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Dracula's Dungeon of Classic JRPGs and Other Nonsense


Plastic Vampire

Welcome! Enter freely, and of your own will.

This thread is a continuation of my off-the-cuff Let's Play series from TT 2.0. I don't have the ability to capture video or screens from my CRT, so this isn't always a strict play-by-play. Mainly I'm just going to share my experiences and observations from these games, as many of them I've either never played before or haven't played since high school or earlier. Also, I'll be playing all of them in their native language, which will be a new experience for each one.

Here's a master list of the games I intend to play. I either own these or will own them at some point in the future. Games marked with an asterisk (*) I have played at least once in the past. (This is subject to change and isn't presented in any sort of order.)

  • Dragon Quest - FINISHED March 2018 (Begins here)
  • Dragon Quest II - FINISHED May 2018 (Begins here)
  • Dragon Quest III - FINISHED September 2019 (Begins here)
  • Dragon Quest IV - FINISHED September 2020 (Begins here)
  • Final Fantasy* - FINISHED January 2018
  • Final Fantasy II - FINISHED September 2018 (Begins Here)
  • Final Fantasy III - FINISHED November 2019 (Report here)
  • LaGrange Point
  • Megami Tensei
  • Mother
  • Portopia Serial Murder Case
  • Metal Max

  • Final Fantasy IV* - FINISHED May 2019
  • Final Fantasy V* - FINISHED 2017
  • Final Fantasy VI* - FINISHED 2020
  • Mother 2*
  • Chrono Trigger* - Currently in progress, begins here
  • Shin Megami Tensei
  • Dragon Quest V
  • Dragon Quest VI

  • Ys Book I/II - FINISHED 2017
  • Ys III
  • Ys IV
  • Tengai Makyou Fuun Kabuki Den
  • Snatcher
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Plastic Vampire
So last week I started playing Dragon Quest IV on Famicom.

In a previous era's version of this thread, I played through Dragons Quest I~III as well as Finals Fantasy II~III. It's been long enough that I don't remember if I actually wrote about III. I think I didn't.

I was remiss in also not informing Talking Time of my passages through Finals Fantasy IV and VI on Super Famicom. Paired with past exploits, this makes DQIV the last of the two classic RPG series I need to complete. When it's done, I'll have played through FF I~VI and DQ I~IV in Japanese. And I have to say that feels really good.

Yes, eventually I will play DQV and VI on Super Famicom.

But for now we need to talk about...


DQIV advertises its gimmick right on the box and manual, as well as the game's own beginning, but to reiterate: The game follows several groups of characters on separate adventures, taking the form of chapters in a wider story. I am not exactly sure how it all comes together, but it seems I eventually take control of a hero and probably the previous chapters' characters as well. We'll see!

The first chapter follows knight Lyan (Ragnar in the English version). Lyan works for the King of Batrand. The king instructs us (along with a battalion of other knights) to head out and figure out why children have been disappearing lately. There's tons of fun little details in this chapter, but I'm gonna zip ahead a bit to get to the juicy stuff. To summarize, we walk north to Imar and find out a strange man with some strange shoes has been taking children to a tower west of town. A river stops us from getting to the tower, but we hear tell of an abandoned well in the woods where we might find a clue.

The Abandoned Well

First off, Japanese has a word that specifically means "old abandoned well." How neat is that? Anyway, inside this old abandoned well, we find the game's first dungeon gimmick. There's a voice which tells us when we're straying from the right path, and if we disregard it, we start running into very strong enemies. Far too strong for Lyan's current levels.

But if we follow the voice, we end up finding a pair of the Flying Shoes we need stashed at the end of the dungeon. And since I was took weak to explore the whole thing, we leave a bit of the well unmapped and head to the tower.

Tower of Vultures

I'm calling it this because it has big statues of vultures everywhere. (I'm sure the joke will be on me when every tower uses this tileset...). Now this dungeon has another cool gimmick. When you use the shoes to fly across the river, they take us straight to the tower's top floor, and then we have to advance downward to get to our goal. It's just a simple reversal of the usual "climb the tower" gig and I like it. As soon as we enter, we catch a glimpse of whatever villain is abducting children. They taunt us and head down the stairs.

Oh and the tower has a rockin' theme. Give it a listen.

Now the first thing I realize is that this tower pulls no punches. The enemies chew Lyan up and spit him out. We're dealing with Liliputs who boost their own defense, Duckbills who blast Lyan's defense, Pixies who buff their own speed, and giant chicken men who hit like trucks. Not to mention the healing Hoimislimes who come with nearly every enemy group.

I take a few deaths, but gain some levels and scrape together enough gold to grab Lyan better equipment. And we get a hot tip from one of the Batrandian knights: he comments on the strength of the enemies, but notes there's someone named "Hoimin" in the old well who could become an ally.

A Boy and His Healslime

So we pull out of the tower and head back to the well. Now that we've gained some levels and equipment, the enemies in the well aren't a problem anymore. So it's pretty easy to map out the rest of the well, and it turns out that knight was totally telling the truth: in the bottom level of the well, we find Hoimin.

Hoimin is a Hoimislime who just wants to be human. He immediately asks to join our party, and of course I agree without hesitation. In battle, Hoimin can only attack for 1-2 damage, defend, and cast Hoimi. We can't control him or use his inventory slots, but we can use herbs to heal him. I love Hoimin. He is a precious tentacled cupcake that must be protected at all costs.

