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Dracula's Dungeon of Classic JRPGs and Other Nonsense

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Dragon Warrior IV is still my favorite 8-bit RPG (although Dragon Warrior III is right there with it). Seeing it in its Japanese form is certainly intriguing.

Regarding EXP, if I'm not mistaken, there are areas where members don't gain EXP if they're not in your party, and it's dictated by whether you can bring the wagon into the area or not.
 

q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
(they/them)
Some dargon quest bosses have HP regeneration that isn't displayed, which is why you often need to deal much more damage than their max HP. It's a weird feature and one that I've seen little documentation of.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Oh, you're right. I was always puzzled when I'd seem to do far more damage than their total HP and yet they wouldn't fall. I eventually figured out they were likely restoring a set amount of HP per turn.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
All the times I’ve played DQ4, and despite the fact that one of them is usually in my final party, I’ve never been able to tell the twins apart
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
All the times I’ve played DQ4, and despite the fact that one of them is usually in my final party, I’ve never been able to tell the twins apart
I finally have it sorted out after all these years. In the NA version, Mara is the mage, Nara is the healer, but their professions are the exact opposite of how I tended to think of them - the dancer is the mage, not the healer.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Dragon Warrior IV is still my favorite 8-bit RPG (although Dragon Warrior III is right there with it). Seeing it in its Japanese form is certainly intriguing.

Regarding EXP, if I'm not mistaken, there are areas where members don't gain EXP if they're not in your party, and it's dictated by whether you can bring the wagon into the area or not.

As far as I've been able to tell, everyone is gaining EXP even when the wagon isn't around. Like when we beat Kinglio, everyone in the party gained a level, and I definitely didn't have the wagon inside the castle. But there could still be areas where that's not true!

Some dargon quest bosses have HP regeneration that isn't displayed, which is why you often need to deal much more damage than their max HP. It's a weird feature and one that I've seen little documentation of.

Ah yeah, this makes sense. I remember reading this about some of the bosses in DQIII, and by a certain point I only had two characters dealing damage each round, so it probably wasn't enough to chip him to death.

All the times I’ve played DQ4, and despite the fact that one of them is usually in my final party, I’ve never been able to tell the twins apart

Strangely I've not had a problem with this, but it might be because the Japanese names (ミネア/Minea, マーニャ/Manya, which I just realized I've been misreading as "Munya," man, I still get those mas and mus mixed up...) look very different when spelled out on screen, having no duplicated characters, whereas the localized names are the same except for the first letter. I'd definitely get those mixed up.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
To Bravely Flee

Following the liberation of Kinglio, we discover that our old friend Balzac has returned and assumed the throne at Saintheim while we weren't looking. Gathering up Lyan, we warp over thataway and check out Aleena's hometown. The castle is brimming with monsters now, including some NPC imps who wander around and a fireball that guards a locked door. If we go up to the throne room, we find Balzac lounging in the king's spot, but out of the corner of my eye, I also notice a slime playing with a kitty cat up on the roof (the same place where Aleena made her escape in chapter 2).

I leave Balzac alone for the moment and head up there to check it out. The slime says he's a good slime, and mentions some stuff about a mysterious hellish power that revived Balzac. Only the heavenly dragon can stop this evil, he says, and supposedly the people way up north at Stansiara have a connection to this power. This is in line with the rumors we heard on the east side of Saron.

With this ominous word in mind, we head back downstairs to see what Balzac is up to. He's not only alive and well, but he's increased in power, and he describes himself as like unto a god, even besmirching the name of Despisaro by changing his honorific from Despisaro-sama (lord/master) to Despisaro-yatsu (guy). And with these boastful words, Balzac attac(k)s.



Uh-oh.

The Asylum Demon Balzac has been upgraded from "Minor Enemy Palette Swap" to "Truck Nuts." That tree he's holding whacks us for 50~70 damage, he can cast some nasty spells, and gets two actions per turn. We only last a couple of rounds against him.

Fortunately, I'd saved in Saron, having figured we might lose badly, so I got to keep our gold. Considering we needed a special item to beat Balzac last time, I decided to gather up our folks and explore the world some more.

A Friend in Frenor

First I decided to sail around the north edge of the northern continents to check out a couple of towns I hadn't revisited in a while. First on the list was Frenor, the town where Aleena helped recover a golden ring. Upstairs at the inn we find none other than Aurin, who I thought had perished in Kinglio! He's been grievously wounded, but somehow made it all the way up here and is being tended after by a kindly villager. At first he seems unresponsive, but when I switched Minya and Manya (yes I'm just gonna keep changing my mind on these spellings) into the party, he lightened up considerably. He tells us some stuff about Despisaro using some sort of "secret ritual" (I'm unclear on this translation) which we really have to stop before he can do it.

There also seems to be some more talk in town of the golden ring, so it may be a treasure we can get later. Not sure.

