Dream Master

Dream Master was published by Namco and developed by Birthday in 1992.  They did a couple of RPGs for the NES – Juvei Quest and Shell Monster Story and made some RPGs later on.  In my opinion, Birthday games tend to have interesting music.

Two caverns.

The hero's about to pick up the princess' crown.

Dream Master is an odd game.  It’s got a turn based battle system, but it works on using 3 types of attacks (strong, weak, normal,) and weak points.  An examination ability lets you find weak points.  You, in real time, attempt to evade boss monster attacks.  So, say, the first boss is throwing rocks.  You pick a direction, and hope you managed to dodge it.

This is the first boss, a green ogre.

This is the first boss. His weak point is the right hand sword, it seems.

The sprite work is quite attractive for simple pixel work.  The actual exploration system is going through a dark dungeon trying to understand where the walls are.  While you can get by with blind luck in the early dungeons, late ones need spoilers.  If you hit a wall, you take damage.  Walk perfectly, and your nemesis appears, cackling about how prettily you walk.  In the fog you can hear hissing (a hole in the ground,) and rattly scratching (monsters.)  The noises are directional, so you can home in on enemies.

Sleeping people in beds

Exploring the castle lets you meet people trapped in dreams.

The point of the exploration is to rescue a princess from the ‘black dream’ – a nightmare created by an evil wizard.  You are also striving to help other people trapped in the dreams.  As the game goes on, you watch caskets carried out of the room from the death of the other people.

The princess reaches out.

This moody cutscene shows the princess reaching out.

Throughout the game, the wizard taunts the hero and introduces each dream.  He brags that no one can survive it.  This sort of makes a chapter effect to the game.  You check out the castle, go back to sleep, get introduced to your nightmare, and then you explore the nearest town in it.  Finally, you go into the dungeon.

The wizard floats over the bed.

The wizard is chuckling because he found the hero.

Is the game good?  I think it’s closer to interesting than exactly great.  The dungeons can be frustrating, and if you miss monsters you can be underlevelled.  Still, if you grew up with the game, you probably know what to do and all the tips.  The use of sound effects is clever and different, and the controls aren’t clunky at all.

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