Warning: this video contains mild language.
Since my family did not own a Famicom when we first moved to Japan, I would find any excuse to go over to a friend’s place to hijack their system(s) for a few hours.
Some games were easy enough to figure out (like Super Mario Bros. or Elevator Action), while others remained a mystery in my mind. Since my friends often had different games in their collections, I would work my way through their entire collection just to see what each game was like.
More than likely, that’s when I first came across Dragon Quest III. I could read a bit of Japanese, but not enough to figure out how the game worked. I was persistent in plugging the game into the console just to see what it was about, but it just didn’t appeal to me.
It wasn’t until I had spent several years in the culture and I was bored enough to take Dragon Quest V (for the Super Famicom) on a test run that I finally understood the allure of Japanese RGPs. Doubtless, I’ve talked about that on this blog already.
Eventually, it would lead me to go back and play earlier games in the series, including Dragon Quest III. That’s when I got hooked.
One of the cool things about Dragon Quest III is the ability to customize and register a variety of different characters with varying skills and attributes based on their class. While your party was mostly pre-determined in other games in the series, Dragon Quest III allowed you to construct your own team how you saw fit.
The game also allowed you to change classes later on. For example: a Mage could change over to a Priest, thereby gaining the magic abilities of both classes. The requirements for changing classes were first getting to the Temple of Dharma, and secondly gaining enough experience to reach level 20. Any character that changed classes would start over at level 1, though as I pointed out, they would carry some of their abilities and attributes with them.
Storyline & GameplayAs is the case with many early RPGs, plot points in DQIII would sometimes be ambiguous and the player would have to determine their next logical destination and course of action, either based on information that was hinted at by an NPC, process of elimination, gut instinct or pure luck.
Dragon Quest III is already a classic of sorts, but if there was one thing that would have made it better, it would be giving it a much richer, deeper storyline and engrossing world.
But, as I already pointed out, it’s an early RPG and the developers were still playing with the format, so you have to be somewhat forgiving.
The Addiction Factor
The fact that you could determine your own team was cool enough. It was even cooler that you could register more characters so if you found that having three Goof-offs in your party (only 4 members including the Hero could be active at any time) was not terribly advantageous, you could go back and register a Warrior, Martial Artist, Priest or whatever you saw fit.
Although there certainly is a logical progression to the game, it did have a bit of an open-ended feel. You could spend as much time as you wanted leveling up your various registered characters, earn gold, buy new gear and explore new areas (you could also call it grinding, I guess, but it feels more open-ended here).
Old vs. New
Dragon Quest III was initially released for the Famicom, but Enix did a remake for the Super Famicom as well. Unquestionably, the better release – at least in my humble opinion – was the remake.
While exploring the world map and various dungeons in the original felt slow and clunky, they made it fast and responsive in the remake. Random encounter battles could also be handled more efficiently.
Obviously there are improvements to the graphics and sound quality as well, though that’s to be expected. Additionally, they introduced a new class, the Thief, to this rendition.
Having developed such a smooth and sleek rendition of DQIII, why they went back to a slow, repetitive and clunky system in Dragon Quest VII for the PlayStation is still beyond me. I suppose it had something to do with the 100 hours of gameplay, but I always felt it would never take that long if the game allowed you to move around the maps rapidly and get through random encounters speedily.
Dragon Quest III can be found for the Game Boy Color, though it is a little rare.
I finally have an Xbox 360 of my own! It’s kind of defective, but hey, if it works most of the time I’m a happy man. I’m finally next-gen (well, sort of)! But that’s another story for another time. Onward with Oblivion!
And no, I’m not making reference to the end of the world (hard to believe, I know, considering all the rapture talk). No, I’m talking about Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (and what better time to talk about it now that Skyrim is on the way?). I do not have extensive knowledge of The Elder Scrolls series, nor did I consider myself a fan – that is – until I played Oblivion.
