We're going old-school Namco today with the PC Engine remake of The Tower of Druaga, the godfather of all Japanese action RPGs. For those unaware: The Tower of Druaga, or "Druaga no Tou" since this version was never officially localized, is a maze action game with an RPG flair in which you simply need to find a key and exit the level. However, choosing to take the direct route makes things very difficult later on, and the real path to success is to solve a series of obtuse puzzles which involve some oddly OCD requisites like killing all of a single enemy type or walking around the stage in a clockwise pattern. The treasures you earn from meeting these special conditions make the rest of the game substantially easier to cope with, as more and more difficult obstacles and enemies start to appear.
Perhaps understandably, western audiences weren't too eager to try doing random shit for hours in order to find a new shield or something, so the Tower of Druaga never really caught on over here. In Japan though, it was crazy successful and ended up becoming extremely influential. We probably wouldn't have the Legend of Zelda if it wasn't for this game (or if we did, it would probably look a lot different and didn't hide all its secrets behind random walls and rocks). This PCE port is a graphically enhanced remake that actually gives you hints before each level on how to find the treasure, but only on the first three difficulty settings.
Anyway, I think you get the idea. Druaga's a weird combination of a really primitive RPG (hey, the game was originally made in 1984, what do you expect?) and a puzzle game, but while its aged quite a bit it's still worth playing for its historical value. This PCE remake removes a lot of the arbitrary guessing BS and makes the game nicer to look at, but it's still the same experience at its core. It's kind of nuts that this game's approaching its 30th anniversary; maybe we'll see something from Namco Bandai soon to celebrate the occasion. "Druaga Championship Edition DX"?
While earlier home versions never left Japan, the Arcade game can be found in a large number of Namco Arcade compilations, many of which were released worldwide, as well as on Virtual Console. This particular remake seems to be unique to the PC Engine, but there's a translation patch out there on RomHacking.net (which is where I got the translation patches for Blue Blink and Lady Sword too). Oddest of all, if you play the first Tales of Destiny, there's an entire optional dungeon based on Tower of Druaga that has all kinds of useful items for the main game - they're just hidden in the same obtuse manner. Lastly, the Steam RPG Chantelise is kind of a modern interpretation of Tower of Druaga, splitting its focus between tough action RPG combat and meeting "how the hell was I supposed to know to do that?" conditions to make chests appear.
I'll go back to covering weird obscure shit soon, I promise.