He's also a fun mechanical way to show the player that it pays to explore dungeons thoroughly, and provides some much-needed insurance against the powerful enemies in the tower. We also find some extra gold in the well, which I use to buy more good equipment from Imar. Along the way, I try to buy healing herbs for Hoimin, but the shopkeep refuses, because Hoimin is a scary monster. Funny little moments like this are what make the DQ series so special.

When we finally make it to the tower's ground floor, we find Lyan's ultimate weapon for the chapter, the Sword of Haja. (I chose to leave this word as-is because it's a buddhist term which means something totally badass.)

The tower has a basement with a healing pad (thanks, game!), and a second basement, where we find the boss. Before we head downstairs, we run into our last incidental NPC knight, who is mortally wounded. With his dying breath, he tells us of a rumor of the Resurrected Emperor of Hell, Pisaro. Supposedly there exists a child who is foretold to be the ruin of the Emperor, and so he has sent his forces to abduct children to stop the prophecy before it comes true.

Downstairs is a throne room where the boss, Pisaro's Handservant, as well as his bodyguard, Giant Eyeball, are keeping the children prisoner.

The Handservant is surprisingly tough, casting several damaging spells and fireballs. On our first try, I focused on the handservant, and they got a lucky hit on Hoimin which left me without healing. On the second, I took out the eyeball first, then managed to take out the handservant with only a few HP remaining. Hoimin didn't make it through either battle, but he did his best.

I like this battle. It's neat how the handservant with his monstrous buddy mirror Lyan and Hoimin, but with their roles reversed. The difficulty also felt appropriate, given that by this point we'd cleared out the Imar shop, found one ultimate weapon, and chumped most of the regular enemies we'd found.

It felt like a whole DQ game writ into just a few short encounters, and it's made me excited for whatever is coming next.

I'm just sad this whole game isn't gonna be about Hoimin.


Round and round I go
Staff member
Hooray for the return of Dracula's RPG basement!


hardcore retro gamin'
Nice to see this thread back. And with one of my absolute favorites, too. You're in for a good'un.


Summon for hire
Is this the one the relatively recent CG movie was (mostly) based on?


Round and round I go
Staff member
That was Dragon Quest V, a multigenerational story. This instead focuses on a bunch of different characters within the same time window.


The Goggles Do Nothing
I got genuinely concerned when you first described entering the tower without our favorite Heal Slime. It was like watching a scary movie! Don't do that! Don't go through that door! You need Healy!
DQIV is probably my favorite game in the series (it's between IV and V, but I enjoyed IV a bit more the last time I replayed them). They may not be Hoimin/Healie, but there are some great characters in the next chapters, too. Looking forward to more!

The Sword of Haja became the Sword of Malice in the NES localization. The English name makes it sound like it could be cursed and might dissuade you from equipping it even though you really definitely should; it sounds like that was not the original intent.


Plastic Vampire
Oh, wow. "Sword of Malice" really does not communicate the intended feel of the word Haja. I would definitely be hesitant to equip a sword with that name, especially since prior DQ games have reveled in the cursed equipment.


It's always time for burgers
Staff member
Modern localization calls it the "Cautery sword," taking a different tact on describing the weapon.
In modern day usage you're pretty much only going to see "haja" (破邪) in Dragon Quest or Yu-Gi-Oh or whatever, used in a kind of colloquial sense that takes the meanings of the two characters at face value to get to "crushing evil" in the linked definition.

As a Buddhist term, it's part of a set phrase of 4 characters (破邪顕正 hajakenshou) that is really about enforcing doctrinal purity. The "evil" here is people who aren't Buddhist, or Buddhists from another sect, or Buddhists in your sect who aren't doing Buddhism the way you think they should, or another Buddhist in your sect you want to snitch on so you rise up faster in the hierarchy.

So I'd say "haja" in this sense is more of a modern day children's entertainment term than a Buddhist one, and you wouldn't lose anything by localizing it as Sword of the Crusader or Purifying Sword or Sword of Vanquishing or whatever (or on NES like PURE SWD or whatever), depending on how much religious nuance you want left in (because all it's really taking from a Buddhism term about doctrinal purity is a surface level reading of "vanquish evil.")
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It's not that the meaning was wrong or anything, just that Japanese as a written language and Buddhism are so tied together historically that seeing "Buddhist term" in a J-->E dictionary or "仏語" etc. in a Japanese dictionary is something you can potentially overthink without more usage context.

Some really common words like 絶対 or 安心 are also technically derived from Buddhist terms.


Son of The Answer Man
I just noticed this, and I am excited that this thread has returned! I love the new little quirks that get discovered in the Japanese versions of the games.


Plastic Vampire
I don't have a full update yet, but I've started on Chapter 2. This one follows the tomboyish Princess Aleena of Saintheim, who sneaks out of her castle to go on an adventure of her own making. She's joined by two guardians, the priest Clift and the mage Brye, who intercept her just as she leaves the castle. At the outset, Aleena has no particular adventure hook that I could discern, but I'm sure we will run into trouble soon enough.

Her journey starts at the small town of Salan. So far the town's most notable feature is a big monastery, which has locked doors which prevent us from exploring all of it. A poet, Marone, lives here and stands on the rooftop singing songs. That's all I've seen so far.


Plastic Vampire
I can't really explain why I dropped this thread, but part of the reason was that I dropped DQIV for a while partway through Aleena's chapter! And for no particular reason there, either.

