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.). A Dungeon Crawler, the gameplay and story conventions have much in common with first-person role-playing games such as the Shin Megami Tensei series, Star Cruiser, the Shining Series, and Ultima Underworld, though the gameplay mechanics are streamlined and have distinct Japanese touches.
- King's Field (PlayStation, 1994) — Released only in Japan, launch title
- King's Field II (PlayStation, 1995) — Released in America as King's Field
- King's Field III (PlayStation, 1996) — Released in America as King's Field II
- King's Field IV (PlayStation 2, 2001) — Released in America as King's Field: the Ancient City
- King's Field Additional (PlayStation Portable, 2006)
- King's Field Additional II (PlayStation Portable, 2006)
- King's Field Mobile (Mobile phones, 2004)
- King's Field Mobile 2 (Mobile phones, 2005)
- King's Field EX (Mobile phones, 2004)
- Shadow Tower (PlayStation, 1999)
- Shadow Tower: Abyss (PlayStation 2, 2003)
- Eternal Ring (PlayStation 2, 2000)
- Demon's Souls (PlayStation 3, 2009)
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 PlayStation 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. 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 it's 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 its a completely different sword from the one in the Verdite trilogy.
Not much is known stateside about the PSP games or the Mobile Phone games, save that the PSP series switch from free-roaming 3D to tile-based movement in the style of really old-school RPGs like Wizardry and Might and Magic. 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.
This series provides examples of:
- 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.
- Attract Mode: If you wait a few seconds at Shadow Tower's title screen, a gameplay demo will play.
- Boring, but Practical: The Light Needle spell in the first game is a weak but fast-firing projectile magic. While its damage its 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- Infinity +1 Sword: The Moonlight Sword is the ultimate weapon in most of the games, except in King's Field II where its the Dark Slayer.
- In King's Field IV it seems like its 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.
- In Europe, King's Field: The Ancient City is still called King's Field IV, as seen on the Hardcore Gaming 101 article for the series.
- 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: In King's Field III its 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.
- 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.
- Similarily, 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.
- 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.
- 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 it's sealed form in the Royal Cemetery on his father's grave and having an aspect of Guyra release it's 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.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The protagonists of the Verdite Trilogy and The Ancient City are all princes.
- Standard Status Effects: Poison, Dark (reduced visibility), Paralyze, Slow, Curse (reduced physical strength).
- Spiritual Successor: Several, all of them made by From Software.
- Shadow Tower for PlayStation. From Software even incorporated aspects of its equipment system into King's Field IV.
- The Japan-only sequel for the PS2, Shadow Tower: Abyss, which abandons the fantasy setting of the original for a more modern one.
- Eternal Ring for the PlayStation 2, which is superficially similar insofar as being a first-person RPG but in a lot of ways plays more like a stock JRPG.
- Demon's Souls for PlayStation 3. The gameplay has changed quite a bit, but it has very similar atmosphere and quite a few Shout Outs to King's Field.
- Demon's Souls has its own spiritual successor by the name of Dark Souls, which continues with the shout-outs, including Seath the Scaleless and Black Dragon Kalameet. Probably not the same entities, but knowing From...
- Bloodborne for the PlayStation 4, which made the combat to be much faster and shifted the genre from Dark Fantasy to Gothic Horror/Cosmic Horror Story.
- Shadow Tower for PlayStation. From Software even incorporated aspects of its equipment system into King's Field IV.
- Super Drowning Skills: The characters in the PlayStation trilogy cannot swim. Falling into any body of water is instant death.
- Unwinnable by Mistake/Insanity: In the first King's Field (the Japanese one), 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 limit 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.
- 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.
- 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.