I remember playing Morrowind, and did spend a lot of time on it, but never did finish it. I guess I must not have hated it having put in the amount of time that I did, but it was kind of a love-and-hate relationship. At the advent of MMORPG’s, I had started playing games like Dark Age of Camelot, which I tended to enjoy more, if for no other reason than the multiplayer element. Morrowind was cool, but also dark, and for lack of a better way of putting it, jarring.
When I was five years old, my family moved to Japan. My exposure to video games came at an early age, and I was immediately hooked. I grew up playing games like Final Fantasy VI and VII as well as Dragon Quest V and VI. However, I wasn’t always an RPG fan.
I was over at a friend’s place playing Super Famicom one day, and I found myself getting progressively bored of the games I was playing (I don’t remember exactly what he had besides Cho Makaimura… that game freaked me out as a kid). On a whim I popped Dragon Quest V into the system and took it on a test drive (DQV only had three save blocks; I may have deleted one of my friend’s to start a new game… oops).
As it turns out, the game was pretty engaging. It probably helped that I had developed my Japanese skills to the point where I could actually understand what the dialogue meant, but it got me thinking. “Maybe RPGs aren’t so bad after all. At the very least, Dragon Quest V isn’t.”
Thus began my obsession with RPGs. I borrowed Dragon Quest V from a friend and kept playing until my main party members were all over level 80 (that’s an excessive amount of grinding in case you were wondering). I had to return the game of course, but I eventually bought a copy for myself and played it all over again.
I will tell the full story of my experience with DQV another time, but in short because of my love of DQV I started getting into previous games in the series, which also turned out to be very good (I had thought I only liked V because it was the first DQ game on the Super Famicom; I was wrong). This would also lead me to explore the world of Final Fantasy games.
I don’t consider myself exclusively a nostalgic gamer, and I have played several modern RPGs. That being said, there still is a certain charm about games that came before the 3D era. If the rise of throwback independent games like VVVVVV is any indication, I’m clearly not the only one that feels this way.
So long story long, I was well-prepped to be the target market for Breath of Death VII. I was cruising through the Steam store one day trying to find an affordable game that I could get in to. That’s when I came across BODVII. They had me at the trailer. I didn’t need to see anything more. This game was for ME.
The game esthetics reminded me of the early Japanese RGPs I grew up with and loved so much. If anything, BODVII looks and feels a bit like a combination between Dragon Quest IV and V. The developers were obviously influenced heavily by the Dragon Quest series.
Breath of Death VII does feature some modern elements, however. The music clearly utilizes more modern technology than the bleeps and bloops available in the Dragon Quest days. The speed of the game is not hindered by the processing power of a retro game console either. Other than that, however, the game by and large has a retro RPG feel.
The combat system is very similar to DQIV. DQV actually featured improved graphics over the Famicom series of DQ games, with graphical representations of magic spells and various attack maneuvers. BODVII is more on the primitive side, and there really is no graphical representation for anything besides the enemies and the number indicators for HP and MP of each party member. Button mashing will actually cause the combat to go by very fast, which is a feature I appreciated a lot.
I don’t want to get too sidetracked here, but I do recall Dragon Quest VII (the first DQ game to appear on the PlayStation console), where the flow of the game was brought to a grinding halt because of the sluggishness of combat, transition time between cities and the outdoor world (and vice versa), and slow-moving heroes. They had gone to the trouble of correcting this issue in the wonderful Super Famicom remake of Dragon Quest III, so I’m still puzzled as to why they wouldn’t give VII the same treatment.
Breath of Death VII does not suffer from this problem at all. Combat is fast (well, about as fast or as slow as you want it to go), transportation is fast, and you can also move the dialogue along at your own pace. For me, this was a definite plus.
