Dragon Knight 4 (ドラゴンナイト４), originally released for PC in 1994, then ported to Super Famicom in 1996, and Playstation/PC-FX in 1997, developed by Elf
Elf was a pioneering company in the field of eroge (this term, a shortening of “erotic game”, is the normal term used in Japanese rather than “hentai”, which is only used in English). In 1992 they released Dokyusei (classmates), the first dating sim eroge and one of the first dating sims of any kind. Dragon Knight, which they made in 1989, was an attempt at making an RPG eroge — although there were 4 games in the Dragon Knight series, few other companies seem to have copied this style. I’m not all that knowledgeable about the eroge landscape, but I have a feeling that fans preferred games like visual novels and dating sims which seemed to integrate the erotic content more closely to the game, rather than RPGs which just had random sex scenes.
All four Dragon Knight games were released in censored versions for consoles — the first three for the PC Engine, and Dragon Knight 4 for three separate platforms. I covered the first and second games, and CRPG Addict did posts on the third game, released in English as Knights of Xentar. The first two games were first-person dungeon crawlers, the third was a more standard RPG, and the 4 is an SRPG.
The three console versions were all modified versions of the original game. The Super Famicom version redid the story, added additional characters, and used a normal XP/level model instead of the more peculiar levelling system of the original. The PSX version is basically an upgraded port of the SFC version but made much more difficult, and with voicing in the scenes. The PC-FX version is essentially a direct port of the PC version without the sex scenes, although there is less censorship than either of the other two ports. There is also a lot more voicing in the PC-FX version.
After a lot of thought I decided to play the Playstation version.
The opening story is in the demon world, where one of the 4 generals of the demons, Lushifon, is in love with Mano, the daughter of Minax, the demon king. When Mano’s sister reveals the affair to Minax, Minax imprisons Lushifon in the space between worlds. But many thousands of years later he called Lushifon back and tells him that if he can accomplish a certain task, he will let him take Mano as his bride. Lushifon has to go back in time to kill Yamato Takeru (the hero of the first 3 Dragon Knight games).
Lushifon decides there’s no point killing Takeru if another hero just takes his place, so instead he starts to take over the world, and also use a black mist that turns everyone to stone. As usual for RPG villains, for no clear reason he sends all his minions out to do the work instead of doing it himself.
One of the kings sends Takeru and Bahn (a Dragon Knight descendant and a friend of Takeru’s from the previous games) a letter asking for help. Takeru decides instead to send his 15 year old son Kakeru, and Bahn sends is son Seil. (Yes, this means that in the PC version some of the sex scenes involve a 15 year old boy with adult women.)
Kakeru and Seil head out to meet the king, but along the way they encounter the black mist coming from the left, and the forces of Lushifon coming from the right. All the soldiers of the town lose their will to fight, a mysterious older knight comes in to rally everyone. When Kakeru asks his name he says “etoo…” (“umm…” in Japanese) so his name becomes Eto. He convinces the soldiers to follow the lead of Kakeru and Seil since they’re the children of the famous Takeru and Bahn.
The story doesn’t really develop that much from there — there are a lot of new characters introduced, like Kakeru’s childhood friend Natasha, and various other women. There’s a lot of dialogue in the towns between missions developing their characters, but no real plot developments until near the end.
The battles are essentially Farland Story with a bit of Langrisser. In the tradition of the worst SRPGs, each character can move and attack at a certain range. There are no skills, spells, or powers, no equipment, no class upgrades, or anything like that. Each character does have a class, but the class just determines movement range and attack range. There are only two exceptions: one class can heal (although there is only one optional character that you get late in the game who can do this), and one class can destroy obstacles on the map.
The Langrisser aspect is that each character starts with 9 troops, which essentially act as the HP. The fewer troops you have, the less damage you can do as well.
Each stage also has a turn limit between 15 and 23 turns (because the black mist is coming). I found the turn limits were not that bad; they’re not so strict that you have to move everyone forward at max speed.
However, the game is pretty boring. It’s also very difficult, but not for good reasons. The game has no in-battle save and permadeath; also if any of the 5 key characters get killed, it’s game over. The enemies have high stats in general and 2-3 attacks by any unit are usually enough to kill someone from full HP. The classes are also not well balanced, with some units being nearly useless. I used a lot of save states and I doubt I would have made it past a few stages if I hadn’t done that.
Between the stages, you have a town you can walk around in. You can talk to everyone and develop their character, and there’s usually a heart place where Kakeru can have a date with someone to increase the love rank — I think this just affects the ending. You can also find stat up seeds by searching boxes and such. Finally, you can recruit new characters; typically you just get a choice of one, and some of them you have to talk to people or do events to get them to be recruitable. There are a lot of mysterious conversations with Eto and other girls (and in the PC version you can spy on him having sex). Eventually you’ll be allowed out into the field and it’s on to the next map.
The big twist happens when you reach Lushifon’s base after about 15 stages. When you reach there, Lushifon mocks you as usual for a villain, and then turns all your party members to stone and kills them all, leaving just Kakeru alive. For some reason Lushifon then imprisons Kakeru in a dungeon. Many years later, Marlene (the elf woman in the picture above), who is obviously Mano’s sister Ino, comes to Kakeru and gives him a device to go back in time. If he can get to Lushifon again with a magic item he’ll be able to cancel Lushifon’s power. Marlene then sends him back in time, and it turns out that Eto is Kakeru as an adult. So now we get to see the game again from Eto’s standpoint. This is somewhat interesting and I would be curious to see how things develop — but you literally have to play the same 15 battles over again, with no changes (and everyone’s levels reset also). There is then one final battle at the end.
So I’m going to stop at this point; I don’t like the game enough to play through the exact same thing again. This overall is a pretty poor game, mostly because the system is so plodding and basic. The story is at least somewhat interesting but it’s not worth the gameplay.
This was the final Dragon Knight game, and I’m not sure if the ero-RPG trend was picked up by other companies. There was something called Dragon Knight 5 – Rising X; I believe this was a mobage that was only active for a few months in 2020. I don’t know if Elf had anything to do with this.
We’re almost at the end of 1996! Midweek I will do a Shin Super Robot Taisen post, and the only remaining game is Terra Phantastica for Saturn.