Shadow over Imar

Next we hit up Batrand, where we began the game in Chapter 1. It's still doing pretty well! The townspeople are happy to see Lyan again, and we scare up some fresh rumors here and there. An old man tells us that a "queen of some castle" may have the key which can open jail cells. The king tells us that the queen of Gardenburg, which we haven't visited yet, may be in possession of a "sky shield," which seems a little bit non-sequitur, but that's only because (I think) we're doing this a little out of order. The final rumor is that, evidently, Gardenburg is inaccessible due to being surrounded by mountains, but we might be able to tunnel through the old mountain road using a "Magma Staff."

Before leaving Batrand, we open up a formerly locked door in the castle and cross one of the classic DQ damage floors to get to a half-dozen treasure chests.

Finally we head north to visit Imar, the tiny town where Lyan helped rescue some children back in Chapter 1. It's still in good shape, with the kids running wild. But when we sleep at the inn, something strange happens!

A dream sequence!

Drac sees, in vignette, a vision of a tower. A woman at the top, named Rosary, beckons to man on the ground named Pisaro. Pisaro climbs the tower to stand alongside her, and shares with her his intentions to turn the world into a "burning desert." (I think.) Against her wishes, he leaves the tower to set out on a journey to fulfill his wishes.

We awaken after this. How mysterious! As far as I know, we've not heard of this "Rosary" before. Pisaro, however, we have seen - he was mentioned in Lyan's chapter as the mastermind behind the abduction of children in the land - which we know was part of a plot to discover and destroy the destined hero (me). And how is he connected to the "Despisaro" whose name we've heard many times since chapter 2? Are they one and the same?

The dream offers us no other clues, and nothing further of note happens in Imar. I'm not sure if this dream sequence always happens here, or if it simply has a random chance to occur at each instance of sleeping. But it was certainly fascinating! Few DQ villains, up to this point, have had their origins shown and I'm vastly curious to learn more.

Continued...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
The Killing Joke

With only a couple places left on the map to revisit, I decided to go back to the northwestern continent and see if maybe I'd missed a way to access the castle in the shoals. And I had!

Stansiara is a uniquely laid out DQ town, featuring rivers instead of roadways, a bit like real-world Venice. You ride boats (amusingly using the galleon sprite) around town to get between the buildings. All through town we hear rumors of a kingly decree. Apparently, because the world is in such disarray, he has lost the ability to feel mirth, and he has challenged everyone in the kingdom to make him laugh. This doesn't seem to be very effective for the kingdom - at night, we find the town priest drowning his sorrows at the pub, and in one house a fisherman is awake at all hours worrying about how he'll feed his family with the seas now so dangerous.

Before we visit the king, we also discover that this town has connection to a sky palace of old legends, where the heavenly dragon lives. But, the legends say, in order to access the sky palace, you needed four heavenly items: a suit of armor, a helmet, a shield, and a sword. These were once in possession of the Stansiara royal family, but now they only have the helmet.

Of these items, we've certainly heard of at least two others. The shield supposedly resides in Gardenburg; the armor may be the same one stored in the church at Annel (which may also be fake). I don't think we've heard where the sword ended up.

Tucking away these rumors, we finally visit the king, who has a queue of commoners lined up to try their hand at making him laugh. They all fail, and when it comes time for Drac to give it a shot, she can't think of anything to say!

It sounds like we're gonna need to clown this game up, guys.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Game Over: Return of Panon

So one of the leads we scare up in Stansiara is that, somewhere, there's a famous clown or jester named Panon who's been performing in a certain city, although the exact city isn't known. I figure we need to find this guy and drag him by the ear to Stansiara so he can get a laugh out of the king.

But I wasn't exactly sure where to find this guy. In the meantime, I started hitting up a few other places I hadn't visited yet. First, I went back to Endor, where I sheepishly unlocked some magic key doors that I should have written down a long time ago, discovering a hidden shop with another 15,000-gold item (Rogue Metal Armor, which I can't afford yet) and a couple of nice items stashed in the king's bedroom.

Then I headed to Monbalbala, the little desert town where we kicked off chapter 4. Here we find the rumored Panon, who is performing in the theater where Mannya used to dance. We find him chilling in the back room with our former manager, and after telling him about the situation in Stansiara, he immediately joins. He actually joins the party proper, so we can rotate him into combat if we want to, but I'm not sure why we'd do that.

The function of having him in the party does mean we can switch him to party leader, which we have to do in order to get him to jape with the king. As soon as I did this, I realized I probably could have tried to have all of the other party members attempt a joke too, but it was too late too try it! Boo.

Anyway, when Panon is given a chance to shoot his shot, he pauses, then he tells the king he can't joke, because this is no joking matter. The truth is, he says, he only came along because he believes we need the Sky Helm to help ease the world's troubles, and we can only do that if the king gets his act together and helps us.

Instead of immediately ordering the lot of us to be clapped in iron, the king actually comes to his senses, reverses his decree, and hands over the helmet.

Ha ha ha! What a clown!

Continued...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
The helmet gives Drac a serious boost to his defense, but beyond that, I realize at this point I'm out of leads. So I guess it's time to beat up Balzac.

