That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into, Ki.

So just how did Princess Ki end up as a stone at the top of the Tower of Druaga? Find out in…

Kai no Bouken: The Quest of Ki – Namco – 1988

Years before the events of The Tower of Druaga, the Blue Crystal Rod was bestowed upon the land of Babylim (Babylon) by the god Anu, who placed it in the sky above the kingdom, where it brought about an era of peace. Babylim was then conquered by Emperor Balarant of Sumer, who forced the people of Babylim to construct a tower to reach the Blue Crystal Rod. However, angry about the blasphemy, Anu destroyed the tower and damaged the Rod, letting Druaga loose. Druaga rebuilt the tower and hid the Rod at the top. The goddess Ishtar then found a sorceress – Ki – and gave her a magic headband that enabled her to fly, and instructed her to ascend the tower and get the Blue Crystal Rod from Druaga.

Now that you know that…

I’ve decided that I like the idea of the Druaga games, not so much the games themselves, because the execution is flawed in a lot of places.

This is one such place.

The Tower of Druaga, for all its flaws, at least played fairly well. The Quest of Ki, on the other hand, looks like a traditional platformer, at first. But instead of using stairs or ladders to get to a higher platform, you have to press the jump button and watch as Ki practically flies into the stratosphere. You do have some control when determining where Ki lands, but if you whack her head on a ceiling, she’s knocked back down and you have no control until she hits the floor. Better hope there aren’t any enemies below her.

This is The Quest of Ki‘s biggest flaw, and at the same time, its most innovative gameplay mechanic. That, I think, must be some kind of paradox. It definitely puts a unique spin on traditional platforming, but it’s so frustrating that most players can only take so much of it before they give up and switch to a different game.

Ishtar and the dragon spirit Quox occasionally pop up between stages to give Ki hints, but unless you’re playing the English translation or can read Japanese, they’re worthless to you.

The ending sets up The Tower of Druaga nicely, at least. It explains exactly what happened to Ki and the Blue Crystal Rod, as well as what happened to Quox (who’s an enemy in Druaga), and you’re told that Ki’s lover Gil would ascend the tower and rescue her. Of course, they don’t mention how the two of them worked their way down the tower to escape, as seen in The Return of Ishtar.

Namco liked to do a whole “shared universe” thing with a lot of their earlier games, and I believe that there’s a chapter of the Druaga saga that takes place in the distant future. And even though the legend of Druaga, Gil, Ki and Ishtar had faded into myth by that point, the tower still stands, now home to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But what man would brave those crumbling walls and attempt to find the Hanging Gardens himself?

Only one man has the courage, skills and intelligence to attempt such a feat.

While you’re waiting to find out what happens next, check out this longplay of The Quest of Ki.

And now for something completely different.

Let’s talk Famicom.

Recently, I’ve been taking a break from the Turbografx-16 to go back to my all-time favorite, after months of leaving it untouched. I thought, for a change of pace, I’d talk about a few of the Famicom exclusives I was playing.

The Tower of Druaga – Namco – 1985

You know, I’ve played several different versions of Druaga over the years, and for the life of me, I can’t understand exactly what the Japanese see in it. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe you just had to be there when it was first released. I don’t know.

For those of you unfamiliar with Druaga, it’s a dungeon crawler of sorts. You play as the knight Gilgamesh (usually called Gil), and you must fight your way to the top of the tower to rescue the princess Ki from the evil scorpion-like demon Druaga, who also has in his possession the magical Blue Crystal Rod. Every floor has a special item to find, but there’s a ridiculously short timer and you walk like a snail until you find the boots. And there are a lot of floors to make your way through (60, total). Treasure chests only appear when you do… something… to make them appear. On every floor, what that something is changes, and the game doesn’t give you any hints.

You’re constantly under siege from all sorts of enemies, from slimes to knights to wizards, among others. And Gil always has to draw his sword before he can attack. You can hold the attack button down so that the sword is always drawn, but that leaves your defenses down.

Personally, I’ve never gotten far in any version of the game. The arcade game is a bit better than the Famicom game, but not by much. The PC Engine version, on the other hand, is a massive improvement, with larger characters and faster movement from the start. Still, I’ve never been able to get very far. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t understand the nuances of the game.