But guess what! I picked it back up. If you'd like to hear some more stories about Dragon Quest IV, here comes a quick summary of where I've been since I met Aleena.

Chapter 2: Aleena & The World Martial Arts Tournament

Aleena's journey through the western half of the world map is far more extensive than Lyan's quick meetup with the game's villain. By the time we get to the third village, Tenpe, we learn of a martial arts tournament happening in the city of Endor (not a forest moon) far to the east. Between Tenpe and Endor, we resolve several minor crises, such as rescuing a girl kidnapped from Tenpe for sacrificial purposes and recovering a lost golden ring from Frenor. Just past a bazaar we finally arrive at the city of Endor.

As we prepare ourselves for the martial arts tournament, we learn that the champion is an unbeatable fighter named "Despisaro." Since by this point it had been so long since I started the game, I had forgotten about the "Pisaro" mentioned in Lyan's chapter, and I'm still not sure if they're the same guy or what.

At any rate, Aleena is able to easily sweep the floor with the contest's other contestants until we get to THIS GUY:

In the English versions he's called the "Abominable Showman," but I don't remember his Japanese name. At any rate, he has a gimmick: on the first round, he uses a bunshin technique to divide himself in four. Only one of the targets is real, and striking a wrong one causes him to stick his tongue out at you (in a very cute an unexpected animation) and deliver a melee strike. It's totally RNG whether you hit the right one, as far as I could tell.

This battle took me a few tries to win. And just as the showman collapses into the arena dust, you learn that the much ballyhooed Despisaro is nowhere to be found, so we win the tournament by default. Hooray!

Following our win, we receive ominous news concerning our hometown. We head back to Saintheim to find it totally deserted! And that's where we leave Aleena.

Chapter 3: Torneko's Chapter is the Best

Chapter 3 opens in the small town of Lake Nava...or Leiknaba...or Lakanaba...your choice. Here we meet the rotund merchant Torneko, whose plan is to become the greatest merchant in the world. You start off in your house, where your doting wife gives you a sack lunch and kisses you on your way out the door. From the beginning, you realize the whole point of this chapter is to MAKE MONEY. I absolutely loved this chapter for how it turns some of the standard DQ tropes around. In Lakanaba, you can:

  • Push an old man to church (he's too tired to walk) to make a few gold.
  • Walk around outside of town and fight monsters.
  • Work a shift at the local weapon shop and get paid a salary.

The latter is especially cool. You work the counter and just buy up weapons from passing travelers, going through variations of the standard DQ shop dialogue, but from the perspective of the shopkeep. It's great! It's charming. It also has a fun little RNG event where, sometimes, a person will come into the shop and sell you a Sword of Haja - the same monster-mashing sword we found in Lyan's chapter. If you buy it, it appears in the shop's inventory...permanently. But there's a catch: if an NPC asks you to buy the sword, and you sell it, it disappears from the inventory.

The sword costs 3,500 gold, which is way too much for Torneko to handle right now, but it's also key to some later tricks you can pull off in Torneko's chapter. The game, however, pulls some fun tricks of its own to try to get you to sell the sword back to it. NPCs will come in and haggle with you for the sword, continuously raising their offers and getting frustrated if you snub them. This put a huge smile on my face.

At any rate, eventually we had enough money to equip Torneko with some basic adventuring gear and started heading south toward Endor, where Torneko hopes to buy a vacant shop.



Plastic Vampire
Once Torneko gets into the overworld, it's clear there are more special mechanics at play. But before that, please listen to Torneko's jaunty overworld theme.

There's not a single bad overworld track in this game.

Anyway, while playing as Torneko, you occasionally run into a merchant as a random encounter, where you can buy standard adventuring tools (herbs, chimera wings, etc.) and sell anything you might have collected along the way.

Which is important, because the other mechanic going on is that Torneko is way more likely to find items dropped by enemies than the other characters. You quickly begin to realize that the game wants you to have lots of items so you can sell them, and you've got to manage your tiny inventory space to ensure you can make it back to town and sell your stuff to move the plot along.

Along the way to Endor, Torneko finds himself in a forest village which turns out to be an illusion created by a tribe of kitsune. In the city of Bonmore, you free a Lakanaba resident from the prison (by sneaking past the guards, another fun little mechanic thrown into the mix), and you eventually facilitate the marriage between the prince of Bonmore and the princess of Endor, preventing the two kingdoms from going to war.

Once in Endor, you find the city is coming down from the high of the martial arts tournament. The underground casino is open, and you can spot Lyan wandering around inside (but we can't do anything else with him, yet).

Torneko eventually builds enough capital to purchase the shop in Endor, and his ultimate goal is to fund the excavation of a tunnel that will join two continents.

And there's so much more cool stuff going on in this chapter! While working in Endor, Torneko can hire mercenary adventurers to help him raid the cave to the east and acquire more goods. Eventually, when his shop opens, he can drop items off with his wife and return later to collect the profits, which are much greater than they would be if he were to simply sell them to another shop. Using this tact, Torneko can go back to Lakanaba and buy up Swords of Haja (which remain in the shop's inventory as long as Torneko doesn't sell them from behind the counter), hand them off to his wife, and then reap all the profits he can stand while never having to raise a sword against another enemy.