Beating Up Balzac

It took me several party builds before I landed on one that worked in this boss fight. I attempted a couple with Brye as damage-dealing spellcaster, Drac and Aleena as melee fighters, and either Minnea or Clifto as healers. The problem with these builds was that, even when I picked "prioritize healing," the healers are still likely to do something ridiculous like (in Clifto's case) try an instant-kill spell against a boss or whack him with their morningstar, all while Aleena has sub-30 HP and is holding her hands over her face. Also, Brye's most powerful spells tended not to work on Balzac, and if I switched to anything other than "go all out," Brye would start poking Balzac with his 1-damage poison needle. The AI just wouldn't play ball with me.

The successful party ended up being Drac, Aleena, Lyan, and Mannya. Mannya's merami spell seemed to work every time, hitting for 80+ damage, and Aleena and Lyan could hit for 30~50 each turn as well. With this build, I let Drac run damage control, since I could actually pick a spell for him. That way I could stay on "go all out" the whole battle. This worked, and the 6,500 EXP prize let everyone level up.

As Balzac's "perfect body" (his words) failed him, several imps appeared around the throne to taunt him and also key us in on a new plot thread: Despisaro needs the Golden Ring of Frenor to complete his dark ritual.

Loose Ends

After this battle, I somehow instantly forgot about the flame-guarded door in Saintheim and schlepped around the world for a while, poking into Frenor to see if there was any new content surrounding the Golden Ring (there wasn't). When I peeked into a guide, I sheepishly returned to Saintheim and opened the locked door, obtaining two key items inside: the Magma Staff and the "Strange Flute," which gets an important item jingle even though I don't know what it is.

With so many various rumors and key items gathered up from around the world, at this point I decided to make a big list of 'em:
  • Shrine south of Endor (has strong monsters inside and requires a jail key to enter)
  • Sky Armor
  • Sky Shield
  • Sky Sword
  • Shrine north of Soretta (has two travel gates; requires a jail key)
  • Gardenburg
  • Riverside (ancient vehicles)
  • Small Medals
  • Jail Key
  • Monster Castle near Riverside
  • Gold Ring of Frenor
  • Mountainous island at center of world map
  • The X on the treasure map
  • Strange Flute
  • Thirst Stone
  • Strange bag we got in Riverside
There might even be another thing or two I'm forgetting. But the most obvious path forward, at the moment, is using the Magma Staff to get to Gardenburg, so that's what we'll do next.
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
Yeah, the AI can be really uncooperative. It's one of the reasons I tended to roll with offense-heavy parties. Cristo's trying Beat/Defeat was always frustrating when against bosses. I'd have loved it if the devs actually had put in a tiny chance that it worked, though!
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Dragon Quest x Nancy Drew Mysteries: The Case of the Missing Cross

It's hard to get to Gardenburg. The route to the kingdom was blocked off after a volcanic eruption. To get there, you have to sail into a cove on the northeastern continent, walk a roundabout pathway through low hills and forests until you come to a conspicuous passage through high mountains that ends at one mountain tile with a noticeable crack down the center. If you stop here and use the Magma Staff, the cracked tile splits apart and lets you continue walking to Gardenburg.

But before we talk about that, there were a couple of other notable locations we passed by on our way. Right in the mouth of the cove is an island with a shrine. Inside this shrine is an inn and, bizarrely, a king sitting on his own private throne. When we get to this king, he reveals to us that he collects small medals. At last! We've finally figured out what to do with the dang medals. Cross that one off the list. Except we'll have to come back here, because I already put all the medals in the vault at Torneko's shop.

Also, a knight staying at the inn tells us that he's come here in search of the Sky Armor, which supposedly ended up inside a nearby cave. There is, in fact, a cave near the shrine, but I decided to come back here and check that out later.

The hike to Gardenburg is one of the most dangerous trips we've made yet. All the enemies in this part of the overworld are hugely threatening, but more on them later.

Gardenburg

The entirety of Gardenburg is contained within a fortress. And like Erika's gym in Celadon City, it's populated (almost) entirely by women. Heck, it even has the same creepy guy standing outside the castle peeking in. It's almost like Pokemon had some inspiration from this game!

The castle has an inn and a single shop that exclusively sells armor usable only by the gal members of our party. This includes dancer's clothes, gold hairpins, glancing garb, and pink leotards. The latter is pretty powerful, and we've already found one of them in a chest at Endor, so I may end up getting more for the group.

Wandering around town, we first learn that there's a treasure here known as the "Bronze Crucifix." Next, we go into a room and start rifling through drawers, as heroes are wont to do, but one of the residents bursts in and accuses us of thievery. Evidently the crucifix has been stolen! (I thought this was setting us up for a "panty raid" joke, but fortunately that's not where the game goes.) We're quickly arrested, thrown in jail, and then brought before the queen. When we plead innocent, the queen decides to believe us...but only on the condition that we find the real thief, and that we leave behind one of our party members as a guaranty.

The game picks Torneko for us, but you can come back to the prison and switch out for whoever you want.

