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Dragon Slayer (series)

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Dragon Slayer
Action role-playing
Open world
Real-time strategy
Developer(s)Nihon Falcom
Hudson Soft (Faxanadu)
Publisher(s)Nihon Falcom
Square (MSX)
Hudson Soft (Famicom)
Nintendo (NES)
Sierra On-Line (MS-DOS)
Creator(s)Yoshio Kiya
Composer(s)Falcom Sound Team JDK
Yuzo Koshiro
Toshiya Takahashi
Mieko Ishikawa
Jun Chikuma
Platform(s)NEC PC-88, NEC PC-98, MSX, MSX2, FM-7, Sharp X1, Sharp X68000, Nintendo Entertainment System, TurboGrafx-16, MS-DOS, Super Cassette Vision, Game Boy, Mega Drive, Satellaview, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, Nokia N-Gage, Virtual Console
First releaseDragon Slayer
Latest releaseThe Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki II — Crimson Sin
September 29, 2022
Spin-offsXanadu series
The Legend of Heroes series

Dragon Slayer (ドラゴンスレイヤー, Doragon Sureiyā) is a series of role-playing video games by Nihon Falcom. The first Dragon Slayer game is an early action role-playing game, released in 1984 for the NEC PC-8801 and ported by Square for the MSX.[1] Designed by Yoshio Kiya,[2] the game gave rise to a series of sequels, most of them created by Falcom, with the exception of Faxanadu by Hudson Soft. The Dragon Slayer series is historically significant, both as a founder of the Japanese role-playing game industry,[3] and as the progenitor of the action role-playing game genre.[4][5]

The series encompasses several different genres, which include action role-playing, action-adventure, platform-adventure, open world, turn-based role-playing, and real-time strategy. Many of the early titles in this series were PC games released for the PC-88, PC-98, MSX, MSX2, and other early Japanese PC platforms, while some were later ported to video game consoles. The series also features video game music soundtracks composed by chiptune musician Yuzo Koshiro and the Falcom Sound Team JDK.


Although commonly referred to as a series, the Dragon Slayer name is used to designate the body of work from producer Yoshio Kiya. There is no continuity in plot or even genre, but most of the games use role-playing game (RPG) elements and experiment with real-time action gameplay.[6]

Dragon Slayer and Xanadu (1984–1985)[edit]

The original Dragon Slayer and its sequel Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu are credited for being the progenitors of the action RPG genre,[4] abandoning the command-oriented turn-based battles of previous RPGs in favour of real-time hack and slash combat that requires direct input from the player, alongside puzzle-solving elements.[7] These games went on to influence later series such as The Legend of Zelda,[1][4] Hydlide, and Falcom's own Ys.[1] The way the Dragon Slayer series reworked the entire game system of each installment is also considered an influence on Square's Final Fantasy, which would do the same for each of its installments.[6] According to GamesTM and John Szczepaniak (of Retro Gamer and The Escapist), Enix's Dragon Quest was also influenced by Dragon Slayer and in turn defined many other RPGs.[3]

The original Dragon Slayer, released for the PC-88 in 1984,[1] is considered to be the first action-RPG. In contrast to earlier turn-based roguelikes, Dragon Slayer was a dungeon crawl RPG that was entirely real-time with action-oriented combat.[5] Dragon Slayer also featured an in-game map to help with the dungeon-crawling, required item management due to the inventory being limited to one item at a time,[1] and introduced the use of item-based puzzles which later influenced The Legend of Zelda.[4] Dragon Slayer was a major success in Japan, where its overhead action-RPG formula was used in many later games.[8] The game's MSX port was also one of the first titles to be published by Square.[1]

The sequel Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu, released in 1985, was a full-fledged action RPG with many character statistics and a large quest.[5][9] Xanadu incorporated a side-scrolling view during exploration and an overhead view during battle,[8] though some rooms were also explored using an overhead view. The game also allowed the player to visit towns with training facilities that can improve statistics and shops that sell items, equipment that change the player character's visible appearance, and food that is consumed slowly over time and is essential for keeping the player character alive. It also introduced gameplay mechanics such as platform jumping, magic that can be used to attack enemies from a distance,[5] an early Karma morality system where the character's Karma meter will rise if he commits sin which in turn affects his ability to level up,[5][9] a heavier emphasis on puzzle-solving,[7] and individual experience for equipped items.[9] It is also considered a "proto-Metroidvania" game,[10] due to being an "RPG turned on its side" that allowed players to run, jump, collect, and explore.[11] The game gained immense popularity in Japan; it set sales records for PC games in the country, where it sold more than 400,000 copies.[9] Xanadu Scenario II, released the following year, was also an early example of an expansion pack.[8] The game was non-linear, allowing the eleven levels to be explored in any order. It was also composer Yuzo Koshiro's first video game music soundtrack.[12]

According to creator Yoshio Kiya in 1987, when he developed Dragon Slayer, "Wizardry and Ultima were the only two kinds of RPGs", and so he "wanted to make something new" with Dragon Slayer which "was like a bridge" to the 'action RPG' genre and Xanadu took "those ideas to the next level", after which "more and more action RPGs were released" to the point that action RPGs became "one of the main genres of computer games". He also avoided random encounters, stating he "always thought there was something weird about randomized battles, fighting enemies you can't see, whether you want to or not".[13]

Romancia to Sorcerian (1986–1987)[edit]

In 1986, Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia simplified the RPG mechanics of Xanadu, such as removing the character customization and simplifying the numerical statistics into icons, and emphasized faster-paced platform action, with a strict 30-minute time limit. The action took place entirely in a side-scrolling view rather than switching to a separate overhead combat screen like its predecessor. These changes made Romancia more like a side-scrolling action-adventure game.[6][14]