I really enjoyed the transition here between "fight monsters for cash" to "juice the markets for cash," and it was all such a fun change of pace that I enjoyed it from start to end. I was sad to see Torneko's chapter close. And I did, of course, load up his inventory with Swords of Haja before I finished up. And then we progressed to...

Chapter 4: All She Wants to Do is Dance

The game's fourth chapter follows Minna and Munna, two sisters on a journey to avenge the death of their father, an alchemist named Edgar (Edgan, or Edogan, in Japanese). The chapter opens with Munna finishing up a dance at a theater in the village of Monbalba, then sitting down to discuss matters with Minna, a fortune teller. They decide to head off on their journey in search of Balzac, the evildoer who apparently offed their father.



Plastic Vampire
The sisters' overworld theme has an almost mournful feel, but with a bit of flamenco zippiness that feels appropriate to the characters.

Oh! And please let's not ignore the perfection that is their battle theme!

So good.

The sisters' quest is fairly concise compared to the world-trekking of chapter 2 and the backtracking of chapter 3. In the sisters' hometown of Komeez, we hear of Aurin, a disciple of their father's who survived Balzac's treachery. We also learn of strange goings-on in the city of Kinglio, where evidently the king himself has been taken over by the spirit of a demon.

The chapter starts out fairly difficult, as both Minna and Munna are squishy mages with only a couple of spells at their disposal. Minna's class is shown as "fortune teller," but in effect she's a priest (at least at this point), with higher defense and attack than Munna and the typical priest spells (Hoimi/heal, Bagi/wind cutter, etc.). Munna is a "dancer," but also corresponds to the typical mage class, having low attack stats and battle spells like Mera (flames), Skala (debuff), and Gira (bigger flames).

But we soon find Aurin hiding out in a cave near Komeez, where he's recovered enough from his wounds to join our party. He's an NPC character controlled by the computer, but his high attack, HP, and defense help him absorb hits that are grievous for our sisters.

When we finally get to Kinglio, the place feels like it's under a spell. There are people around, but nothing seems to be functioning correctly, and most concerning of all, the king's chamber has apparently been sealed off, and only the court advisor knows where it's hidden. We also hear rumors of a connection between the king and Balzac.

Oh yeah, and around Kinglio, the enemies are pretty strong, and among them are...


I was totally caught off-guard by these. They don't appear in the normal way - first, you encounter a few regular slimes. But the slimes summon more and more slimes, which all then leap together to form the King Slime. It's still pretty rare to see animation in a DQ battle, so this all feels pretty special!

They are also hard to beat. I was able to take down one, but only after a few failed attempts.



Plastic Vampire
In order to expose the king, we end up having to raid the Attemto mine near the harbor town of Habaria. As a side note, the town of Attemto is maybe the most depressing place I've seen yet in a DQ game. Gas emissions from the mine have killed many people in the town, and half the houses are in ruins. Some of them still have dead bodies sitting inside! It's a grim scene.

In the mine, we eventually find some gunpowder which we can use to scare the Kinglio court advisor out of his room and prompt him to open up the king's chamber. (I had to look up what I was supposed to do here. Part of it was just the language barrier, I think.)

In the chamber of the king, he immediately reveals himself to be none other than BALZAC!

Or Barzack. Or Bullzuck. Or Ball Zack. Up to you. (Sorry for the poor cap, I wasn't really expecting to post this here.)

This boss battle on the surface seems to be impossible, because any time Balzack takes significant damage, he heals himself with a Behoma spell. BUT: If you'd been paying attention to people like the oracle near Attemto and some other NPCs, you'd know that Balzac is vulnerable when we use a special macguffin item that we found in the same cave where Aurin joined us. When we use the item on Balzac, he loses his ability to cast magic, but he begins to throw powerful physical attacks and firebreath our way.

I forgot about this for the first battle with Balzac, and by the time I used it, both Minna and Munna were nearly out of MP, so we lost.

On the second pass, we rubbed the special egg (I forgot its name tbh) all over Balzac's face right off the bat and hit him with everything we had! And we won!

But right at that moment, we learn that Balzac was merely a pawn of his master, the monster known as...


I am not certain how the city came to be named after this creature, but regardless, we were not prepared for this eight-limbed lion. Fortunately, the game does not intend you to be, as it is a scripted battle! After our defeat, we find ourselves confined to the castle jail. But lying in bed there is none other than our father, Edgar! There is a hole in the wall of his cell, and he tells us there is a hidden passage we must use to escape and live to fight the evil of Kinglio.

We beat it out of the prison cell, and Aurin bravely sacrifices himself holding off the horde of castle guards who try to prevent us from fleeing. And that's the end of chapter four!



I wondered about that. Glad you are continuing, I always enjoyed your writeups. Can't read it now (too late), but I will try to remember it, to cone back later.


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
This battle took me a few tries to win. And just as the showman collapses into the arena dust, you learn that the much ballyhooed Despisaro is nowhere to be found, so we win the tournament by default.
The two greatest words in the Endor language!


Plastic Vampire
Chapter 5: I Need a Hero

The fifth and final chapter opens in a remote village atop a mountain far to the east of Endor. Here you play as the character you named way back at the beginning of the game. As in DQ III, you can choose a guy or a gal. Here are the designs for this game:

The male hero's bat wing ears are fun, but yeah, sorry, I like everything about the girl's design way better. She feels way more like a distinct character than most DQ heroes do. I particularly like the asymmetrical orange, uh...sleeves? And the huge mass of green hair, and the one gray glove, and the battle leotard. It just speaks to me.

