Atlus/Hudson Soft - 1989 - U.S.A.
For every console exists games that define it, games that represent its spirit. Dungeon Explorer is one such game. Love it or hate it, it cannot be argued that Explorer didn't make an impact on the Turbo gaming universe. It set a precedent where previously none existed. Seldom does a game come along that appeals to such a diverse audience. Turbo fans unite: this one's for you.
To identify Dungeon Explorer as merely a "Gauntlet clone" just doesn't do the game justice. While there's no hiding that Explorer borrows its most basic gameplay elements from the venerable action title, it improves upon that template in every possible way. The story upon which the game is based is hardly groundbreaking: a formerly tranquil community called Odessia has been transformed into a land of dungeons and evil by an alien race that has enslaved the people through the power of the ORA stone. It's up to you to find the ORA and return peace to Odessia.
Eight different classes of character are available upon beginning the game, an additional two can be obtained secretly if you follow the correct path with the correct character. Each class boasts diverse strengths and weaknesses, and makes for incredible replay value. Defeated bosses leave behind crystal "beans" that allow your character to "level up" their attributes at your discretion. Each class has different magic capabilities that can be utilized through the use of white & black magic potions. Such abilities range from magic shields, to magic "bombs," to health restoration.
Explorer handles excessive onscreen action with extreme competence and rarely will you experience any slowdown. Controls are tight and responsive, but perhaps the coolest feature of all is the multiplayer capability. Dungeon Explorer allows up to five people to play simultaneously, which makes for an incredibly fun time. You really have to get on the same wavelength as your partner(s) to maximize your combined firepower and abilities and stay out of each other's way.
Where do we go from here?
You'll discover a few subplots within the adventure if you pay attention.
This guy's name is Judas? And he's supposed to be on my side?
Have a drink on me.
Friends along the way offer valuable advice.
Dungeons are vast and unique; on your first run through, you'll get lost in Rallymaze, overpowered in Cherry Tower, and impressed by Natas. Hell, you'll still be impressed on your tenth run through. Explorer has plenty of area to keep you busy for quite a while. Don't expect to complete the game on your first or second sitting; save games are handled via manageable 10-character passwords.
While the screens shown here should speak for themselves, Explorer's finest asset lies in the music. Generally regarded as the best non-redbook soundtrack on the console, the Explorer soundscape lays to rest any shred of doubt that the TurboGrafx was truly the next generation in console gaming.
You have not truly experienced the spirit of the Turbo until you've played Dungeon Explorer.
Bosses are memorable and just badass in general. You'll encounter over a dozen of these guys by the end of your journey.