Review by Trixter800
"The fun of dungeon exploring, without the danger"
Well, in the early introduction of video games, there were a lot of action games. Donkey Kong, Mario Bros. But of course, everything was the same level by level. It took skill. But one intelligent man thought that on the lucky year of 1989, that they should add a twist - the start of some of the first RPGs. It was one of the first, among games such as Final Fantasy (yes, out of all those numbers there was actually a first) and Gauntlet, the popular coin-eating game that could possibly be called the father of this game. Being released on the Turbografx-16, this game was not a huge success especially in the US, and if you are reading this I congratulate you for being interested in a pretty rare game. Now, it was released for the Virtual Console and is easy to get your hands on.
Lecture aside, the game pretty much lives up to it's name. The game is a top-down view of a character (or characters, in the fun multiplayer mode which I'll get to later) and you can go in eight directions - up, down, left, right, and diagonals - a nice variety from the normal four. You go around in search of the ORA Stone, which the devil has stole. You can walk into buildings and view text from other citizens, detailing small trinkets of information. Unfortunately that's about all the story has besides some near end-game plot twists, though for a twenty year old game, that was pretty impressive. But back to the gameplay, you wield a weapon (or weapons, I might say) or a magic blast of some sort. Using the attack button will release in a straight direction your weapon of choice, which depends on your class. Knome carries, I guess what would be throwing axes, and Witches throw around spells. The attack button can be held down to be fired, and you either have a stand still fire, great for aiming, or a walk-and-fire, which helps for the quick, run-and-gun Thief types. Adding to the twist are Black Magic and White Magic. You can get magic potions through monster loot or from friendly allies - and when you're in a pinch, you can release it for a positive effect. White Magic varies from teleporting, defense bonuses and healing, and Black Magic varies from attack power doubling, and attacking enemies in the room. Using these properly give a lot of variety to the normally boring action gameplay. The controls are simple to use, and very comfortable using.
You control one of eight classes - stereotypical Dungeons and Dragon types, such as the Warlock, Fighter, Elf, Knome, Bard, and if you get ahold of some nice passwords, two secret characters - the mis-named "Harmet" (Hermit) and the Princess, who actually is one of the best characters. They all have their strengths and weaknesses - some show up weaker than the others for the most part in exchange for a skill. The Bard, for example, has low stats overall - but he has the ability to warp the party to the tavern back at the home-town in the freak chance you may need one. The Fighter, in the opposite direction, is known widely as arguably the best, simple-play character boasting high Strength and Attack, however, nothing is too broken, as though the Thief may not have high attack, it has amazing speed, and there's various other balances involved in the characters so that there's one for almost every playing style.
Speaking of these stats, this is what makes up the RPG. Rather than "gaining EXP" by monster, you'll find various loot. Certain items will give you a permanent power-up to one of four attributes. And at the end of a boss, or secret tough enemy, it will yield a crystal which gives you a choice between the stats, as well as a permanent health boost and level up. (which is purely nothing but a number) The four stats are: Strength, (increases your health) Intelligence, (increases your magic) Agility, (increases your speed) and Attack. (increases attack power) However, besides the occasional Strength boost, you'll mostly be pouring into Attack. This is what makes the classes somewhat unbalanced, and in multiplayer with five people, you'll probably be in a frenzy to see who gets the Knome and Fighter classes.
The dungeons vary from underwater castles to prisons, and feature a wide variety of traps. It also features some puzzles and quick side-challenges, rewarding those who are gutsy and go for the side-challenges, which vary from stat boosts to even entire leveling crystals, and punishes those who fail at the puzzles, which vary from missing out on great stat boosts to even death. The game overall is rather challenging. You are only given a pool of five lives, which extra lives are very few and far in-between, and if the lives deplete, game-over. You are given a password and have to reset and enter the password, and though not horrible, will eat-up a few minutes of your time inputting it. But what's even worse is you start back at the home-town. So those who venture to far away dungeons will have to take that far-away path again. Of course, though, this just adds to the bragging rights of whoever can conquer this challenging game.
As I've mentioned before, multiplayer is a great alternative. You can have up to five (no it was not a typo) players at once playing, and teaming up is a great way to have fun. From screaming "HEAL! HEAL!" to cursing out when your friend eats up all your lives. The sad thing is about it, you still share that same pool of five lives. So pretty much, if you have five friends, you only have two lives each. That also means your partner better be good. However, it's all in good fun. The multiplayer is a pretty fun way to past the time and add to the replay value of the game.
The graphics were average, even for 1989. It was well out-done just 3 years later with the SNES, and was pretty much up there with the lowest of SNES graphics and highest of NES graphics. They weren't perfect, but they got the image across, and there was no point in which the graphics hindered my gameplay.
But what I absolutely loved about it was the music. Though the music of the Turbografx wasn't too much more than 8-Bit, I think it was some of the best music of all time, and a shame it hasn't been heard to be admired. There are the cheery tunes of the tavern, to the eerie music of the caves, and the music was just fantastic.
Overall, the game is pretty good. The dungeons can get frustrating due to difficulty and the password/starting at the hometown system just adds on to it, though some fun elements such as classes, stat increasing, secrets and bosses add on to it. The graphics were sub-par, though they did get the point across, and the music and sounds were just amazing. Dungeon Explorer is a good buy for the Wii's Virtual Console, and I think it is easy to cough up the measely $6 for this hidden gem.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 08/06/07, Updated 08/05/09
Game Release: Dungeon Explorer (US, 01/08/07)
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