The Forgotten Tower

All this recent talk about Adam’s Zelda-ish rogue-like game, ‘The Infinite Cave,’ has given me an itch to go back and play an old retro dungeon crawler.  The first game to pop up in my head was of course ‘The Tower of Druaga.’  It shares many of the same traits of a rogue-like, but is not a rogue-like in the truest sense.  It has a very hardcore cult following, and for good reason.  It’s probably one of the hardest dungeon crawlers ever created by man.  Between the extreme intricate know how of what is required to be done at each level, and the lightning quick reflexes required to navigate through the mazes unharmed, its no wonder so many give up before getting in far enough to truly appreciate this game.   If that sounds like your cup of tea, and you’re a glutton for punishment, you could be in for a real retro treat.  

Let’s talk about this game.  It was released in 1984 for the arcade.  The premise of the game involves a knight (named Gil) who is traversing through a 60 level tower to reach the apex and save a maiden from the clutches of a demon, Druaga.  The knight carries a sword, and shield, and must make his way through the maze of each level.  On each level, he must find a key, a door (which is opened by that key and leads to the next floor up), and a secret treasure.  The treasure is always the tricky part, as it involves performing some unknown action to make it appear.  I can imagine back in the day, some arcade junkie doing all kinds of crazy stuff through trial and error to make that hidden treasure appear!  And then having to memorize that for future games.  Luckily for us there are now walkthroughs which make it more playable (and enjoyable) in this day in age.  But I have a great deal of respect for those players that tried to conquer this game in the arcade back in the day for the amount of skill they had, and dedication.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if they had brought a pen and paper to the arcade to play this game.

Some of the treasures are required in order to advance in the game, while some are not required but help a great deal, and some help very little.  Treasures always appear where you started the level, after you perform the correct action.  To give you an idea of what the treasures entail, shown below are what the treasures are on the first 3 levels, what each do, and how to get them:

Floor 1

Treasure: Copper Pickaxe
Tower of Druaga Copper pickax.png Press the action button when standing still in front of an inner wall to break that wall. The player can use it twice per floor before it breaks and it’s lost for good. However, when the player collects the Tower of Druaga Treasure.png for that level, you can use the Copper Pickaxe one more time without it breaking. The player will also lose it if they try to break an outside wall. The player must not lose it in order to get the Silver Pickaxe.
Action Defeat Tower of Druaga Slime Green.png x3. (green slime)

Floor 2

Treasure: Jet Boots
Tower of Druaga Jet boots.png These winged boots from Ishtar allow Gil to walk at double his normal speed. Gil cannot make it all the way through the tower without them!
Action Defeat Tower of Druaga Slime Black.png x2. (black slime)

Floor 3

Treasure: Healing Potion
Tower of Druaga Potion healing.png This healing potion will grant an extra life. Upon dying, this potion will be consumed instead of one of Gil’s lives. Gil will still “die” in the sense that you will start over on the floor that he died on. Note that this potion can only be used once. Even if you die on this floor and re-obtain it, it will not work again.
Action You must defeat a particular Tower of Druaga Knight Blue.png. The correct one is chosen at random. Both Tower of Druaga Knight Blue.pngs may also be killed.  (blue knight)

For the rest of this walkthrough, see this link:

The game really picks up after getting the Jet Boots treasure.  Prior to the boots, the character moves very slowly.  I can imagine this as being one of first big turn offs to any gamer trying to play this game.  The shield is also quite useful in the game.  When your sword is not drawn, you can block any magic aimed at you in the forward direction.  With your sword drawn by your right hand, the shield is held on your left side and blocks anything coming to your left.  Another thing you have to worry about is a timer.  As if the game wasn’t already hard, once the timer runs out, you get these guardians that appear and travel through all the corridors very quickly.  If you get to this point, it is very difficult to get anywhere and finish the level.  If any of the guardians touch you, you’re dead.

One very helpful secret in this game is that there are actually unlimited continues.  After losing all lives, and getting back to the main screen, ensure you have credits.  Then hold the action (sword) button, and hit start.  This will bring you to a level select screen, and voila, unlimited continues.  Obviously this improves your chances of succeeding in the game tremendously.

I personally have both the Wii and DS versions of this game.  Each game has its pros and cons.  So if you are deciding which version to get to experience this classic game, then listen carefully.  The Wii version is available on the Wii virtual console arcade.  It is the arcade version with a few new options not worth noting.  But what makes this version shine compared to the DS version is the feature available for all Wii VC games, and that is the suspend play save feature by hitting the home button.  This is especially useful in this particular game, for example, if you are on level 30, and want to take a break for awhile.  In contrast, the DS version, which is part of the Namco Museum DS complilation, has no save feature at all.  Once you exit the game and come back, the progress is lost, as you will not be able to continue to the highest level you achieved in a previous play session.  You can sort of emulate that feature by closing your DS in the middle of the game and putting it to sleep, but you won’t be able to play any other games when you are doing this, which is a big negative.  However, the one thing the DS does have that’s a definite pro over the Wii version is that has an in-game walkthrough.  By going to the game navigation screen, instructions about the hidden treasures are shown on the bottom screen for the particular level you are on, which is really helpful.   If they had  included some kind of save feature, then I could have said the DS version was the definitive version of the game.  In the end, based on the pros and cons of each, I would still recommend getting the DS version over the Wii version.

Check out the video below to get an idea of the gameplay:


My final thoughts about this game is this.  If you are like me, you probably played a couple of levels the first time around, hated the game, and never came back.  You don’t get what you’re suppose to do in the game.  The game is too slow; its too hard, etc.  My suggestion would be to give this game another chance just like I did.  Read up on it.  Get access to a walkthrough, get familiar on what it takes to succeed in this game, and give it another shot, empowered by this knowledge.  And if you are like me, you will enjoy it much more this time around, and develop a new found appreciation of the intricacies of this forgotten tower.  While I understand that this type of game isn’t for everyone, for the right player, this is a gem of a game and a timeless classic.  Make sure you give it enough time and patience to give it a fair shake.  If you can find success in this game, you will certainly enjoy immense satisfaction playing through this tower.


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Filed under Arcade, DS, Nintendo, Wii, WiiWare

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