What is Tower of Druaga?
The Tower of Druaga is a maze arcade video game from the 1980’s. Dropping from NAMCO in 1984, this classic 60-level puzzle video game has remained a favorite among old-school gamers for decades. The video game has also spawned an anime adaptation and is available on the 3DS for newcomers. It grew as a series and became known as the Babylonian Castle Saga.
The Tower of Druaga follows the protagonist Gilgamesh (or Gil, for short) as he fights his way through wizards, slime, and knights to reach the top, where Druaga, a helmeted demon with eight legs and four arms holds Ki, a priestess that’s been stripped of her powers, captive. Gilgamesh must defeat Druaga before he harnesses the power of the Blue Crystal Rod and makes humanity his eternal slave.
The series takes a lot of inspiration from ancient Mesopotamia, using elements of the religion and mythology of the time. Gilgamesh and Ishtar, a goddess directing his quest, whose names are taken from Mesopotamian legends and folklore, are the most prominent examples of this inspiration.
Masanobu Endo, the creator of the game, was on a business trip in 1982 in the US and bought a copy of Dungeons and Dragons, which he used to develop the beta version of Tower of Druaga, simply named “Quest,” and eventually became “The Return of Ishtar,” a title reused for a sequel later on. Somewhat predictably, considering its origins, the game turned out a little too RPG-ish for Endo’s tastes, however, wanting something with more action and more puzzle solving emphasis.
He threw in a few heavy dashes of the Mesopotamian mythology and real-life inspiration from things like the Sunshine City building – known for having 60 floors, and was the tallest building in Asia for the time, and Tower of Druaga was born.
Tower of Druaga hit arcades in Japan in 1984, and was a huge hit (unlike in North America, where it was considered overly difficult), drawing popularity for the complex (at the time) elements of hidden elements and use of different abilities. Eventually it hit the MSX, Family Computer, and even the Game Boy further down the line.
Tower of Druaga is known as a foundational video game for the development of other series. Tower of Druaga is also thought to have inspired popular video game franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Slayer.
How Do You Play Tower of Druaga?
The player starts on the bottom floor of the Tower of Druaga navigating a randomized maze as Gilgamesh. The goal is to reach the top and defeat the evil Druaga and rescue the priestess.
Every floor has the same basic objective: get the key to the door to progress to the next floor. The player must also access strategically placed treasure chests possess power up and tools that can be helpful and even essential to level progression. Ishtar will invisibly aid on this part, giving unique instructions per level for the best way to access it.
The most useful are the pickaxe, which allows Gilgamesh to smash through enemies and maze walls, and boots that allow him to walk somewhat faster than a snail.
Gilgamesh must dodge fire from wizards and dragons, evade malicious piles of slime, ghosts, and many other obstacles to complete his quest, and all before the clock runs out!
And if you miss an essential item, you’ll simply be zapped back to the floor you need to get it, so make sure you don’t neglect the hunt for the chest. You’ll need all you can get when you face Druaga hand-to-hand on the 60th floor.
Other Games, Spin-offs, Adaptation
The game was successful enough to warrant two sequels in subsequent years, The Return of Ishtar, and the Quest of Ki. There are other video games covering side stories of other characters, including The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushigi no Dungeon for the PS2 in 2004.
Set three years after the story of the original game, The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushigi no Dungeon follows Gilgamesh as he seeks to yet again rescue Ki (now his fiancee) from the clutches of a new threat, a sorceress named Skulld. The 2D maze sections are replaced with 3D dungeons and feature the addition of open exploration, side quests, and the option to chat with NPCs.
The game is notoriously difficult – the penalty for death is loss of practically all your aggregated items and HALF your gold. If you try to circumvent the auto save feature to prevent this, not only will you NOT get your items back, you’ll be in for it with Ishtar.
The series, later known as the Babylonian Castle Saga, got additional spinoffs, including an online game, with the latest release being in 2011.
Tower of Druaga Comes to Anime with The Aegis of Uruk
Eventually, the Tower of Druaga got an anime adaptation, Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk, a sort of modernized take loosely based on the original game. It was simulcast in both English and Japanese, premiering April 2008 on Animax and ran for 12 episodes, and was animated by studio Gonzo. Much like the beta version of the game, the anime incorporates a lot of RPG elements such as classes,
Set in the country of Uruk 80 years after King Gilgamesh conquered the Tower of Druaga, the tower mysteriously revives. Now it’s up to the citizens and the Uruk army to take advantage of the Summer of Anu, a period of time in which the demons residing within the tower lose their power. The anime series begins during the third Summer of Anu, during which the army is hoping to finally permanently defeat the tower.
We are introduced to Jil, a guardian at the peak of the tower-city Meskia. Jil desires to ascend to the very top of the tower and finally defeat Druaga and take the Blue Crystal Rod. Jil is far from the only one who wants the glory of this defeat – Kaaya, an oracle and healer, invite Jil to join her and Ahmey, a lancer to climb the tower and defeat Druaga. Melt, a somewhat incompetent mage with a huge debt on his head, and his servant Coopa end up joining the quest as well.
There’s a personal battle involved: Jil’s brother Neeba is also after the glory of being the first to reach the top, and may be hiding more than what appears. By the first season’s end, they manage to defeat Druaga’s guardian, but the evil lord himself remains at large.
The anime series received a second season, Tower of Druaga: the Sword of Uruk, premiering in January 2009 and ran for another 12 episodes.
Both of Tower of Druaga’s seasons got a lukewarm viewer reaction at best, receiving heavy criticism for the predictable, plodding plot with no real connection to the source material and lackluster character development, but praised for GONZO’s character design and stellar animation.