The Cave South of Gardenburg

After picking up rumors around town, we learn there's a cave south of the castle that might be where the thieves are holing up. The walk to the cave is super dangerous - you have to walk across quite a few hill and forest tiles to get there, meaning the encounter rates are extremely high, and all the enemies out here are capable of wiping us out in a few unlucky turns. Running is also a big risk, because if you fail, you're almost always going to eat massive damage for at least two turns. I've reset the game several times on my way to the cave.

The cave itself is long, and as of this writing, I still haven't gotten to the end of it. The encounter rate is thankfully quite low, but the enemies are so powerful that I've found myself running out of resources by the time we're about halfway through the first basement. I usually go in with a party consisting of Drac, Aleena, Lyan, and Mannya, opting for a purely offensive strategy. But the problem is that with only Drac on healing, I have to pull out of the dungeon once he's low on MP. Threats in this area include:

  • Ice Condors: These palette-swapped pteranodons sometimes appear in groups of three. They have an icy breath attack, which isn't too threatening, but they can also use a blizzard attack which deals 40~50 damage to each character. If a group of three condors all do this, I'm gonna lose at least one or two party members, even at full HP.
  • Dragonitts: These mini dragons look like a cross between a dragon and a dragonfly. Like the Ice Condors, they have a gas-breath attack which deals huge damage to everyone in the party.
  • Funbaba: This guy is a Balzac Mk. I palette swap and usually appears by himself. He's got strong physical attack, but otherwise he's the least threatening monster in the cave.
  • Great Walrus: A walrus who goes to the gym. As many as three of these show up at once, they can hit twice on a round, and they hit really really hard. Very scary.
  • Bereths: Chernabog wannabees with big wings and big scythes. I hate them. A group of three might all cast begirama, and they have way too many hit points.
  • Tyrannosaurus: Dinos with cool mohawks that aren't as scary as some of the others in the cave, but up to four of them appear at a time, and they're very fast.
  • Manrooster: Chicken men. They will bread you and fry you. One Manrooster isn't terrifying, but they will summon others, and the summoned help will get to attack on the same round they're summoned. In one encounter, I went from one Manrooster to five Manroosters in the same round. When a group is present, they can combine their power to do some sort of chi blast that has the same damage output as the Ice Condors' blizzard.
Mini-Medal Madness

Many of these enemies also appear in the overworld around Gardenburg, meaning it's just as dangerous to walk to the cave as it is to explore the cave. I've been in and out of this place at least five times so far. It's absolutely the most difficult dungeon I've attempted yet! After the last attempt, I took a break to pull my small medals out of the vault and visit the king who collects them. By this point I had 10 medals. The king has four items in in his inventory, with the most expensive being the 20-medal Rogue Metal Helmet. The next highest are the four-medal "Hat of Happiness" and the six-medal "Miracle Sword."

I'm sure the helmet is fine, but at this point I figured I might as well try out what the king has and see if it helps me in the dungeon. So I got the miracle sword for Lyan (which gave him a serious boost over his battle axe) and the happiness hat for Mannya (which didn't give her a big improvement, but might have some other game effect).

With those items I was able to do some shopping elsewhere, selling off excess equipment to finally pick up the 15,000-gold Rogue Metal Armor from Endor. Hopefully all this stuff will make the passage through the cave easier, although I doubt they will do much to protect us against spells and breath attacks...
 

Sarge

hardcore retro gamin'
I believe the Hat of Happiness lets you recover MP while walking around. Useful for spellcasters for sure - it may extend your dungeon jaunts, especially if you equip to a healer.
 

q 3

here to eat fish and erase the universe
(they/them)
Some armor does reduce damage from breath and spells. Does Torneko have the appraise ability? That can give details about equipment effects. Or maybe that's only in later games/remakes.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I believe the Hat of Happiness lets you recover MP while walking around. Useful for spellcasters for sure - it may extend your dungeon jaunts, especially if you equip to a healer.

Correct! It was also pointed out to me that the Happy Hat canonically looks like this:



BRB; getting enough mini-medals that everyone in the party can wear one.

I also quickly learned that the Miracle Sword occasionally siphons off enemy HP, and the two of these things together made my group swole enough to get to the deep end of the cave on the next pass. At the end, we find the suspicious bard sleeping in a little bedchamber and easily pluck the stolen crucifix out of his pocket. How did this mere bard get to the end of this monster-infested cave all by himself?

Well, when we try to leave, he wakes up all of a sudden, whips off his bard costume, and attacks!



"Thief Bakota" is also swole! He is a palette swap of one of the warriors we fought back in the Endor Martial Arts Tournament. He's got a strong physical attack and access to the powerful hyadalko spell, but with our fashionable new equipment we quickly beat him up and drag him back to Gardenburg, where he's thrown in prison. The queen thanks us and hands over the Final Key! She tells us we can also raid the castle's treasure room. Finally, she tells us that south of Gardenburg is (or was) a place (or person) named Rosary Hill, and was the domain of people who were not human.