The Tower of Druaga did launch a series, one that remained virtually unknown outside of Japan, at least until the Namco Museum series for the PlayStation was released. The original arcade game is included on Volume 3, and the arcade sequel, The Return of Ishtar, is on Volume 4.

What not many people know is that there was a prequel, and it was a Famicom exclusive. I’ll take a look at that one next time. In the meantime, take a look at this longplay of the Famicom game. The player here makes it look easy, of course.

Unearthing the past.

I never thought I’d see this again.

My legendary lost fansite!

Not after I gave it to a fellow webmaster when I finally realized I had limits when it came to running fansites, and had to choose which ones I wanted to run the most. I gave it to a fellow Metal Slug fansite webmaster who proceeded to do absolutely jack shit with it, and once his site went the way of the dodo, so did mine. I didn’t have it backed up at all, so I resigned myself to the fact that it had been lost to the ages.

Not once did I think to check the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. That was a major oversight on my part.

While prepping an upcoming West Mansion update, I got to thinking about the old site, and decided to check and see if there were any remnants of it kicking around. Sure enough, there was. A lot of it has been lost to time – mainly images – but the entire website had been preserved. That surprised me, considering that the site hadn’t been up that long before I turned it over to the other guy.

So I grabbed everything I could, did some quick and fast HTML editing, a couple of minor updates, and uploaded the site to a subdirectory of West Mansion.

https://splatterhouse.kontek.net/metalslug/

So if you feel like exploring some ancient ruins, so to speak, click the link above and take a look around!

A sad state of affairs, or HEY! Where did all MY games go?!

I had no idea at the time that Street Fighter II was destined to start a revolution, but it did. I watched as this game, this lousy, cheating, eat my last two quarters game, become huge overnight. By early 1992, Street Fighter II was all anyone was talking about, then Capcom ported the game to the Super NES and released it that summer, shortly after I graduated high school. That was it. The dam had officially burst. The demand for more vs. fighters was growing, and the game companies knew it. Street Fighter II wannabes started flooding the arcades, with most of them being ported to the Super NES and Genesis shortly thereafter. Then, in fall ’92, Street Fighter II‘s biggest rival appeared in arcades.

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And where were you about a year later, on Mortal Monday? Me, I was at home.

Having never seen anything quite like it before, even I was impressed by the digitized fighters and copious amounts of blood, not to mention those fatalities. But in the end, it was just another vs. fighter. I’d already seen them start to overwhelm the Neo Geo, which had so much promise before it became the vs. fighter console (I’m still a fan of a lot of the games for it that aren’t vs. fighters, especially Magician Lord and the Metal Slug games). In fact, my main issue was the fact that vs. fighters were starting to overwhelm, well, everything.

For a time, this was actually a Good Thing. Before the asteroid impact that was Street Fighter II, arcades had such a selection of games that appealed to everyone. Sure, Double Dragon started a minor brawler craze in the late ’80s, but it had nowhere near the impact that Street Fighter II had when it took off. Now, all people wanted to play were vs. fighters, and they’d crowd around the SF2 and MK machines, watching others play, anxiously awaiting their turn. I had my choice of games to play, because very few people were bothering with them, and I could play whatever I wanted until I ran out of quarters. But little by little, the arcades I went to lost the impressively diverse selection that they had, in favor of wall-to-wall vs. fighters.

All I could do was watch helplessly as my old favorites – the shooters, the action platformers, the run-n-guns , the brawlers – were removed and replaced by the next big vs. fighter. Some of the old standbys and proven money-makers stuck around. Very rarely would you find an arcade that didn’t at least have one Pac-Man game, for example.

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10 times out of 10, it was this one.

Home consoles weren’t quite as badly affected, but I did notice that were a lot fewer games in each of those genres released there as well. There were plenty of vs. fighter home ports and original creations, of course, but there was also the X-TREME CRITTER infatuation at the time too (thank you very much, Sonic the Hedgehog).

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This was at least 50% your fault, you smug bastard.

In the end, all I could do was watch as the entire world of gaming that I knew was completely changed. And let’s not even get to the impact that 3D gaming had once consoles like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were released, coupled with the rise of the first person shooter. In the end, I blame Street Fighter II for all of this. The world was never the same after it.

