Back in September of 2008, I had the pleasure of playing my first proper Dragon Quest game with "Chapters of the Chosen" for the DS. After completing it, I couldn't help but wonder why I had never played a game in this series before. I'm always complaining about the gimmicks thrown into many modern games and how I'd want nothing more than to just play a modern RPG that stripped away all the nonsense and took things back to basics.
Well, Dragon Quest has been sitting right under my nose since I was in diapers. Not content to stop at the fourth game in the series, I've set out to acquire and play through every localized Dragon Quest title right up until I replay the fourth entry ... on the NES. I've spent months lurking around eBay, and I've amassed a complete collection that now only needs me to experience it.
If you've played any of the games I'll be talking about, I'd appreciate your comments as I don't know anyone locally who I can talk to about this wonderful series.
Torneko: The Last Hope
Iím certainly no expert on the roguelike genre, but Iím not completely unfamiliar with it either. It has taken me a little over two years, but I recently conquered my first and only roguelike game ever: Shiren the Wanderer on the Nintendo DS. It was somewhat of a love-hate relationship due to the gameís strict rules and reliance on luckÖ I mean, when youíre walking with powerful equipment that youíve spent hours working on, only to trip on a splinter and die on the last level (which will send you back to the beginning of the game at level 1, without any of your items or gold), itís easy to see how a person could go from zero to f*cking pissed
in a second flat.
On the other hand, the joy of a game like Shiren is when all the variables fall into place and I actually succeed. Itís a mixture of about 40% skill and 60% luck, but when the game throws a terrible situation at me and I have both the tools and the experience to know how to deal with it, the rush is unlike anything Iíve ever experienced in any other game before or since. Shiren is the most difficult game Iíve ever played, and also one of the best, most rewarding games Iíve ever touched.
I wouldnít say that Shirenís developer, ChunSoft, isnít somewhat well-known for its bevy of roguelike games, but you and I would probably know them better as the developer of the first five Dragon Quest games. Iím not exactly sure why ChunSoft and the main Dragon Quest games parted ways, but since the fifth installment, they seem to have focused almost entirely on the roguelike genre with their line of Mystery Dungeon games (They've also made quite a few visual novels that have been quite successfull). Shiren is one of those, as is Torneko: The Last Hope.
Whatís funny about the Mystery Dungeon series as a whole is that, barring some differences in difficulty and a few very nuanced mechanics, theyíre all almost exactly the same
. Iím talking palette swap here in the most literal of senses; take out Shiren and the mamels (Shirenís iconic level 1 monster), insert Torneko and a few slimes respectively, and you have a different Mystery Dungeon game. This isn't really a bad thing, it just means that you shouldn't feel like you have to experience every game in the Mystery Dungeon series; just stick to the brand you're most fond of.
In the case of Torneko: The Last Hope, I had a decidedly easier time than my first Mystery Dungeon game. Instead of a single tutorial dungeon like in Shiren, Torneko starts off with about eight practice dungeons to really ease you into the game's unique mechanics before tasking you with tackling the main game. For the most part, these dungeons were really, really
easy. What was interesting to me, though, was that Torneko experimented with its game play in these dungeons very early on, as opposed to doing so in post-game content. The third dungeon, for example, had no weapons inside; only various herbs to be used in the place of weapons. It was a delight to alternate between beating weaker enemies using only my bare hands, and using herbs of paralysis & dance to merely get around fighting the stronger baddies. Another dungeon bypassed weaponry in favor of scrolls, and another for staves, all with the point of teaching you how to use items to your advantage.
And you really can use some items to your advantage! If you come across a monster that's too hard to fight, simply swing the Staff of Change at it and there's a good chance it transforms into a lowly Slime. If you happen to find yourself surrounded by monsters, use a Haven Scroll to stand on so that physical attacks will no longer hurt you and you can simply beat them all to death. If you spawn in a monster house full of powerful baddies, use a Bang Scroll or two (which sounds like an ancient condom, by the way. In Shiren, this was called a Blastwave scroll... much cooler sounding), to blow them to smithereens before they even have the chance to move and simply collect all the loot!
There are a billion other examples of how the right item at the right time can get you out of almost any bind, but the point is that as far as these games are concerned, experience points are no match for real experiences. And because of this, even though most Mystery Dungeon games have about an hour's worth of content in the main game, you'll likely spend an eternity with it learning how to make it work for you. In that sense, perhaps you could think of a Mystery Dungeon game like Contra: The RPG; yeah, you might die on the last level and return to the title screen, but who cares?! The game is 45 minutes long!
For me, there were two really memorable instances of Torneko's spelunking adventures that I probably shouldn't have survived but did through nothing more than pure, dumb luck. The first took place in the Lost Forest - one of the practice dungeons. This area introduced undead monsters like Horks and Skeletons, and what set them apart from other enemies was that, when you killed them, they would become a grave instead of simply dying and disappearing. If another undead creature happened to touch the headstone, the corpse would rise again. On the last floor of the dungeon, I found myself surrounded by undead monsters and I had a crappy weapon, no herbs, and no way to otherwise deal with these butt-holes. So, I made a break for it.
I had only a few HP, and ran around furiously trying to find the exit. Because the game is universally turn-based, the enemies had no choice but to follow me (they can only attack within one space). By the time I found the staircase leading out of the dungeon, I had a disgusting, undead congo-line eight monsters long following one step behind me. Occasionally, a Hork would catch up with me and barf on my equipment (which lowers the stats), so before long I had a sword and shield with negative attack power!
