I think when a lot of gamers think of RPGs from Japan, the first image that pops up is something along the lines of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, or Namco's Tales series. I've seen people say things like Demon's Souls and Dark Souls don't count as Japanese RPGs simply because they don't fit into that box we have in our minds. The truth is, Japan has had a long and consistent history with first-person RPGs, and they're generally done up in a dark fantasy style. It's just that, perhaps ironically, these more traditionally Western-looking games didn't have much of a market outside Japan until the last several years or so, when console players in North America finally got the tip that these kinds of games are pretty cool.
Dungeons And Darkness is another entry into that category from a Japanese developer. It's a first-person action RPG with full 3D movement. As the hero, you have to make your way through the dungeons, defeating monsters and collecting treasure. While you start in a pretty normal looking dungeon area, you'll eventually make your way into caves and even outside to face some monsters that don't exactly fit in dungeons. You can also stop by town to pick up supplies and rest up before taking the next plunge. The demo I played on the TGS floor only had the dungeon area available, but it did a decent enough job of showing off the game's concepts.
The controls use two virtual sticks on either side of the screen to move and look around, and a set of hot buttons to use your gear, magic, or items. Swinging your weapon uses your stamina meter, reducing the amount of damage your next strike will do. It refills very quickly, but it prevents you from trying to just hack and slash your way to victory. The demo offered a number of weapons to play with, including a long sword, a pole arm, and an axe, with a couple of other weapons hidden in chests around the dungeon. The enemies I fought included orcs, skeletons, and slimes, and while individually they didn't prove much of a threat, when they started to pack together, things got dangerous in a hurry. This is definitely one of those games where you'll want to look carefully before you leap.
The dungeons also include environmental traps and light puzzle-solving, along with destructible objects that hide secret passages. The graphics are quite nice, with the lighting in particular coming off very well. My main criticism at this point is that it moves just a little bit more slowly than I'd prefer. The game seems obviously inspired by From Software's various action RPG dungeon romps, but it moves significantly slower in its current form, something I hope is just a function of its early state. Nevertheless, Dungeons And Darkness comes off as a pretty high-effort attempt at the genre, especially for a small developer. The later areas, populated by huge dragons, look phenomenal, and I can't wait to try to take them down with my little toothpick of a weapon.
The game still has a ways to go in its development, with the developer offering up a vague winter release date for Japan, and an even more vague "sometime after that" for an English release. Taking into account that we're still months off from release, Dungeons And Darkness is already looking very promising for RPG fans. We'll bring you more details on this game as we get them, but in the meantime, go ahead and check out the video to see a couple of minutes of the game in action.
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