This is the second mention we've seen of "Rosary," with the first being the dream sequence which we had in Imar. By the way, I've gone back to Imar and used the inn again, and you get the same dream sequence each time. On second pass, I realized that Pisaro was telling Rosary to wait for him, and that his dream was to "pass judgment" on the world, rather than turn it into a desert. And Rosary ends the dream by begging Pisaro to return.

Anyway, after this we head downstairs and grab the Sky Shield out of the castle's vault. The shield has some super special ability in combat, but so far I haven't been able to figure out exactly what it is. And speaking of that...

Some armor does reduce damage from breath and spells. Does Torneko have the appraise ability? That can give details about equipment effects. Or maybe that's only in later games/remakes.

Yes! Torneko's appraise is mighty useful in DQIV, and is way better than the merchant's appraisal ability in DQIII. Torneko tells you if the item is equipment, if it's one-time use, who can equip it, how much it would sell on the market, and whether it has some sort of special ability in combat. However, as far as I can tell, he doesn't tell you exactly what the item does, just if it has an ability at all.

The Great Backtrack

The Final Key, as per typical DQ tradition, can unlock dungeon/jail doors. And as per typical DQ tradition, once you have the final key you go back to every single town you've ever visited and unlock all the doors you've ever seen. So we did that! It took a while. But we found lots of great stuff, including a Frost Blade for Drac that can do a multi-target ice attack and some other goodies.

After that, I went back to the northeastern cove to dive into the shrine where the Sky Armor was supposedly hidden.

The cave has a neat gimmick: it's a water dungeon, which means you traverse most of it using your ship! The map has two different sets of enemies, one for the land tiles and one for the water tiles, and they're all some of the strongest we've faced so far. In fighting our way through this place we all gain a couple of levels, and at the end we pick up the Sky Armor. The armor is less powerful than Drac's Rogue Metal Armor, and she's the only one who can wear it, so I just let her hang onto it for the moment.

Next on my list was a little shrine I'd stumbled upon due south of Endor. This place has a cross sculpted onto the exterior, a row of jail doors blocking off the interior, and a very strong enemy set.

Past the door was another gimmick dungeon. This one reuses the slide tiles from the ice cavern, but the layout is very different - instead of big mazes of slide tiles, there are long pathways of them, and you have to navigate around a set of confusing upstairs/downstairs hallways and at least one teleporter.

It took two passes to get to the end. I noticed, on first pass, that Mannya has now learned mahotora, the DQ game's version of osmose/aspear from Final Fantasy. But I'm not sure what triggers her to use it, because the first pass through the cave got her all the way down to 0 MP and she never once tried to use it. Incidentally, we've also found a staff that causes magic drain on a physical hit, which we've given to Brye (he almost never uses it correctly).

Anyhow, on second pass, we got the treasure chest at the end, which I was hoping would give us the Sky Sword, but instead it gave us something called the "transform staff," which came with a key item jingle. Torneko says it's an item with a mysterious ability, but it doesn't equip to anyone and has no use in battle. I haven't found a plot hook for it yet, so it goes in the back with our other strange key items.

Next I'll be checking out the island area around Riverside. In the meanwhile, here's an updated list of loose ends:

  • Shrine South of Endor
  • Sky Armor
  • Sky Shield
  • Sky Helm
  • Sky Sword
  • Shrine North of Soretta (warp gates)
  • Gardenburg
  • Riverside (sealed "vehicles")
  • Mini-Medals
  • Magma Staff
  • Jail Key
  • Monster Castle Near Riverside
  • Gold Ring (Frenor)
  • Mountainous island at the center of the world map
  • Treasure area on map
  • Strange flute
  • Thirst stone
  • Bag from Riverside
  • Rosary Hill
  • Transform Staff
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
It's hard to get to Gardenburg. The route to the kingdom was blocked off after a volcanic eruption. To get there, you have to sail into a cove on the northeastern continent, walk a roundabout pathway through low hills and forests until you come to a conspicuous passage through high mountains that ends at one mountain tile with a noticeable crack down the center. If you stop here and use the Magma Staff, the cracked tile splits apart and lets you continue walking to Gardenburg.

For the record, this is the ONE place in DQ4 where I absolutely got stuck, and had to consult a guide. How the heck am I supposed to know I could use an item on that tile!? Sticks in my mind years later...
 

Beowulf

Son of The Answer Man
(He/Him)
For the record, this is the ONE place in DQ4 where I absolutely got stuck, and had to consult a guide. How the heck am I supposed to know I could use an item on that tile!? Sticks in my mind years later...
Well, if you'd played DQ3, there's a very similar point where you throw a sword into a volcano. Which, upon reflection, is also pretty obtuse.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Funny, I've consulted a guide here and there, but that part was crystal clear to me. There was an NPC in Batrand who mentioned the magma staff could help in getting to Gardenburg, so after that it was just a matter of finding the staff and the location to use it. I wonder if that NPC's dialogue had a translation issue in the US version.
 

gogglebob

The Goggles Do Nothing
(he/him)
I do not recall the exact time I played DQ4 for the first time, but it was definitely after playing 16-bit JRPGs. I guess I expected there to be, like, a "place" to use the item, like a fake little cave or field or something (thinking particularly of the mountain entrance for Frog's assault on Magus in Chrono Trigger here). Using it straight up on the world map seemed so wrong, like that couldn't be the answer...
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I do not recall the exact time I played DQ4 for the first time, but it was definitely after playing 16-bit JRPGs. I guess I expected there to be, like, a "place" to use the item, like a fake little cave or field or something (thinking particularly of the mountain entrance for Frog's assault on Magus in Chrono Trigger here). Using it straight up on the world map seemed so wrong, like that couldn't be the answer...

