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The Dark Spire is a Wizardry spin-off developed by Success and...
No, hang on, that's not quite right.
While The Dark Spire is not affiliated with the actual Wizardry series, it is quite clearly a loving Homage to the venerable dungeon crawler. The DnD-inspired spell slots, endless featureless 3D dungeons (there's even a wireframe mode!), fiendishly difficult encounters that can wipe you out in a single turn if you're unlucky, and the Excuse Plot all make their appearance here. The game even uses Armor Classes instead of a defense stat!
As far as storyline is concerned, there's a dark tower called, well, the Dark Spire. After the King's court wizard, Tyrhung, stole a jeweled necklace from the Queen, he fled to the tower and holed himself in there, where he's apparently plotting... something. A reward is offered to any who successfully reclaim the necklace, and you're just the party of adventurers who're willing to try!
Upon release, the game garnered notice from being an unashamedly old-school throwback, the striking artstyle (thick, dark colours abound with nearly everything being half-hidden in shadow), and the fitting and hummable music. It was localized and published in English by Atlus.
Tropes found in this game include:
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The final ending.
- The game even begins with the Guild Master addressing the player directly.
- Breast Plate: "Bikini Armor" gives a bigger Armor Class bonus than Fine Platemail. Its in-game description is "Although skimpy, this armor offers good protection. However, many heroines are too modest to wear it." You never see your characters in game, but there's a picture of it in the manual.
- Character Alignment: Goes for the 'Lawful vs Chaotic' stripe instead of 'Good vs Evil'. Also, while humans and hobbits can choose their alignment, Elves are Neutral by default, and Dwarves are Lawful. High Elves are Lawful, and Dark Elves are Chaotic.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Sir Garland. Being repeatedly killed as part of a training exercise may have something to do with it.
- Critical Hit: Notorious, because being struck by one of these means One-Hit Kill. Several enemies can pull them off, as well as certain weapons.
- Demonic Spiders: Venom Dragons. If you encounter them, RUN!
- Dub Name Change: Fun fact: the game's Japanese title translates to something like The Tower of Mist and the Sword of Law. Admittedly, this would not look very good on the minimalistic box-art in large, blocky English letters.
- Foreboding Architecture
- Guide Dang It: Oh, loads.
- Honest Axe
- Killer Rabbit: There's an enemy named "Killer Bunny".
- Multiple Endings: There are three "endings", and they must be seen in sequence.
- Nintendo Hard: It's a Dungeon Crawler localized by Atlus. What'd you expect?
- Retraux: The game itself plays almost like a older Wizardry title. And just to add that extra layer of delicious oldschool topping, there's a 'Classic' mode that instantly converts the whole game to Wireframe mode (even the music is changed!) for the truly retro experience.
- Save Scumming: Partially averted. Like Wizardry, the game rerolls your entire HP every time you level up, which means that you can't manipulate your HP gains beyond the first few levels. Of course, the first few levels are where an extra hit point or two would make the most difference anyway...
- Scrappy Mechanic: Whoever designed the menu interfaces was probably on several illegal substances. Some of the more frustrating 'highlights' include:
- Any weapons and armour you purchase in town cannot actually be equipped while in the shop. You have to head over into the Spire proper, or go into the Guild and choose the "Status" option, before you can change your equipment.
- You cannot actually check the stats of the weapons you purchase, thus leading players to rely on the 'it costs more, so it must be better' approach. And even that doesn't work very well, because there are several expensive weapons that are worthless and cheap ones that are overpowered. The $100 Estoc does much more damage than any other weapon available in the store's initial selection, including the $3000 Katana.
- For that matter, the up/down arrows on the purchase screen do not actually delineate whether the stat values go up or down, but whether or not the character's class allows for equipping that weapon without penalties. Nowhere in the game or manual is this mentioned.
- While in the item menu, pressing 'Y' destroys an item immediately, with no confirmation message. Might not be so bad, except the equipment you're currently wearing is also listed in the item screen. So it's entirely possible to destroy aforementioned brand-new battleaxe as you're trying to figure out if there's some way to check the stats on the thing.
- The game expects you to choose the item being used and the target character simultaneously (via the up/down and L/R buttons respectively). If you press 'A' on an item it will be used immediately on the currently highlighted character, which will 90% of the time be the lead because most every other game asks you to select the item first and THEN select the target character.
- Inconsistent menu interfaces. The game allows you to cycle through the characters on your team with the L/R shoulder buttons... except when it doesn't. Why? Who knows.
- All in the name of properly emulating the frustratingly obscure and clunky interface of any good ol' dungeon crawling RPG and the nonsense rules of AD&D First Edition!
- Shout-Out: To, of all things, Hello Kitty.
- One of the floors is overrun with Small Figures identifiable as white rabbits. Considering the "magic and wizards" theme, it wouldn't be much of a shout out, but the same floor has a looking glass behind which is a Jabberwock.
- If the Killer Bunnies aren't obvious enough, keep in mind that their regular attack has a high chance of dealing a Critical Hit, which in this game means instant death by a bunny.
- Until you can repair the elevator, the only way to get back to the entrance from the third floor is through Scotty's Teleportation Service. The room in which it is located contains a persistent humming sound. Subtle.
- The entire plot of the game (so far as it has one) is based on The Eternal Champion series by Michael Moorcock. For evidence, we have Tyrhung who goes by the name "Stormbringer."
- Squishy Wizard: Guess which class gets stuck with single-digit HP the longest?
- Useless Useful Spell: Almost inverted. Your characters get much better use out of the basic sleep and silence spells than the monsters. Most magic using enemies are vulnerable to the silence spell. Furthermore, by the time you run into enemies that you can't silence consistently, your characters will have enough status ailment resistance to shrug off sleep and silence spells cast by enemies. The sleep spell also works wonders. You can put just about any early game enemy to sleep for the entire battle, and even higher level enemies will often fall asleep for at least one round, which is long enough for your front-line attackers to take advantage of the fact that sleeping monsters are easy to hit and take increased damage from physical attacks. And the One-Hit Kill spells are high level spells for a reason - they work.