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Video Game / King's Field

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King's Field is a series of first-person RPGs by FromSoftware (later known for the mecha-combat series Armored Core, and nowadays known as the creators of Dark Souls), and the Ur-Example for the Souls-like RPG, with many early versions of mechanics and thematics popularized in FromSoftware's later games starting in King's Field and its sequels. A Dungeon Crawler at heart, the gameplay and story conventions have much in common with first-person role-playing games such as Ultima Underworld, though the gameplay mechanics are streamlined and have distinct Japanese touches.

    Games in the King's Field series 
Main Series:

Spiritual Successors:

Most of this article will use the Japanese titles.

There is also a program called Sword of Moonlight that allows one to make their own King's Field style games. This program came with a PC port of the first King's Field. There is an online community dedicated to this program, which has made Sword of Moonlight available in English and has even produced games using it. You do not need the Sword of Moonlight program installed to play games made with it.

Unfortunately, much of the franchise is a case of No Export for You. This includes the very first game in the series, which was released before the Play Station console was even available outside of Japan. By the time the PlayStation came to America, King's Field II was already out, so that was the first game America got. For those who want to play the real first game, there are fan translation patches, both for the original PlayStation version and the Sword of Moonlight PC port.

The three PlayStation games form what is sometimes known as the "Verdite Trilogy", as they all involve events in or that involve the Kingdom of Verdite and the Verdite Royal Family, the dragons Seath and Guyra (who are basically gods), and usually require the hero to attain the Moonlight Sword. The games are ultimately plot-lite, but actually have a bit of mythology behind them if you talk to a lot of people and read the manuals.

In King's Field you play as John Alfred Forester, a distant prince of Verdite and son of the Commander of the Royal Guard, Houser Forester, and the daughter of King Reinhardt II, Zoela. After his father disappeared while trying to stop an ancient evil coming from the Royal Cemetery, Alfred himself goes into the ages-old graveyard to find out what happened to his father, retrieve the family sword, and stop the ancient evil himself. Along the way, he learns that his father's ancestral sword, the Dragon Sword, is actually the sealed form of the legendary Moonlight Sword, subsequently unsealing its power.

King's Field II takes place a number of years later. Alfred is now the King of Verdite, being the last heir to the line. The Moonlight Sword has been stolen and evidence indicates the thief is on the island of Melanat, which is supposedly cursed. The King's friend Alexander Thornton Regginis, the second prince of Granitiki, volunteers to go to Melanat himself and retrieve the sword, winds up discovering a slave-mining operation and a plot to revive the black dragon, Guyra.

King's Field III takes place fifteen years later and stars Alfred's son, Austin Lyle Forester. Sadly, Alfred has been possessed and has become a force of evil, and Alexander died sealing Alfred in Reinhardt Castle. Lyle finds out the truth of the situation, defeats his father and the being who possessed him.

King's Field IV is an all new story that basically has nothing to do with the Verdite Trilogy, although it makes allusions to the trilogy. In it, your main character, Prince Devian Rosberg, is given the Idol of Sorrow and tasked with returning it to its pedestal in the Ancient City, which will supposedly break the curse which has befallen his home kingdom of Azalin. In the course of your journey you learn that the civilization of the Ancient City had begun worshiping "the darkness" and may have brought about their own destruction. The Moonlight Sword once again appears, but it's a completely different sword from the one in the Verdite trilogy.

King's Field Additional I, a Japan-exclusive tile-based dungeon crawler in the style of old-school RPGs like Wizardry and Might and Magic, takes place roughly 10 years later after the events in Verdite in the southern nation of Rikisutoria (Lixtoria?) where the protagonist is a nameless youth and member of one of many mercenary bands hired to search an ancient sacred labyrinth located near the town of Traujito (Trauzit?) with the task of ensuring that the country's previously overthrown and banished monarch, nicknamed the "Plunderer King" for his bloody reign, would never make his return from its depths again. The youth's band ambushed and routed within the labyrinth, he survives but falls into a coma as a result of his wounds and only wakes up a full year later. When he hears a rumor that a man who might've been another survivor of his group has been seen roaming the depths of the ancient ruin, he decides to venture into the labyrinth's depths once more.

King's Field Additional II is a follow-up to the previous game, taking place another ten or so years later in the same location but with a different player character. A series of strange natural disasters in the area prompts the dispatch of an investigation team into the long-closed off labyrinth. Sometime later the protagonist, the son of the man who led the investigation team, receives news that his father has died in the ruins under unknown circumstances. He begins his journey to Trauzit the very next day, determined to learn the truth behind his father's fate.

The first four King's Field games were released in a collector's edition box set in 2007; of course, it's Japan-only. An extensive overview of the series can be found here.

As noted above; while not considered part of the genre itself, King's Field is often considered the spiritual predecessor of the Souls series, and by extension, the spiritual "grandfather" of the Souls-like RPG sub-genre. While the combat is nothing alike, the games, especially The Ancient City, have remarkable similarities in terms of exploration, atmosphere, level design, and art direction, enough Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are considered direct Spiritual Successors, with Souls series director Hidetaka Miyazaki citing King's Field directly as a large inspiration for his games.

