Monday, October 1, 2018

Dragon Quest II (iOS/Android, 2014)

It's bigger, it's badder!


Again I go with the first name that pops into my head, like I'm willing The Destructor into being or something. Who is our hero, you ask?

VH1's Male Model of the Year, Hansel.

"Would most people call me the most beautiful man on Earth? Maybe. I try to stay humble, so I'd say I'm only in the top 10 at best."

We get a quick recap of the first game, which was...

...A HUNDRED YEARS AGO? All of the amazing characters from that game will be dead! Now I know how the main character of Interstellar felt. Princess Gwaelin! WHY!

As we may remember from other versions of this game, Moonbrooke isn't long for this world. It gets obliterated like that rebel ship at the beginning of Star Wars.

This is a recurring theme of the Dragon Quest series. Bad guys sack a castle, leading the royal kids (who are of heroic lineage) to have to flee and grow up in orphanages and stuff. In this case, it's the third of the three main characters, the Princess of Moonbrooke, who we see first. She barely escapes as her castle is destroyed by the minions of the fiendish Hargon.

Her dad stays to defend her escape and gets brutally disemboweled by an imp while the announcers lose their minds.

JR: "God as my witness, the man's been broken in half!"

The last soldier of Moonbrooke limps to Midenhall Castle, spreading news of the nefarity of Hargon.

JR: "Somebody stop the damn match!"

I like that this translation throws in the "self-styled". They should have called him Minister Hargon to sound even more...sinister.

Here's our main character, the descendant of the guy from the first game. You see, the DQ1 hero and that horrible princess lady had kids and now their descendants are crawling all over the land like locusts. The three main characters of this game are all descendants of theirs, which means they're all cousins, which means there will be no romance.

"OR WILL THERE?" asked George R.R. Martin when reached for comment.

...sir, please! Not in DQ!

The names of the other two characters seem to be randomly generated every playthrough. I like these two names, so I'll stick with it.

Now, Hansel is basically proto-Ragnar (DQ4) in that he can equip heavy armor/weapons and has a lot of HP, but never learns spells.

Sigurd, the Prince of Cannock, is basically DQ1 Hero 2.0. He can fight, equip most equipment, and cast spells of all types, but he isn't exceptional at any of it.

Lastly we've got Maria, the Princess of Moonbrooke, who is basically a proto DQ3 Sage. She can cast both white and black magic and the best of both, while not really being able to do physical damage.

This game is nice enough to give you some stuff right out of the gate, which I always liked.

Here's the overworld, time to GRIND LEVELS~!

This isn't that much different from the first game. Your objectives are fairly open: Build levels, find the other two characters, get a boat, find some crests, build levels, go beat the final areas. There actually isn't much point in level-building until you have all three characters, so I merely do enough to get by for the first part of the game.

The map in this version is still very unhelpful. It's worth noting that the massive ringed part of the map in the south-central area is technically just the final area of the game. So really, everything north of there is your world.

This game lets enemies attack in groups, unlike the first game, and they waste no time doing just that. This is probably why you get a Copper Sword right away, to help you actually win any fights. It's worth noting that the first shop sells several weapons that are weaker than the Copper Sword, which is odd. Makes me wonder if originally you were supposed to start empty-handed like the first game.

Game testers would have found the beginning of the game super-tedious, so at the last minute the developers might have balanced the early game out by giving the player a Copper Sword in the first room.

Even with a weapon I'm cutting it really close on some of these fights and barely get to level 2 in one piece.

I build up just enough to get some equipment upgrades in the first town, then we're off to find the next character.

Steve "Mongo" McMichael: "Finding the next character is a lotta work and I'm busy with all of this great action in WCW baby!" 

I'm starting to see why Mongo doesn't have time for this game because looking for the Prince of Cannock is a gorram wild goose chase.

"THE FRUIT OF MY SEED" growls the king. Gross, dad.

At the Wellspring of the Hero, there's no sign of the Prince. However, our hero does get to take a much-needed bath.

"He must be beautiful for when he meets his cousins!"

Please leave, sir.

After all of that running back and forth, the Prince is located at the inn in the second town. He fits right in and can be easily missed. I imagine a lot of kids ran around endlessly wondering where he was. Kids, that is, who didn't have Nintendo Power.

The sickle presents an interesting question. Hansel already has 20 attack, while Sigurd is a lowly 14 attack. I have enough money for one sickle. Do I:

-Invest in Hansel, increasing the already-sizable power gap even further, and tell Sigurd something about bootstraps, or

-Invest in Sigurd, evening out the two characters on attack power, which may upset Hansel since he's been putting in a more sizable effort to level up than Sigurd has

THE SICKLE QUESTION: YOU DECIDE

Regardless, they both eventually get a sickle, and I get a couple more levels to bring Sigurd to a useful tier. Still, I want to hold back on the primary level grind until after I get the third character. It's worth noting that in previous versions of this game, the characters all had different level caps. For example, 50/40/35. Because of this, their leveling speeds were wildly different, and no matter how much grinding you did they'd never all be the same level. The Prince or Princess trying to catch up to the Hero's level was like trying to reach a distant galaxy that's flying away from you faster than you're flying towards it. Which is also a lot like trying to pay student loan interest in the United States in 2018.

