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The Tower of Druaga - VC Arcade Review

Game Info
The Tower of Druaga

Virtual Console Arcade | Namco Bandai | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways); Classic Controller; GameCube Controller
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3rd April 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Namco sure has a plethora of arcade titles under its wing and to hear about their plans to support is VCA was indeed encouraging. When Mappy first appeared when the VCA first launched, it wasn't that big of a surprise considering the reception towards it in the past. However, Namco also saw fit to bring another game to the Virtual Console Arcade that's not as well-known: The Tower of Druaga. The game does have a small fanbase and it's widely-regarded to be a really tough game. Does the game's challenging gameplay make for more of an exercise in frustration?

    The Tower of Druaga has players aiming to see how far they can climb the tower without losing all their lives. Players must go on a search for a hidden key that will unlock the door to the next level for you to move on. It sounds like an easy formula but when you get into the game you'll find that it's anything but easy. Gameplay can be described as a tad sluggish at first when the character is only able to move at slow speeds in the first maze especially when you have quite a distance to travel. Thankfully, there's a secret chest on the 2nd Floor of the tower that contains a special speed-up item that lasts for the rest of your experience and trust us, you'll need it! As you climb the tower, what awaits you on the next floor gets progressively harder and harder and finding the key can be quite a task. There's a good level of variety when it comes to enemies and attack patterns. You'll find basic slime monsters that are slow, easy targets, and you also have enemies that are more aggresive in nature, including fire-breathing dragons. 

Although you're not invincible to enemy attacks, you're not completely vulnerable either. Your knight-like character is equipped with some protective armor including a sword and a shield. The sword is obviously used for attacking enemies, which is activated by pressing and holding one of the assigned buttons on either the Wii Remote (NES style) or the Classic Controller. As for the shield, having it held out in front of you protects you from certain enemy attacks. Since you can only use one item at a time, your character will be exposed walking around with the sword in hand, and you can easily get overtaken.

    Early on, you'll discover two enemies: the wizard, and the knight. Not to be confused with your own character, the enemy knight walks around at a rather slower pace covering ground to try and track you down. Just like you, he also has a sword, so if you're not too careful, then you could lose a life. To defeat the knight requires wise use of both your sword and shield as you engage in a mini-duel to try and defeat him. The wizard, though, is far more ferocious. This bright, pink-like enemy can be very unpredictable and it gives you a bit of a foretaste of what's ahead in the tower. You really have to stay on your toes and move cautiously because as you move, the wizard will appear in random spots and fires a beam that goes along a horizontal line. If you're along its path, then you must use your shield by facing the direction the beam is coming from to deflect it. This requires some quick thinking and in some cases, more than one wizard may be coming at you with different speeds requiring excellent timing. 

You may find yourself losing lives fast the first couple times you play the game but it's all part of learning about the game and getting used to it. Once you learn some of the enemy patterns and the traps that await you, you're in a better position to conquer a floor so in that sense, it's a good feeling. Even still, the game awards you with extra lives upon achieving a set number of points so you're not completely without help in that department. Each floor also has its own secrets including gameplay enhancements and treasure. On some floors, defeating a certain amount of enemies will cause a treasure chest to randomly appear somewhere in the stage. But that doesn't mean you have a whole lot of time to linger around and explore. 

Amidst the challenging gameplay that already exists, there's also a quick time limit. You really have to be careful not to waste time lurking around, es
pecially on the first level when your speed is slow 
. When only 60 seconds remain, orb-like traps will appear within the maze and will come seek you out. These traps are invincible and cannot be defeated and at that point, it's a matter of racing to the exit before they come and find you.

    What can be seen as frustrating for some might be motivating for others. Some may find that the enemies add challenge to the gameplay and make the game what it is but others may find it all a little too challenging. The game encourages repeat play for motivated players to see how high they can climb the tower. This gives you room to compete against friends for bragging rights to see how far each of you can last. Additionally, as was mentioned before, each floor has its own secrets to discover so there is a good sense of exploration too.

There are some options on the VCA Menu that allow you to change the number of lives and the button configuration but nothing too big. You can set the number of lives according to the type of mood you're in. For example, you can have a big challenge with only one life, or, you can see how far you can go with 5 lives at your disposal. The game's character models look good and there's some good detail here and there but with the exception of treasure and enemies, some of the earlier mazes are pretty barren. The music itself is pretty good and it suits the game really well. The game has some nice sound effects for each of the enemies and their attacks which help you stay on guard. Mind you, it would've been good if there were some sound effects applied to the orbs that appear during the last 60 seconds, but I suppose that's all part of the suspense.

    The Tower of Druaga is a fun arcade game that's really challenging and requires a lot of skill as you progress through the game. The gripping and slightly-suspenseful gameplay translates into an enjoyable game to play whenever you're in need of a good challenge. Those who enjoy games such as Mega Man 9 will probably grow accustomed to the level of challenge here but others may find the game too difficult. It's a great game that shouldn't be overlooked, but it'll appeal most to patient gamers and those looking for something more dastardly in terms of difficulty.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Classic arcade experience with some really challenging gameplay, basic controls, good sense of exploration
Presentation 8/10 - Good for an arcade game, sound effects for enemies and attacks, appropriate music, floors could look more diverse
Enjoyment 4/5 - Challenge motivates you to see how far you can get, sense of accomplishment, some may find the game frustrating
Extra Content 4/5 - Control options, ability to change number of lives, 2P support, good level of repeat play, lots of challenging levels to explore

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

The Tower of Druaga
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Review by KnucklesSonic8  |  How we rate games

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