Friday, January 28, 2011

Clueless Gaijin Gaming: Dragon Knight III

The PC Engine played host to many Japanese role-playing game series that never saw the light of day in the US.  This particular game is a bit of an exception -- Dragon Knight III was localized and released for American PCs under the title Knights of Xentar -- but the game's adult content ensured that it never made it to consoles outside of Japan, and even this PC Engine version is toned down quite a bit.

The game was created by ELF for Japanese computers, and ported to the PC Engine by NEC Avenue in 1994, toward the end of the system's life:

It's a shame the series is not better known in the West, because Dragon Knight III has some very funny moments, and it's a competent RPG to boot.  The PC Engine Super CD-ROM version takes superb advantage of the format -- it's filled with fully-voiced, high-resolution cutscenes, and detailed illustrations.

And the technical mechanics are well-implemented -- forgoing CD Audio for background music, the engine relies on chiptunes instead, freeing the CD for rapid access when switching between the world map and villages.  The approach works especially well when jumping in and out of battles, minimizing the loading delays that plagued many early CD-ROM games, and as a result it's a joy to play.  I ended up spending several more hours with Dragon Knight III than I really needed to for this discussion.

The story is fresher than most RPGs of the time, taking liberties with many of the established cliches -- the game opens with our hero Takeru returning from his previous adventures, only to be set upon by bandits and robbed of all his possessions, including his clothes.  This leads to some comical encounters early on, as none of the shopkeepers will deal with the naked warrior -- here, the local innkeeper screams, "Hentai!"

Once Takeru has talked to a man in town and obtained some clothing, he's free to equip himself for battle.  But not before defending a sweet young barmaid from the same thugs who stole his possessions and forwarded them to parts unknown.  She seems sweet, and demure enough, though I must note that she doesn't bother to readjust her top for the entire duration of the conversation that follows her rescue:

Setting out into the world, Takeru begins at level 25, making short work of the local monsters.  But then he must sacrifice his experience, all the way back down to level 1, in order to pass through a gateway into the larger world.  He can, of course, rebuild his experience via traditional random battles, dungeon exploration, and story-driven boss encounters.

Of course, this is a Dragon Knight game, so most of the monsters encountered are attractive women of various kinds -- wood nymphs, nurses with giant hypodermic needles, blondes with whips, and witches who seem to... um... enjoy riding their broomsticks a little too much:

All of the dialogue and most of the text is in Japanese, but the standards generally apply to gameplay, and trial-and-error proves workable for the clueless gaijin like me.  The main combat menu consists of options laid out as follows, from top to bottom -- fighting; item use; fleeing; and spells.  I had some difficulty dealing with armor and weaponry, as I wasn't always sure what I was buying, but potions were easier to recognize.  Most of the items available for purchase can be figured out, if one assumes power correlates with price per RPG tradition.

Storywise, Takeru must seek out and deal with a series of demons along the way -- they are disguised as normal human beings, but reveal themselves when confronted:

And, oddly enough, the designers take a page from Roberta Williams -- Takeru soon encounters Little Red Riding Hood, who is being accosted by a transvestite wolf:

Once the wolf is defeated, Ms. Hood shows Takeru her gratitude with a nighttime visit, complete with softcore musical accompaniment, and Grandma gives Takeru a nice monetary reward for "protecting" her granddaughter.  [Image redacted. :) ]

Later, he encounters a young woman who dresses like Snow White -- the original reportedly also included the Seven Dwarves, but this PC Engine version places her in the grip of a lecherous demon and vampire instead:

In a nearby dungeon, we must fight a mustachioed wizard who flings his cape open flasher-style to attack -- his power is apparently generated in the Latin sense of the word, that is, from his genitals:

Returning the Magic Mirror thus obtained to Ms. White, she also expresses her gratitude with a highly personal touch, not generally mentioned in the popular versions of her story:

I can't really go into too much more detail about Takeru's adventures, for obvious reasons, so I'll draw the curtain, noting in closing that Dragon Knight III is a well-designed, classic-style JRPG with an adult sensibility.  The PC Engine version is risque, not seriously dirty, and it has a sense of humor that keeps it from becoming too seedy.  I enjoyed spending some time with Takeru and his bevy of, er, friends.

The Dragon Knight games have held some value over the years, but you may be able to find an affordable copy for sale here.

No comments:

Post a Comment