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February 15, 2016

Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (Part 2)

As usual, the first part of this review was used to set up the plot and explain the important mechanics, now we’re jumping right into the plot!

I don't have a choice, do I?
When the hero - who's often referred to as Hiro on the Internet, for some reason - is back at the village, he goes home and finds Fleurette discussing with his father. She couldn’t get any answers at the castle, so she’s determined to go to Mount Arondight herself, and this means you have to tag along to protect her – or, in this case, she tags along with you and casts protective spells. Eh, every team needs a medic. Too bad teams in this game are nothing but teams of two… Fleurette goes to see the church and reveals that, before her brother got sick, she was studying to become a nun. Uh, no offense Fleurette, but first, I don’t think your impressive anime haircut would ever fit under the headpiece worn by a nun. Second, I kinda doubt a to-be nun would wear clothing this close to lingerie as her everyday clothes. Buuut I guess the male audience has to be pleased, and clearly the Bikini Warrior Lady wasn’t enough… Anyway, Fleurette assigns a nickname to the hero, and then they leave the village towards Arondight Heights.

I picked Chevalier, but the LP I take these pics from
chose Blade instead. If I want to see a guy called Blade,
I'll watch those vampire flicks, thank you very much.
Oh yeah, I haven’t mentioned that, have I? This game is fully voiced and in first-person, so most of the time the characters will be talking directly to you. Only downside, this isn’t Fallout 4, so you won’t have a personalized experience with the name you chose to start the game with. To circumvent saying the player’s name, everyone addressing the hero instead uses nicknames. The hero’s father, Claymore, always calls his son “Lad”, Prince Anlace switches between nicknames, and Fleurette gives you the choice between Blade, Hacker and Chevalier. (I went for the last one, because the other two sound kinda bland and “Chevalier” is totally in-character for her, what with that French accent…) Heck, Fleurette’s dialogue will feature the nickname you chose, every time she speaks to you, even in-battle! I have to admit, the result is a pretty interesting first-person view of the story. More immersive than a lot of games out there, that’s for sure.

...Anchor monsters. Yup, anchor monsters.
It's such an incredible idea, guys! So creative! I'm not even sarcastic about this!
...Okay, I am.

The Arondight Heights level is fine, for the most part, until the duo climbs on a raft conveniently left at the beginning of a river. The heroes only find out, as they are approaching it, that the water canal leads to a waterfall.

...Bring it on.

What's your third eye for? Future sight?
Predict me this, asshat!
However, our heroes are wearing several layers of protagonist armory, so they come out relatively unscathed. Hell, even their HP haven’t gone down at all! They emerge on a shore, go through a cave – where they battle a King Blue Slime – and reach a higher plateau, where they are greeted by a griffin-like monster simply called the Envoy of Xiphos. It’s not simple to defeat as it likes to attack multiple times in a row, and it also likes to summon monsters to send against you, but otherwise it’s not too bad. When this monster is defeated, it flees, and Fleurette remembers that this is where she saw the mask before; on a carving on the mountain seen afar, to be precise. It depicts an ancient civilization fighting the Deathbringer, who happened to wear the mask. Fleurette theorizes the Queen may be under the mask’s control, and that there might be a reason the Queen's possessed self went to talk with Fleurette’s brother Aruval.

Is it just me or the story is a tad… cliché? I mean, I’m not the kind to go around yelling “Seen it!” at everything I see that bears some resemblance to something I experienced previously… but, “seen it” does sound like a good description of what’s going on. Then again, the interest of this game is in its unique gameplay, not really in its plot.

Time to head back to Avalonia. There, Fleurette hurries to the castle and informs Minister Misericord and Prince Anlace. We can’t go in, but one of the guards near the room receives information of worrisome activity in another region of this island, Secace Seacove. A strong monster was spotted there, it seems. That’s when Claymore, the hero’s father, shows up. He accepts the mission, but notices his son in the room and takes him along – because without a sword, our in-game dad won’t last long!

When the two get to Secace Seacove, they get on a boat as the first half of the level is navigating an in-cave river. The second part is a maze with three forks in the path, and a lot of treasure chests to look for. After looking around, the hero and his father find a clearing, where the sea monster is waiting. It looks… weird, it’s got skin-colored parts on its body. And it’s wearing pants, a torn-up shirt, and a necklace. Even the titles don’t seem to believe this, they say a “fishy” monster draws near.

I've seen fishier. In more ways than one.

