Friday, February 7, 2020

Dragon Quest (iOS/Android, 2014)

I always have time for a quick run-through of the original Dragon Quest. This Android remake completely redoes the game's dialogue while revamping the graphics to the level of the Super Famicom DQIII remake. For a portable game, it's really well-done. It's still a fairly short game but you can get more out of it if you want to.

I needed a name and went with the first one that came to mind: Luneth. That's right, the guy from the DS Final Fantasy III remake.

The first room still has what is essentially a tutorial on keys. The good news is that this remake streamlines pretty much everything into one button press. No need to visit the menu to open doors or go up staircases.

The not so great news: The virtual D-Pad is unwieldy in this one and hard to use. It's also positioned strangely. It can be moved around, at least, which helps a bit. As you can see the visuals are very similar to the aforementioned DQIII remake. For $3 USD, this is a decent way to play the original game again.

Here's the world map, which is seriously lacking in info. It also makes the world look way bigger than it is. Basically, it manscapes DQ.

I like that you can go (almost) anywhere in the overworld of this game right from the get-go. It's pretty much the earliest iteration of the Fallout 3 model of putting the player in the middle of a huge playground where they're limited only by their level and capabilities. The original Legend of Zelda very nearly falls into this category as well if not for how item-centric it is for exploration.

Regardless, there's only one place you can't go right off the bat in Dragon Quest: The island of the Dragon Lord, seen here in the southeast. I like that your ultimate goal is visible immediately. It also begs the question of why the Dragon Lord doesn't just fly over the river with his dragon cohorts and completely lay waste to Tantegel Castle.

I very quickly overstep my bounds and get ganked by a double-bird flipping ghost while John Cena's theme plays for some reason.

Getting ganked means it's time for some upgrades. I'm not really a fan of getting small incremental upgrades and instead prefer to save up, then go for the big upgrades. Usually go straight to the Copper Sword when I play this. However, this time I think I'll go even further: I'll only upgrade to Leather Armor here and save money for the next town's weapon, the Iron Axe. Unfortunately right now I only have 69 G (hee hee) so it's time for...

...GRINDING OVERWORLD FIGHTS FOR AN HOUR! This is the gameplay, so you have to like grinding to get into it. As a kid I saw grinding as more of a necessity so I could get to the plot, while now I see things in reverse. I can take or leave the plot, just give me grinding and upgrades to buy.

Gotta say, the new look of everything, and the impressive enemy designs, are making this worth playing.

I remember this guy. He was once the Magician. Now we save names like that for robots in our first-person shooters.

The important thing early is getting Sizz (formerly Hurt). This spell will one-shot most of the enemies in the first few sections of the overworld, which makes leveling up much quicker at this point. Especially if you skipped the Copper Sword.

In the second town (Garinham) I obtain the Iron Axe and a Medicinal Herb (that I'll never use, while holding onto it in case I eventually need it). Needless to say, going from no weapon to Iron Axe is a huge step up, and helps me be less reliant on Sizz.

There's also a shield upgrade here, and it's wildly out of my price range. For whatever reason shields in this game tend to be some of the most expensive items. IT IS NOT A MODEST SUM! YOU LIE!

...I ended up buying it anyway. The beauty of this game is that 90% of it is just grinding and buying equipment upgrades. The other 10% is the main quest, and you can wait to even start that until the final 10% of your playtime if you want.

Speaking of the story, the first major objective is to find the Princess, and since this is a phone game our hero decides the best way to do that is to create a Tinder profile:

Unfortunately right now there's no one else on here. No one except...

What the hell?

Another loss as I venture too far, and I'm wishing I had some save states to gimp my way around the world. I'm no saint.

Our hero finds the flute, which smells oddly like band girl.

There are still caverns that require a torch to negotiate. Here, I could fight the Green Dragon fairly early, but it wouldn't go very well for me at this juncture. Still checking Tinder for the Princess, I know she's around here somewhere. Maybe she deactivated it because her dad is on there. That was just weird.

Continuing on I get to Rimuldar, which has some great equipment upgrades (including the second-best'll cost ya, though).

I get another weapon upgrade and level 10 while I'm over here. Level 10 is a bit of a milestone, since you only need to be about level 20 to beat the game (much like the aforementioned Fallout 3, or Super Mario RPG for that matter). However, you can go all the way to level 30 if you feel like it (again, like those other two games).

Luneth casts Glow, summoning rave lights and WWE Superstar Naomi's music. This spell is super-necessary in this version of the game because your inventory runs out of space for torches fairly quickly. Actually, that's the one major negative of this game: The limited inventory space is a real hassle to deal with in this version. They give you enough room for your weapons, Magic Keys, and all of the required story collection items...and that's pretty much it. Forget about having any extra room on top of that.

For instance, this thing. I'm not entirely sure what it does. I believe it ups resistance to fire breath attacks (which become more common as you progress). However, there just isn't any room for it after a while. The same goes for the Warrior's Ring, which I ended up having to throw away. I advise waiting to get the ring until after you've created the bridge to Charlock, which removes a bunch of clutter from the inventory.

