Dragon Quest Adventure (1980)   15 comments

I can say straight-out this game wins 1980 for best animated adventure game intro screen.

(Mind you, the John O’Hare games are the only other contenders in the category, but still, this was an unexpected surprise.)

Including the manual and different title screen permutations, the game is variously called

Dragon-Quest Adventure
Dragon Quest Adventure
“Dragon Quest” Adventure
Dragon Quest

so I just picked one that hopefully won’t clash too much with the much-more-famous JRPG game.

Charles Forsythe wrote this one before Lost Ship Adventure (see the comments here), which is curious, since this game is in assembly code and the other game is in BASIC, and the usual evolution of authors (see: Scott Adams, Greg Hassett) has been to start with BASIC and move on to assembly. (EDIT: The best guess based on current information is that Lost Ship was actually written and published first, and despite the 1980 copyright date Dragon Quest didn’t start getting advertised and sold until 1981. This makes much more sense with the BASIC-Assembly order of author development.)

I thought Lost Ship Adventure had some good starting atmosphere but ended up disappointingly simplistic once it got past the opening. Still, after the difficulty of my recent games, “simplistic” is what I’m really wanting at the moment.

The plot is neatly summarized in the opening screen:

I’ve incidentally been wondering about the origins of the “princess and half the kingdom” thing. I’m meaning the exact reward. In the Norwegian tales of Askeladden the reward was typical, but is that the earliest it occured? TV Tropes has a good listing but includes some cases that are similar but not exact, and there’s no chronology.

The time limit is quite serious here; after X number of moves (I haven’t worked out what X is, maybe 200?) the sun sets and the game is over. So there’s an added time pressure here.

The east side of the map includes a rowboat with a river where you have to ROW UPSTREAM and ROW DOWNSTREAM to go back and forth. This was a small, minimal touch, but I liked the extra texture it added to the game.

Upstream there’s a cave with a set-piece I haven’t been able to do anything with.

This could be pure storytelling by objects that are left behind, but given I’m stuck without many options, I have a feeling there’s some way of getting the amulet mentioned on the scroll. CLIMB PILLAR leads to death, and digging with a shovel doesn’t work.

The west side of the map has a small maze (in the all-or-nothing format, where the wrong direction takes you to the start) followed by an alchemist who says he will trade magical items for treasure (except I haven’t found any treasure!) and a COFFIN in a graveyard. Opening the coffin leads to a blinding flash.

This is where I’m stuck; while I can walk around, I can’t shake the darkness and disorientation. For the record, my inventory has a GLOWING LAMP, SILVER SWORD, SHOVEL, SKELETON, SCROLL, BOX, and FOOD.

Rather like Lost Ship Adventure, even though the setup is minimal, there’s enough atmosphere going that I don’t feel frustrated yet.

Posted November 27, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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15 responses to “Dragon Quest Adventure (1980)

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  1. I have a feeling there’s some way of getting the amulet mentioned on the scroll. CLIMB PILLAR leads to death, and digging with a shovel doesn’t work.

    Did you try just GET AMULET?


      (this is the same message for any other item that exists in the game — nonexistent items give a message of not understanding the word — so I know there’s an amulet somewhere)

  2. That animation is pretty keen, actually.

    It is hardly legable

    That spelling is hardly legal-ble!

  3. How is it that you still have the glowing lamp and you cannot see? Can you rub it again?

  4. dragon is a chonky boi

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Is there evidence that DRAGONQUEST (my personal preferred spelling) was actually released in 1980? See Charles’s new LOST SHIP page at https://www.arctic81.com/lostship.html for an article from December 1980 which certainly makes it sound like LOST SHIP was his first published game, and doesn’t mention DRAGONQUEST.

    • Hmm, that would make more sense if it was just written 1980 (the copyright date does say 1980) and published after, especially given the BASIC-Assembly order (which I always found kind of baffling but had a couple websites backing it up).

      In 80 Microcomputing which Programmer’s Guild pretty consistently had ads in they don’t have Lost Ship show up until November 1980 and they don’t have Dragonquest show up until mid-1981. I think using the other pages indicating the reverse + the copyright date I figured I was just missing something.

  6. I just asked Charles. Dragonquest was definitely published after Lost Ship Adventure; he wrote Lost Ship in the summer of 1980 and thinks that he wrote Dragonquest that fall.

    • Nice to get that down for certain! I’m going to make an upcoming “gather all the info about Programmer’s Guild publishing dates” into one post, because it’s one of those things that’s totally ragged at the moment.

    • Was Charles aware of the BASIC type-in version of Dragon Quest that appeared in Bob Liddil’s Virgin-published C64 adventure book ‘Castles & Kingdoms’ in 1985?

  7. Incidentally, some of the dynamics of the game-publishing business back then have only recently dawned on me. In the earliest days of the TRS-80, there was a lot of commercial software written in BASIC, but the window on that era was closing by 1980/early 1981, except listings in magazines, books, and electronic publications such as SOFTSIDE. Charles, an adept programmer, taught himself assembly language in time to continue along with games such as DRAGONQUEST. I also taught myself assembler, but by the time I did, the TRS-80 was nearing the end of its existence as a major platform.

  8. I think Charles knew about the second book. I’m not sure whether he had anything to do with the port to C64 BASIC, but tend to doubt it.

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