The Dragon Slayer games were among the original JRPGs, with the first entry in the series released in 1984. They sort of meandered around through four or five entries on the early Japanese PCs before establishing the "Legend of Heroes" series with this first title to give everything a stronger ongoing universe and story. So if you're looking for a modernized jumping-off point for the Dragon Slayer games, this is the first one that doesn't require dealing with clunky antiquated gameplay on obscure Japanese computers and is also the beginnings of what would eventually develop into the standalone modern Legend of Heroes series.

Anyway. It's absolutely in line with what you should expect from a late 80s-early 90s computer RPG out of Japan. Blocky tile-based movement, basic combat patterned after Dragon Quest, and an extremely linear structure shuttling you through some fantasy world as the forces of King Good fight Lord Evil and suchforth. Dragon Slayer has a couple of things setting it apart from the pack, however. One is the CD format, which allows it to have some voice acting, quality music and anime cutscenes once in a while. The other is that the interface is unusually polished and the whole procedure is markedly more player-considerate than most games from this time, in little details such as menu navigation and the ability to save/load anywhere.

The plot doesn't appear to tie into the previous Dragon Slayer games, establishing a new game world used as a foundation for a new series. The story here is the standard thing with a kingdom being usurped by an evil advisor, the baby prince is smuggled out by a faithful member of the court and raised in secret until he comes of age to reclaim the throne, etc. Under the player's control, the prince already has the advisor overthrown by chapter 3, but the bulk of the game is in chasing him all over the world as the prince decides to DIY instead of delegating. All of this a contrivance to pull you into a linear chain of town-dungeon-town-dungeon, of course.

The game's art design is fairly typical fantasy animu of the period, maybe with a touch of Phantasy Star influence even though there are no futuristic elements to it. There is some voice acting at certain key points, though it's also the usual thing of the period where a Japanese company grabbed some local gaijin backpackers or something with little acting ability and voices that really don't suit their characters. Does make for some entertaining cheese though. Even though it's not by Working Designs, the script also has a similar irreverent style where it inserts a lot of modern jokes and clearly isn't following the original text at times.

The best thing about the game is probably the CD audio. You would expect Falcom to bring it in this category and they don't disappoint, though it's more of an 80s synth-pop style than epic buttrock. I especially appreciated the guitar player livening up the usual overworld trudge with their crunchy solos. Anyway, this soundtrack will trip you straight back to the late 80s - early 90s if you were there for it.

Visually, combat is as basic as it gets with smushy monster sprites, black backgrounds and no animation. On the plus side, it plays very well. It's speedy, and there are lots of auto-battle options. The overworld monsters actually move about the map, though you can't see them at first - you get a lens some ways into the game that makes them visible. The game is also divided into chapters, and with each new chapter the monsters from the areas in the previous chapters are removed.

Combat is also at least a touch more strategic than the usual JRPG grindfest of the era. Bosses can be debuffed in many cases, and usually require you to unless you're over-leveled. When you level up, you can distribute points as you choose so you're free to make the natural fighters into competent magic users and vice versa if you really want to. Also, spells are purchased in this game and any character can use any of them - the only limitations are limited slots in each spellbook and character MP.

This kind of simple old RPG can be a tonic, I suppose, especially when it's this well-executed. Thus the 3/5 rating. But honestly, I didn't get much more than a couple of hours into it. I spent like 20-25 minutes Grindan in an area and bought all the best equipment and spells available, went into the next area, and was promptly almost wiped out by the first monster party. EVEN MORE GRINDAN REQUIRED. Sorry man, but that period of my life is over. I'm middle age now, I ain't got time for all that. The game is estimated at about 20 hours to complete, but probably like 8-10 of that is going to be walking in stupid circles trying to get powerful enough to cross the next bridge or get through the next cave without being annihalated. The story definitely doesn't do enough to make up for all that.

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