The giant robot has sacrificed himself so we can progress. The first place in the new area is a dragon shrine, where Kurisu can fight to prove himself.
It’s a one-on-one fight but with enough healing herbs it’s no problem. After defeating him, Kurisu gains the power to transform into various dragons in combat. This is a very helpful thing to do in boss fights, but his MP aren’t really high enough to make it viable otherwise.
|Kurisu as a dragon in a boss fight|
The next location is the Town of Light, where we immediately get thrown into jail on suspicion of wanting to steal the town treasure. A grey-skinned man breaks us out (and will do it over and over again if you keep getting captured). Talking to the town leader, we begin another nested fetch quest — the ultimate goal is to unlock the safe where the guy’s daughter is trapped and get the man’s ship in exchange. This requires a thief. In the next town, the town of darkness, we learn that a master thief is training in a crypt across the desert, which requires an Ice Fan to cross. The guy offers to give us one for a gold bar. The gold bar costs 65,000 and I only had 25,000 so I figured there must be some way to get one, but I couldn’t figure it out, and had to look at a walkthrough.
As it turns out there is no trick, you actually have to make 65K. But there are several events you can do in the Dark and Light towns to make a lot of money, and there’s a Gold Tiara that sells for 13K. So buy the gold bar, head back to the Dark Town, and trade it for the Ice Fan. Then we can cross the desert.
|The desert town|
The crypt requires a flute to reach, which we get by defeating the Sand Worm at night in the town. Now finally we can enter the crypt and find the thief. Most of the chests in this place are trapped, and there are a lot of pitfalls. But once you find Dank, the thief, putting him at the head of the party can unlock doors and get rid of the traps, and notice the pitfalls. I picked up some strong headgear called Skull Face, which I equipped – now I just learned that these actually double the damage you take, and I still have them equipped on some of my guys. Next time I play I’ll get rid of them. At least DQ has the courtesy to play the curse music…
|Dank joins the team|
After a boss fight, Dank opens eight different crypts looking for the item that will make him a master thief. The 8th one has a message that if he’s managed to open all the crypts, he’s already a master thief. So now we can take him around to all the locked doors up to now and get some neat items, and then release the woman at the Town of Light. Unfortunately she won’t leave the basement because her father wants to give the Key of Light to the Dark Dragons. Maybe if his dead wife could speak to him he’d listen…
So now it’s off to the nearby tower to get both the Dark Key and the Mirror of Hades.
|Part of the Tower of Dark and Light|
With the mirror I show the man’s dead wife to him and he finally agrees not to turn over the light key.
|Using the mirror to show Rozorta’s dead wife|
So now we finally have a ship!….for about 5 seconds, then the Dark Dragon armies destroy it. Fortunately we can steal another ship from a nearby fort. A sea creature called Maneelo, who speaks in Kansai dialect, tells us about this and offers us gun powder to open the fort in exchange for another gold bar. Fortunately there was one in a cave along the way so it’s not necessary to make another 65K.
This requires defeating a bunch of Dark Dragon soldiers, and eventually their commander, an octopus or squid monster.
|Most of the Dark Dragon soldiers transform into these kind of creatures|
Now we have the ship, and Maneelo will help us pilot it! So off to the high seas…for about 5 seconds, until we get surrounded by Dark Dragon ships.
|On the high seas|
The ship is boarded, but Maneelo has a plan — blow up the ship using the cannon barrels in the hold, and Maneeloo will carry us to safety. Along the way, the next boss is the brother of the squid boss earlier. His “0 hp” message is “Tears come to his eyes!” I thought that was in reference to his brother but I’ve seen the same message for other monsters so you don’t have to feel sad for him.
The ship blows up, and Maneelo carries us to the safety of a desert island. How are we going to get off? Well, Maneelo can go back to his home town under the sea and get something that lets us breathe underwater, but we have to pay him 100,000 gold. Or give him all of our stuff, so that’s where we end up. Now Maneelo is alone, and I thought this part was kind of unfair because the enemies under the water are way too strong for him. I immediately got a game over, but fortunately that sends you to Makka, the town you’re trying to get to.
Makka is a trading town with a bunch of stores, and Maneelo can set up a shop himself and get and sell items. Apparently this is a way to get some rare items and the strongest weapons in the game for a few people. The leader won’t give Maneelo the gills, though, because they haven’t gotten any shipments from Gantz. So Maneelo has to go by himself — in Gantz, the people have all been taken away by the Dark Dragon clan but for now we just have to return the items and get the gills. There’s also a problem — the Clan attacked some of the Gantz people and one escaped, but the Grim Reaper is hovering over his head. Maneelo accepts some money from the leader to bring back the main characters, who beat up the Reaper. The Gantz person, Bilder, joins the party, and now we can bust through walls if he’s at the head.
|Maneelo and Bilder join|
After going back to some previous areas to get the treasures behind the walls, it was time to save the people of Gantz. We can break through the walls to get there, but there are too many troops. So it’s time to backtrack, fetch quest, and finally end up with a Cockatrice egg, which leads the Cockatrices to the fortress.
