DQII #1: A Whole New World

I made a page for Project DQ, which makes it all official or some such a thing.

Dragon Quest II title screen

Dragon Quest II starts off with a title screen that’s only just barely more interesting than DQI’s because, um, the title is animated a bit. Okay, again there’s not much fanfare here in the remake. I have no explanation. Even the NES version had an additional bit of animation added to the title screen from the Japanese original.

The introduction reads: Ages ago, a young descendant of the legendary warrior Erdrick defeated the Dragonlord, and returned light to the world. The introduction continues: The young man, together with his bride, left on a journey to build several new countries.
The introduction continues: These countries were ruled by the children of that young couple, and were handed down to the following generation. The introduction concludes: 100 years have passed since then...

The game starts with this introduction, which summarizes the entire first game in a single sentence. (To be fair, it is a short game.) Since DQI, the hero and Gwaelin got married, journeyed around, established a bunch of new countries, and then handed them down to their kids. A hundred years later these countries are now ruled by their descendants.

This introductory blurb was an addition made from the Japanese original. The remake has slightly enhanced this from the NES version by adding a background.

Another addition from the Japanese original was the opening cutscene showing Hargon’s attack on Moonbrooke Castle. The remake has given this quite a facelift. It’s quite nice even if the fan translation is a bit melodramatic.

A lone soldier manages to survive the Moonbrooke attack. Though badly wounded he makes it to Midenhall Castle where the guards carry him to the king. In the NES version “carry” is portrayed by the three walking Very Slowly; in this version the animation looks to me more like they drag him.

Upstairs in the king’s chamber, the soldier tells the King of Midenhall of the attack before succumbing to his wounds. This is where the Japanese original began.

The king’s action in this case is to delegate the adventuring to his son, i.e., my character Roto. Yes, I’ve used the Japanese legendary hero’s name again, though, to guarantee I’ll constantly mess it up avoid confusion I’m using the alternate spelling.

The king orders the soldier’s burial . . . and then the soldier actually dies. So, he was just there on the floor gasping his few last breaths as the king monologued?

Downstairs, the king gives me the contents of the nearby chest. It’s a better start than King Lorik’s contribution to the hero in DQI, but only just barely. Between the king and another random NPC I learn that the Prince of Cannock and Princess of Moonbrooke are also descendants of Erdrick. So, I should track them down and join together. Yay, a party!

Leftwyne lies to the west

The town of Leftwyne is aptly to the left. Clever, game.

An encounter with two slimes An encounter with two slimes

Finally, it’s time to really start this adventure by heading outside and smacking experience out of stuff. Prince Roto’s first encounter is the typical slime battle. Except, of course, in a big change from the first game: battles can now have multiple enemies!

As you might expect, things around Midenhall are pretty tame, but the difficulty ramps up quickly. Unlike DQI, battles in this game will require far more strategy than merely outlasting your opponent. I’ll get more into the battle differences later, but for now the other noteworthy change I’ll point out is the addition of the Defend (or Parry in the NES version) command. Using that will reduce the damage you receive by half. I assure you, it’ll be used a lot.

DQII First Thoughts

Most of my internal debate about doing Project DQ centered around Dragon Quest II. It’s not that I dislike it, but I wasn’t sure if I was up to playing it.

Dragon Quest II's three main charactersDQII is hard. Duh. It’s a NES-era game; a lot of those older games are hard. But there is NES hard and then there’s DQII. Honestly, I’d even go so far as to say it is the hardest JRPG I’ve ever played that wasn’t outright broken. Actually, hard isn’t the right word. It’s brutal.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot about DQII I genuinely like. There are party members and they, sort of, have different classes. The world is far larger and the scope is much broader, which gives way to a lot more exploration. It just feels more like a DQ game to me than the first.

It’s just that DQII spends much of its time basically punishing you for existing. Early on enemies that should be within your level ability to battle can easily wipe the floor with your entire party. Alternately, there are the encounters with weak enemies who just happen to have debuffs that allow them to pummel you into the ground. Then there are the groups that you actually can kill, sometimes in one hit, but they put your entire party to sleep turn after turn and slowly beat you to death. And no amount of grinding will save you from an instant kill spell. Yet your spells only work about half the time and fleeing from battle is even less likely to work.