Anyway, our village is the platonic ideal of an RPG hometown. There's the doting mother, the gruff battle instructor, the concerned elder, and the childhood girlfriend (this apparently doesn't change depending on your gender choice, so we're confirmed gay). However, all of this dissolves within moments as we're immediately ushered off to the warehouse basement. The city is under attack by Despisaro! It would seem we were raised here in secrecy due to a certain prophecy, and the prophecy is coming to pass.

While the attack rages outside, our childhood girlfriend disguises herself as us in order to fool Despisaro's men into thinking they've completed their mission. When we climb out of the warehouse, the whole town has been obliterated. Not a soul remains. Dark! This, I think, is the first time I've played a Dragon Quest where it feels like the primary villain's evil has been more personal than a vague sorta "storybook" evil. The Dragon Lord causes plagues across the land and faraway cities are destroyed by monsters...Despisaro kills your whole family in front of you.

Anyway, with nothing else but to move forward, we take our copper sword and head down the mountain, first grabbing some basic supplies from a kindly old woodcutter who lives in the surrounding forest. Then our first real stop is Branca, a small kingdom south of the mountain.

Branca & the First Recruits

This town basically serves as a staging ground for our initial (re)exploration of the overworld. We hear word of the renowned merchant, Torneko, getting lost in a cave somewhere, which I make note of, because I'd like to find him and his inventory full of Haja swords as soon as possible. Of cute and special note in Branca is that the world is now in full adventurer mode, with the king of this particular city sending out regular parties of adventurers to search for Despisaro. Every time we re-enter Branca, there's a group of four adventurers walking out of the castle toward the city entrance. It's the same group every time, but it reinforces the idea that there are events going on in this world beyond our group of characters.

Also! If you revisit Branca at night, there's an old guy who walks across the village square and stops at the pond near the castle. If you talk to him, he tells you a little story about the woodcutter on the mountain who lost his only son. As far as I can tell, it's just a little side detail, not really tied into the main storyline, but I love little moments like this.

From Branca, we're able to revisit several notable locations from previous chapters, including Endor, Bonmore, and Lakanaba. Torneko, however, is nowhere to be found. But! We do relocate Minna and Munna, who immediately recognize that I'm the legendary hero they've been looking for. They quickly join our party, which means it's time to talk about...

The AI System

Dragon Quest IV swerves from previous games by changing up the main functions of the battle system! In the fifth chapter, all of the previous characters who we recruit are controlled by the computer. We can tell Drac what to do, but otherwise we can only guide the other characters' overall action by a blanket "planning" command that can be picked at the start of each combat. There are six different plans, ranging from "go all out" to "prioritize healing" to "use no MP."

At first, I was feeling a bit undermined that I couldn't control all these great characters anymore. But in effect, it does reduce the number of button presses per combat, and it also takes off a bit of stress from having to pick certain spells. I'm sure I will have some battles where I wish I could pick the exact spell for Munna to cast or whatever. But having played with this system for several hours, I like it. We'll have to see how it plays out.



Plastic Vampire
The Cave of Treasures

Once we've determined there's nothing special for us to do in any of these towns yet, I take our party east of Branca to check out the desert where I can hopefully find more rumors of Torneko or the other adventurers. Just north of the desert is an oasis waystation with an inn and a shop and a mournful guy who has apparently lost all faith in humanity. He's also got a horse (named Patricia) and a cart, which apparently are necessary items to cross the desert, as whenever we try to walk south of the oasis, we automatically turn back.

The guy doesn't trust us, though, so we can't even buy the horse off of him. He does tell us, though, that he once went to seek a legendary treasure in a cave east of the desert, but came back with his faith in humanity destroyed. So we go to check it out.

This cave, like many of DQIV's dungeons, has a gimmick. It's got no random encounters, for one thing, which is kind of a nice relief. It also has cracked wall tiles. If you have a full party, you can just plow through these tiles like Dig Dug. But when alone, they're sturdy.

This becomes important quickly, because around the dungeon's first bend, you plummet through a trapdoor and become separated from Munna and Minna. When you find them, they are walking away from you down the corridor, and they stop at a dead end. And when you catch up to them, they first thank you for rescuing them...then tear away their disguises!

Berobero (a funny way of basically saying "licky licky") is a regular enemy type that we've seen before, but not alone and underleveled. They only have two actions: attacking and casting manusa, a status ailment spell that wraps you in fog and causes your hit rate to plummet. Because Drac at this point only has access to a regular attack and the basic fire spell, mera, this is a pretty tough battle! Since they are highly likely to hit you with manusa immediately, and tend to attack first, you've got to lean on your mera and heal yourself with an ample amount of herbs. Since I was only level six or seven to begin with, it took four or five shots of mera per enemy to slay them, which was a very thin margin of success.

This took several deaths before I was able to beat them, but it was a fun problem to solve. And of course the game wouldn't immediately throw a harder encounter at me right after this, right? Wrong.

You fall through another trapdoor, this time landing in a room where two monsters are chasing Minna and Munna around in a circle. And when you talk to them...more illusions!

If fighting two enemies alone was bad, fighting four is worse. The two vampire bats are fairly unthreatening, having only about 30 HP each and low attack. But the other guys, whose names are "Traitorous Brats," are pretty hard to fight even at level eight. They hit for 6~10 points of damage and they can breathe fire for up to 15 damage, and all four enemies are likely to hit Drac before she can act.