Oh yeah I totally get this. I also didn't really start playing 8-bit JRPGs until well after I'd been through games like Chrono Trigger and FFVI, and it took me a while to adjust. It's worth noting too that a younger version of me would absolutely have been stumped. Kid Drac couldn't even get halfway through Mystic Quest, for pete's sakes.

My dude, it has been ten months.

cool thanks for letting me know
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Kid Drac couldn't even get halfway through Mystic Quest, for pete's sakes.
You get stuck at the Falls Basin too? Took a good long while for my younger self to figure out that those giant ice pillars could be used as platforms. Likely 'cuz the game doesn't really have you use that Jump command too often until suddenly there's a dungeon where you actually need it.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
If you didn't move around almost entirely by jumping, you played FFMQ wrong.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
You get stuck at the Falls Basin too? Took a good long while for my younger self to figure out that those giant ice pillars could be used as platforms. Likely 'cuz the game doesn't really have you use that Jump command too often until suddenly there's a dungeon where you actually need it.

lol, this was exactly where I got stuck. And I jumped all the time! Everywhere! Jumping was my favorite! I was just a very stupid boy.

I also remember restarting my file several times and usually in those new files I wouldn't even be able to get past ol' Bonerus Rex.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Down by the Riverside

South of the village of Riverside is an overworld area we haven't paid much attention to yet. We can get to this area in two ways: either by simply sailing south of Riverside, or by warping to the west side of the island via the locked shrine near Soretta. But actually the latter doesn't work, because it just puts us in a place enclosed by mountains. This leaves me wondering if, at some point, we will lose our ship and be forced to travel here on foot.

Anyway, just a few paces south of Riverside is a shrine bordering a river. Across the river is another shrine, and apparently going in this direction will get us to a Monster Castle. But there's no way to cross the river! So we check out the shrine instead.



Here there is a little cottage with a priest, and this curious golden statue. I thought maybe we'd have to use one of our mysterious story items on this statue, but when we approach it...



It's a dungeon! The overworld sprite severely underrepresented how huge this statue actually is! I love how they used a limited tileset to communicate the statue's feet. I guess we enter via the bottom of the skirt.

The interior has what is, so far, a totally unique tileset! This dungeon is also unique - up to this point - in that we can't warp out of it. There are also only a couple of areas where we can dive off the side, and they're way up at the top. So we've got a job ahead of us.



The scariest foe keeping us from this goal are the Blizzardmen, a palette swap of the Burning Warriors we first saw back in the lighthouse. They sometimes appear in groups of three, and they have a high chance of casting zaki (instant death) on the first round of combat. Drac doesn't know a revival spell yet, so I either have to bring two healers or hope against hope their spell doesn't hit Minnea on the first round. And since DQ's revival spells always have a chance of failure, yeah.



The first several trips don't go too well.

But it's worth noting how idiosyncratic this dungeon is! We haven't seen a lot of "real place" feelin' dungeons in Dragon Quest yet - the design is usually communicated through a gimmick like slide tiles or through enemy sets. The river colossus has areas that communicate what part of the statue you're exploring - you go out a door onto the statue's left hand, later you have to jump out the statue's right eye to land on its right hand. And eventually, you get to the cranium:



"There's a lever. Pull it?"

If you choose "yes," the colossus picks up its feet and marches across the river, carrying you and your friends with it. Once it finishes its journey, you can dive out the ears and land on the overworld. What a cool dungeon!!!!!

Death Palace

Walking around on the other side of the river is nearly as stressful as the inside of the colossus, because (1) the same enemy set is present and (2) your wagon doesn't follow you here. So you can't just switch out party members if you lose one. Fortunately, it's a fairly short hike to the east side of the island, where we do, in fact, find a monster castle.

In my first pass through this castle, I tried talking to the monsters and they all attacked me. So I snuck around in the dark and looted the treasure room. But it turned out that this was the place I'm supposed to use the transformation staff that we found earlier! I might have realized this before I came out here if I'd gone to Rosary Hill first, but more on that later.

The transformation staff turns the whole party into a random NPC (duplicated four times), and if that NPC is a monster, the characters in Death Palace are friendly to you. There's all sorts of fun stuff to see in Death Palace - monsters complaining about their jobs, monsters taking naps, people locked in the dungeon waiting to be cooked and eaten...oh wait, that's not fun. But the people do use the standard Looney Tunes "Don't eat me! I taste terrible!" dialogue, which makes it feel more comedic than horrifying. Although there is a priest in one cell who merely begs god for deliverance. Okay, it's pretty horrifying.