Of course, my previous experience with DQII comes solely from the NES version and I’m playing through the SFC remake. I know there have been adjustments made that should make things easier, but I don’t expect this playthrough to be anything less than difficult.

DQI Final Thoughts

Dragon Quest box artThere is no denying the phenomenal impact Dragon Quest has had. It was the beginning of a prolific series and the first in an entirely new genre. Even so, the first time I played Dragon Warrior I just wasn’t very impressed. I suppose I wanted another Final Fantasy or expected something as epic as Tolkien, but whatever the reason I just wasn’t all that interested. Several years ago I played the NES version again and, well, I still don’t love DQI, but I do have a greater respect for it.

DQI is simple. There’s just not a lot to it. You’re the hero. You’re tasked with saving the world. You talk to people in town, buy equipment, rest at the inn. You fight monsters. You fight a lot of monsters! You level up. You travel to a new town or explore a dungeon. And you just repeat this until you crush the Dragonlord.

It’s the narrative that sucks you into the gameplay. You’re given the plot in bits and pieces as you journey along. Yes, it’s a simple and cliché plot, but games at that time just didn’t have a story. Or at least what little story they did have were relegated to a small blurb at the start of the game or a few pages in the manual. And none of that was crucial to actually playing the game. By today’s standards DQI certainly shows its age. The story is predictable and most of your time will be spent grinding in one-on-one battles that are more-or-less interchangeable.

However, I find the simplicity itself to be charming. Plus, it’s a rather short game and takes a fraction of the time the average JRPG requires to complete. And I really enjoyed the SFC remake I played. The game is fundamentally the same, faults and all, but the improved system allows for a much better representation of both Akira Toriyama’s character designs and Koichi Sugiyama’s score. It was just an all around pleasant experience.

I don’t think of this as a must-play game. It’s fun enough, but I don’t know if it’s interesting enough for a casual player or someone wanting to try out JRPGs for the first time. Obviously any DQ fan should play this, though, chances are they already have. Retro game enthusiasts and JRPG fans might want to give it a go just to experience the history.

DQI #6: Dragon Warrior

Well, the journey is nearing its end and there’s not much left for the hero to do aside from yet more level grinding.

Using the rainbow drop Creating the rainbow bridge

So, if that’s the case it might as well be done with the best weapon in the game!

Charlock Castle is just west of Rimulder, but has been unreachable since it’s separated from the main continent. Using the Rainbow Drop at this strait creates the Rainbow Bridge of legend, which has a very spiffy animation added in this remake.

Overworld view of Charlock Castle; Tantegel Castle and Brecconary are visible across the ocean to the north

Despite being inaccessible until just now, Charlock Castle has been in plain sight throughout the game just to the southeast of Tantegel Castle. This was by design as the developers wanted the player to know their goal from the very beginning of the game. The remake has an interesting addition to the overworld design, putting the castle on rising layers to simulate climbing through the mountains.

Loto searches behind the throne in Charlock Castle Loto discovers a hidden staircase behind the throne

The first floor of Charlock Castle has a bunch of barriers about that lead to different staircases. There’s no point in exploring; the stairs are fake. The real stairs are hidden. Searching the throne, which I forgot to do, indicates there might be something behind it. Searching there reveals the stairs.

Obtaining the sword of Erdrick

Several floors below is the ultimate prize: Erdrick’s Sword. After grabbing the sword, I cast Outside and head to Tantegel Castle to heal up and save.

There are a bunch of other chests scattered throughout the castle. I’m not going to bother with any of them even though there are some additions and/or changes to the loot in this remake. I don’t need any of it and the probability of dying is pretty high.

Defeating a metal slime in battle Defeating a metal slime in battle
Defeating a metal slime in battle

The only thing left is to grind. During all this grinding I actually manage to defeat a metal slime. The remake has substantially tweaked the experience, but as I said before they really aren’t worth grinding on specifically.

At 19 I learn the last spell of the game: Sizzle Firebane. And rather than continue grinding, I decide to take an attempt at the Dragonlord. In previous playthroughs I’ve battled him somewhere in the early 20s, but I do know it’s possible, though unlikely, to beat him as low as 18.1

Reaching the lowest level of Charlock Castle; the Dragonlord is visible on his throne

Back at Charlock Castle I head to the lowest level and by the looks of it the Dragonlord hasn’t been up to much except sitting around waiting for me.

