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  • The Tower of Druaga (Namco, June 1984)

    Posted on January 17th, 2010 keving 12 comments



         IN A TOWER

       TO HELP KI IN

    The Tower of Druaga is quite possibly my favorite Namco game of all time. It introduced the concept of role-playing games to a wide Japanese audience before Dragon Quest existed; it has neat characters and audiovisuals; it’s oddly addictive; it’s a direct challenge to hardcore players from hardcore game developers.

    Masanobu Endo, designer of Druaga, began working on the game as a side diversion while he was busy learning assembly language on the 6809, the chip Namco was slated to use in their arcade boards starting with Super Pac-Man. From here I’ll let Endo explain the rest, from when he answered questions publicly on 2ch in 2001:

    “In order to get this game released to the public, I wanted to follow these core concepts:

    – Keep costs low by making it a ROM swap for Mappy boards that weren’t earning any longer
    – Make it seem like a straightforward maze game on the surface
    – Include RPG and adventure elements
    – Give the game an ending to keep players from going for hours on one credit

    Basically the company wanted to get some more earnings out of old Mappy boards, so they’d be happy even if they only sold about 2000 upgrade kits. It was a ripe opportunity to experiment. I was lucky that they had enough free staff at the time to assign a full-time programmer to the project — we worked at a breakneck pace and got the game done in about half a year, which made the accounting people pretty happy.

    So, really, the difficulty of the game didn’t affect the project getting greenlit one bit — I mean, this was a C-grade ROM swap, after all. It wasn’t going to make or break the company either way, and the fact that such an epoch-making title got created in that situation really shows how much Namco cared about the craft of video games, I feel. The only mistake, if you could call it that, is that we had planned to install the game only in Namco-owned arcades, but it wound up earning so much that we actually had to manufacture new boards to satisfy demand.”

    Yes, Druaga is ridiculously difficult. No, there’s no way you could ever figure out how to get all the treasures singlehandedly. But Druaga succeeded in 1984 because it forced arcade rats to work together, writing down their discoveries in public notebooks and pooling their wits (and 100-yen coins) together to get to the end. It created a community, in other words, just like Street Fighter eventually did — one that wrote strategy guides and dojinshi in droves. In a way, Druaga solidified the concept of a “game fandom” in Japan more than any other individual game.

    It’s a game I like enough that I beat it on Virtual Console Arcade back when it came out — and I figured I’d take a Japanese walkthrough of the game and annotate it for your entertainment. The video’s in 4 parts and each part should play automatically after the previous one ends. Hope you enjoy watchin’ it.


    8 responses to “The Tower of Druaga (Namco, June 1984)” RSS icon

    • I believe an English-language patch (PCE) was released for folks who use emulation. All reports suggest that this makes the game much more accessible. I haven’t tried the patch, though.

      I learned of Druaga via the PCE version. It was one of the first HuCards I owned (a freebie), so I played it a lot, even though it seemed overwhelming. Heck, I had nothing else to play.

      Later, when I read that the PCE version was “easier” (IIRC, hints are provided for each level) than the arcade original, I was humbled.

      “One day, I will get halfway through the game,” I declared. I have yet to do so.

      I’m torn, because I want to watch the videos, but I feel I shouldn’t (not yet, anyway).


    • Thanks a lot for uploading these! Quite an overwhelming game, yeah, but pretty fun too.

    • Excellent work, I really enjoyed watching this. Namco Museum DS has a pretty good interactive walkthrough too, but yours gives a lot more context and neat technical details.

      Really, I don’t know how anyone would ever figure out some of those requirements on their own, even accidentally. And some are just plain MEAN, especially that whole bit with the death potion. Jeez.

    • The idea of a community secret notebook utterly blows my mind. I’d love to see one, regardless of my inability to understand anything scrawled within.

    • Just thought I’d let you know, I really, really, love this blog of yours. As much as the GameSetWatch column to be precise.

      Keep it up!

    • Such communal notebooks are still pretty common in Japanese arcades, actually, or at least they were the last time I hung out inside some.

    • Sorry for late comment but level 43 annotation looks small.

    • Err forget about annotation thing, maybe some youtube crazyness sorry…

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