Tuesday 1 August 2017

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes - NEC TurboGrafx-CD - 1992

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes is the sixth installment in the Dragon Slayer series of RPGs.  Its initial release was in 1989 for the NEC PC-8801 before being converted to other computers and consoles.  The English translation was released on the NEC TurboGrafx-CD in 1992.

The game takes the usual JRPG format of top-down scrolling dungeons and overworld, with turn-based battles.  The overworld is not obviously grid-based like the NES Final Fantasy games I have played and allows eight way scrolling.  I also think the overworld is at least semi turn-based in that if you stand still long enough you will get a random encounter.  

Combat is turn based with the usual options of attack, magic, item, defence, run etc.  When a character and monster will take their action is mostly dependent on their Speed attribute.  With combat over you are awarded an amount of XP and gold.  If you run, the enemy remains viewable on the overworld map and can re-engage in combat. Levelling is automatic and you gain increases in Hit Points and Magic Points which are also fully replenished.  Each time you level up, your attributes also increase by 1 or 2 points.  

If in combat a member of your party should reach 0 Hit Points they fall unconscious.  If the enemies are defeated that character wakes up after the battle with 1 HP.  If the whole party is unconscious you are given the choice of restarting the battle or returning to the last town visited.  You cannot die in Dragon Slayer.

Magic spells can be collected from certain NPCs and are added to your spellbook.  Any character can use any spell and each takes a certain amount of Magic Points to cast.  There are lots of spells available with different powers but slots in the spellbook are limited.

A narrated intro sets the scene for the game.  The land of Farlayne was invaded by monsters and an epic battle ensued.  The monsters were defeated but King Corwin was killed.  Five year old Prince Logan was considered too young to rule the kingdom so Baron Drax declared he would rule as regent until Logan came of age.  Fearing for his safety, Logan was taken to the town of Exile.  That was 10 years ago....

Baron Drax announces that he is to become regent.

The game begins in Exile with the player taking the role of crown Prince Logan.  You are being prepared to take over as ruler on your upcoming sixteenth birthday.  Suddenly the town comes under attack by a horde of monsters.  You are ushered through a secret passage by your adviser and a told to make your way to the castle to request reinforcements from Baron Drax.  It turns out Baron Drax (with a name like that he was never going to be a goody was he?) sent the monsters to destroy Exile.  He intends to keep the crown for himself and to marry your mother.  He didn't expect you to escape alive so throws you in the dungeons and will use your life as a bargaining chip to force your mother to marry him.

It doesn't take long for the resistance to show up and spring you from jail.  You flee to their secret headquarters in the town of Revere.  The leader tasks you with heading to The Pits where you can free the slaves to help fight Drax and his guards.  He also makes no secret of the need to grind.... 

While grinding I discover this first section of the game is set on an island.  All the ships are conveniently guarded to stop you getting ahead of the plot.  I did find the town of Nigel where I could buy better weapons and armour.  I also discovered why I got my Level 8 arse kicked at The Pits....

After more grinding I freed the slaves and we headed to the castle to take on Drax.  We caught up with him but he escaped by ship saying he had plans to take over the whole world.  And so ends Chapter 1.  I will note my thoughts below...
  • After Chapter 1 it is not necessary to do a lot of grinding - it helps if you want the best weapons and items but is not really a requirement due to the amount of random encounters. Combat can be tough and the differing strengths of your party members can make it quite tactical in how to deal with the different enemies.
  • I like the way the scripted events use the game engine so as not to spoil immersion.  Most of these events use voice acting, the majority of which is truly awful.
  • The game is divided into several chapters, each set on a particular area and usually ending in a boss fight.  Once the chapter is completed, the next area is opened up.  Completing a chapter clears all the monsters from the land so you need to go onto the next section if you want to grind.  Previously completed areas are still accessible.
  • Coming on a CD I expected the game to have better music than it does.  It's not very varied and none of it is particularly memorable.  The tune that plays when you are in the presence of royalty is also quite short and is a little irritating when it ends then restarts.  In quality it doesn't sound much better than a chip tune to my ears.
  • Unusually for the time you can save the game absolutely anywhere.  No more traipsing to the nearest inn/palace/temple or whatever.
  • One thing I like is that you can immediately compare attack and defence values of weapons and armour just by equipping them.  It makes choosing the best items a lot easier.
  • Most towns have a Temple but they don't offer any services and seem to exist just for comedic purposes....

  • Igniting a torch to traverse dungeons sends out a circle of light that gradually reduces in size as the torch burns down.  It's a nice touch and makes a change from other games where you can freely travel underground with no light source.
The circle of torch light gradually gets smaller over time making it harder to navigate and avoid monsters.

  • Finally, an RPG without a broken economy.  As you progress through the game new weapons and armour become available.  Including selling the old gear, I can usually only afford to outfit two characters with all new equipment.  Yes, you can grind for money if you have the patience.  Even at the end game I had a couple of characters using outdated pieces of kit.
And there was me thinking I was rich.

  • For a JRPG (or any contemporary RPG for that matter) the game is very flexible in the way it can be played.....
* When a character levels up the game automatically distributes points among the attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Speed, Luck).  This can be set to manual so you can allot the points yourself.
* There are no character classes and any character is able to wield any weapon, wear any armour and learn any spell.  With the above you can mould your party members as you wish (eg. put points into strength for a combat oriented character).
* If you get fed up with the combat you can set  one or more of the characters in your party to fight automatically.
* The Warp Wing item or Warp spell allows you to instantly travel to any town, dungeon, or tower you have already visited.  This takes the pain out of backtracking between locations.
* Don't like the random encounters?  The TELE-LENS shows the groups of wandering monsters on the overworld map for a certain amount of time.  The SPY SCOPE is a one-shot item that permanently displays them.  The party moves faster than monsters so they can be avoided or confronted as you wish.
Activating the TELE-LENS or SPY SCOPE shows blue blobs representing groups of wandering monsters.

It came as no surprise that Baron Drax was not the ultimate protagonist (this being a JRPG after all).  After defeating Drax you soon discover the big bad is a dragon called Naja.  Naja can only be defeated using Sword Blaze of which there are two.  Naja can be found after a long trek through a dungeon and labyrinth filled with tough monsters.  I used up most of my potions defeating the dragon only to find it was Naja's twin.  Naja was found in the next room and kicked my arse when my potions ran out.  This was useful as when the party died I could choose to restart the battle or return to town.  Back in the town I stocked up with potions, warped back to Naja's hideout and tried again.  The fight took a long time as only Logan and Giles could do any damage with the Sword Blaze weapons.  Even with spells negated and Ethan and Sonia doling out potions every round, Naja did more damage than I could heal, but I eventually defeated him with one party member down.  The end.....

Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes is one of the most enjoyable JRPGs I have played so far for my blog.  It has great graphics, varied enemies, a good story and is a decent challenge.  It also has a fair amount of humour and some memorable NPCs.  Okay, the sound is not great, but the music is bearable and the voice acting only appears at key plot points.  It also makes a change to find a PC Engine / TurboGrafx title that's not an arcade game.