But even if you unlock their cells, they just wander around aimlessly, so we check out the rest of the dungeon.



Here's one of my favorite bits. There's a skeleton lying on the ground in one of these bedrooms. When you talk to him, it initially gives you the standard "there's no response..." you get when you try talking to a corpse. But then it leaps to its feet!

The skeleton was a monster!
* "Don't wake me up! I'm sleepy. Mumble mumble..."

Near the napping skeleton is a rogue armor who tells us we're late for the "meeting" upstairs. So we head up there and find ourselves in the castle throne room, where there's a group of monsters all waiting in their seats. We take a place and, after a moment, someone warps in. It's Pisaro! He asks for a report, and we hear news that "Hell Emperor Estark," a baddie we haven't heard of yet, has been revived in the Attemto Mines. Pisaro orders his troops to move out to Attemto.

Can I just say - this whole segment is SO COOL. I love how it shows the movements of the game's antagonists like this. And the idea of there being all these disparate rulers from hell that Pisaro is trying to either gather up or ally with hints at a much larger world that we haven't seen yet.

DQIV does a great job of making you feel like you're part of an ongoing story, and living in a world full of moving parts that grow and change over time. This is the first DQ game that has given me that sense of story that I've often felt in later JRPGs. It's great! It's one reason I've been unable to put this game down.

Anyway, now that we know where Pisaro is going, we can head him off at the pass. But I decide to go somewhere else first, just on a hunch.

Rosary Hill

Last time we were in Gardenburg, the queen told us there was a place south of the castle known as "Rosary Hill." The area around the castle only contains the cave where we fought Bakota, so I start sailing around the middle of the continent trying to find a village I haven't seen yet. And, sure enough, I find one!

Rosary Hill is one of the tiniest villages we've seen yet, and hey, it's inhabited by tiny people (they refer to themselves as hobbits!). Amusingly, a single old man operates the town's church, item shop, weapon shop, and armor shop all by himself, and he does it by rushing from storefront to storefront. You have to catch him at the appropriate counter to get the service you need.

The hobbits in this village tell us that the tower at the north end of town is home to an elf named Rosary whose tears are said to transform into rubies. A ghost on the village outskirts tells us many come to this town to try to bully Rosary into crying out gemstones so they can get rich. And indeed, there's a knight staying at the inn who tells us he's straight up here to get them rubies. And on the north side of town is that same tower we saw in the dream at Imar.

If we go to the tower at night, we can even see Rosary leaning out the window, just like in the dream. But there seems to be no way to get to her - the main entrance has no upstairs access. A boy in the village tells us he's heard there's a secret entrance to the tower somewhere, and the nun inside says the place was built by Pisaro, who incorporated hidden rooms.

At this point I remembered that, in the dream sequence, Pisaro goes to the tower's top floor via secret stairway on the grounds. But investigating the ground yields nothing. So I went back to Imar and had the dream sequence one more time, and this time, I noticed the strange flute jingle that plays just before the stairs appear.

Hey! I have a strange flute!

And sure enough, playing the flute outside the castle reveals the stairs! Up at the top, we find that Rosary's room is guarded by a boss known as the Pisaro Knight. This guy looks like just another Rogue Armor palette swap, but he's got tons of HP and gives us 6,000+ XP for beating him, so it's clearly meant to be a climactic battle. But he's ultimately pretty easy to defeat.

Inside, we find Rosary. The poor elf is still grieving over Pisaro, whose actions she can no longer condone. She tells us up front that Pisaro and Despisaro are one and the same, and she wishes for nothing more than for us to crush his ambitions. With those words she sheds a single tear, which transforms into a ruby that dissolves in Drac's hand.

Beyond this, Rosary's slime handservant also tells us where to find the transformation staff, and that we could use it to infiltrate Death Palace. I guess the game probably meant for me to do this area first!

Anyway, next we'll go see about this Estark fella. In closing, the Pisaro Knight has a great name in the English versions:



Now, as for our list of loose ends:

  • Shrine South of Endor
  • Sky Armor
  • Sky Shield
  • Sky Helm
  • Sky Sword
  • Shrine North of Soretta (warp gates)
  • Gardenburg
  • Riverside (sealed "vehicles")
  • Mini-Medals
  • Magma Staff
  • Jail Key
  • Monster Castle Near Riverside
  • Gold Ring (Frenor)
  • Mountainous island at the center of the world map
  • Treasure area on map
  • Strange flute
  • Thirst stone
  • Bag from Riverside
  • Rosary Hill
  • Transform Staff
  • Hell Emperor Estark
 
lol, this was exactly where I got stuck. And I jumped all the time! Everywhere! Jumping was my favorite! I was just a very stupid boy.