Of course, if you’re looking for a 40 hours plus epic RPG, then BODVII is not for you. The main storyline could be completed in one or two sittings (5 or 6 hours) if you were determined to do it. There is a bit of grinding to do along the way, but nothing too severe. Some boss battles do require strategy as well, but again no mind puzzlers. There is some bonus content, but all in all it’s an RPG that can be completed rather quickly. I suppose there are some games from the past that could be completed just as quick if they didn’t suffer from some of the aforementioned problems.
If there is one complaint I have about the combat system it’s that you spend most of your time harping on your best abilities to kill the enemies (or at least I did). Some of the late-game encounters tend to take you out pretty quickly if you give them too much room. However, as long as you keep spamming your best spells and skills you tend to come out okay. Even if some of your party members die or are wounded, their HP is replenished after each battle. Although using your skills does deplete your MP rather speedily, it’s rarely an issue with the frequency of save points that refill your MP.
In conclusion, one of the great aspects of this game is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The developers clearly knew that they didn’t have a story-centric epic on their hands, and decided to swing the other way. The humor is prevalent throughout the game, especially as the characters chat among each other. In short, it’s sort of the Parodius of RPGs, spoofing the genre while still paying sufficient homage to it.
Kawa no Nushi Tsuri 2 was released in Japan for the Super Famicom on April 28, 1995. The game was developed by PACK-IN-VIDEO, and is part of a much larger series of games, including Umi no Nushi Tsuri (sea fishing, as opposed to river fishing).
Fishing Adventure RPG
Kawa no Nushi Tsuri 2 is basically a fishing adventure style game with RPG elements. The menu system is similar to that of Dragon Warrior, which requires you to open up a menu window, go through a list of actions and commands, and select what you want to do. Fortunately, you don’t have to open the menu every time you want to talk to someone or when you stop to fish, so all in all it’s decently efficient.
Interestingly enough, this game also has random encounters, and employs a turn-based battle system. Luckily, the meat of the game is spent fishing as opposed to fighting off snakes, centipedes and bears.
The fishing mechanic takes a little while to figure out, because there are no status bars or health bars to indicate how close you are to catching a fish. Basically, you have to let the fish run, and when it stops, you can pull it in a little ways. When the fish begins to slow down, you have to let it run again. Repeat this process, and eventually the fish can be brought to the surface.
What’s simply amazing about this game is the variety of gear available to you. You can bait fish, lure fish, and even fly fish. You can select the type of float you want to use, the bait, lures, and even flies. There are a total of 66 different fish you can catch in the game, and an additional six river creatures (like frogs) you can catch for experience. It’s simply mind boggling how jam packed this game is.
For Super Famicom (SNES), the graphics look quite colorful and stunning. The character of each fish is captured incredibly well, and while the backgrounds could have been improved, it’s still amazing that they were able to do so much.
Uniquely Japanese is the only way to describe it. Most of the music is either relaxing or upbeat and pleasant, and fits the mood of the game quite well. There is no music while you are fishing, and that could be a bit of a downside, but it does make it rather obvious when you’re fishing vs. when you’re walking around the map.
Six Areas to Explore
There are a total of six different stages to explore and fish in-game. You begin by fishing in the mountain creeks, and move on to lakes, rivers, and finally the mouth of the river. You have to find the cave in any given stage to move on to the next one, and sometimes this is easier said than done. Fortunately, if you’ve bought a compass, it will tell you where to go.
An Open Ended Adventure
When you set out on your journey, your goal is to catch the river king (Japanese Lates). While there is an “ending” of sorts when you catch the Lates, your adventure doesn’t need to stop there. You can continue fishing for all 66 different types of fish (thereby completing your fishing notebook), and even fish for the record size of every fish. This could take awhile.
I had a lot of fun with this game. I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea, but you can tell that the people at PACK-IN-VIDEO really love fishing. They could have just released another fishing game, but instead we got a game packed to the rafters with incredible content. I don’t think they ever released this particular game in North America, but I think it would be worth checking out other games in this series.
As it turns out, Legend on the River King 2 is available on the Game Boy Color. I wish I had known that a lot sooner.