The encounter rate here can truly be insane and running tends to be only moderately effective. The most powerful encounters in the game are here and I personally run into three red dragons that pummel the hit points out of me before I can manage an escape.

Nevertheless I make it around the floor to the throne with most of my MP.

Rather than immediately attack, the Dragonlord first offers me half of the world. In the NES version, accepting the offer would turn the screen red and completely lock up the game. However, in this remake, you just wake up back at an inn, having had a nightmare.

Battling the Dragonlord Battling the Dragonlord

The Dragonlord doesn’t take refusal well and attacks. As with every other strong enemy in the game, it’s mostly about keeping yourself alive as you trade blows and hoping he doesn’t put you to sleep for four rounds like he did to me. In fact, it seems like a rather anticlimactic battle.

The Dragonlord changes forms

The remake adds a bit of animation here as the Dragonlord’s body starts to dissolve and then change.

Final battle with the Dragonlord Final battle with the Dragonlord

This second phase of the battle is a lot tougher than the first. In his true form, the Dragonlord has several different and quite powerful attacks. He also always gets the first turn, which can sometimes send you into a long string of turns where you’re constantly healing yourself. But the general rule stands and so long as you have the MP to keep yourself alive, you’ll eventually triumph.

Using the Ball of Light to return peace to Alefgard Using the Ball of Light to return peace to Alefgard
Using the Ball of Light to return peace to Alefgard

After his defeat, the Dragonlord disappears and reveals the Ball of Light, which restores peace to Alefgard.

Outside Charlock Castle the swamp has disappeared

Outside the swamp has inexplicably dissolved around Charlock Castle. Benefits of the regained peace, I suppose. There are also no monsters to encounter on the overworld so you can safely travel around and revisit the various towns.

Or you can just Return to Tantegel Castle, King Lorik offers his throne to the hero who, in a rare occurrence for any DQ game, actually speaks! The hero sets off on a journey and, of course, Gwaelin insists on joining.

The End

And, that’s it.

My console froze up right as the credits ended, but I was able to reset and it’s worked fine since. There’s no way to save after defeating the Dragonlord anyway, so there’s no harm done.2

Now onto the next game!

  1. The level cap in DQI is 30 and by then the fight is all but a guaranteed win.
  2. It’s certainly not as tragic as my PS3 going YLOD at the end boss of Tales of Xillia.

DQI #5: Collection Quest

In case it wasn’t abundantly obvious, I’m playing farther ahead than these posts and it was at this point in my DQI playthrough that I picked up Radiant Historia on the side. For the most part I don’t play more than one game at a time because I find that often leads to me losing interest in both,1 but in this case I used it as an incentive to keep myself going. Why? Because I had a lot of grinding to do. Four levels may not seem like much, but it took basically forever and it was boring to the point I practically lulled myself to sleep near the end.

Loto levels up to 17

At level 17 I learn Healmore, which does as the name implies, and will be of great use against the next area’s stronger enemies. All that grinding also meant I had amassed quite a bit of gold, so I pick up the magic armor in Rimulder. It’s quite nice for grinding since it heals one HP every two steps, but there’s an even better piece of armor that I’ll be getting soon enough. There are also some incredibly expensive purchases coming up that make this a pointless investment unless you are as flush with gold as I am.

On the overworld outside of the Southern Shrine

There wasn’t much else to break up the monotony of grinding, but this shrine was mentioned in Rimulder. . . .

Without proof of being Erdrick's descendant the old wise man kicks Loto out of the Southern Shrine Without proof of being Erdrick's descendant the old wise man kicks Loto out of the Southern Shrine

The old man inside is not as civil as either of the previous wise men and without the proof he demands, he promptly kicks me out of the Southern Shrine. Since there’s nothing more to be done here presently, I move on to the only other accessible area I’ve yet to explore.

Encounter with a metal slime

Metal slimes are notorious enemies in the DQ series. They net a lot of experience, but killing them is no easy task since they have incredibly high defense and are extremely likely to run. Of the forty different monsters in DQI, metal slimes give the most experience, but they’re really not worth the trouble. In later titles they can be a great way to grind, though.