Wouldn't be so bad if Xiphos was a star dancer.
In fact, after this boss is defeated, Fleurette and Anlace come in – somehow having followed our duo through this freaking maze – and Fleurette says it’s her brother, transformed into a sea creature. The young lass explains that her brother’s illness caused scales to appear on his body, and they left Avalonia to hide in that shack in the forest so as not to freak out the villagers. Claymore says the monster Aruval became looks an awful lot like the Xiphos they defeated five years prior. Aruval gets to talk with his sister, explaining that he’s not in control, and before anything more can be said he runs away – leaving a necklace behind.

Upon the duo’s return to the village, they are pressed to head to the Castle immediately, as Queen Curtana has vanished again. Once they get there, they learn from Minister Misericord that she has headed into the Tower of Mirrors, the giant tower just behind the castle. Oh, right, I was wondering where this 1000-floor white tower came from, too. …No, really, I’m not kidding. This tower is so tall you can see it from anywhere on the island. Sole problem: The place is filled to the brim with monsters. Obviously the mask is forcing the Queen to go in there, without anyone to protect her. She should know it’s dangerous to go alone! An old man living in a nearby cave should have given her a sword or something!

I NEED TO KNOW! Is this the door? Come on, spit it out!
As you can guess, this means our main character has to go in there to save Queen Curtana. And this time, you can choose which ally to bring along! Will you go with Anlace, Fleurette or Claymore? The first two might be underleveled for the task, so Claymore might be the better option, but you might also go with Fleurette if you want a medic. Anlace? Tssk, who cares about Anlace?

Ah, nothing beats breathing the air at this height.
Just watch your step.
The hero ventures inside with his ally, whichever you’ve pick. After climbing multiple set of stairs – for a tower, this place sure lacks actual floors – the two are forced to take a different path. There, they need to take many steps around the tower, on its ledge. And yes, despite how dangerous it is already for them to stand on this small stone ledge at least twenty floors above ground, monsters also attack there and our main character has to hack and slash at them. It’s insane. The two reach an elevator taking them many floors higher – hey, I can see my house from here! – after which they re-enter the Tower. They walk up to a door with an odd engraving on it, then turn around, wind up at the side of the tower and see a platform far below; the two characters thus jump down onto the platform.

For all my snark, I have to admit, the levels are beautiful.

Well, let me add this to the (admittedly short) list of superhuman abilities our character has that somehow make him a lot less normal than he first let on: He can jump on a platform a few dozens of meters below, and somehow not harm his legs in any way. Make that four because his three allies can do that too. In fact, we don’t see the other two, but they’ve still followed the hero and his helper through this dungeon.

The group gets on an elevator and reaches a floor where the Queen, still wearing the mask, is chanting some stuff to a mirror. It goes “Reflection of darkness”, backwards. “Ssen-krad-fo-noi-tcel-fer” or something. Tssk, they haven’t even bothered to use Latin, or a fantastic language. Good effort there! I mean, wouldn’t something along the lines of “Reflexio De Tenebrarum” sound a lot more… menacing? Reflexio de Tenebrarum!! It sounds like something Voldemort would cast. When the Queen turns to the group, the main character slices the mask off her face, which causes… something, to come out of her. This is the spirit of Xiphos, who had been safely hiding within some of the companions who took him down five years prior. Namely, the Queen and Aruval, thus explaining why they got so weird. As for the mask, it was actually an item made to contain Xiphos’ power, prevent him from coming out; hence why the Queen was always wearing it; he didn’t have full control of her this way. After another bout of cartoonish villainous gloating, the spirit of Xiphos flees.

Gloat all you want, for now you're nothing but smoke and shadows.
A vacuum is your worst nightmare right now.

*yawn* Come back when you have something never seen before to send my way. I mean, an evil spirit possessing a member of the monarchy? Seen it! Come on, try a little harder than that.

The good news is that the Queen is saved. The bad news is that an elite member of Xiphos’ army has arrived. The name is Groβmeister (yes, with the Greek letter Beta), pronounced “Grossmeister”. And gross he sure is, belching upon his arrival on the scene and being an all-around jackass. He’s also a gratuitous user of German, as if we needed another villain with a German accent; haven’t the Germans suffered enough from that kind of depiction? Eh, whatever.

