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Dragon Slayer Series

I: Dragon Slayer

II: Xanadu

III: Romancia

V: Sorcerian

VI: Legend of Heroes

VII: Lord Monarch

VIII: Legend of Xanadu

Back to the Index


by Kurt Kalata - originally posted September 24, 2006; last updated February 2nd, 2014

Dragon Slayer (ドラゴンスレイヤー) - PC-88, PC-8001mkIISR, PC-98, FM-7, X1, MSX, SPC-1000, Super Cassette Vision, Game Boy, Saturn (1984)

Cover

Falcom's Dragon Slayer is one of Japan's first action RPGs. It was released in 1984, the same year as Namco's infamous Tower of Druaga was unleashed in the arcades. Both games essentially laid the foundations for future series like Hydlide, Ys, and of course, The Legend of Zelda. Both games are, in today's age, overly complicated and almost entirely unplayable. The name Dragon Slayer became the label that many future Falcom games were released under, which were produced by a man named Yoshio Kiya. Despite the connection in name, most of the titles are actually pretty different from one another, despite some minor similarities.

The original Dragon Slayer looks like a Rogue-style dungeon crawler, but the rules are slightly different. The deal is, you're some guy who's stuck in a dungeon and needs to kill a dragon. Unfortunately, you're about the worst person anyone could have ever chosen to go dragon slaying. You start the game barehanded, and a run-in with even the measliest of enemies will send you to your grave. You can grab a sword, which... doesn't help much. Maybe you can kill a zombie or a mummy or two, but pretty much everything else can and will walk all over you. And thus, begins the foundation of every Japanese RPG - The Grind.

The only way to make yourself more powerful is by exploring the dungeon and finding power stones littered throughout each level. By returning a power stone to your house (yes, you live in the dungeon, apparently), your Strength statistic slowly increases, and thus might be able to kill slightly more powerful enemies. You also find coins lying around the landscape, which boost your HP when you return home. You have access to some magic spells, although none of them are used for offensive purposes. They're mostly used to break down walls, transport throughout the dungeon, or bring up a map. All of your magic is powered by little bottles that are also haphazardly strewn around the place. You can also find a cross, which protects you from damage but prevents you from attacking anything; a ring, which lets you push blocks; and a key to unlock treasure chests. Unlike many games of this type, the levels aren't randomly generated, so the same objects appear in the same locations every time.

The kicker is, you can only hold one item at a time, just like in the Atari VCS Adventure from 1980. You can stockpile coins and magic potions, but you have to drop whatever else you hold in your hands before you can grab any of them. Needless to say, this makes things much more difficult - you're constantly dropping and picking up stuff, and transporting the power stones one by one to the house is monstrously time consuming. You can actually push your house, in case you find a cache of power stones, but it still doesn't make the game any less tedious.

And you'll need to do this, a lot, back and forth and back and forth, gathering stuff and killing enemies. There are lots and lots of weird enemies. It starts with the usual bats and skeletons and stuff, but there are also dinosaurs, gigantic dismembered feet, Frankenstein heads, friendly looking-penguins, vicious kangaroos, television screens, and other bits of oddness. Combat is handled in much the same way as most early Falcom RPGs - you bump into an enemy, and keep bumping into them, watching as both your hero's and your enemy's hit points slowly crawl towards zero. Killing enemies does give you experience, which determines the maximum HP you regain when you revisit your home. It's a war of numbers, and nothing more. One of the worst things that can happen is getting trapped between enemies in the many narrow corridors found throughout the maze. All of the enemies are programmed to make a beeline straight towards the hero, and if you get blocked... well you're dead, unless you have some magic to either transport or break down a wall.

In fact, there are a lot of things that can screw you over good. Some enemies drain more than just life - others sap magic, experience, and even strength. There's no need to elaborate on how much it sucks to spend a whole hour carrying power stones back and forth, slowly building it up to near-maximum, and then having it all stolen in a prolonged run-in with a green monkey. There are also ghosts that run around, steal items and place them at random points in the level.

Dragon Slayer is the worst kind of RPG. It's the kind of game that's almost entrancing because it's so huge and complicated and difficult, and the "fun" lies in trying to overcome those seemingly insurmountable odds. But amongst all of the trudging about and item collecting and random deaths and bizarre design flaws, there's really no sense of reward in anything you do. Ultimately, you get addicted, and then you either beat the level or you die - and either way, you just feel empty afterwards. There's not even any of that trademark awesome Falcom music - other than the pain-inducing ditty at the beginning of the game, there's no real soundtrack. But then again, Dragon Slayer was made in 1984 - just playing the role of some little dude on a monitor or TV screen was its own reward.