In 1987, Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family returned to the deeper action-RPG mechanics of Xanadu while maintaining the fully side-scrolling view of Romancia.[14] The game also featured an open world and nonlinear gameplay similar to "Metroidvania" platform-adventures, making Drasle Family an early example of a non-linear, open-world action RPG.[15] That same year also saw the release of Xanadu's spin-off Faxanadu, a side-scrolling platform-action RPG.[8] Later that year, the fifth entry Sorcerian was released. It was a party-based action RPG, with the player controlling a party of four characters at the same time in a side-scrolling view. The game also featured character creation, highly customizable characters, class-based puzzles, and a new scenario system, allowing players to choose which of 15 scenarios, or quests, to play through in the order of their choice. It was also an episodic video game, with expansion disks released soon after offering more scenarios.[1][16]

Two of the games released for the Nintendo Famicom, Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family and the spin-off of Xanadu known as Faxanadu, were released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. The former was renamed Legacy of the Wizard. The second of the three games released for the Nintendo Famicom, Romancia, has never been released in North America for any platform. An English fan translation of the Famicom version of Romancia was released on April 23, 2008, by DvD Translations. An English version of Sorcerian was released in North America for MS-DOS in 1990, published by Sierra On-Line.

The Legend of Heroes to Tokyo Xanadu (1989–2015)[edit]

An English version of the 1989 title Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes was released for the TurboGrafx-CD in 1991, and is usually known as simply Dragon Slayer. A sequel, Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes II, was released in 1992, but never saw an official English release. Subsequent The Legend of Heroes games dropped their association with the Dragon Slayer series. In contrast to the action-oriented gameplay of most other Dragon Slayer titles, both The Legend of Heroes titles use turn-based combat. The 1991 title Lord Monarch, on the other hand, was an early real-time strategy game.[17] Several more games were released in the following years as part of the Xanadu subseries: the action role-playing games The Legend of Xanadu and The Legend of Xanadu II, released in 1994 and 1995 respectively, as well as Xanadu Next in 2005 and Tokyo Xanadu in 2015.

List of games[edit]

Main titles
1984Dragon Slayer
1985Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II
1986Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia
1987Legacy of the Wizard
1989Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes
1991Lord Monarch
1994The Legend of Xanadu

The games in the series include:

  1. Dragon Slayer (1984)
    • Dragon Slayer Gaiden (1992)
    • Dragon Slayer: Michi Kareshi Houkan no Senshi-tachi (2012)
  2. Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu (1985)
  3. Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia (1986)
    • Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia ~Another Legend~ (1999)
  4. Legacy of the Wizard (Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family) (July 17, 1987)
  5. Sorcerian (December 20, 1987)
  6. Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes (1989)
  7. Lord Monarch (1991)
    • Lord Monarch Advanced (1991)
    • Lord Monarch Super Famicom (1992)
    • Lord Monarch: Tokoton Sentou Densetsu (1994)
    • Lord Monarch Original (1996)
    • Lord Monarch The First (1997)
    • Lord Monarch Online (1997)
    • Lord Monarch Pro (1997)
    • Monarch Monarch (1998)
    • Minna no Mona Mona (1999)
    • Minna no Mona Mona 2 (1999)
    • Minna no Mona Mona 3 (1999)
    • Minna no Lord Monarch (1999)
    • Minna no Lord Monarch 2 (1999)
    • Minna no Lord Monarch 3 (1999)
    • Mobile Edition Lord Monarch (2004)
  8. The Legend of Xanadu (1994)
    • The Legend of Xanadu II (1995)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Kurt Kalata. "Dragon Slayer". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  2. ^ John Szczepaniak. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier Retro Japanese Computers". Hardcore Gaming 101. p. 3. Retrieved March 29, 2011. Reprinted from Retro Gamer, 2009
  3. ^ a b Szczepaniak, John (July 7, 2011). "Falcom: Legacy of Ys". GamesTM (111): 152–159 [153]. Archived from the original on December 9, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2011. (cf. Szczepaniak, John (July 8, 2011). "History of Ys interviews". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved September 6, 2011.)
  4. ^ a b c d Kamada Shigeaki, レトロゲーム配信サイトと配信タイトルのピックアップ紹介記事「懐かし (Retro) (Translation), 4Gamer.net
  5. ^ a b c d e "Falcom Classics". GameSetWatch. July 12, 2006. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c John Harris (July 2, 2009). "Game Design Essentials: 20 RPGs – Dragon Slayer". Gamasutra. p. 13. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Hack and Slash: What Makes a Good Action RPG?". 1UP.com. May 18, 2010. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Kalata, Kurt. "Xanadu". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved September 7, 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d "Xanadu Next home page". Retrieved September 8, 2008. (Translation)
  10. ^ Jeremy Parish. "Metroidvania". GameSpite.net. Archived from the original on June 27, 2016. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  11. ^ Jeremy Parish (August 18, 2009). "8-Bit Cafe: The Shadow Complex Origin Story". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on June 20, 2012. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  12. ^ Kevin Gifford (June 3, 2010). "Xanadu Scenario II". MagWeasel.com. Archived from the original on October 16, 2020. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
  13. ^ Yoshio Kiya – 1987 Developer Interview
  14. ^ a b Kurt Kalata, Romancia, Hardcore Gaming 101
  15. ^ Harris, John (September 26, 2007). "Game Design Essentials: 20 Open World Games – Dragon Slayer". Gamasutra. Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  16. ^ Sorcerian (PC), GameCola.net, October 30, 2010
  17. ^ Kalata, Kurt. "Vantage Master". Hardcore Gaming 101. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved September 6, 2011.

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