If you wanted a tough fight, here it is. This boss is the game saying “Yeah, I’m not going easy on you anymore, forget it”. Groβmeister has a mean trident swing, and he can spit fire. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s surrounded by imp-like creatures who also throw spells – or themselves – at the hero, and when Groβmeister is feeling low, they can heal him a little. If you make it through this fight the first time, congrats. Chances are you’ll be underleveled against him on your first try; hence the importance of replaying through the previous levels. Eventually, Groβmeister is defeated. The demon leaves, the Queen regains consciousness, and that’s where the ground shakes. Far off into the distance, a mountain splits apart, revealing a stereotypical red and black fortress of evil resting over a just-as-stereotypical sea of lava. Gee Bowser-Xiphos, you could have done something less cliché!

This looks like the kind of place I'd like to visit.

The group takes the Queen – and the sliced mask – back to the Throne Room. There, we learn that the mask was made by almighty creators in the Mirror World, which can be accessed through the portal that opened earlier in the Tower of Mirrors – you know, the one that the Queen opened to reveal Xiphos. To defeat this ultimate evil again, they need to repair the mask, which means retrieving its maker in the Mirror World, having him repair the mask, and then going after Xiphos. And thus, our hero has to go into the Mirror World with an ally…

Have you ever rammed at full force into a metal slime?
...DAMN, this sounded WRONG!
…and be ready to curse that goddamn level. You’re not standing on solid ground, the whole thing is the characters floating in the wormhole between Avalonia and the Mirror World; and, as a result, most enemies encountered in that level are either floating/ramming into you, or attacking with projectiles. This level turns out to be extremely annoying; what’s more, it comes right after a particularly tough level and boss, so the difficulty has been amped. The only upside to it is that there’s a higher chance of seeing metal slimes… but you have to be really fast if you want to kill them. You better hope you’re ready.

Okay, which one of you Greek people pissed off the Zeus statue?
...Was it a tourist? I knew it was a tourist!
After the final barrage of slamming slimes, the group reaches a temple with a strange statue in their way. The statue speaks to them, revealing itself to be Draug, the guardian of this world and the creator of the Rorrim Mask. (P.S. “Rorrim”? Really??? !!draeh reve evah I seman tsebmud eht foe no eb ot sah siht ,raews I) The statue is a tough boss, but there’s a way to overcome its defenses. That still won’t make Draug any easier to defeat at the end, when he gives his all. Still, after a good fight he’s beaten. Admitting defeat, Draug agrees to repair the mask, takes it from the hero, and not even ten second later the halves are back together. Well, that was quick. And to help them defeat Xiphos – since he needs to be defeated before the heroes can seal him away again – Draug also hands to the hero a mystical sword, the Rednusadner (“Rend asunder”?). A mystical weapon that almost nobody has ever seen in their world, and yet the village's blacksmith can upgrade it anyway.

.....To infinity and beyond?

Upon their return at the castle, the hero goes to see Swordsmaster Dao, who somehow knows about Rednusadner (Gee, for an unknown weapon, a lot of people sure know about it), and who teaches the hero a new master stroke: The Figure of Fate, which requires the player to swing the Wii remote in an infinity (∞) shape to power it up for the attack. I hope you have a strong arm, because you’ll be doing this move a lot. So much that it's gonna hurt. After learning this vital technique, the hero and an ally head into Galantyne Glades, to look for a fork in the path that leads to Xiphos’s new citadel. The forest is wreathed in flames, and the group soon reaches the Sea of Fire. It’s impossible to get to the Citadel… but Rednusadner knows what to do. The hero does the Figure of Fate Master master stroke, and the resulting blast is so powerful it splits the sea of lava on both sides, opening a path in the middle for them to follow. Once more, you pick an ally, and then the group heads down this very hot path.

This level has very powerful monsters, you must always be on your guard. Poison, fire? They have it. Squids who can heal their allies? Yup. And if you manage to make it through the warrior dragons, the hand monsters, the squids, the flying soldiers and every other enemy, you also have to fight the guardian of Xiphos’s citadel, a large ogre named Golok the Gatekeeper. Ah, good, we didn’t have enough hard bosses yet. Use everything you’ve learned and Golok should go down at some point. Tough boss? Yeah. But once it’s defeated, the group can finally move on to the final dungeon. The door opens without a hitch – Xiphos was waiting for them.

I’d really like to go through that part right now, but I think this will be in Part 3. Friday! Don’t miss it! Besides, before entering this castle of fire, I think the heroes need to gear up some more. Considering how tough the last bosses were, I’d say it’s time for some level grinding. Upgrading equipment wouldn’t hurt, either. I’d say the next three days should be enough for that. Be back Friday!