After my first death to these foes, I thought I might be able to escape the encounter by running to the stairs in the top right. But, nope, the game freezes you in place as the enemies come over to you and attack. It's a mandatory battle.

Through sheer luck (seriously, on the last round, I had 2 HP, no MP, no healing items, and it was down to either me or the bat striking first), I was able to beat these punks, and thankfully, they're the last encounter in the dungeon.

On the next level, you run into the real Munna and Minna, who have apparently been running into apparitions of Drac, because they ask me a quiz question about where I met Minna. When I answer it right, they re-join, and we're able to find the Pureheart Gem at the end of the dungeon.

When we bring it back to the oasis, the depressed traveler (whose name is Hoffman) not only gives us his wagon, but he joins! And more on that next time.


Son of The Answer Man
I am delighted that this adventure has returned. I loved DQ4 in principle on the NES, but loved it in practice on the DS.


Plastic Vampire
Boy, I've got a lot to cover today!

Hot Springs Episode

Once Hoffman joins up, we can finally cross the desert. Hoffman joins the party as an NPC character, functioning essentially as a warrior with good HP and mid-tier equipment. His horse, Patricia, also joins. Our overworld formation changes drastically, with the horse and cart in the center and our current party fanning out on all four sides. This means we now have six sprites wandering around during the overworld scenes, I love watching everyone bump all over themselves when we turn corners. I feel like a Vic Viper fully stocked with Options. The formation also reminds me a little bit of famous Famicom kusoge Super Monkey Daibouken:

South of the desert waypoint is a tiny town called Annel. If we talk to the NPC by the town entrance, he gives us a walking tour of the whole village, pointing out the shops; the grave of their local hero, Rivast; the church, where Rivast's armor is held; a healing hot spring; and finally, an inn, where the guide works. The hilarious catch here is that it's a grift. The innkeeper takes you to his inn because Annel has two inns, and the guide's in costs twice as much as the other one. But if you were to walk straight ahead from the entrance, ignoring the guide, you'd arrive at the cheaper inn first.

At the moment, beyond this, there's not much to do in Annel. If we hang around at night, the ghost of Rivast appears before his headstone and clues us in that the armor in the church may not be genuine, and his real armor - which has the power of the heavens - may be sleeping at the bottom of the sea somewhere. We also hear of Conanberry, a harbor town to the south.

The Lighthouse

Conanberry is a much larger town than Annel, boasting docks, multiple shops, and lots of houses to visit. We hear of more dark tidings: monsters have taken over the lighthouse to the east, causing ships to wreck all across the coast. In one home, there's a man who stays awake through the night, tormented by news of my town's destruction and the disappearance of the people in Saintheim. At night, we catch a thief who begs us for forgiveness. He tells us if we find any "small medals," we can trade them for rare items. As if on cue, I immediately start finding small medals around town, but I have yet to figure out where I can trade them in.

Most importantly, at the dry docks, we learn that Torneko has commissioned construction of a ship to sail south to Mintos, where we can apparently get a treasure map. But the dock workers are all troubled by news of the lighthouse, and evidently Torneko has gone there himself to investigate. So that's where we go next.

The lighthouse is a five-floor dungeon with no special gimmicks. On the first floor, we quickly run into Torneko, who tells us the monsters have put out the tower's holy light and replaced with a hellish one. We must find the holy pilot light and use it to restore the true fire. The monsters in this dungeon are a greatest-hits of all the critters we've seen up to this point: metal slimes, wandering armors, wandering spirits, Tebelos, man-eating blades, one-eyed clowns, Kodoras, crested snakes, pteranodons, dodo birds, skeleton warriors, devil plants, and even a mimic on the third floor.

On the second or third floor we run into a little imp NPC who we can talk to. When it learns Torneko has gone back to town, it laughs and says it'll warp back there to find him and kill him. It casts rula and tries to warp to Conanberry, but it hits its head on the ceiling and comes crashing back down.

After that every time you come back to this room, the imp is still lying there, unconscious or dead. RIP to a real one.

On the fourth level, we find the pilot light, and on the fifth, we find a band of monsters raving around the light itself. When we confront them, we have to fight a gang of three: two Blazing Warriors and one Lighthouse Tiger. This is really the first test run of the AI system, and it goes swimmingly. I have no problem switching between "all-out" and "prioritize healing" as needed, and we easily beat the enemies on the first try.

Time to go sailing!



Plastic Vampire
Once back in Conanberry, Torneko thanks us for helping him and asks if we want to join him on his quest to find a legendary treasure. We agree, and Torneko finally joins! Now that we have five characters in the party, a few more mechanics come to light.

  • We can rearrange our party members at will using the "plan" command, but only in certain situations (i.e., not in towns and not in dungeons).
  • Everyone gets EXP from battles, regardless of who's actually fighting.
  • Torneko, when controlled by the AI, now has some actions that are similar to the freeloader class from Dragon Quest III, i.e., he'll do something random instead of attacking or whatever. However, unlike the freeloader, most of these actions have a useful effect.

As soon as Torneko joined I was keen to stop using Hoffman, since he can't gain EXP (although this ended up being less important than I thought, since everyone gains no matter what). It took me a little while to realize I could rearrange my team, since the first time I did it, it was on the overworld. I sell off all of Torneko's Haja swords - except the one he's holding - and we're suddenly swimming in cash. Naturally at this point I'm really hoping to find a good shop somewhere, because dying and losing half my 12,000 gold wasn't a happy thought.