These are also, unfortunately, inventory clutter. At least they stack.

Yanno, this game takes the phrase "a bridge too far" and creates an entire game around it. Here I went a few bridges too far and thought I could take on the Axe Knight in Hauksness. This town has always intrigued me, because the original game didn't explain why this place is laying in ruins. The fact that Erdrick's Armor is obtained in the ruins of a shop here tells us that the Dragon Lord had the place destroyed so they wouldn't forge any more equipment of that level.

It also kinda explains why the equipment in nearby Cantlin is so expensive: It's probably the last remaining stuff they forged here in Hauksness and managed to get out before the Dragon Lord rained hellfire on them. The Silver Shield is basically the Erdrick's Shield of the game, after all, so we're talking about the same tier of equipment.

Speaking of, I wonder why they didn't call it "Erdrick's Shield". Weird that an item with that name doesn't exist. I'm pretty sure that if I had played this as a kid, I probably would have spent a lot of time looking for Erdrick's Shield while thinking there was a complete set of Erdrick items out there.

In any case, the Axe Knight is Knight Aberrant now, and it smacks Luneth so hard it knocks his clothes backwards like Kriss-Kross.

The Axe Knight is one of the three big "minibosses" of the game. They're minibosses the same way Kraid and Ridley are in the original Metroid. The Axe Knight is probably the most difficult of the three overall. You've also got the Green Dragon that guards the Princess, and the Golem that guards Cantlin (the town seen here). In a straight-up slugfest the Golem is the strongest of the trio, but he's susceptible to Sleep which makes the fight manageable.

I go ahead and buy the Magic Armor, since getting Erdrick's Armor seems out of the question for now. THESE SUMS ARE NOT MODEST

After that, we have a breakthrough, as the Princess has appeared on Tinder:

Redheads, they always SEEM innocent

The Magic Armor isn't just a defensive upgrade; it also heals you for one HP every couple of steps. This is -huge- for level grinding at this stage. Erdrick's Armor has even better regen. With this, I'm confident enough to finally challenge the Green Dragon and get to my Tinder date.

This fight is brutal at low levels, and the Magic Armor is a must.

After a straight-up slugfest, that's one miniboss down. She looked great on Tinder, but little does our hero know what a nightmare the Princess actually is.

Oh God, here we go

How would that even work?

I wonder if dragons have barbed penii, like cats. Speaking of which... what the hell, Nature?

Kid from Kindergarten Cop: "Uh oh! They're gonna DO IT!"

"No big deal," he says when reached for comment. "I got this."

He carries the Princess a few steps before realizing that he's made a mistake. HIS LUMBAR

Fast-forward ten minutes and our hero slowly limps back into Tantegel, grimacing and groaning while the Princess giggles and sips a mai-tai.

The Hero drops The Princess on the throne room floor before doubling over and breathing heavily into a paper bag.

"That's...great" grits our hero while pressing a bag of ice into his shoulder-blade.

After that, it's time to take on the second miniboss. For this one, you need to bring... the scented flute.

This will put the Golem to sleep temporarily, allowing you to attack without being mauled. How temporarily, though, is the question. Sometimes it wears off after one round and the Golem gets an attack off. At low levels this fight is still difficult even -with- the flute.

Another win, and that got me a lot more exp than the Green Dragon. This -might- be more exp than any other fight in the game. I mean that's a huge boost, practically a guaranteed level at this stage (even at level 20+ it only takes around 4000 exp to level up).

Cantlin is basically the final town of the game, with the second-best weapon and the best shield. This right here is the last epic super-grind for money before you can continue onto the final's a doozy though. I'm talking two hours of grinding.

There's no spell to protect you from damaging floors in this game, but Erdrick's Armor would do the trick if I had it.

A look at some of the changed-from-the-original spell names. Outside is now Evac, Return is Zoom, Repel is Holy Protection. The last slot goes to the crucial Midheal.

The grind drags on! This is why we play, though. This is why we play.

The second-best sword is acquired. The Flame Sword casts Sizz when used as an item, which...isn't very useful at this point because the Flame Sword is the first weapon that definitely does more damage than Sizz on a consistent basis.

It's kinda funny that this guy maxes out at Midheal when there are higher heals available in every other 'Quest game. Once this is obtained, the sky is pretty much the limit on what you can take on in the game...aside from the final boss, perhaps. That'll require a couple more equipment upgrades. The Axe Knight should be no problem now.

 Meanwhile, back at the ranch! If you return to the throne room, the game gives you a chance to neg the Princess. Despite the advice of numerous other guys, I keep it positive because I'm not an asshole.

Guys, I... I think this relationship has a chance.

Time for a rematch with the Axe Knight. He'll always be the Axe Knight to me, dammit!

The fight is easily won with my new heal, and I get the game's greatest armor!

It regens not one, but multiple HP per step!

This particular wyvern type is super-rare for some reason, and I only saw one of them in the entire playthrough. It didn't drop anything particularly interesting, either.