Dragon Slayer was initially released on the PC-88. Needless to say, it's pretty ugly, although later it was re-released with improved sprites and new dungeon layout. The FM-7 and X1 versions are almost identical to these (FM-7 to the older, X1 to the improved for what's known, but there might have been more releases for both platforms). A year later, the game was ported to the MSX by Square (yes, that Square - it was one of the first titles they published.) It runs in a lower resolution and thus is even less detailed, although the more abstract graphics are actually easier to parse. The enemy sprites have been changed, so now you fight giant crabs and snakes. The game was released both on tape and as a remixed cartridge version: Although the basic gameplay is the same, the levels on the cart are entirely different. They have a lot more warp portals placed around, which is pretty bizarre. There is a password system (accessed through the use of a spell), so you can skip between levels. The MSX version was (most likely unofficially) converted to the SPC-1000, which is turned to monochrome graphics, but has a better sprite for the hero. Otherwise it's the same. There was also a version for Epoch's obscure console, the Super Cassette Vision. It apparently had a compartment to put in AA batteries to back up your status, which may be the reason why the current state of emulation is not good.

Epoch also was the company that published Dragon Slayer for Game Boy in 1991. The levels are based on the PC-88 version, and it's still practically the same game. The dumpy monochrome graphics are actually an improvement over either home computer version, although it's still rather Spartan-looking, and the accompanying music is amazingly atrocious. Movement is impossibly slow, which makes this version even more unplayable than the others, if that were even possible. It might not even be possible to beat the game on batteries, if you can even subject yourself to it that long.

Dragon Slayer also showed up on the first Falcom Classics compilation for the Saturn (along with Xanadu and Ys) and once again uses the original PC-88 version as its basis. This is by far the best version of the game, as a lot of little things were done to make the it more bearable. Right at the beginning, you're given a sword, a key, and a single power stone, which at least puts you at the bare minimum requirements to kill some lower level bad guys. Spells can be assigned to the A or B buttons. Even the combat has been toned down, so you don't get crushed as easily as before. The Saturn mode lets you walk diagonally and places the status bar at the top of the screen, while the Original mode keeps it on the right. While some of the redrawn sprites don't look as amusing as the PC-88 version, there are a few neat touches - after getting burnt by the dragon's flames, the hero remains singed for a short while as he comically walks around. The new music naturally gets quite repetitive, but it's pleasant for a short while. Alas, the game is still a huge grind, and as much as the improvements make the game bearable, there should have been some way to, say, makes the enemies weaker so it would actually take less than an hour to beat a freaking level. You can save the game, at least, but that doesn't really ease the pain much.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Falcom

Publisher:

Falcom

Designer:

Yoshio Kiya 木屋善夫

Genre:

Action RPG

Themes:

Dungeon Crawler
Fantasy: Sword & Sorcery
Older than the NES


Dragon Slayer (PC-88)

Dragon Slayer (PC-88)

Dragon Slayer (PC-88)

Dragon Slayer (MSX)

Dragon Slayer (MSX)

Dragon Slayer (Game Boy)


Comparison Screenshots


Saturn Screenshots


Dragon Slayer Gaiden: Nemuri no Ōkan (ドラゴンスレイヤー外伝 眠りの王冠) - Game Boy (1992)

Cover

Epoch, the folks behind the Game Boy port of Dragon Slayer, apparently decided to take the license and make their own game. Dragon Slayer Gaiden is a big departure from the original game and is much closer to a typical action RPG like Final Fantasy Adventure or Legend of Zelda. There's also an attack button, which is pretty rare for an early Falcom-related game. Other than the fact that there's a dragon to kill, and enemies spawn from gravestones, there's no real relation to the original. Otherwise, it's a pretty okay game, if not particularly noteworthy.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Agenda

Publisher:

Epoch

Genre:

Action RPG

Themes:

Fantasy


Dragon Slayer Gaiden (Game Boy)

Dragon Slayer Gaiden (Game Boy)



Dragon Slayer: Michi Kareshi Houkan no Senshi-tachi (ドラゴンスレイヤー 導かれし宝冠の戦士たち) - iOS (2012)

Artwork

After almost every following game with the Dragon Slayer label was essentially the start of its own sub-series, Falcom (or rather Bandai Namco) returned to the roots once again in 2012 - well at least in name. The iOS Dragon Slayer apparently was a social RPG kind of deal, and really didn't seem to have much in common with the original. Service was scheduled to be shut down on February 28, 2014, little more than a year after it started.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Namco Bandai

Publisher:

Namco Bandai

Genre:

RPG

Themes:

Fantasy


Dragon Slayer: Michi Kareshi Houkan no Senshi-tachi



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Dragon Slayer Series

I: Dragon Slayer

II: Xanadu

III: Romancia

V: Sorcerian

VI: Legend of Heroes

VII: Lord Monarch

VIII: Legend of Xanadu

Back to the Index