All of that said, we're in for a treat: In this remake, all of the characters can reach level 50. After they pass their original level caps, their level requirements drop dramatically, allowing the Prince and Princess to close the exp gap. By the time you reach level 46 or so everyone's more or less the same level, and by level 50 they're all within a thousand exp of each other (which is one fight at that point).

What luck, indeed!

"Put Pepe in a blonde wig and I'll tell you where the silver key is the silver key is right here on Monday Nitro baby don't touch that dial!"

Speaking of Pepe the dog, the next town has a mysterious dog that follows us all over the place. What does this mean? Is Sigurd in heat?

Jerry "The King" Lawler: "Wahoo! Puppies!"

Moving on, here's all that's left of Moonbrooke Castle. It's a sad state of affairs.

"That no-good Hollywood Hargon and his packa goons runnin' from trouble 'cause they just a buncha cowards WCW Nitro baby!"

Getting the third character is a simple matter of rummaging around in this swamp to get the Mirror of RAW, which reflects the true form of those who look into it. For example, when Rush Limbaugh looks into it, he sees the Spiderdemon from Doom.

Wow! It's...it's beautiful! ...wait, that's just Hansel looking at his own reflection.

"A lot of people would say that I created attraction. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I've certainly perfected it."

When the dog gazes into the mirror, it turns into the Princess, and we've got our third character.

"......Wahoo! Puppies!"

Maria tells us more of this nefarious threat to world peace.

Dusty: "Bobby Brain I tell ya dat der En Dubba Yo ith no good and someboday gotta stop dis Hollywood Hargon. And dat someboday... ith Dubba Theee Dubbayou, where de big boys play daddeh."

She may start at level 1, but she also starts with Midheal. This is a -big deal- at this point in the game.

There's an odd minigame that you can play here. It's basically a slot machine. Tickets for this drop from fights all over the world, forcing me to return and play more slots regularly lest my inventory fill up with tickets. I never actually won at the slots. Not once. Not a thing.

A magical moment, as Maria levels up for the first time...and immediately falls asleep.

Here's a part of DQ2 that I'm none too fond of: Having to walk aaaaaall the way around this mountain range to get to the next dungeon. This game loves to force excessive overworld hikes on the player.

There are several tower dungeons in this game, and all of them are complete mazes. The objective for this one is to grab the Windbraker, which lets you sail off the tops of towers to reach far-off destinations. It's kinda a cool idea, especially for the NES source material.

The main place to use it is the Dragon Horn Tower (yes, another tower already).

There are two of these towers, on either side of a river. If you want to go from one side to the other, you have to climb a tower and leap off. Every. Time.

I had to climb this tower FOUR TIMES altogether. It doesn't help that this game has a very high encounter rate. Didn't mention that before now because it didn't really become an issue until this point: The random encounter rate is astronomical, and it isn't uncommon to get attacked every 2-3 steps in some areas. It's clear the game wants you to level up...a lot. If there were a way to turn off encounters via Moogle Charm or something, this game would be like 5 hours long. You'd still need to stop and level up to beat the final area, though.

The second tower is home to one half of the ingredients for the Princess' best armor, so it's worth turning around and going right into the second tower after sailing across the river.

Arriving in a new town, it's time for more shopping. But first...more grinding! The Cloak of Evasion is a big upgrade that can last you a while, and the prices here aren't that outlandish (especially compared to the first game).

That's it for today, but I'll have this wrapped up soon enough.

I'm just dreaming here, but I'd like to see Square-Enix just go all-out with this series over the next decade. We just got the really solid Dragon Quest XI, so imagine if they kept the engine of that game around and remade the entire series in that engine, giving us definitive 3D versions of every DQ?

2019: Dragon Quest Remake
2020: Dragon Quest II Remake
2021: Dragon Quest III Remake
2022: Dragon Quest IV Remake
2023: Dragon Quest V Remake
2024: Dragon Quest VI Remake
2025: Dragon Quest VII Remake
2026: Dragon Quest VIII HD
2027: Dragon Quest IX Remake
2028: Dragon Quest X Single-Player Edition

Oh man.



1 comment:

  1. Boy does that subtitle seem relevant now. I also like the "venture forth" button.

    ...zounds?

    I like how Gwaelin has such a bad reputation because of the whole "but thou must" thing.

    Maria seems to be Moonbrooke's name quite a bit. I've seen Kain a few times for Cannock.

    Hmm. If that was true about the equipment weaker than the copper sword, I think it would have been fixed in one of the many remakes.

    The funny thing is that it makes more sense to have two characters that can hit for 25 than one for 40 and one for 15 when the enemies have 25 HP.

    I never actually minded that particular walk since I was happy to have the last character, I always found getting to the Mirror of Ra the more grueling task. The towers though... yeah.

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