If you're like me then you didn't know about From Software and their games until Demon's Souls released seven years ago in 2009 and basicaly invented it's own genre. Since then they have released 4 Souls-games of excellent quality that I personally think are the best Western-style RPGs on the market. But when people talked about Dark Souls there was sometimes someone who mentioned that Seath the paledrake and the Moonlight sword originated in From's older game, King's Field.
As I grew a bit bored with the souls-series (spending a few too many hundred hours build-crafting and pwning casuls on the Iron Keep bridge) I thought I'd take a look at the games released by From before Demon's Souls, and there are a lot. Especially considering how relatively small From are as a company.
This is a From Soft game, I swear!
I already had Eternal Ring (having confused it for Kings Field IV) and only had to get a hold of the others, which proved a bit difficult. The purpose of this (my first)blog-series, is to talk about 10 of their games who share the first person perspective. Three of these never made it out of japan but thankfully got fantranslated. I have to warn you though, I am quite lazy and so will not make much of an effort to make specific photos and videos of stuff I talk about. However this might change in the future depending on how this whole shebang turns out. I'm also basing much of this on the the Hardcore Gaming 101 article by Chris Wigman about the King's Field series (stole some pictures too!), which I heartilly recommend. With all the preamble out of the way, let's dive fist-first into From Soft's first video game! King's Field.
I would have a description for this cover, if only I knew what in Papa Nito's name it depicted.
King's Field was only released in Japan on December the 16th 1994, thirteen days after the Playstation. Making the first RPG on the monolithic RPG console. It was also remade for Sword of Moonlight, which was a King's Field game maker tool released in 2000. If you are interested there is an english fan wiki (http://www.swordofmoonlight.com/) for the original release. A programmer by the name of Holy is also dead set on modernising the tools so that they work on modern system, bless his heart (http://www.swordofmoonlight.net/).
In 2006 the Playstation version got translated by John Osborne and the SoM version soon followed.
One thing should be noted as soon as the game starts:
King's Field is ugly as sin!
Nonexistant animations and repetive textures aside, King's Field is a technical marvel. I think. But you have to know some things about it before you can understand my angle. First of all it's a launch-title from a time when 3d was very young (Virtua Fighter on Saturn was released one month before this), it has a size of 34 MB and is probably using real-time rendering for everything. It has a decent framerate in the 20s (unlike KF2). What this means is that a great deal of the game fits on the RAM. The game only loads on floor transitions and teleports. Which I find Impressive when compared to the load times on later Playstation games.
If you leave some gold on a floor and return hours later you can still collect it, which is cool. Not even Dark Souls saves drops between loads.
Sadly King's Field doesn't have that kind of ”plot”, I think Demon's Souls has a hentai though.
The plot of King's Field is needlessly convoluted compared to the others, mostly because there are a whole lot of kings(duh) that you need to keep track of. I'll do my best. And if that proves insufficient I'll link you a lore video later by DaveControlLive who also has some Kings Field let's plays if you want to see the games in motion.
The setting is the world of Valicia, a standard Tolkien-esque land with elves and and dwarves. The kingdom of Verdite specifically. An ancient evil was defeated by a legion of dragon knights long ago who were buried in a a dragon shrine to their honor. This later became the royal cemetery, the setting of King's Field 1.
The Reinhardts ruled Verdite because of their special magical power, and until recently Randalph VIII ruled as king. Reinhardt II took over for a while and then also died. His son Reinhardt III took over and was obsessed with unearthing magical artifacts. Zoella Reinhardt was another family member who married the commander of the royal guard Houser Forrester. They did the nasty and produced our protagonist Jean Alfred Forrester (such a boss name). Houser was a warrior with loads of STR and DEX. Who trained his son Alfred and the second prince of Granatiki, Alexander, in mortal combat. Alexander is also the protagonist in KF2.
Reinhardt III then dissappeared into the Royal Cemetery and rumors spread that Reinhardt II had returned to this mortal coil alongside an army of skeletons.