This series provides examples of:

  • Air Borne Mook: Present from the first game on. In the Additional games flying enemies can only ever be attacked with a bow or spells, which makes them especially troublesome as you can't switch weapons in combat and bows prevent the use of a shield which is a critical form of damage mitigation.
  • All There in the Manual: By 2007, the overarching lore for the Verdite Trilogy was rewritten to make the games flow together better. This rewrite, titled the "Verdite Chronicle", was part of the 20th anniversary Dark Side box set.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: When exploring the water caverns just outside the entrance to the Widda Fortress in IV, you'll come across a cell with three soldiers from the expedition, one of whom is eating a bowl of food he claims to have found. Already the man seems suspicious, but otherwise isn't hostile or anything. Come back later and this same man will be blocking the door yet through the door's window bars, you can see him turn his head to the side and a snake's tongue occasionally flicking out. Return quite some time later and a Widda (a snake-man), will be roaming around, wearing the man's clothes. You can kill him for a crystal vial. In order to prevent the transformation, however you need to give him a Widda Egg from the Widda Mines, to which he'll give you the vial as thanks and be returned to normal later on.
  • Attract Mode: If you wait a few seconds at Shadow Tower's title screen, a gameplay demo will play.
  • Blackout Basement: Some rooms in the Additional games are pitch-black, and may even contain Bottomless Pits. Luckily they tend to come with light switches found somewhere in the vicinity.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Light Needle spell in the first game is a weak but fast-firing projectile magic. While its damage is negligible, it still staggers enemies like any other attack, keeping them stunned while you attack with your sword. The final boss can even be killed by simply keeping it stunlocked via a rapid barrage of Light Needles.
    • The Wind Cutter spell plays much the same role in Additional I. While it's the second weakest damage spell in the game, it's also very efficient for its low MP cost. As combat pauses during spell animations and there's no cooldown beyond the recharging magic meter, you can cast the spell several times in succession for considerable damage between enemy attacks, wait for the magic meter to recharge, and repeat.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: You actually can get the Moonlight Sword without defeating Guyra in King's Field II, and use it as an equippable item. It requires a very difficult maneuver and lots of luck though, and then you find out the sword is not as good as the Dark Slayer, which you already have.
  • Cave Behind the Falls
  • Dark Is Not Evil and Light Is Not Good:
    • The ultimate weapon of most of the games is the Moonlight Sword. This sounds like an aversion, until King's Field II reveals that the Moonlight Sword was created by Guyra, the "evil" god, to facilitate his own resurrection. It does, however, ultimately end up being a force for good in the games.
    • The Infinity +1 Sword of King's Field II is the Dark Slayer.
    • The first two games mostly work on the premise "Seath good, Guyra bad." However, in King's Field III it turns out that both were ultimately mistakes, the result of a higher power, Vallad, who tried to create his own pair of demigods to help him stop the world from devolving into chaos after his two brother gods got bored and fucked off back to where their creator, Sylval, was sleeping. It backfired horribly due to an unnamed seed of evil hiding deep within the world corrupting the two new demigods, leading them to take their roles a little too seriously and started actually trying to dominate the world. Incidentally, the final boss of the game is Seath, who is represented as a shining white figure who uses light-based attacks.
  • Dark Secret: The Reinhardt family's skill with magic comes from their bloodline, cursed by the seed of evil which corrupted Seath and Guyra.
  • Death is Cheap:
    • Somewhat in King's Field II - if you die near the beginning of the game you have to either restart from the beginning or reload your save game. Once you've unlocked Seath's Fountain though, then you'll always come back there with all your gold, experience and inventory intact.
    • In King's Field III, Dragon Stones now double over as extra lives (formerly they were just this game's version of Elixirs). As long as you have one, there is no real downside to dying. In fact there's a secret area you have to die to reach!
      • All three games use Dragon Stones to fuel resurrection, but the third game is the only one in the original trilogy where no additional action (activation of a recovery fountain) is required as a prerequisite. Die without a Dragon Stone in any of the three games? Start from the beginning again (or, more likely, reload a save). Die with a Dragon Stone but without having activated the necessary fountain in I or II? Same.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: By the end of the Verdite trilogy, you've killed both the major demigods.
  • Game Maker: The Japan-only Sword of Moonlight: King's Field Making Tool is a game maker program for Windows that allows users to create their own King's Field-styled games and it even includes a PC port of the first King's Field made using this program. Despite its limited availability and age, it has a small but dedicated community creating original games from it and even translated the program itself into English.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Moonlight Sword is the ultimate weapon in most of the games, except in King's Field II where it's the Dark Slayer.
    • In King's Field IV it seems like it's the Moonlight Sword, but there's a secret wall where you can find the Triple Fang, which is slightly better.
  • Informed Attribute:
    • You're told in King's Field II that only the Dark Slayer can kill the final boss. This is not quite true.
    • Similarly, while you need the Moonlight Sword to get to the final boss in King's Field III, once you're there you can use whatever you please.