Now it’s an easy task to beat the boss and save the men — but we still need to destroy the weapon that the Gantz men were captured to work on. The suggestion is that a sleeping magician in the wandering city will help us. I saw this city in the desert earlier when I was getting Dank, and now with the help of an item from Makka I can finally enter it.
|The mermaid magician|
After beating some guardian spirits, who seem rather apologetic, Deeth (Dees?) joins the team. She’s very rude and blunt spoken, but she gives me an egg. If I drop it in lava it will grow into a monster that will attack the ships with the powerful weapon on it. This goes swimmingly (after a tough boss battle), and the weapon is destroyed.
|Zorgon and Judas|
Afterwards there’s a cutscene with Zorgon, the leader of the Dark Dragon Clan, and Judas, his underling. One of the big plot holes that is in many RPGs is that the final boss often knows the heroes are making progress but does nothing directly to stop them, and there’s often no real explanation for why. Judas, too, farms the job off to his Shitenno (four kings, as usual) rather than just going in and beating them down. So this seems like a good place to stop this post — I’m well past this point so I should be able to finish this week.
Dank's portrait comes off as rather racist, in a caricature sort of way. Maybe it's just me.
It's not just you. The skin color is grey, but it looks reminiscent of blackface or minstrel-style art. It's either a coincidence or the artist was inspired by something from the US (maybe old Disney cartoons). But it's not as bad as it could be, I guess.
They have quite a varied roster of races and animals in this setting. Was Dank's portrait changed at all in the international versions?
Oh, is this game's text all in hira/katakanas? No kanji?
Yes, no kanji. The use of kanji has been pretty uneven in all the games I've played so far — Dragon Quest V and Ogre Battle are the only two games I've played on the blog so far that have used normal Japanese writing. Benkei Gaiden had the normal kanji-kana mix but the kanji are oversized and so it's not a normal font. All the other games have used either all kana, or mostly kana with only a handful of kanji.
By contrast, all 9 PCE games I've played so far use normal Japanese fonts with the standard mix of kanji-kana. I would love to know more details about the programming behind this — clearly the size of the storage media has something to do with it and maybe once larger carts become the standard on SFC the all-kana writing goes away.
As for Dank, from what I can see his portrait was changed in the English version to make him white; I guess the localizers were concerned with how it looked. The same thing was done in the GBA remake. I assume all the other people from his same clan/race were changed as well.
That's interesting. You'd think allocating memory to draw even a basic 50-100 kanji would save them enough memory to account for longer text strings they have to write as is.
With the early SFC carts memory has to be a concern, but I recall even the Japanese DS Pokemon games use all hira/katakana fonts without any kanji for some reason, and that's a format I hardly believe has any trouble with cart size as fonts are concerned.
When you get to the GBA and DS, the problem is screen resolution rather than cart size. The kanji they use on the GBA and DS are often so squished that unless you already have some idea of what the word is supposed to be, you're not going to be able to read it. This is fine for adults but for children they probably find the hiragana easier to read.
Well, arguably you could find games using mostly kanji even on the Famicom – Moon Crystal comes to mind, though I guess it wasn't a massive, text-heavy RPG, so that's not as surprising… and it's an exception that proves the rule anyway. On the other hand, Japanese PCs made use almost exclusively of kanji, like PC-98s – then again, it was an adult platform, anyway, as opposed to FC/SFC which were toys. That must've had some influence on it, too.
The PC Engine CD unit had a kanji font built in to its firmware. The built-in font only included JIS X 0208 Level 1 (the most common 2965 kanji), and I remember reading that this affected the naming of characters in Tokimeki Memorial.
I guess that use of kanji is another way in which Dragon Quest 5 and Final Fantasy 5 raised the bar for SFC RPGs. Starting in 1993, kanji fonts become much more common. Even games clearly targeted at a very young audience, like Rayearth, start using them.
The technical issue is that all graphics on the SFC (and almost all consoles prior to the PS1/Saturn generation) are based on 8×8-pixel tiles. Displaying graphical elements that are a multiple of 8×8 pixels in size is much, much simpler than graphics that aren't aligned to the grid. However, an 8-pixel pitch is really not enough pixels for legible kanji, while at the SFC's resolution 16-pixel pitch is just a bit too big. So using kanji generally means you have to render your text the harder way.
Thanks for the info!
"The mermaid magician"
She is half-snake, making her naga or lamia, as you may have noticed later on, then you seen her combat sprite. And her name usually romanized as Deis.