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.

Why bring the OPCFG back now?

That’s a good question. After all, it’s been 21 years since I first started the site, and just under a year since I signed its final (?) death certificate.

It’s certainly got nothing to do with the site’s original mission from 1998, to try to get Japanese games that went unreleased during the 32-bit era released here now. It’s not about exposing the rest of the world to some of the great titles of the 8 and 16-bit eras that never left their places of origin. All of this has been done, far better than I ever did, by people who branched far beyond the constraints of Web 1.0, where I remained (and in a lot of ways, still do remain) perpetually stuck.

It also has nothing to do with my attempt at “reloading” the site in 2008. The age of the physical compilation/collection is nearing its end, and there’s no point in discussing the merits of various compilations in this age of downloads and digital re-releases. It has nothing to do with the 2014 revival either, which was basically just shilling for my book Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman, until it got its own dedicated site and traffic moved away from the old OPCFG site. Nor does it have anything to do with my brief flirtation with having the OPCFG on Facebook.

As I said nearly a year ago, “It’s time for this website to end. The OPCFG ran its course over a decade ago. What revivals I attempted were too little, too late.” So, to put it bluntly, if that’s truly how I feel, what gives?

The thing is, I still have a lot I want to talk about. I’m still learning a lot about the games of the past, and seeing as how I’ve thoroughly explored my favorite genres, I’m now branching off into what’s relatively unexplored territory for me. Take vs. fighters and classic FPSes, for example. Both are genres I turned my nose up at in the ’90s, but am now tentatively starting to get into, and I’d like to talk about my experiences as I brush aside the cobwebs and see what these have to offer.

But maybe, to bring attention to my new adventures, it’s time for a rebranding. The OPCFG name is ancient, but does still have some “brand recognition,” so to speak. Problem is, that recognition is tied to an era that’s now long past us. The old timers in the community might remember the old site, but the new blood? Doubtful.

So rebranding could work. It worked for Kurt Kalata when he retooled The Classic Gaming Review Archive into Hardcore Gaming 101. It worked for Derek Alexander when he changed from being the Happy Video Game Nerd and became half of the driving force behind the series Stop Skeletons From Fighting. It worked for TJ Rappel after he left the Metroid Database and started Retro Game Super Hyper. See what I mean?

What to do, what to do…