The image speaks for itself really
Houser being the badass he is took his family dragon sword and went down into the cemetery alongside some red-shirts. Alfred got worried about his dad and decided to go after him. Inside the cemetery he finds Randalph VIII sealed, condemning his younger brother Reinhardt II. It is later revealed that Houser died fighting Reinhardt II's black knight, leaving the dragon sword at his grave. Crap-tier sword in backpack, Alfred descended into the depths of the cemetery where remnants of the evil bested by the dragon knights could still be found. There he found the elf Miria and her master the great forrest demi-god dragon Guyra, who had created the dragon sword long ago. Using the dragons power, the dragon sword is granted light. Transforming it into the Sword of Moonlight and marking it's first of many appearances.
Imagine how long it would take to load the Bloodborne one on a Playstation
Armed and ready for a final boss, Alfred finds the revived Reinhardt II turned to stone (”Welcome to sun down, welcome to the dark"). He then finds Reinhardt III melded with the ancient evil that the dragon knights sealed away and promptly slays him with a long and shiny blade(”Twas I who fucked the dragon"). Jean Alfred Forrester then returned to the surface and was crowned king of Verdite.
I think it's time to talk gameplay. King's Field is a first-person dungeon crawler with a great focus on exploration. You have a stamina meter for both physical and magic that you need to balance in order to stunlock your foes. Thankfully you start the game with the best spell and a decent supply of mp.
I had some difficulty getting used to this style of play but after a while it clicked and I was slaying skeletons left and right. The real difficulty is navigating the 5 floors of the game without getting lost or running out of consumables. This is where the maps come in. There is of course also hidden walls behind hidden walls, in case you thought Dark Souls started that trend.
Maps courtesy of http://kfjp.kings-field.com/, which you need to use the wayback machine to access
Floor 1 is rather simple to traverse but has a few objectives. The first hidden wall can be found in the lower left corner containing a leather shield and a skeleton. This is a bit of a tradition that extends as far as Demon's Souls, where you can find skeletons behind a hidden wall guarding graverobber Blige who sells a leather shield.
My first order of business is to beeline for the bastard sword near the second shop. Everything else is secondary. In order to open the path to next floor you need the red key, which means you need to purchase a cross to trade with a priest, which means you must hunt for bloodstones to sell. Picking up the map and the Light key is useful too. There is also the games only checkpoint that needs activating. The dragon fountain needs it's chalice in the right place before it will heal you and save you from death in exchange for a dragon fruit. With key in hand one need only go north and flip a switch. Backtrack a bit and floor clear!
On floor two you can pick up a truth glass for lore, trade it for a healing spell, a dragon rod for teleporting and a jail key for traversal. In the maze to the right there is an invisible walkway (ofcourse!) leading to an accessory. Seath isn't even in this game. Beyond that is a bard who will take a dragon fruit (read:knick it if you have it) and give you a harp that summons platforms. Then it is just a matter of taking two elemental stones and continue down.
This is where the 4 elemental stones are needed, but first one should break the difficulty curve in half. This is achieved by simply taking the triple fang from behind a double hidden wall. It even regens health (or mp, can't remember). The Colichimarde rapier can also be picked up here. It is quite lame as a stabbing implement but has a great secret to it. Magic, sword-magic to be exact. Sword-magic is accessable when your STR (whack stuff) and MAG (pew pew stuff) reaches 40. Simply use magic during the sword swing and voila, sword lasers on some weapons. The Colichimarde sword-magic is best for grinding MAG, which you need alongside STR at 60 for advanced pew pews. After that get the other rocks, place them and before you leave walk on the invisible walkway to get another truth glass. Done!
Welcome to hell, for this is where the normal map proves insufficient. Barring the repetetive level design, this is an easy floor. This place is also where you can find a katana, beacause of course there is a katana in this European fantasy story. From Soft can never resist the allure of putting pig-steel knifes in their games, at least they are consistant. Pick up the dragon sword, beat the wizard(first boss right here) steal his key, the pegasus boots and get ready to backtrack for some sweet magic boosting Verdite . Next!
The final floor is really easy, but it has some dickish demons (and giant snakes!) about. Get the sword, backtrack to all the sealed doors for the ultimate armor, grind to 60 MAG and STR and get ready to obliterate the final boss.
King's Field 1 is a short, simple but fun game if you're prepared and in the right mindset. I would compare it the most to Demon's Souls, because they are both rougher and simpler than their sequels. That would of course liken King's Field 2 to Dark Souls, and they do have some similarities. But I'll have to leave you hanging until the next thrilling installment of my From Soft First Person Retrospective. Tata!