Our Blog


Torneko, we salute you

29 September on Blogs, Editorial  

The past few days I have been pretty entertained playing Dragon Quest IV, a DS remake of a game that dates back to 1990, one of the last few great games released on the NES/Famicom. Not only was I impressed replaying the remake of the first one on the Game Boy, but the feeling of awe came back all over again. It's not impressive on a technical level, but almost solely on its simple yet effective design.

Recent RPGs have tried to ease the boredom of grinding (spending hours leveling up) with ellaborate schemes to further make each character individually different - Sphere Grids, License Boards, Mantra Experience... I could spend days thinking of different formulas proposed by different games, but DQ gets away with it by simply making you noticeably more powerful with every level - and each character gain abilities and stats in his or her specific way. You don't worry about who to teach Wind spells - they will learn it on their own when the time comes. But what really surprised me was a chapter just waiting there in the introductory part of the game - Torneko's story (He was renamed Taloon in some versions in the US). Spoilers ahead, for those who care about this.

Torneko is about the antithesis of the RPG hero: he is a middle-aged fat merchant (married and with a kid, even!) with the sole aspiration of opening his own weapon shop. If that isn't enough of a shock, the actual gameplay starts with you getting a packed lunch from your gorgeous wife. Now, what you will probably end up doing is walking to the town's own weapon shop where you work as the clerk for the owner. You literally step behind the counter and random character come in asking to buy and sell weapons. You pick YES/NO answers as to wheter you want to display your stock, buy or sell items. Some characters will even notice they can't equip a certain item and ask if you will still sell it to them. Items that the store doesn't usually carry only appear after you bought it, and disappear as soon as someone else buys them (which can include yourself).

Now, this may sound simple, but makes the world of Dragon Quest suddenly much richer. Anyone who has played console RPGs knows that most cities feel like cardboard cutouts, with plain buildings lacking regular facilities (when was the last time you saw a toilet in a RPG?) and people repeating the same sentence over and over... this little stunt makes you feel for all those guys behind counters in all these games. The game is full of little tricks like this in a smaller scale, like have certain characters follow you then settle in different towns, and making the world feel like a living, breathing landscape.

I don't know that anyone ever named this kind of quality, but I like to call it "texture". Very much like taste is the primary factor in food, gameplay usually is the first thing we look in terms of a videogame. But even in culinary the texture can make or break a dish... and these little touches really can separate a bland game from a great game. I still remember to this day how I used a glass bottle in Zelda: Ocarina of Time in a small pond with a fish... and I managed to get it! Most games would not have bothered with this kind of detail, but it really makes the experience so much nicer for the player.

Obviously, certain games can get an even bigger boost from this quality. Management games like SimCity, and it really makes them stick on the player's memory. Seeing every single person in your theme park let go of their balloon at the same time when you completed your goal in Rollercoaster Tycoon was always a thrill.

Feedback is everything.

Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

Author, freelance videogame journalist, cinematography major and a little insane.