Oh yeah, and it took me this long to realize you could "use" the Sword of Haja in battle to zap a whole group of enemies with a lightning bolt. I only realized this because Torneko started doing it. How embarrassing!

Now as we sail from Mintos we get a beautiful variation of the Dragon Quest I overworld theme:

Take Me to the Hilton

The town of Mintos is notable for a couple of things: a lavishly sized inn, and a rich old guy named Hilton who owns it. When we arrive, we find Hilton standing outside and lecturing a group of townspeople on the lawn. Some of them have literally fallen asleep. Now Hilton is apparently the guy who has our treasure map, so the first thing we do is ask him about it. The results in a very good moment where he asks us what's the most important thing to know in business, and Drac responds: "..." This deeply impresses Hilton, because, as he says, "silence is golden." (He literally uses this phrase in Japanese.) He then gives us his treasure map...but more on that later.

After this, we explore Mintos a little more and find out some more juicy rumors.

  • We find Brye and Clifto from chapter 2 holed up in the inn, but there's a problem. Clifto has fallen ill!
  • His illness can apparently be cured with the root of the Padecea, a plant that once grew in Soretta, a village to the east.
  • Aleena already headed east to try to find the root, leaving Brye to tend Clifto.
  • Lyan, the warrior from chapter 1, was also here recently, and he has apparently gone to Kinglio.
The shops in Mintos sadly have nothing for us to unload our bursting wallets upon, so we heat east to Soretta.



Plastic Vampire
Before finding Soretta, we happen upon a shrine with a couple of travel gates we can't access. The lone NPC staffing the shrine lets us know that we have to turn south to get to Soretta.

Incidentally, I forgot to add that Brye joins us at this point, adding another offensive spellcaster to the group.


Though Soretta feels like a village, it's properly a kingdom, with its own castle, church, and king. The castle, however, feels more like an open-air courtyard, and we discover that the king himself (in full regalia) is outside tending the fields at all hours. This is because the town's primary crop - the Padecea - was wiped out by a drought, so everyone is working hard to grow more mundane stuff like daikon. The king tells us that a past ruler stored some Padecea seeds in a cave further to the south, but, naturally, the cave is now brimming with monsters.

Soretta has nothing else for us, so we go looking for this supposed cave. And we quickly find it!

Our next dungeon has a gimmick! For one thing, it's got a new tileset. Everything is white and icy. There are also some new "slide" tiles, which propel us uncontrollably in one direction. I associate these with the conveyor tiles in the Rocket Hideout from Pokemon Red/Blue, but they've of course appeared in innumerable JRPGs over the years.

The ice cave has a few new enemy types:

  • Vampdoks are palette-swaps of the vampire bats which can sometimes put us to sleep.
  • Hell Armors are stronger Wandering Armors that hit really hard and usually accompany Vampdoks.
  • Yetis resemble the "abominable showman" from back at the martial arts tournament, but thankfully lack the bunshin technique and instead breathe cold blasts at us.
  • Conjurers are mid-level spellcasters.
The encounter rate in the cave is pretty damn high, and some of the enemies resist Brye's cold-type magic, so it takes us a few passes to get to the end. In the first large chamber, run into the group of adventurers from Branca, but Aleena is among them now! She claims she's doing fine, and doesn't need our help, so we leave her to stumble around with her (clearly inferior) new allies and move on.

Several slip-sliding mazes lead us to a few notable treasures, including a mystery leaf, the powerful peace robe, a mimic (boo), and of course the Padecea seed. With this in hand we head back to Mintos and cure poor Clifto. Aleena is also there, waiting for us, and once Clifto is out of bed they both join!

Just one adventurer left to go!



Plastic Vampire
Once Aleena and Clifto join up, and we leave Mintos, Hoffman claims he'd like to stay behind in Mintos to see if he can learn anything from Hilton. That just leaves Lyan, who is apparently in Kinglio. But first, let's take a look at our map!

Like all good NES world maps, the thing loads like a JPEG on a dial-up modem. It has only two points of interest: the location of your party, and the location of the (supposed) treasure. The treasure is in a place surrounded by high mountains, so there's no way for us to get to it yet. But we can now sail anywhere we want, and sailing features a very low encounter rate, so it's a nice relaxing way to to explore the world.

Before we take care of business at Kinglio, I checked out a few parts of the map we hadn't been to yet.


The south-central continent is home to monsters that are a little too spicy for us at the moment, but sailing into the inlet takes us to a neat little village called Riverside. The villagers tell us there is a monster castle located on the island somewhere, and that the people here were once able to ride (something) into the sky. Whatever it was they rode - the game uses the vague phrase 乗り物 (norimono), meaning vehicle, transport, etc. - was taken from them and sealed in the ground by the "Hell King," who may be Despisaro.

Riverside also has, so far, the best selection of expensive gear we've seen yet, including the 15,000-gold Dragon Killer sword. I went ahead and splurged on this, spending all the gold we got from selling the Haja swords and whatever else we'd scrounged since then. Once equipped, Drac hits foes for 50~60 damage per hit.

