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 (AKA: "Evezoo End"), creator of the original game.note
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:
- Attract Mode: This is one of the few arcade games to not have a gameplay demo sequencenote . When the machine is turned on, it starts with the title screen, the scrolls to the high score list, then back to the title screen, them it goes to the game's Opening Narration, then back the title screen, and it keeps going like that from there.
- The Return of Ishtar has an "ATTRACT ROOM", but nothing really resembling a gameplay demo sequence.
- Blob Monster: Slimes in several colors, two years before those other slimes. Some of them even shoot magic spells at you.
- 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.
- Creator Cameo: In Return of Ishtar, one of the rooms, labeled "Dead End", features a long hallway leading to a small room with a man slumped over in an office cubicle, dead. Using Gil's magic to revive the man warps you to another room. The man is series creator Masanobu Endoh. Yes, that does mean there's a "dead Endoh" in the room labeled "Dead End".
- The Dragon: Quox, an actial, literal dragon who appears in the game's logo. 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...)
- 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 action that's unguessable without trial and error. 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 first released.
- Infinity +1 Sword: The Excalibur/Hyper Sword.
- Invincible Minor Minion: Will O'Wisps, which appear when the initial timer runs out.
- Kaizo Trap: Druaga himself appears on Floor 59. Floor 60 simply involves grabbing Ki and Ishtar... but in a very precise order and movement pattern. Screw this up (and all things considered, you might), and you can kiss your progress goodbye on the final floor.
- Locked Door: You have to find the key to open the exit to the level.
- Mascot Mook: Quox, a dragon that's fought on some of the floors appears in the game's logo.
- Missing Secret:
- A handful of floors (25, 55, 59, and 60 in the original arcade version) have no treasure chest. Floor 56 in the original arcade version goes one further and gives you an empty treasure chest.
- One port has a secret whose trigger is caused by "exiting the level".
- Nintendo Hard: Almost sadistically so for an arcade game, even by arcade game standards.. 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.
- New Game+:
- The Famicom, Game Boy, and Namco Museum Vol. 3 (PSOne) ports reveal a Cheat Code after beating the game that unlocks a hidden "Another Tower", which is another 60-floor romp with even more difficult and convoluted treasure solutions. The Namco Museum Vol. 3 port exclusively also contains the "Darkness Tower", which has you traversing Floors 61 to 120 with the difficulty cranked even higher than before (if the first two Towers weren't enough).
- Clearing The Return of Ishtar awards a pair of clear game passwords for Ki and Gil to be used on the password input screen. Using these would allow the player to start from any room in the game, including the two secret rooms that are otherwise inaccessible through normal gameplay. Entering the passwords without inputting a Room Code instead starts you back at the beginning of the game, but Ki now has a vastly increased Spell stock of 50 charges, and Gil's starting Energy limit will be massively increased to 400 Energy.
- 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.
- It's even worse The Return of Ishtar, where Ki herself only has one life, and will go down in one attack from anything. Gil has health that drops each time he kills an enemy but like Ki, only has one life, and if he loses, so does Ki (and the player).
- Password Save: The Return of Ishtar, which alters passwords for each room depending on which name and sex the player(s) wrote before starting.
- Permanently Missable Content:
- The treasure in each level, which requires a unique an unguessable trial and error action.
- 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.
- Poison Mushroom: The Potions of Energy Drain and Potions of Death, and any item after not obtaining the Balance on the previous level. The PSOne's "Darkness Tower" also has a Treasure on Floor 101 that will straight-up kill you instantly.
- 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.
- Refrain from Assuming: That creature who appears in the logo? That's not Druaga, it's Quox, who is pretty much the only other "boss" of this game.
- 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: Unlike most games however, if the timer runs out, you don't lose a life, but you do have an invincible will-o-wisp chasing you.
- Surprisingly Good English: The Opening Narration of the first game is this for the most part, but has a slight grammatical mistake, saying that "the golden knight Gilgamesh 'weared' gold armor". The Famicom port corrects this.
- 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 (let alone arcade 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.
- The Another Tower included in certain ports of the game features Treasure solutions that are even more sadistic and bizarre than the original game. The best example of this would be the Pearl on Floor 31 in the PSOne Another Tower. Revealing the Treasure Chest on this Floor requires ejecting the game disk, which no player in their right mind would ever consider attempting in the midst of playing a game.
- 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?!
- Useless Item:
- The Sapphire Rod on floor 42 does nothing... except in the Famicom and Game Boy "Another Tower" modes, in which case you need it to pick up the Ruby Mace later.
- The Potion of Unlock on floor 47 unlocks a treasure chest on floor 49... but that chest only contains a Potion of Energy Drain, so you may as well skip it.
- Videogame Cruelty Punishment: You can attack Ishtar and Ki instead of rescuing them and exit floor 59 without defeating Druaga... if you don't mind being sent back almost to the beginning of the game.