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Dragon Questing V Part III [GO]
July 7th, 2009 by Dan

When we last left Dan and Pankraz, they had just showed up in Coburg to be bodyguards for Prince Henry. It seems there’s some strife within the castle, as the king has two heirs and the queen clearly favors one son over the other. It’s some serious Jacob and Esau-type stuff and an example of a family gone horribly wrong. The princes are either apathetic (Wilbur) or total jerkfaces (Harry), but it doesn’t really matter anyway, we’ve gotta guard Harry after all.

While “playing” with Harry (he just acts like a jerk and tricks Dan), Harry gets kidnapped from his secret passageway, forcing Dan and Pankraz to chase after him in a panic. Well, to be fair, Pankraz tells Dan to stay put and goes searching for Harry, but at this point Dan isn’t about to just sit idly on the wayside. He’s got Leo in his party, after all, and he can fight too.

Chasing after Harry leads Dan to some ruins that he successfully navigates as he meets back up with his dear old dad. Pankraz joins the party as you tear on through the dungeon. You encounter Harry, Pankraz goes off to clear the way, but Dan and Harry are intercepted on their way out by the Bishop Ladja, Slon the Rook, and Kon the Knight. This is yet another moment where the game uses its mechanics to express a feeling of helplessness, because Bishop Ladja is one tough son of a gun! You can only watch as the Bishop absolutely destroys Harry, Leo, and Dan’s HP and the battle inevitably ends with your destruction. That’s when the great Pankraz shows up to save the day. Except that Ladja has the kids held hostage. He will kill us if Pankraz tries to interfere. In a strange twist of honor, Ladja promises not to harm the children if Pankraz surrenders. His love for Dan is too great, so he surrenders and we’re treated to more video game storytelling.

There are a few major video game deaths that are hailed as heartbreaking or emotionally affecting. The murder of Aeris, the endings of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and the ending of Metal Gear Solid 3 (I was inches away from crying, it’s ridiculous) all come to mind. I think that if Dragon Quest V had come out on the SNES stateside we would have the death of Pankraz to add to that list. The helplessness of the Ladja battle was enough for one days worth of intensity, but now Horii does it again, and with the benefit of the battle screen, not as an in-game cutscene, as a Ladja orders Slon and Kon to kill Pankraz. This doesn’t end quickly, Pankraz is very strong, as you might remember. This means that you, the player, have to watch Slon and Kon slowly whittle away Pankraz’s health as he stoically takes it all. Each turn has a little something to say about Pankraz’s pain or his suffering. It’s agonizing because you can see how ridiculously easy it would be for Pankraz to just start fighting back. Eventually the Great Pankraz falls. His last words: Dan’s mother is still alive. He’s been searching for her all this time. Ladja sends a fireball at Pankraz, incinerating him and leaving charred ground where he once stood. He then turns his attention back upon the player. He’s got other plans for you.

To be continued…


4 Responses  
  • Eric Mesa writes:
    July 7th, 20097:58at

    Ever since Chrono’s death in Chrono Trigger – every time I’ve come up against an impossible bad guy I wonder if I’m supposed to die.

    • Dan writes:
      July 7th, 200910:33at

      At least in Dragon Quest if it turns out you’re wrong you just lose half your gold. You’re not sent back to the last save point and you get to keep all the experience you’ve earned.

      • Eric Mesa writes:
        July 7th, 200911:48at

        Doesn’t that cause problems with storyline? You fought with this dude and lost half your gold. So now you fight again?

        • Dan writes:
          July 7th, 200911:58at

          If you look at it from a strict role-playing sense, then yes, it makes no sense. You died and got revived by the goddess and just went up against him. It makes zero sense.

          Then again, neither does a lot of RPG conventions and idiocy. You can take an explosive hit in FF VII, lose 9999 HP and die, but you can just Life or Phoenix Down back up, but Aeris can’t be healed from a stab wound? Really? (Also, ducks can’t talk)

          I like the Dragon Quest series because it knows that when the player wins, the game doesn’t lose. So it follows that it’s not so bad that the game doesn’t punish you all that much for losing. RPGs are such time-consuming affairs that having to re-earn all the experience points up to the boss again is absolutely unnecessary. It seems hypocritical of me to praise a game helping me out when I love MegaTen’s brutal difficulty, but look at it this way:

          I like that the MegaTen games contain some tough-as-nails battles that are hard to win. I don’t like redoing HOURS of work because a lucky Hama or Mudo hit my protagonist and I didn’t have a homunculus on me. It might get too easy if I were to keep all my XP and items, but it would still prevent redoing hours of work or playing extra-super-cautiously. It’s a strange and difficult balancing act for me, but it probably stems from me wanting to have a difficult experience, but not at the expense of repeating hours of work that I’ve already done, especially considering how much less time I have for gaming as I get older.


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