FUSHIGI NO DUNGEON: TALOON'S QUEST / Enix / SNES
 
 
Chun Soft developed this one, and if you're not familiar with the name, they also developed the first five Dragon Quest games -- thus the presence of DQIV's jolly rotund merchant Taloon and a smorgasboard of various common enemies from the series. Back when this came out in the early '90s, Roguelike games were still fairly few and far between and only played by hardcore PC nerds, they didn't have the cachet they do now with stuff like FTL and the Pokiemans Mystery Dungeon series (the latter also by Chun Soft). Taloon's Quest was actually probably responsible for reviving the Roguelike, as this would spin off into Shiren the Wanderer, Pokemon and a long related series, which in turn attracted their own clones.
 


This first one is a little easier on you than most of the Roguelike field, though that's not to say it isn't challenging. The story is that Taloon packs up his family and moves to this new village (named by you at the outset) because he wants to delve into the depths of the Mystery Dungeon for all the supposed fabulous treasures therein. The King of this land grants you permission to plumb the depths provided you first successfully complete a training dungeon of 10 floors (which you have to make your way out of once you've recovered an item at the bottom, so really 20 floors). The deal is that getting killed in the real dungeon gets you tossed out by the monsters; as expected, you lose all of your items and go back to level 1, but you get to keep half the gold you found. While the training dungeons has stairs up and out, the real dungeon can only be exited by finding an Outside Scroll, which are randomly generated.
 


If you've played the later games in the Mystery Dungeon series, this one is less sophisticated, lacking stuff like the NPC party members and the ability to create new items by merging certain ones together. It does have the "warehouse" system, of a sort ... once you get into the real dungeon, a safe will always be generated somewhere on level 10, and if you escape with it you get the ability to stash items for use in a later dungeon run. Until then, any weapons and items you bring out are automatically converted to gold instead. Gold is used to gradually upgrade your little weapon shop and living area, which doesn't do a whole lot to help your quest, but at least gives some minor ongoing sense of progress.

There actually aren't many enemies that are a real threat to kill you until you get down to around level 8 or so, but as early as 3 or 4 you start getting all these annoyances who spam status effects. Lowering your strength until you find an antidote, stealing a chunk of money or an item and disappearing, teleporting you to a random spot on the floor, etc. The challenge is mostly in carefully managing your inventory to use the limited amount of range weapons and spells you find to neutralize or quickly kill these more irritating enemies, at least until you get to the lower depths, where you also have to start using special items to neutralize the hardcore killers like the Gold Golems and Dragons that are roaming around.
 


But the hardest bit of the game is simply that the generation of two key items -- bread and Outside herbs -- seems to be truly random and I've gone as far as 12 floors without finding food and 22 without finding an Outside herb before (but have also had runs where I got an Outside herb on the 4th floor and every other floor was piled up with loaves). With the paucity of bread, a run stands almost as good a chance of ending due to starvation as it does by getting killed. And there's no other way to exit except for finding an Outside herb, so don't get overly attached to that Dragon Sword +4 and Mirror Shield +3 you're toting around, odds are the game is gonna find a way to snatch them from you eventually.

That's how the Roguelike works, though, and you know that going in. Chun Soft would do a little better with later entries in the series (immediate sequel Shiren is my favorite Roguelike of all time), but this is a solid one and DQ fans will enjoy all the series tie-ins.
 
 
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