Game-related ramblings.

Tag: Dragon Slayer

History Lessons: Sorcerian

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I’ve been playing early console role-playing games (and action role-playing hybrids, and Metroidvanias), nominally trying to go in chronological order. But I haven’t been very successful at that. The farthest I’ve reached in terms of the timeline is September 1989, with SpellCaster, but I’ve since gone back in time again to fill in some games I missed. Several of those are entries in Nihon Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series, including Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (AKA Legacy of the Wizard), and my most recent entry about Faxanadu, a spinoff game based on Xanadu, the second Dragon Slayer game. If I had my timeline in order, the next game after Faxanadu would have been Hydlide 3: The Space Memories, followed by the original Final Fantasy (which was actually the first post I wrote for this series, heh) and Phantasy Star. After that, we reach the fifth Dragon Slayer game, Sorcerian, originally released in late December, 1987.

Sorcerian is notable as an early example of a game designed to support expansion packs. The development team was tired of having to write the code for a game’s engine and systems every time they made a new game, so they tried a new approach with Sorcerian: it shipped with one disk for the game systems, and another disk with a collection of playable scenarios. Then Nihon Falcom — or others! — could release more scenario disks, which players could collect to continue their adventures. This formula proved successful, and Sorcerian was ported from the PC-88 to other home computer systems as well as consoles like the Mega Drive and PC Engine CD. Later, Sorcerian saw enhanced re-releases for Windows, and the wide range of scenarios to play mean that there are fans still playing it today (interested readers may enjoy this comprehensive feature about Sorcerian for more details). Unfortunately for me, all of those releases are Japan-only, without even any complete fan-made translations. The only time Sorcerian appeared in English was a version for MS-DOS, brought to US markets by Sierra On-Line in 1990. Which means I’ve found myself in the strange position of using comparatively fiddly DOSBox emulation to play it, rather than the console emulation I’ve used for everything else in this series so far.

History Lessons: Faxanadu

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

For those just tuning in, I’ve been playing early console role-playing games (and some adjacent games) for this sub-series of my broader History Lessons series. I’m nominally trying to go chronologically by the original release date (which is usually the Japanese release date) but I keep expanding the scope to include more games, so I keep jumping back and forth. The farthest I’ve made it in time is SpellCaster for the Sega Master System, which released on September 23, 1988. But I’m currently on a trip back to 1987 to fill in a few games I realized I should have included. The most recent of these is Faxanadu, by Hudson Soft, which released in Japan on November 16, 1987, and was later brought to the US in August 1989.

History Lessons: Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (AKA Legacy Of The Wizard)

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I wasn’t planning to cover any of Nihon Falcom’s Dragon Slayer games for this series. The first Dragon Slayer appeared way back in 1984 for the Japanese PC-88 home computer (and, later, other home computers like the PC-98 and FM-7), where it pioneered an action role-playing design in which players explore top-down screens in real time, bumping into enemies to fight them. This design was hugely influential, inspiring the Hydlide series (I covered the third game as part of this blog series) as well Nihon Falcom’s own Ys series (I covered the first two games) and Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda, which added innovations that arguably spawned a whole new genre. But Dragon Slayer itself sounded quite simple in comparison to these later titles, as well as potentially frustrating due to high difficulty or unclear objectives. And, of course, most of the Dragon Slayer games were never translated into English. So, early on in my planning sessions I decided to exclude them.

Then I read more about some of the later Dragon Slayer games that were eventually localized in English, which sounded much more interesting than I expected. So, I’m breaking from my timeline once again to go back and play a couple of them. The first is Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (that stands for DRAgon SLEyer Family, of course), originally released in July 1987 for the MSX and MSX2 home computer systems, and later ported to Nintendo’s Famicom (for this blog series, it comes after Wonder Boy In Monster Land and before Cleopatra no Mahou in the timeline). Since American players had never seen any of the Dragon Slayer games before, it was renamed Legacy of the Wizard for its official US release on the NES about two years later. It keeps the single-square-sized characters and blocks from the original Dragon Slayer, but reimagines the labyrinthine dungeon as a huge side-scrolling platformer world, in which ledges, pits, ladders, and doors intertwine to create different paths. Players then choose from (and switch between) five playable family members, each with different abilities and usable items, so the entire game becomes a puzzle the family must solve together. Following on from Metroid, which had released about a year earlier, Dragon Slayer IV helped define what would become known as the Metroidvania genre. It sounded fascinating, and I decided I had to try it.

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