Nameless Village

The east-middle continent has one small village on it. This village's name has supposedly been "lost to the sands of time," according to its residents. It also has a gimmick: at night, the tide comes in, and the south beach is covered by water. The villagers tell us their ancestors once had a strange ability to use the sands of time to turn back time itself, but I wasn't totally clear on whether this was via an item literally called "time sand" or some other power or other.

At any rate, I notice at night the ocean covered everything on the beach except one suspicious patch of sand, so in the morning we searched around on the beach an item called either a "dry stone" or a "thirst stone" depending on how you want to translate it. A woman in the village tells us these used to come flying out of the nearby waterfalls, but I'm not exactly clear on its use. We get a key item jingle when we pick it up, though!

Finally, I checked out the far northwestern continent, where there's a castle that's inaccessible to us at the moment. So now it's time for...

Kinglio (Again)

Castle Kinglio is shut off to us. This is because we no longer have Aurin - Edgar's late disciple - who could pick the locks for us. However, in the courtyard, we find a bard who announces that he is none other than Healy/Hoimin from chapter 1! (Did Healy get turned into a human at the end of chapter 1? I don't remember this. It's been almost a year.)

Healy tells us that Lyan is trapped inside Castle Kinglio, and we'll need a Magic Key to enter. He said the people of Habaria know something about the magic key...

Wild Key Chase

The Habarian tool merchant tells us that alchemists used to be able to make magic keys easily, and he's heard of an alchemist living in Komeese. Of course, we, the players, having been paying attention, know that the alchemists in Komeese are either dead (Aurin) or still trapped inside Castle Kinglio (Edgar). But we might as well check it out anyway.

In Komeese, there's now a guy at the inn from chapter 2's bazaar. He's a traveling merchant, and he's got a stock of mid-game weapons and armor. We check Edgar's house again, and this time the talking Slime in the basement lets us know that Edgar had a hidden lab under the cave nearby, the same one where we originally found Aurin.

The cave itself is the same as it was, except it has a new population of enemies beefed up to match our current levels, including the Flaming Warriors from the lighthouse and a kind of racist-lookin' magician guy who can cause instant death. The NPC who previously told us (indirectly) about the elevators now tells us (indirectly) about a secret switch in a treasure chest.

The chest which once contained the egg we used to defeat Balzac takes us to the rumored secret lab, and inside is a treasure chest containing a Magic Key!



Plastic Vampire
With magic key in hand, we take one quick detour before returning to Kinglio.

Saron (again)

Saron is the village adjacent to Saintheim which we first visited with Aleena and company. It's dominated by a large monastery, the east wing of which is sealed off with a magic key-compatible door. Beyond, we find that the monastery continues in a winding fashion way past where I thought the east side of the city was, and ends in a couple rooms containing another high-end merchant and an eccentric old man.

The eccentric tells us about some troublesome dreams he's had, and also mentions that the king of Saintheim, in the old days, could see the future. He tells us (I'm pretty sure) that he recorded the content of his dream on a signpost north of town. We can exit the monastery from this side of town and walk around the north edge of town, where there is indeed a long signpost (I noticed this long ago, and wondered how to get to it).

The sign tells us that the people of Stansiara, far to the north across the ocean, have knowledge of the "Dragon God of Heaven." Thanks to the labeled world map in the manual, I know Stansiara is the continent with the inaccessible castle. I file this away for the moment.

Now! Time to pick up our last buddy.

Maybe I'm a Kinglio

Back in Castle Kinglio, we easily pick the locks and notice (1) that Edgar is still resting in the castle prison and (2) Lyan is being escorted by castle guards toward where we found Balzac on the throne. When we approach Lyan, he bursts free of their grip and knocks them aside, recognizes us as the destined hero, and begs us to help him destroy the evil of Kinglio. He busts down the throne room door (awesome) and holds off the guards so we can take care of the monstrous king.

False Ruler Kinglio

This time, we're allowed to face Kinglio in a fair fight, but he's certainly the toughest enemy we've encountered yet. What mainly makes him frightening is being able to act twice per turn. He can blast us with cold breath (10~15 damage per character), use gira (15~20 damage per character), or use a melee strike (45~50 damage to one character).

In my first attempt at fighting him, I used Drac, Torneko, Aleena, and Clifto, and generally had orders set to "prioritize healing," hoping that Clifto would primarily cast healing spells while the rest of us smashed away with melee attacks. Clifto, unfortunately, had other ideas, tending to cast debuff spells at Kinglio (which always failed) or casting defense buffs on us, waiting until way too late to use his heal spells. And I'd also forgotten that Clifto hadn't learned Behoimi (healmore) yet, so he wasn't nearly as potent in battle as Minna.

Still, we plugged away for that first battle. Apparently Kinglio only has 400 HP, and I felt like I did way more than that, but we still lost.

When I came back, I switched out Clifto for Minna, and that was the key. Also key was Torneko tripping and causing a critical hit for 100 damage, ending the battle way earlier than I expected. We got something to the tune of 5,000 exp, a steel armor, and Lyan in the party!

Once we left the castle, we were treated to a new overworld theme:

Now this theme was already very familiar to me, and for a reason that may surprise you. Did you know Sugiyama composed music for a Godzilla film?

And one of themes is basically an orchestrated version of this overworld theme. I used to have a CD with selections of the scores from all the Godzilla films through the 90s, so this theme has pretty much been in my head for 20 years already.

That's all for today! I've basically been unable to put this game down the last several days, so the next update might be similarly huge.