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Video Game / The Tower of Druaga

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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", which is (very vaguely) inspired by Mesopotamian mythology:

  • The Return of Ishtar (1986): An Immediate Sequel to The Tower of Druaga. Ki, having been rescued by Gil at the 60th floor of the Tower of Druaga, teams up with Gil to make their way to the bottom floor.
  • The Quest of Ki (1988): A Puzzle Platformer set before the events of The Tower of Druaga. Ki embarks on a journey to recover the Blue Crystal Rod at the peak of the Tower of Druaga before the evil Druaga awakens.
  • The Blue Crystal Rod (1994): An Interactive Fiction game and Immediate Sequel to The Return of Ishtar. Gil and Ki, having escaped the Tower of Druaga, now embark on a journey to return the Blue Crystal Rod to its rightful place in Heaven.
  • Seme COM Dungeon: Drururuaga (2000): A Card Battle Game Distant Sequel. Set 100 years after The Tower of Druaga, Gilsh, a descendent of Gilgamesh, sets out on an adventure to conquer a series of malevolent dungeons.
  • The Nightmare of Druaga (2004): A Mystery Dungeon installment and (non-canon) sequel to The Return of Ishtar. Three years after Druaga's defeat, Gil and Ki plan to marry, but when the sorceress Skulld attacks, dark secrets tied to the Tower of Druaga incident are brought to light.
  • Druaga Online: The Story of Aon (2005): An online multiplayer Action RPG for arcades and (non-canon) sequel. Set 8 years after The Tower of Druaga, Gil, Ki, and an assortment of new heroes discover that Druaga has been resurrected. To stop him from destroying the world, they travel to the mysterious new world of Aon where Druaga resides.
  • The Tower of Druaga: The Recovery of BABYLIM (2009): An MMORPG based on the anime. With Druaga defeated, Gil becomes King of Babylim and marries Ki. However, when the Tower of Druaga suddenly reappears and begins to spread its evil influence across the land, Sargon, the Prime Minister of Babylim, recruits wayward adventurers to solve this new mystery.

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. Gil has also been made available as a Mii Fighter costume for Super Smash Bros. on 3DS, Wii U and Switch.

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:

  • Adaptational Heroism: In Mesopotamian Mythology, Ishtar was a Yandere who was willing to kill thousands with the Bull of Heaven if Gilgamesh didn't return her feelings. In this game, however, Ishtar is a benevolent goddess who merely aids Gilgamesh in his quest to defeat Druaga, and she doesn't even show signs of jealously toward the Pseudo-Romantic Friendship between Gil and Ki.
  • Antagonist Title: It's clear that both Druaga and his tower are going to give you a very hard time.
  • 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.
  • Badass in Distress: Ki was able to hold her own throughout all of The Quest of Ki, but Gil needs to rescue her because she's Taken for Granite.
  • Big Bad: Druaga, of course. He’s a demon who was sealed away long ago by Ishtar, but has returned to the mortal world.
  • Blob Monster: Slimes in several different colors, two years before those other slimes. In the original game, the green and black Slimes are effectively The Goomba, but later on there exist Slimes that can cast spells, and the Dark Yellow Slime verges on Elite Mook.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Quox is normally a friendly, Delightful Dragon meant to represent the Blue Crystal Rod's unity, but after Druaga split the Rod into three pieces, Quox split into three separate entities who all became mindless, rampaging minions of Druaga.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The tutorial for The Blue Crystal Rod claims that the R button serves no function. However, at the end of the tutorial, the guide breaks character to admit that the developers did wind up shoving in a function for the R button at the last minute, which toggles a guide showing which directions you can walk.
  • 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 actual, 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...)
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Well, in Druaga’s defense, he didn’t build the tower, but he did take it over and rebuild it once he had the chance.
  • 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.
    • Intended to be Averted by the players themselves. Druaga cabinets often had notebooks or other record-keeping methods set up next to them, so that players could record the results of their gameplay and communally attempt to figure out the game's secrets.
  • 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.
  • MacGuffin: The Blue Crystal Rod, an artifact that keeps Gil's city safe from trouble. After a nearby empire invades and tries to get the Rod, they inadvertently free Druaga, who not only gets the Rod himself, but separates it into three when Ki tries to get it. You'll need to get all three pieces or Druaga won't show up to fight you.
  • 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, though those last two are Druaga’s boss fight and the finale) 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".
  • New Game Plus:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • One-Hit Kill: Ki in The Return of Ishtar.
  • 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 wisps all use One-Hit-Point Wonder logic.
    • It's even worse in 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 and 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.
  • Plot Coupon: The Blue Crystal Rod, a holy artifact that has the power to banish evil. In most (if not all) of the games, it is required to defeat Druaga.
  • 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.
  • Recap Episode: One of the features accessible on the title screen of The Blue Crystal Rod is a prologue chapter, which details Druaga's imprisonment and subsequent release, Gil's training, Ki's capture by Druaga, and Gil's ascent of the Tower of Druaga to defeat Druaga, save Ki and reclaim the Blue Crystal Rod. That being said, it also reveals new lore regarding the Sumerian Empire, which were the ones who originally built the Tower in their ambitions to claim the Rod themselves, with their armor being used by Druaga to create his Knights.
  • 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.
  • Smooch of Victory: The Game Boy port ends, if you completed the game with four continues or less (or if you beat the second game mode), with Ki kissing Gil on the cheek. Given all the trouble he went through to save her, he sure earned it.
  • 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.
  • Taken for Granite: Ki is cursed by Druaga and turned into a stone—not a statue, but a simple stone with her circlet on it.
  • Timed Mission: Every floor has a 20,000 frame time limit, on top 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 its 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.
  • Underground Monkey: In the original game:
    • Slimes come in six varieties. The standard green Slimes are defenseless and slow, while higher ranked Slimes are faster and are scarily confident fighters, sniping at Gil with magic spells.
    • Knights have five variants indicating their rank and power level, with the orange Hyper Knights being the closest to Gil's own strength.
    • The Magician and Ghost enemies have Mage, Druid, and Wizard variants, with the Magicians having an extra Sorcerer class in between the Mage and the Druid.
    • Quox the dragon has two relatives created from him being split into three: the Silver and Black Dragons.
    • Will o' Wisps have two colors, Blue and Red, which indicate the path they take through the floors of the tower.
    • Ropers have three color variants, Green, Red, and Blue.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Of the Cruel variety. Let us count the ways...
    • Picking up the Evil Gauntlet permanently prevents you from drawing your sword.
    • Failing to pick up a scales item from a floor that has one turns the Hyper item into an Evil item, which will make the game unwinnable if collected.
    • If you don't pick up floor 34's treasure, the next floor's key will not appear.
    • Decided not to collect that sword because it caused the timer to go down too fast to beat any levels last time you tried the game? Unwinnnable. You were supposed to collect the hidden treasure first before collecting the sword. What? You didn't know there was another treasure hidden?
    • Getting ZAPPED renders the game completely unwinnable if it wasn't already so, because some required treasures that are taken from you are always found BEFORE whatever floor you got zapped to.
    • 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.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: The game's last two floors have this trope.
    • If the player exits floor 59 without defeating Druaga, the level complete sequence will shown as normal, but only find out that upon completion, some of the player's items will be taken away and lost, and be zapped to a lower floor. However this does not deduct the player's life unlike floor 60.
    • Instances if the player fails to do floor 60's objectives:
      • Break a wall with the pickaxe: Wall disappears but the gameplay stops where the death sequence will be shown as if coming into contact with an enemy, slime's or magician's spells, and Sorceror's and dragon's fire. The player will then zap into a lower floor and life is deducted upon the floor that the player zapped on starts.
      • Attacking Isthar/Ki: Same as above but Isthar/Ki will not disappear when the death sequence is shown. On some versions, attacking Ki does not stop the gameplay but instead the crystal rods and Ki will move and the player will then allow to break walls however this makes the level impossible to complete.
      • Time runs out: Same as in other levels, except that the items are lost when the death sequence is shown, zap into a lower floor, and lose one life when the floor that the player zapped on starts.
      • If the above situations happen and the player has no lives, the message "YOU ZAPPED TO..." will be shown followed by the game over screen. If this happens, the player will do the floor that the player zapped on in a new game.
  • Video Game Remake: The game received an enhanced version on the PC Engine in 1992. This version drastically enhanced the graphics, making the characters resemble their artwork much more closely, and changed the overhead view to isometric. It also added difficulty settings, a pause menu, the ability to change equipment, the new Spirit Points mechanic which allows Gil to enhance his stats, consumable items, and many new treasures. All of the mazes and solutions were also changed for this port, meaning solutions featured in other versions of the game typically don't work.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • Getting the Silver Pickaxe requires you to obtain the Bronze Pickaxe, then break it. Mind you, pickaxes are permanently lost when broken.
    • If you are playing on the PS1 version's Another Tower, you have to press the Open button on your console in mid-game, something that you should never do in any other game, to get the Pearl on Floor 31.