      • In addition, the manual and game text of King's Field III make it sound like you have to have the Excellector equipped to level it. This is not the case — simply having it is enough.
  • Magic Knight: All four protagonists. John Alfred and his son Austin Lyle learn magic naturally, due to their bloodline. Alexander (protagonist of KF2) and Devian (protagonist of The Ancient City) need to acquire spell crystals in order to learn magic.
  • Market-Based Title: See main article. invoked
  • Money for Nothing: You're likely to hit the money cap of 99,999 gold around halfway through Additional I, mainly since not only do items sell for a whopping 80% of their value, but the stringent inventory limit of 12 items also means you're selling the vast majority of things you find anyway. As you can always buy back anything you've sold, this basically turns the item store into more of an item storage with a small retrieval fee.
  • Motif: The Verdite trilogy has a recurring image themed around each game's Infinity +1 Sword. At the end of King's Field II we see an image of the Moonlight Sword (from the first game) crossed with the newly-introduced Dark Slayer. In King's Field III those two swords are joined by the Excellector.
  • Multiple Endings: King's Field III has two endings, depending on the state of the Moonlight Sword:
    • Downer Ending: It's possible to confront King Alfred without reforging the Moonlight Sword. Doing so gets you the Bad Ending, implying that Lyle becomes possessed, and you also don't get to face the true final boss, Seath.
    • Golden Ending: If the Moonlight Sword was reforged, after Alfred dies, his ghost uses the last of his strength to empower the sword even further, and to open the way to Seath, so that his son can slay him. After Seath is slain, Lyle uses the Excellector to restore Verdite to its former glory, the restored Vallad proclaims him as the "Golden King" and revives his fiancée Lyn before leaving the world of Valicia for good, to rejoin his father Sylval.
  • Nostalgia Level: The Royal Cemetery in King's Field III is this for Japanese gamers (it was the setting of the original King's Field).
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Shadow Tower lacks any sort of music beyond the opening cinematic, demo, and title screen, leaving players to nothing but the sounds of the various monsters they come across. Although it appears to have been a trade off for the NPCs and bosses to have actual voice acting.
  • Pacifist Run: It is possible to get to the final boss fight in King's Field III as a level 1 character, only needing to kill one red mushroom blocking the path just past Lake Noel.
  • Press Start to Game Over: Start King's Field: The Ancient City. Walk forward. Enjoy starting over.
    • Similarly, moving left, right or backwards at the start of King's Field II will send you to an early and wet grave.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo:
    • Alexander from King's Field II shows up as a ghost in King's Field III.
    • In the same game you also meet King Alfred, whom you played in the very first game.
  • One-Winged Angel: Reinhardt III transforms into a giant tree monster at the end of the first game.
  • Oxygen Meter: The protagonist of King's Field: The Ancient City cannot swim, but unlike his predecessors he can at least walk underwater (somehow) without too much trouble until this meter runs out.
  • Regenerating Health: The Heal Ring in the Additional games is a very useful accessory which recovers 3 HP per step in the labyrinth and gradually in combat as well, in the long run saving you a great deal of MP and/or healing items.
  • Retcon: The Verdite Chronicle changes some of the events of the first game. Namely Alfred travels to Melanat himself and finds an untouched temple deep underground and is given the Moonlight Sword by Vallad, instead of him finding its sealed form in the Royal Cemetery on his father's grave and having an aspect of Guyra release its power.
  • Rogue Protagonist: Prince Alfred in King's Field eventually became King Alfred. Then he became possessed by an evil entity and his son, Prince Lyle, was forced to face off against him in King's Field III. Lyle wins, and Alfred dies.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The protagonists of the Verdite Trilogy and The Ancient City are all princes.
  • Status Effects: Poison, Dark (reduced visibility), Paralyze, Slow, Curse (reduced physical strength).
  • Super Drowning Skills: The characters in the PlayStation trilogy cannot swim. Falling into any body of water is instant death.
  • Taken for Granite: The fate of Reinhardt II, at the hands of his own son and Alfred's Evil Uncle, the Dark Wizard Reinhardt III, who is the first game's Final Boss
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In the first (Japanese) game, you can easily throw out keys and important items from your inventory without an opportunity to get them back. On the other side, there are no item/weight limits or moments where you need to drop any items, so the only way to screw yourself up is to deliberately try to get rid of your inventory.
  • Updated Re-release: In 2000, The Moonlight Sword Level Editor came bundled with an updated version of the first game, with vastly improved graphics.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: NPCs in the original PlayStation trilogy seem to be immortal. Operative word: seems. They actually just have very, very high health. Striking them enough times causes them to die. In the second game, killing an NPC who normally obstructs a path can allow Sequence Breaking.
    • Any friendly NPCs found inside the labyrinth in the Additional games can also be attacked at will. Not only do they have unique lines when attacked, but if they flee from battle as non-combatants eventually do, talking to them again afterwards also yields unique lines which often consist of them begging for mercy.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Apparently the aforementioned ability to kill NPCs was not a bug, or at least it was no longer a bug as of the third game in the original trilogy; killing an NPC will cause a later NPC to deny services to you.
  • World-Healing Wave: Lyle uses the Excellector to unleash one of this in the third game's Golden Ending, undoing the damage Seath did to Verdite over the last decade.