not. Typically, you want your levels in the late twenties to early thirties to have a chance in the last dungeon, but I went a few steps beyond. It's interesting that the level caps are different from character to character, but it makes sense given that the girl levels more slowly than the guys do (...which is also true in bed).

Hargon's Castle is a vile land of illusions. At first, it appears to be the starting town. However, once Methos takes off his beer goggles, he sees the place for what it really is. Insert Ann Coulter joke here.

Place is a lot more colorful than the NES version. This vile den of evil is home to several bosses, one of which is... you guessed it if you've played any of the rest of the game, a baboon.

"Atlas" by The Battles plays as I take on the guy that I once referred to as the hardest fight in the game outside of the final boss. I'm actually rethinking that now. His lack of spells means that his assault is diminished by higher levels/stats, so while the other castle bosses can still mess you up with the right spell combinations, Atlas' threat is largely mitigated. Also, the parry trick totally ruins this guy, but I didn't use it.

This bridge is sweet. I don't remember the NES version having this kind of scenery.

Hargon himself is praying in some kind of unholy chapel. I wonder what a hypothetical U.S. version would have done about the cross in an era where FFIV and FFVI had Holy turned into "White" and "Pearl".

They'd have probably turned it into a Star of David, because Ninja Gaiden proved that Nintendo had no problem with those appearing in games.

Whoa, the cross is also featured prominently in the battle itself. Is this yet another Japanese game where the church is evil? If I want to hear that kind of talk, I'll go replay Assassin's Creed 2 and fight the pope.

After a very underwhelming fight with Hargon, we get the vile god he has been praying to. Malroth is perhaps the first of many RPG final bosses who come out of nowhere after you defeat what you thought was the main villain. It's a trope that I personally kinda like, keeps things interesting.

Regardless, Malroth is a beast incarnate, hardest fight in the game. Even with the party maxed-out, he's formidable. He can HealAll to restore his HP entirely at will, and he gets two attacks per round. He makes the DragonLord look like a garden salamander.

After a challenging little brawl, I win. Rolando bit the dust (of course). It was a matter of reducing his defense as much as possible so that I could dish out mega-damage with regular attacks and finish him off before he did a HealAll.

As for Rolando, I joke, but he's considerably tougher in this game than in the original NES version. They did a good job making him as useful as the other two.

One of the cool things about these early Dragon Quest titles is that you can go around the world talking to people AFTER the final battle. Lots of them say the same things as one another, but it's fantastic that the game lets you have this little epilogue regardless.

We also get fireworks! It's Chrono Trigger's ending all over again.

That does it for this one. So what's the verdict on this game? It's the weak link of the first few Dragon Quest games, but it's still worth playing. If you're going to play any version of it, go with this enhanced SFC version.

I'm going to go through the NES version of Dragon Quest III one of these days to fill in that blank, now that the SFC trilogy-remakes are represented.


  1. If I remember correctly, you could walk on lava in the first Final Fantasy too (and I think a bunch more, but I can't remember), but I don't remember it saving too much I think it split it up among the party, which made it so you had to spam healing every few steps.
    The epilogue dialogue reminds me of Earthbound. Except there's no Shattered Man that will crash your game if he beats you after the credits. So sad.

  2. I personally don't see much difference between seeing a castle unreachable because of water and seeing a tower unreachable because of mountains. Alternately, the tower could be equally far away by foot but instead of guessing where it is, you see it earlier and keep walking hoping you'll loop around towards it (which you do).

    Everything about revisiting the DQ1 lands is great, especially getting the Sword of Erdrick mid-game.

    Get that damn Vel Venis out of that town!

    Sorry old man, but Rolando already called dibs on the Water Flying Clothes.

    There is another level past Metal King Slime in later games. They look like huge diamonds.

    Just looking at the damn entrance of Rhone Cave made me anxious.

    I like how the Thunder Sword in DQ3 is in the Rhone-lite cave. Just like the Sword of Erdrick in this game, the Thunder Sword isn't the best in that one either and there's a lot of game left at that point. A weapon that has infinite casts of Boom stays useful for a while though.

    Those flying monkeys are no joke.

    Eh, parry trick? DQ2 doesn't have a parry trick. Any version. That's only Dragon Warrior 3 on the NES.

    HealAll final bosses are never cool. Looking at you too Chaos. Persona 3 sort of has one, but that's through charming a character with the full heal spell. Sucks when you don't see it coming, but you can equipment null charm accessories and remove the threat at least. With Malroth you've just gotta go all out and hope he doesn't feel like healing long enough for you to finish him.

  3. Having just seen DQ1, I can say for sure there was plenty of light in the world before the Dragon Lord was taken down, too. This kind of thinking that we can't be happy if this evil guy is still around should be avoided. Ah, right, I shouldn't take this so seriously.

    Another one I've read before and am happy to read again. The scenery here really looks beautiful and there's a lot more environments to show off than in DQ1. I'm also happy they fixed two of the previous game's biggest problems, the Prince of Cannock sucking and no one being able to remember how to get through the Cave to Rhone.

    I too am a big fan of so much of the late game being in a snowy location.

    After winning the game did you go back and talk to that girl who wanted you not to forget about her?

    The princess being disguised as a dog here is a parallel to the horse princess of DQ8, right?

    Water Flying Clothes is still a great name.

    How did people find things buried in the overworld in the old days? Thanks to NPC hints, right?

    The cross background in the Hargon fight is extremely daring and I'm sure they didn't use it in the US version. Is this the room? If so they made it a pentagram, which makes perfect sense: