Dragon Knight II (ドラゴンナイトＩＩ)
Released 8/7/1992, published by NEC Avenue
|Messania, the game’s adversary|
I mentioned back in my Cosmic Fantasy post that the PC Engine, for whatever reason, became the platform for releasing games that featured a lot of erotic content. I’m not sure what the legal issues are because none of the games were ever full “eroge” (pornographic games). It seems unlikely to me that every game publisher would have just agreed not to release eroge for consoles. Dragon Knight II, as far as I know, is the first time a publisher released a toned-down version of an eroge for a console. This is now standard practice, with eroge of all kinds being released on consoles in cleaned-up versions.
|The status screen, showing your “Deffence” and the “Blord Sword” (Broad Sword) equipped|
Dragon Knight is an interesting series, and the Hardcore Gaming article has a detailed history (NSFW, although the actual porn images are censored unless you click on them. I don’t know why the style of the page has been removed.) Apparently it was the first eroge to try to focus on the gameplay in addition to the erotic content. The first two follow a Wizardry-style of gameplay, the third is more console-JRPG style, and the fourth is a strategy RPG.
|Now I’ve picked up “Scail Armor”|
All four games came out for computers, but as I indicated above, ELF decided to also port them all to consoles. Thus all four games will be on this blog — the first three on PC Engine, and the last on the Super Famicom. The original DK was not released until 1995 so first up is the second game. The third game was actually released in English as “Knights of Xentar,” which CRPGAddict covered on his blog. I remember playing that at a friend’s house.
The game begins with the hero Takeru (Desmond in the English version of Xentar) losing a drinking bet with Barn (Rolf in Xentar). He has to deliver a sacred book to the town of Phoenix. There, he visits various places, meeting the young women there. (One note: if you’ve played Knights of Xentar in the English translation, they made a lot of arbitrary changes — Takeru, unlike Desmond, doesn’t stink or have a small penis.)
|The item shop owner and his daughters|
The art is very much 80s anime style. All the sequences are voiced, although there seemed to be problems playing the voice in some cases — I’m not sure if this is an emulation bug or a problem with the original. Takeru is played by Kamiya Akira, who is best known for playing various “manly” hero roles such as Kenshiro in First of the North Star, or Ryoma in Getter Robo. Barn is Ginga Banjo, another “manly” character actor. A few other characters have prominent voice actors, such as Kate (Hisakawa Aya) but most of them are unknowns (I think).
|The weapon shop owner and his daughters|
Takeru spends the night in Phoenix. The next day, all the women of the village are gone. The sorceress Messiana has bewitched them all, changed them into monsters, and put them in the tower. This tower is 300 years old and was involved in a war between the witches and dragon knights. Messania hates all men based on that war and thus has taken all the women. The book that Takeru was delivering to Phoenix was supposed to seal Messania away, but now the pages are scattered around the tower. Collecting them will enable Takeru to return each girl to normal. Takeru is really reluctant to take this task on, but the mayor is able to convince him by promising money, and maybe “special favors” from the women he saves.
The gameplay follows Wizardry, but the system itself is far less developed and interesting. As you can see above, it’s a normal first person map, with an automap at the top left. There is something fun about filling in all the squares of the map, and this is one of those games where every square is accessible, making it easier to find secret doors. Soon, Takeru encounters his first monster.
All of the monsters in the game are the transformed women from Phoenix town. Because they’re intended to excite the player, the “monster” graphics are quite detailed, much better than any other RPG of this time period. The battle system is about as dead simple as can be; you basically just mash attack in every fight. Levelling gives you so much of a power boost that equipment is pointless, and when you get Sophia later and get spells there’s not much point using them. When you first get to a new floor the monsters can be difficult, but after a couple of levels you’ll plow through everything. So if you’re looking for a game with a satisfying battle system, this isn’t it. So Takeru beats the mummy.
|“How can you do this to a lady!”|
Each time you beat the monsters you get a scene like above; the idea is that the woman then runs off and regenerates, to fight again later. In the PC version these scenes were fully nude, but they’ve been censored for the PCE version. Unfortunately this whole setup does include suggestions of violence and rape, issues that often come up with eroge and other pornographic media. Ultimately it’s not as bad as it could be because the “cutting off clothes by force” doesn’t lead to sex, just titillation for the player. The basic goal of the game is to find all 27 pages of the book around in the dungeon. When you get a page, the next time you encounter that monster you’ll have an additional option “release”. This frees the woman from the spell, giving you another scantily clad image:
|Eve, released from her mummy form|
Afterwards, you’ll get a special scene in town — most of them activate by staying at the inn, but a few involve other places. From what I can gather, I think that in the PC version all of the scenes were sexual — the idea is that the mayor and other people have encouraged the girls to go “thank” Takeru for saving them, and this leads to sex. I’m not sure what restrictions the developers might have been under porting it to the PC Engine, but they did not simply retain the scenes but fade to black before anything explicit happened. Only a handful of the scenes clearly end in sex (though off screen). The rest either make Takeru think the girl is going to have sex with him only to be disappointed, or are about something else entirely. Eve is one of the former; she wants to “teach” Takeru things which he hopes will be sexual, but it turns out to just be herbal lore.
So that’s the “reward” side of the game — what about the dungeon exploration? As I said before, the combat is unsatisfying, but the rest of the exploration is not that bad. On the first floor of the tower, there are several locked doors that you’ll have to return to later. Takeru also finds Pietro, the fiance of Kate (the daughter of the mayor) wounded.
He’s clutching one of the book pages (the mummy one). Elsewhere on the floor there is a rat who becomes a recurring character in the game. He wants cheese and wine from the pub in town.
Once he gets his wish he gives you a clue to unlocking the elevator to other floors, and gives up another page of the book. Finally, once the lift starts moving, another book page falls out. Most of the floors have several puzzles and events. So the exploration of the floors is more interesting than the older Wizardry games. Also the goal of finding all the pages and then “curing” the monsters (which then are no longer encountered) is a non-standard gameplay idea, even if it is geared towards erotic scenes.
Barn joins the party soon, and later in the game Sophia, a mage, completes the party. Her spells are pointless other than the healing spells. However, there is a lot of humorous banter between Sophia, Takeru, and Barn.
|This is one of the scenes that does end in implied sex|
So is this a good game? Eh, probably not. For a 1992 console RPG it’s graphically impressive, if you can stand the 80s anime art. The story, while not amazing, has some twists and is not the worst storyline I’ve seen on this blog. Takeru is not the typical “destined hero” protagonist. The combat may as well not exist, even if the “monsters” are all very detailed. There is always something fun about exploring the 18×18 maps and filling in all the squares on the automap. The game is quite short (it only took me 8 hours, although that’s including speeding up most of the battles; probably closer to 12-15 played on an actual console). But the brevity may actually help the game.
|Giant Spider enemy|
I have a feeling this would get a low score on CRPGAddict’s GIMLET ranking. I’m not going to try to rank it myself on his scale, but the “economy” and “equipment” would suffer since there’s no point to equipment or buying anything.
It was an interesting decision for Elf and NEC Avenue to try to port this game to a console. Did they feel that it stood on its own as an RPG without the erotic content? Did they think the titillation factor even in the censored game was enough to sell it? Were they hoping it would act as sort of an advertisement for the full computer versions? It must have sold decently, because they ported Dragon Knight III two years later, and a remake of Dragon Knight I in 1995. Dragon Knight 4 was then ported both to Super Famicom (in its waning years) and the Playstation. So, as I said above, I’ll be returning to this series again later.