What does that even mean?! A single wrong move would have put me six feet under, so I had to be really careful the whole way to take diagonal steps and dodge enemies, forcing them onto the trailing fly-paper of walking corpses. Moments like this are always so intense... my heart was pumping a mile-a-minute until I was back at home safe.
The second instance was on the 25th floor of the main dungeon (out of 27 floors total), where I spawned in a monster house overflowing with high-level demons and some seriously unfair enemies. From turn one, about seven Eyeballs (you know, that old-school DQ enemy that kinda looks like a cross between an ostrich, a cyclops, and an alien?) simultaneously cast Confuse on me. I had no way of dealing with the confusion, so I just had to hope for the best. When you get confused in Torneko, your controller inputs are randomly interpreted, so pressing left on the d-pad could send you left, right, up, or down. Similarly, an attack made in one direction rarely executed desirably. To make matters worse, I was starving to death, with only 8/100 hunger remaining.
I knew couldnít effectively deal with the monsters on this floor, so I tried to just head for the exit. But after every single turn, the seven Eyeballs would all recast Confuse on me! You can probably see where this is going, but I spent TWENTY-FIVE
minutes randomly wandering the floor, stepping on traps & spikes, walking into dragons, and generally getting my ass kicked while those same, douche bag Eyeballs continually cast Confuse on me.
About fifteen minutes into this debacle, my hunger reached zero and my HP steadily dwindled as I starved to death. But thankfully, and not a moment too soon, I randomly happened upon a loaf of bread during my stupor that I proceeded to eat immediately. After another ten minutes of simply fumbling all over the place, I managed to end up at the exit and left the floor.
I strongly considered turning the damn thing off, but half-way through I decided to just see how long I could survive in that state. I used almost every healing resource I had, but hey, I made it! After that, I quickly made my way through floor 26, and moved onto the boss. The Darkevil was, believe it or not, pretty easy. I just used a Haven Scroll and, save for the occasional fire-breathing dragon, was completely untouchable. He eventually dropped dead, I placed the banish chest, and I was done!
And that, ladies and gents, is Torneko. There are several post-game dungeons that I could take a crack at, but I think Iím going to quit while Iím ahead; the post-game content in Shiren was hard enough to make me put down the game for good.
There are a few other things though that I wanted to mention just because I thought they were really cool. First, the opening movie in Torneko is, hands down, the brightest point in the gameÖ it isÖ fantastic. Watch it, youíll agree:
Second--and I know this shouldnít really matter-- the font type in Torneko freaking blew my mind! It was so bold and sharpÖ I didnít think you could do this on the PS1. In fact, why werenít more games this easy to read?! Dragon Quest VIIís, for example, looked like crap! Next, and most surprisingly, the majority of the soundtrack in Torneko is fully orchestrated. Once again, I know this is a novelty, but great music like this is something that Iíve always appreciated; it adds a lot of charm and goes a long way towards making you forgive other, less favorable parts of the game. It was probably my favorite part of Dragon Quest VIII.
OK, so thatís it! I didnít think Iíd be done so quickly, as this was supposed to carry me until Dragon Quest IX came out! I donít think Iíll play through another DQ game before that though; Iíll just sit tight, putter around with Picross 3D, and patiently wait for July 11th.
So has anyone else here played Torneko: The Last Hope? What did you think? How far did you get?
As always, thanks for reading!
Total elapsed time across entire Dragon Quest series: ~290 hours -
IV DS - ~30 hours
VIII - ~70 hours
I NES - ~20 hours
DQM:J - ~20 hours
V DS - ~30 hours
VII - ~105 hours
T:TLH - ~15 hours
Total amount of money spent on Dragon Quest Series: $294.00 (IV, VIII twice, slime controller, I, I & II GBA, Joker, V DS, V SFAM, VII, Torneko: TLH)
For the past Dragon Questing blogs, click the links below:
:::::::::: From Dragon Quest VII:
Dragon Questing Part Seventeen: I Came, I Saw, I Beat Some Ass.
Dragon Questing Part Sixteen: Running Scared with My Tail Between My Legs
Dragon Questing Part Fifteen: Poopsockin' it Through Eden
Dragon Questing Part Fourteen: Groundhog Day
Dragon Questing Part Thirteen: I am 100% Addicted to the Dharma Temple
Restoring the Planet: Dragon Questing, Part Twelve
Meet the Warriors of Eden: Dragon Questing, Part Eleven
:::::::::: From Dragon Quest V:
No Wonder Everyone Loves This Game: Dragon Questing, Part Ten
Coming to America Sans Eddie Murphy: Dragon Questing, Part Nine
:::::::::: From Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker:
I Guess They Can't All Be Gold: Dragon Questing, Part Eight
:::::::::: From Dragon Quest I:
Returning the Ball of Light: Dragon Questing, Part Seven
Getting a Grip on a Classic: Dragon Questing, Part Six
Going Back in Time: Dragon Questing, Part Five
:::::::::: From Dragon Quest VIII:
The conclusion of an Epic: Dragon Questing, Part Four
Discovering the Monster Arena: Dragon Questing, Part Three
How to Give a Boy a Heart: Dragon Questing, Part Two
Meeting the Cursed King: Dragon Questing, Part One