Outside Cantlin on the overworld

I had to consult a map at this point because I was getting increasingly frustrated at my lack of navigational ability on the way to Cantlin. Unfortunately, as so many people have warned, the golem is barring the way into the city.

Battle with the golem outside Cantlin Battle with the golem outside Cantlin

This boss fight is a synch: play the fairy flute to put the golem to sleep, attack him until he wakes up, and repeat as necessary until he’s dead. Just don’t accidentally “flee” instead of “item” like I did because he hits very hard. This is the other battle that was changed in the remake, by the way. Interestingly, no one inside Cantlin seems to mind that I destroyed their guardian. Unless none of them were aware of the giant hanging out right in the entrance?

Visiting the vault

My first stop in town is the vault to unload the fairy flute and free up a much needed inventory slot. This is another staple of DQ games and is an addition made in the remake; there’s also one back in Brecconary. In later games, when inventory space is less limited, its use is merely to store gold because it costs you half of whatever amount in gold you’re carrying when your entire party dies.

Weapon shop in Cantlin Weapon shop in Cantlin
Weapon shop in Cantlin

Cantlin is filled with shops and at first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything new, but hidden behind a locked door is a shop selling the best equipment you can purchase. There are only three shields in the game and the silver shield is the best, so definitely make sure to get that. I would only get the flame sword if you have the gold to spend because (a.) in the remake it can be found in a chest and more importantly (b.) it won’t be long before finding Erdrick’s legendary sword. By the way, in the remake the flame sword can also be used in battle to cast Sizz Fireball.

The town is also filled with people talking about Erdrick’s Armor. It’s a roundabout story, but the crucial information is that the armor is buried somewhere in Hauksness.

Loto is told to speak with a man about the token

The temple he’s referring to is actually just below this screenshot, but there’s a rather lengthy barrier to cross. I probably have enough MP to survive the damage tiles, but rather than risk it I decide to go searching for new armor.

On the overworld outside of Hauksness

Over to the west is the town of Hauksness.

The deserted ruins of Hauksness

Rumor was that a town had been ravaged by demons. This would be said town and it’s absolutely crawling with powerful enemies.

Battle with the axe knight in Haukness Battle with the axe knight in Haukness

Over to the east the axe knight waits. Again, I hesitate to call it a boss since it can be encountered randomly and there will always be one on that exact tile.2 Nevertheless, it’s an easy enough fight.

Obtaining the armor of Erdrick

Searching by this tree reveals Erdrick’s armor. Saying this is the best armor in the game doesn’t begin to explain how amazing it is. Obviously, it provides the highest defense, but it also heals 1HP per step and makes you immune to poisonous swamps and barriers. I’ve also read online that it gives you resistance to StopSpell.

Loto learns the location of Erdrick's Token Loto learns the location of Erdrick's Token

Back in Cantlin, behind the locked door, and across the absurdly long barrier is the temple mentioned earlier. The old man here tells me where the token is, which according to DQI logic is Important Information since he’s behind a barrier. I guess expecting some context is asking too much.

Loto finds Erdrick's Token in a vast swamp by using Gwaelin's Love Loto finds Erdrick's Token in a vast swamp by using Gwaelin's Love

Using Gwaelin’s Love, it’s easy to find the exact spot the old man mentioned and retrieve . . . Erdrick’s Token! I guess trudging around a swamp for no discernible reason is the Alefgard test of a true hero. If you didn’t save the princess, you’ll have to wander about and randomly search to get the token, which makes it seem a rather flimsy proof of being Erdrick’s descendant. I call shenanigans.

I’ve never quite understood this part. If the old man is creating the rainbow drop from the staff of rain and stones of sunlight, how did Erdrick entrust it to someone in the first place? Tumblr had some thoughts on this and there was quite a bit of backandforth, but mystery aside, if you’ve managed to keep all the random tidbits NPCs have said along the way straight, you might have figured out there’s not much left to do at this point aside from taking on the Dragonlord. Well, and grind some more. . . .

  1. Also, it’s very confusing when games have different control settings.
  2. It’s a great place to grind, actually.