So what caused me to do this turnaround, so many years after this all happened? Well, that’s another story entirely.

The winter of my discontent, or how Street Fighter II really pissed me off.

The year was 1991, and I was in my senior year of high school. The Super NES had just been released. My friends and I was amazed by it, as it was capable of doing things that neither our beloved Sega Genesis or NEC Turbografx-16 could. Scaling! Rotation! Transparencies! Echo effects! Soundtracks that sounded like they were performed by a full orchestra! You get the idea!

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IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US! AAAAAHHHHHH!

Right around the same time, I had been introduced to the world of flea markets by my friend Marc, and we were starting to hit them every other weekend. The amount of used games they had for different consoles was staggering. I’d never seen so many Sega Master System games in my life. The selection of NES games was like someone had taken  three or four video store’s worth of rentals and put them all out on display.  There were racks of Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800 games, mostly untouched and covered with a thick layer of dust. Intellivision, ColecoVision, Odyssey 2? Present and accounted for. Every so often, one of the vendors would have the odd Fairchild Channel F or Bally Astrocade for sale. Of course, they had Genesis and Turbo games as well, usually priced almost as high as what you’d find them for new.

It was only a matter of time before the Super NES games started trickling in. A lot of the vendors had them on display, but the consoles themselves were only demo units and were not for sale. Not that I could have afforded any of them at that point in my life.

The nearest flea market to me, Flea World in Sanford, FL., had a mini amusement park of sorts attached to it, named Fun World. There were go-karts, kiddy rides, even a petting zoo – but most important to me was their arcade, which was massive. They had so many games, old and new. The arcades in the local malls were pretty impressive, but this? This was something else entirely. The place was always crowded, the multiplayer games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting the lion’s share of attention.

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Not exactly the same, but you get the idea. (photo courtesy of Arcade 1up)

One Saturday, after trading in a couple of games and staring wistfully at the Super NES displays for a bit, Marc and I found ourselves in the arcade. I’d made a successful trade, but even with the games I’d traded in, I didn’t quite have enough to afford the game I wanted, unless I threw in some cash. The trade took nearly all the money I had left. By the time we’d made it to the arcade, I had maybe sixty-five cents on me. I had to choose what game I wanted to play carefully.

As one might expect, TMNT had a crowd around it. So did a lot of the other popular games. The older games weren’t really being played, but I wasn’t interested in those. I’d played a lot of them to death by this time. No, what I wanted to play was something new.

That’s when I saw it, over in a corner. It was a game I’d never heard of, a sequel to another game I’d never heard of, but it was by Capcom, who I knew from their NES games and their earlier arcade games. No one was playing it.

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Hmm. I decided to check it out. Upon first inspection, it reminded me of an older arcade game I’d played a couple of times, Data East’s Hippodrome, minus the weapons and mythological setting. Okay, sure. I’ll plunk down a quarter and give it a shot, then maybe go try something else.

No dice. It was going to cost me fifty cents to play, practically all of the money I had left. I considered this for a moment, then shrugged, dug my two quarters out of my pocket, and dropped them in the slot. I hit the one player button and was presented with a character select screen. Wow, I could choose from eight characters? That was unusual. They were a colorful bunch. I chose the blonde karate guy, and then the game informed me that my first match would be in Brazil, and my first opponent was some freaky green dude with fangs and wild red/orange hair. Huh. Here I thought this was nothing like Hippodrome.

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“ROUND ONE. FIGHT!”

Before I could even get a proper handle on how to play the game, Greenie absolutely thrashed me. I don’t think I managed to land a single hit on him. My jaw dropped slightly, but when round two was announced, I realized that I had another shot.

Not that it mattered. I think I may have actually landed a hit on him that time, before his combination of air attacks and electrocution did me in. And just like that, the game was over. I think I lasted maybe a minute and a half, tops.

I was furious. I just blew the last bit of money I had for a minute or so of gameplay. The game was a broken, cheap, piece of shit cheating money grabbing garbage pile! I decided right then and there that the game sucked, and I would never, ever play it again.

Of course, if I’d stuck to my guns on that, we wouldn’t be here now.