Count me into the club of dumb children stumped by what was probably supposed to be the world's easiest block pushing dungeon. I even understood you could jump on the ice blocks and everything. I was just horrible at that kind of puzzle. I eventually got through it by sheer dumb luck, but couldn't consistently replicate it on future play throughs.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Digging Too Deep

Attemto, on second visit, is even more depressing than it was before, if such a thing is possible. It appears there are fewer people in the village, although they at least seem to have buried their dead. But since we looted the mines for dynamite and half the people in town died from poisonous gas, they've apparently continued digging! That seemed like a poor choice!

When we go into the mine, the first couple floors are the same as they were originally, but now there are more dead people around, and the few that are still alive seem to have more or less lost their minds. Once we go down about three levels, the enemy sets get stronger. The dungeon has also gotten more spread out, with quite a few new side passages and dead ends.

At the end of the fourth level down, we find this cleared-away passage and an exhausted miner collapsed nearby:



"We did it! The mine's finally struck gold! *Cough*...

Yeah, you sure struck something, my dude.

Through the passage we find ourselves in a vast cave full of tall stalagmites and temple-like structures. Immediately it's obvious that this is an important area, as the tileset is totally unique, so far. Just inside this cave there's a little shrine with a full-heal tile, which is very good, because I've been doing this delve with only Drac as a healer.



The temple entrance leads to a no-frills dungeon crawl with a lot of treasure rooms, quite a few mimics, two distinct pathways, and new enemy types. Fortunately Brye's inpass spell helps us get around the mimics (the current mimic type in the game usually spends its first turn casting an all-party instant death spell). I love some of the new enemies in this area:



The Slime Behomazun on the left casts a powerful healing spell on itself or its allies every round, but it can be defeated by sealing its magic, which fortunately the AI is smart enough to know. The Anklehorn is pretty much a heavy physical attacker, but if it gets to low HP, it can turn red and buff its own stats. There's lots of other baddies to face in here, mostly made up of Reaper skeletons and Ryverns. The latter are pretty annoying, because they often summon dinosaurs that cast healing spells, and their physical attack has a chance of causing poison, which is actually a threat to us since we've left the healers above-ground and Drac can't heal poison on his own.

Anyway, as mentioned, the dungeon has two pathways. On the first run, we ended up on the wrong one, which leads us to Estark's throne room but with no way to get to Estark. Actually the throne room perimeter is entirely made up of damaging tiles, and we end up dying here while I'm trying to figure out if there's anything else in the room (there's not).

On the second pass, we go the right way, and make a stop in a room where a skeleton NPC guards a conspicuous treasure chest. He tells us he's Estark's immortal servant, and his life force is tied to Estark, meaning he'll never go away so long as Estark lives. Guess we have something to visit on the way out.

When we get to the throne room, there are a couple of monster NPCs standing between us and Estark. I assumed we'd meet Despisaro here, but it turns out they're just some guard mooks. When we refuse to leave, they attack.



Rhino King is a new one, but I think we've fought Bengals before. Both of them have been palette-swapped several times. Rhino King can hit us very hard twice per turn, but otherwise these two go down fast.

And ahead of us we find the still-slumbering boss...



地獄の帝王エスターク
Emperor of Hell Estark
Oh shit! Estark is so huge that the level counters go away to make room for him. He also gets his own boss battle music:


He spends the first turn asleep, so like a total gamer pro I accidentally pick "run" and completely waste it.

Beyond this, though, the battle goes pretty well. Estark gets two actions in a round, but he often uses it to shoot beams from his fingers that erase whatever spell effects we've put on ourselves. He also has a blizzard breath attack that's pretty scary, carving off 50+ HP from everyone except Drac, and his physical attack is the most powerful we've seen yet.

I was literally on the edge of my seat here, not expecting a super special boss with super special music. So far, the DQs haven't done something like toss a final boss battle into the mix mid-game! Well, we had to revive Brye once, but otherwise, my all-out offensive strategy worked, and once Aleena got that critical hit we were able to put Estark down for good.

Once the battle ends, Despisaro enters stage left with an imp minion and quickly discovers the hell emperor's fate. According to prophecy, he says, only the destined hero can destroy a hell emperor! "Could that be you?" he says out loud. But before he has a chance to do anything about, his minion says that something has happened with Rosary, and the two baddies beat it.

We can't warp out of Estark's temple, probably because the game doesn't want us to miss the treasure in the room with the skeleton guardian. When we pass by that room again, the skeleton is gone, so we can easily loot the chest. Inside is a "gas bag," which I've seen reference to in Riverside, but I don't know what it's for.

Next, back to Rosary Hill.

  • Shrine South of Endor
  • Sky Armor
  • Sky Shield
  • Sky Helm
  • Sky Sword
  • Shrine North of Soretta (warp gates)
  • Gardenburg
  • Riverside (sealed "vehicles")
  • Mini-Medals
  • Magma Staff
  • Jail Key
  • Monster Castle Near Riverside
  • Gold Ring (Frenor)
  • Mountainous island at the center of the world map
  • Treasure area on map
  • Strange flute
  • Thirst stone
  • Bag from Riverside
  • Rosary Hill
  • Transform Staff
  • Hell Emperor Estark
  • Gas bag
 
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