The TurboMento-12: Dungeon Explorer

Posted by Mento (2567 posts) -

Time again for another cursory look at a Turbografx-16 classic. I'm going quite far back this time with Atlus' 1989 Action RPG Dungeon Explorer, thought to be the first good Atlus game to be released in the West, thus begetting that long relationship of "man, I hope Atlus bothers to translate this game for us, it looks amazing" between us and them that persists to this day.

Dungeon Explorer, for the uninitiated, is a game that takes more than a leaf or two out of Atari's playbook, being as it focused on Gauntlet style, well, gauntlets against traps and enemy spawners. The player must descend into the depths of dungeons (exploring them, if you will) while trying to stay alive long enough through the many hordes of spawning enemies to reach a boss at the end and defeat it. Though players can collect items to boost their stats (strength, speed, defence and the like), they are only temporary and vanish once the player loses one of their finite lives: Only by defeating bosses (and the occasional mini-boss) can the player level up and earn permanent boosts to their health and stats.

That's the gist of it, but the TurboMento-12 is more than just words: You get pictures too! Nothing but the best in Web 1.0 presentation for my dear readers.

What Am I To Do With All These Dungeons?

Welcome to Dungeon Explorer! The attract screen handily tells you what all the items are, if not the slightly more vital information of what they do. In short, the two magics are one-use spells, the following five items temporarily boost a specific stat, the next two add weapon effects and the last two are healing items. No, you don't have to remember all that for later.
Since this is a JRPG made in the 80s, the first thing to do is talk to the local monarch. He gives you directions to a dungeon to the south of the city. We're on an adventure!
Hey Judas! You seem trustworthy. (He's not kidding about the Bullbeast though, about its proximity or its emotional state.) This screen also helpfully summarizes the entire game: The dark red circle in the center is a portal, from which monsters endlessly spawn until it's destroyed. You just do that until you reach the next set of stairs and try not to die, basically.
This is the Bullbeast, the first boss of the game. He runs around and occasionally fires axe things at you diagonally. As long as you stay horizontal or vertical from the guy, he's not so bad. Also, be prepared for a lot of these bosses calling you a fool. It will eventually be less hurtful.
After killing a boss, you get one of these spinning CD things. Like the post-boss Heart Containers of Zelda, they're a permanent boost to your health and a specific stat based on which color it was flashing when you pick it up. The password also updates (more on this in just a moment).
Man, it's one thing after another around here. I neglected to capture the Gutworm fight, but let me tell you: It certainly was a gooey worm boss.
Christ, I hate these things. As well as monster spawners, the other big nuisance throughout the game are these flame traps. Most can be destroyed, but usually it's easier to just hop between the bursts.
The blonde Princess with a Japanese name is trapped in this jail cell that just so happens to sit between you and the rest of the game. I guess we're going to go defeat Grimrose, then. Boy, I love optional side-quests.
So yeah, this is a difficult game from Atlus, the developers of the Shin Megami Tensei series. Who'd have guessed? You have two options here: You can copy the password that appears once you die, which takes you back to the main castle at whatever experience level you had after defeating the last boss (currently the Gutworm) and walk all the way back, or you just cheat with the code on the right. I am a weak man.
This is Grimrose. He's a grim rose. I know, you were expecting a dragon zombie. He's one of those "fires inordinate amounts of bullets while staying in one spot" type bosses.
Grimrose may have had its thorns, but now it sings a sad, sad song, and thus is the way clear. The princess leaves us a neat code that allows the player to begin a new game with her as the protagonist. Can't get enough pro-active princesses in these games.
Another boss, this one was Sent to Impede you.
I liked my pun better, Judas. Also, screw you.
Off to the Water Castle next (presumably named for that small puddle next to the entrance) and the Tigerbeast. This is a fun boss fight, as he will constantly chase you. The trick is to turn and shoot during the brief periods he slows down. This fight would later be immortalized in the Oscar nominated Life of Pi. References!
Alexis is up next, and as well as her "lethal beauty" she has some powerful magic attacks and a propensity to turn real ugly real fast. The one thing she cannot do, however, is eat 100 nugs in one sitting.
I'm going to speed through the rest of these bosses. Cyclopus chases you around with pitchforks and will occasionally vanish and reappear elsewhere, making him a slightly more challenging version of the Bullbeast. The Reaper of Death does the old fake-out clone boss routine, creating three identical clones with very little health as decoys. Best thing to do is whittle the clones down to just one and pound on the real spook, otherwise he'll just summon more. Less getting surrounded that way.
Judas continues to be a dick.
Here's the Splatter Slime and Gargon. Splatter's main course of attack is to drop slime enemies wherever he goes, which quickly add up if you ignore them. Gargon's another boss that wishes he was in a shoot-em-up.
I neglected to mention something here: Occasionally you'll loop back around to the main town and get more directions from the King. These are helpful, because the game always restarts in the main city after each game over. Should you manage to reach each of these points and die, at least there'll be less walking to be done.
Final pic is of the final two regular bosses: Octopolus is a Zelda refugee that surrounds itself with weaker enemies to block your attacks. It'll eventually send them after you, at which point the core is exposed. Halatos is a monster with terrible breath attacks, but is pretty much the same as that other dragon. But, you know, just with more heads. Defeating him allows the player to finally recover this ORA Stone McGuffin everyone keeps talking about, and...

...and I'm going to stop there. Because I don't want to spoil the game's ending? Nope, because the image limit has apparently been lowered from 25 to 20 on the new site without my knowledge. Great.

As for the game, well, I'm not entirely sure it's aged gracefully. It is a well-designed game for its era - the way the passwords and lives work give you something of a fighting chance, even if the game itself can be rather difficult at times. The levels aren't particularly different in terms of how you're supposed to progress through them (protip: find the damn stairs) but visually and musically there's quite a bit of variance. The bosses are the best part, which is why I elected to show them off instead of the dungeons leading up to them.

As for cheating one's way through the game: It's probably a huge disservice, considering how easier it makes everything, but the game would be far more ponderous without it. I mean, I died a lot. It's kind of inescapable. Really, it's a bit like Dark Souls in that you want to get far enough to do some damage before your inevitable demise so you won't have to backtrack quite so far the next time through.

Overall, if you keep in mind its age and want to see some classic-ass Atlus before they got way into Jack Frosts, young detectives and alien zombie cancer, I'd say try it out. It's available on the Wii Shop last I heard. Um, which of course I know because that's the legal version I totally have and I totally got all these screenshots from. Uh, hmm, it's such a nice day I think I'll go out the window.

The TurboMento-12
January - Ninja SpiritApril - NeutopiaJuly -October -
February - Dungeon ExplorerMay -August -November -
March - The Legendary AxeJune -September -December -
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#1 Edited by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6230 posts) -

Man, not being able to conveniently track friends' blogs on here sucks. Anyways, that Judas stuff cracked my shit up. Didn't realize the Wii shop had this - I remember hearing about it way back when, and being mildly interested. Don't think I'll bother with it in this day and age, but it's neat to see someone picking it up and giving it a shot.

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