In the depths of the swamp, I get one of the key story items. In the NES version with save states, you can get this at level 1 (well, 3 to be able to heal your way through the poison bog) by saving every few steps and loading if attacked. On the up-and-up, it's a real ordeal to get here with all of the vicious foes that are in the way.

Finally, I acquire the best shield, and no longer need to worry about money. Time to finally do most of the story progression. Finishing the Massive Cantlin Grind was simple once I had Erdrick's Armor to regen quicker between fights.

I return to the very first dungeon of the game, which I skipped before. This is the cave near Tantegel. Couldn't remember if it had anything important.

Turns out all it has is this tablet that tells you to find some sages. Well, for completion's sake I'm glad I rolled over this place.

Moving on, I get the item formerly known as the Silver Harp. This summons enemies when used as an item, which actually might have sped up the grinding quite a bit. At this point I pretty much just trade it in to get other story items.

Just runnin' around, collectin'

I was a big fan of the Sun Stone in Chrono Trigger.

At this point I obtain the Warrior's Ring (increases attack, can only get it this once) and the inventory issues I mentioned before rear their head. This is why you don't want to get the ring until the endgame.

Since the inventory is full of key items, I end up having to toss the ring and the scale (at least the latter can be re-bought).

Here's what you trade the harp for. Mix the Staff of Rain with the Sunstone and you'll get a bridge made of rainbow to cross over to the Dragon Lord's Castle.

There's a whole ceremony involved, which is probably the most memorable part of this game.

Not only does this invoke some great memories of playing Kirby's Dream Land 2, it also frees up a bunch of inventory space.

Finally, our hero stands at the foot of Charlock Castle. This should be the cover shot of the game, like Cloud facing down the Shinra Building.

Man, so many memories of that cover.

I like that the castle is surrounded by a poison bog. This place is super-atmospheric, reminds me of the NES iterations of Bowser's Castle or Ganon's Lair. Here we are on the cusp of the final battle!

The best weapon is obtained here, and it's actually somewhat missable. In my experience it's a lot easier to find the final boss than it is to find the sword, which puts you at a disadvantage in the final fight (unless you've really leveled up). Also noteworthy: The layout of this final dungeon is different in this version of the game than it was in previous versions. Your old maps aren't much help here. It's similar enough to wing it, though.

This dungeon has both Blue and Red Dragons, both of which are stronger than the Green Dragon. The final room in particular is home to the Red Dragons, and they give more exp than any other random foe in the game by a significant margin.

Once I realized just how much exp I was getting from these fights, I paced back and forth over here to grind out a few more levels. You don't want to fight the Dragon Lord below level 20, and I got here at 18. This is probably the single best level-up spot in the game, unless there's an area with a good rate of Metal Slime appearances. I didn't see a single Metal Slime in this entire playthrough though.

This level-grind was so relaxing (with the armor regen keeping me from needing an Inn) that I kept at it and grinded all the way to max level, 30. It took about two and a half hours. After level 18, each level requires the same amount of exp as the one before it, meaning your leveling actually gets faster and faster from that point on. It took about 15 minutes to go from 19 to 20 here, whereas it took 8 minutes to go from 29 to 30.

Final stats! I really wish I'd broken 200 HP. I found one Seed of Life during the playthrough (and got the full 5 HP from it, I think). One more of those would have done it.

Full spell repertoire. The last spell you get is Sizzle, which is a big damage spell. It's better to save MP for heals and just use Erdrick's Sword at this point, though.

Behold the king... THE KING OF KINGS.

At this point you can choose to join the Dragon Lord, rendering your quest pointless. Instead, I decide to neg him.

The fight happens in two stages, as would be an RPG tradition from here on out. The first stage has him casting a lot of spells, and Stopspell/Fizzle can totally gimp this phase.

The final fight with the Dragon Lord's real form is a slugfest, but it's winnable at level 20 with lots of heals. At level 30 it's pretty much a knockout, and he isn't much of a final boss. If this were DQIII, this guy wouldn't even be able to hang with King Hydra or Zoma's other goons.

Something I didn't realize until this playthrough: The sphere of light that the Dragon Lord was holding hostage is the same sphere of light that Erdrick used to subdue Zoma in DQIII.

I like when games let you run around the land and talk to everybody again after the final boss is defeated. Earthbound does this too. One of the cool things about this ending is that all of the poison bogs have been replaced by fields of flowers. Unless you're playing Metal Gear Solid 3, flower fields are a welcome sight.

Return to the destroyed town and you can find the spirit of the dandiest bard in all of the land. He's actually the guy that Garinham was named after.

The latest iteration of Dragon Quest is done. There are phone versions of a bunch of these games: DQII is similar to this, an upgrade to the existing SFC version. DQIII is pretty much a port of its SFC version, while DQIV+ echo their DS/PS1 versions.

In other words, the only phone 'Quests that are really something new for me are the first two.

This means I've got another, much harder battle ahead of me next:


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