The Nightmare of Druaga (Dungeon of Druaga: Mysterious Dungeon)

Old school gameplay, new 3D look.


The Lowdown

Pros: A true dungeon crawler, that gamers from the NES era will dig.

Cons: A slow pace and lack of story makes look weak in spite of "modern" RPGs.

Purchase at Play-Asia

For gamers in Japan Druaga is synonymous with extremely long dungeon. Of course Druaga doesn't mean dungeon in Japanese, but that's what gamers expect after all of the Tower of Druaga games. Known for its difficulty and endless mazes, the Tower of Druaga was a Japanese classic that never made it stateside. Chunsoft's revision of the franchise as seen in the Playstation 2 title The Nightmare of Druaga: Mysterious Dungeon captures the spirit of the series and adds one to the number of dimensions in the game.

Gamers looking for a deep story aren't going to find on in the Nightmare of Druaga. You play as a prince on his quest to save Kai, his princess. The princess was captured by the evil Druaga and hidden within a giant labyrinth full of traps and monsters. Are you going to have a party with the obligatory comic relief character helping you out? Nope. Is there going to be some twist about the fate of the universe? Not really. Does the main character suffer from some deep psychological trauma? Guess again. All of those aspects that are common place in what are known as "RPGs" today aren't in the Nightmare of Druaga. It's a throwback to the days of good versus evil with a captured girl somewhere in the middle.

Like the story the gameplay will be defined as archaic by some and unique as others. The game places you in control of Gill who you must navigate through a series of dungeons. In each dungeon there is a key you must find. The key is required to open a door so you can move to the next level. As you get deeper through the game the key gets hidden further from the door and in better spots. You do have a handy map that will give you an idea of the topography of the stage. The map is also handy because it shows the location of the door, too. One of the unique things about the latest version of the Nightmare of Druaga is that you move on a grid based dungeon. You can't move 360 degrees even though you're in total 3D. Each time you make a step all of the other enemies can make a move too. So the game plays kind of like a turn based action RPG. This unique combination makes Namco's Nightmare of Druaga a unique mix of Diablo and Dragon Warrior.

Battles become an interesting affair. You can give a deft blow with your sword to deal melee damage. Every time you execute an attack all enemies get a turn. They can either attack or physically move away. Since all the other enemies get to move around you can find yourself quickly surrounded by enemies. Besides your basic attack you can use items like handy antidotes and potions. Recovery items are extremely handy to carry around since ailments like poison can easily kill you in four or five moves. You also have a supply of special attacks that you can select from by tapping the right analog stick. Special moves can give more damage, allow you to attack from afar or hit enemies with status ailments. With all of these options and lots of area to move around the battle system plays like a simplified strategy RPG.

Not unique to "Druaga", but an important part of dungeon crawling games is finding treasure. You can find treasure through out the many treasure chests scattered in the dungeon. There are also a number of invisible chests that contain even better items. All together the items in the game allow you to customize your characters armor, weapon, shield, gauntlets and two sets of necklaces. A large portion of the game is finding the rarest treasure and most useful items. Between obtaining dropped treasure from monsters and scouring dungeons for chests there are plenty of chances to get great goods.

Even though Nightmare of Druaga sports polygon graphics they aren't the best around. You have some nice looking frames of animation for Gil, but all the other characters and monsters have simple animations. The never ending brick wall background accurately represents a dungeon. Sure dungeons are bland, but this is a game at least have some skeletons hanging from the wall for scenery. The once nice graphical touch is that Gil has a radius of light surrounding him. The reflective lighting effects and degrees of different amount of light are all well done. Gil is followed not only by his light, but by plenty of environmental sounds. Accompanying the subtle sound effects is standard medieval fanfare.

As a package The Nightmare of Druaga offers a spin on the RPG and action RPG genres. Druaga offers plenty of monster slaying, treasure hunting and dungeon exploring. Gamers who can put with some old school gameplay or looking for something both challenging and different should give The Nightmare of Druaga a fair chance. 

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 3

Many of the important menus, status screens and the items are in English. For the most part this make Druaga friendly to import. Although many of the dungeons secrets are in Japanese, which will prevent gamers from getting everything.

US Bound?

Namco has registered the trademark "Dungeon of Druaga: Mysterious Dungeon" in the US so it seems like a release is inevitable even though a release date hasn't been announced.

Overall

Even without a solid story, the Nightmare of Druaga is something that RPG lovers and action RPG loves can enjoy.