The Commodore 64 conversion of Defender of the Crown is a celebrated retro gaming classic. Apart from loading times, there’s little to fault about it.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation was developed by Heartbeat for Enix and released for the Super Nintendo in 1995 in Japan. It is the sixth instalment in the Dragon Quest series, if you aren’t familiar with Roman numerals.
Again: the writers of Dragon Quest have made a pretty good story to fit into an RPG. And again: it’s simple but effective. Without giving too much away: you appear to die a short way into the game! Haha. It’s hardly a spoiler – more an attempt to entice you to play the game… but it is part of the plot. I think Japanese RPG-makers may be obsessed with death, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing… As J.R.R. Tolkien once said: love and loss are inextricably linked…
Graphically, Dragon Quest VI is a bit more interesting than the previous game, although you don’t seem to be able to walk behind certain objects in this (that you should be able to walk behind, according to the isometric viewpoint), which is a little frustrating. All the houses, towns, and cute characters are beautifully drawn in that inimitable, colourful SNES style though.
Combat is a bit more interesting than in Dragon Quest V. You have more options available to you, including a ‘Skill’ choice that makes individual character skills available as they unlock. It does take a while to assemble a party, though, which isn’t ideal. Something else that bugged me: you can’t see how much money you’ve got in the status menus! Which is quite an oversight… The only time you see your current money count is when you’re talking to merchants. Dragon Quest VI practically requires you to grind to afford certain armour and weapons (as most RPGs do), and not being able to see your money totals in the field is frustrating at best.
One final thing to mention – a good thing: Dragon Quest VI was the first game in the series to introduce the concept of a “sack” where you can store items outside of your usual limited inventory. That made a difference. It also has a fairly complex class system, which is unlocked at a key point in the game.
Dragon Quest VI was the best-selling game of 1995 in Japan, shipping over 3.2 million physical copies in its first year of release (of which 2.5 million were sold in December, it’s month of release!) – an insane number, and indicative of the series’ popularity worldwide.
In spite of its shortcomings Dragon Quest VI is still a great game. It’s been remade a few times (Nintendo DS, Android and iOS) and is still worth playing if you love Japanese RPGs.
Note: These grabs are from the original Super Nintendo version, having been fan-translated. An official English translation of Dragon Quest VI wasn’t released until 2011.
First released in 1992 by Enix, Dragon Quest V (five – or, to give the game its full title: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride) is another fun-to-play JRPG that is simple but engaging, and also contains enough detail and surprises to feel worthwhile.
It was the first Dragon Quest game released for the Super Nintendo and sold over three million copies in Japan.
You might look at this game now and think: “it looks too simple”, but you have to play it to see that a simple story can be reasonably powerful if it touches certain emotions. And – without giving anything away – this one does; even if it’s done in a very spartan manner. In a nutshell, though, the game follows roughly thirty years of the life of a young boy – who you name and play – and who initially has his father to guide him.
What makes Dragon Quest Dragon Quest (as opposed to Final Fantasy or any other JRPG out there) are the monsters (some of the most recognisable in RPG history), the combat (random, turn-based, and following a distinct pattern), and the menus and timings (like, for example, when you stop moving: the status menu pops up).
Combat initiates with a flash and a window opens, allowing choices from the menu. You can set party members to attack automatically, according to a useful ‘Battle Plan’ menu setting, although you’ll probably want to set it to manual for boss fights and tougher areas. Defeated monsters will even offer to join the party, if you’re high enough levelled, and there are 40 monsters in the game that are available to recruit.
Dragon Quest V is a good continuation of the series and a decent game in its own right – even if it does look basic when compared to the game that followed it.
And one last thing to note: completing Dragon Quest V unlocks a bonus dungeon, which is a… um, bonus. It was the first Dragon Quest game to do this, and bonus, post-completion dungeons later became the norm in Dragon Quest games. Was this the birth of “New Game Plus“? It might have been… 🙂
This is the first game in the Lufia series – developed by Neverland and published by Taito in 1993 for the Super Nintendo.
Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a cute and colourful Japanese Role-Playing game with Zelda-style presentation and turn-based combat.
It may look benign, but Lufia and the Fortress of Doom is a pretty hardcore level-grinder under the hood. That’s been a hallmark of the Lufia series as a whole – they look like kid’s games but are much, much more than throwaway adventures.
I’m a fan of the Lufia games – they’re all detailed and beautifully-made and contain all the ingredients a good dungeon-crawler needs. I’m also very fond of the presentation of this game – particularly the speech bubbles and fonts, which are clean, nicely-balanced, and easy to read.
Graphically, it’s not the best SNES RPG out there (that honour goes to Seiken Densetsu 3!), but it is beautifully-drawn and coloured, and all the monsters are well presented in combat. Boss battles are memorable too. In fact: the game starts with one!
While I do prefer the sequel to this first Lufia game, I do think that Lufia and the Fortress of Doom shouldn’t be ignored. It’s still one of the Super Nintendo‘s great RPGs.
As Final Fantasy Legend games go this third instalment in the series is a little weird. It plays just as good as the previous two games (maybe even better because it has the advantage of refinement), but the way it’s presented is somewhat strange.
Final Fantasy Legend III‘s designers decided to use a kind of ‘modular’ or ‘sticker’ design look for the enemies that you see during battle, and when you’re facing off against them they look kinda funny… I guess that was the intention, although the change of style results in a bizarre-looking game rather than a scary one. You might be asking “What could be scary about a game like this?” and I would simply point to Su-Zaku in the first game – an indestructible fiery bird capable of drawing terror from all who encounter it… But the monsters in this just look googly-eyed and daft. It’s a pity because I loved the look of the first two games.
Final Fantasy Legend III is a fine JRPG though, and it does a few things new in the series that give the game an extra dimension. Firstly: you can jump over holes in this third game, which is new. Jumping was not something that was allowed in previous games, and it might seem quite minor, but it allows for different puzzles to solve. Secondly: this time your party members can eat the meat dropped by slain monsters, which transforms them into different races, each with unique abilities and powers. While the meat-eating element does add another layer of interest to Final Fantasy Legend III it’s not obvious which races are most useful in which situations, so unless you have a chart to refer to you’ll be flying blind. There is one in the manual, but it’s a bit of a beast… [pun intended].
Another cool feature of Final Fantasy Legend III is The Talon – a legendary time-travelling spaceship that you acquire some distance into the game. You must collect a number of upgrade units to make it battle-ready, but when you do you can fly around the game world, shoot enemies with it, and get in and out of it at will. It’s worth persevering with Final Fantasy Legend III to at least get The Talon upgraded. 🙂