Video Game / The Tower of Druaga


The Tower of Druaga is a 1984 arcade game released by Namco, about a knight named Gilgamesh (or "Gil" for short) who has to climb a monster-infested tower in order to defeat the demon Druaga and rescue Ki (pronounced "Kai"), a shrine maiden in service to the goddess Ishtar. It is infamous as the high-water mark of player-directed cruelty in videogames — the acme of the old school style where videogames existed to challenge and defeat the player.

Each floor of the tower has a hidden treasure for the player to discover; some of these treasures, such as the Blue Crystal Rod, are essential to completing the game. The game, however, offers no hints on how to find these treasures, which depending on the floor might involve anything from killing enemies in a certain order to walking over one or more points in the maze to crossing paths with a certain enemy to entering a special code to none or several of the above. The final floors with Druaga, Ishtar and Ki are especially tricky because certain missteps can cause Gilgamesh to be ZAPPED back to a lower floor.

The game spawned an irregularly released series of games, known as the "Babylonian Castle Saga":
  • The Return of Ishtar (1986), an Immediate Sequel where Gil and Ki team up
  • The Quest of Ki (1988), a Puzzle Platformer prequel starring Ki
  • The Blue Crystal Rod (1994), sequel to The Return of Ishtar again starring Gil and Ki
  • Seme COM Dungeon: Drururuaga (2000), Distant Sequel with card-based gameplay
  • The Nightmare of Druaga (2004), part of Chunsoft's Fushigi no Dungeon Roguelike franchise
  • Druaga Online: The Story of Aon (2005), non-canonical four-player arcade game
  • The Tower of Druaga: The Recovery of BABYLIM (2009), a MMORPG

The first three games of the above list, as well as the remake of The Tower of Druaga for the PC Engine, were developed by Game Studio, the company founded in 1985 by Masanobu Endoh, creator of the original game.

Various Shout Outs and Bonus Dungeons based on the game can be found in the Tales Series and Soul Series, and Baten Kaitos has a Homage level that calls back to this game. Also, characters from the series appeared in Namco Capcom, with Gil and Ki acting as a playable unit, and Druaga appearing as a boss.

In 2008, the game was adapted into an anime series, with its first season being titled Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk and the second season in 2009, with the new subtitle "Sword of Uruk".

This video game series provides examples of:

  • Blob Monster: Slimes in several colors.
  • Building of Adventure: The entire game takes place in the eponymous tower.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Getting zapped to a lower floor destroys the highest-tier weapon and armor pieces, making the fight against Druaga unwinnable.
    • On the other hand, continuing when you haven't made the game unwinnable is quite useful, since you get to keep all of your treasures. Not only that, as proof you weren't expected to beat it on one coin, when you beat the level you died on, you get *all of your points back* that you lost on continue.
  • The Dragon: Quox. It is mentioned in the lore that it was a peaceful being born from the Blue Crystal Rod until Druaga split the Rod into three, making it split into three itself and go mad.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The pickaxes, which break walls. The gold one has infinite uses, and makes the game considerably easier ("easy" being a relative term here...)
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness
  • God Guise: Succubus on Floor 57 disguises herself as the goddess Ishtar. Killing her is one of the requirements for the Ruby Mace, which is required to fight Druaga in two more floors.
    • In the PC Engine version, you do not kill her, and she gives you the Blue Crystal Rod instead.
  • Guide Dang It: In each level of the game, there is a treasure which requires a unique and unguessable without trial and error action. Even after working this out, some of the items are harmful, which again can only be discovered with trial and error. Some of them are required to make other items non harmful. How do you figure that out? Guess... Avoiding the treasure isn't an option, either, as most of them are needed to complete the game. Oh, and there wasn't a guide when the game was released.
  • Infinity+1 Sword: The Excalibur/Hyper Sword.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Will O'Wisps.
  • Locked Door: You have to find the key to open the exit to the level.
  • Lost Forever:
    • The treasures under Guide Dang It. Uh oh...
    • Use a Copper or Silver Pickaxe too many times on the same floor or use any Pickaxe on the outer walls of the floor and it's gone forever, sometimes disallowing you from acquiring the better Pickaxes later in the game.
  • Missing Secret: Very few floors don't even have a treasure.
    • One port has a secret whose trigger is caused by "exiting the level".
  • Nintendo Hard: Almost sadistically so for an arcade game. You have to make a cruel crawl through 60 floors all with monsters that can one-shot you and treasures that are mandatory for finishing the game.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder:
    • You have a Hit Points value, but you can't actually see it. It's also only used for fighting enemy Knights and Lizardmen; slimes, magic spells, and whisps all use One-Hit-Point Wonder logic.
    • In The Return of Ishtar, Ki herself will go down in one attack from anything. Gil has health that drops each time he kills an enemy.
  • Password Save: The Return of Ishtar, which alters passwords for each room depending on which name and sex the player(s) wrote before starting.
  • Poison Mushroom: The Potions of Energy Drain and Potions of Death, and any item after not obtaining the Balance on the previous level.
  • Power Up Letdown: Most of the weapon and armor upgrades don't actually do anything useful, but are necessary to eventually trade up to the highest-tier equipment, which is mandatory for the fight with Druaga.
  • Save the Princess: Ki is a shrine maiden and not a "princess" per se but she is engaged to a prince and rescuing her is the point of Nightmare of Druaga.
  • Sprint Shoes: Jet Boots.
  • Stalked by the Bell
  • Taken for Granite: Ki is cursed by Druaga and turned to stone.
  • Timed Mission: Every floor has a 20,000 frame time limit, ontop of a 60-second time limit if you exhaust it.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: The first game is possibly the most extreme example in the history of video games. The steps for acquiring the items on each level are so hilariously non-intuitive that one could be forgiven for labeling it an Unwinnable Joke Game.
    • Since there was no guide when the game was released into arcades, people simply had to take it on blind faith that the game was winnable at all. Following from that, enough persistence and credits spent causes the game to cough up it's secrets.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Of the Cruel variety. Let us count the ways...
    • Picking up the Evil Gauntlet permanently prevents you from drawing your sword.
    • If you don't pick up floor 34's treasure, the next floor's key will not appear.
    • Finally, after spending Eleventy Zillion quarters, you've reached the top of the tower and are ready to face Druaga in a climactic... Blue crystal rod? What blue crystal rod?!
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: You can attack Ishtar and Ki, instead of rescuing them... if you don't mind being sent back almost to the beginning of the game.