Designed by: Yoshio Kiya (producer)
Influenced by: Early CRPGs.
Series: Eight games. To this day, only three games in this series to have made it to the U.S. One is the NES' Legacy of the Wizard, in Japan known as Dragon Slayer IV: DraSle Family. The other, Sorcerian, got a limited PC release by Sierra On-Line. Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes hit the TurboGrafx CD. The NES sleeper action-RPG Faxanadu is a side-game to this series.
Legacy: It's actually hard to point to conclusive evidence of the games Falcom inspired, but the tendency to rework the entire game system for each installment was probably an influence on Final Fantasy.
I'm going to cover these game by game, because they're different enough from each other that describing one doesn't begin to explain the others:
In a huge, deviously-constructed, tile-based world, a hero fights monsters and harvests items (by carrying them, laboriously, one at a time to his house) to increase his power so that he can fight more monsters. After hours of this, he becomes powerful enough to kill the biggest monster, the Dragon, and so proceed to the next level. (Level?!)
The hero can move his house around by pushing it, making the trip to carrying things home less time-consuming. Visiting home replenishes hit points, carrying a sword makes the player able to kill monsters, carrying home a power stone raises his strength, and so on.
The hero also has spells for some utility purposes, such as tearing down walls. Overall he is extremely fragile, so he must plan carefully in order to succeed.
Dragon Slayer (Screenshot courtesy http://hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com/)
Dragon Slayer prominently displays a number of stats (using eight-digit numbers with lots of leading zeros) and pits players against lots of strange monsters, but it's more of an action game, really, than an RPG. Still, its loot-based character advancement system is in line with the older D&D way of doing things.
Dragon Slayer is an overhead game. Its sequel, Xanadu, is more of a side-view platformer, although, when contact is made with a monster, the game switches to another screen for the battle sequence.
Battle is real-time and consists of the usual Falcom combat scheme, also used in the better-known Ys games, of ramming into enemies and hoping your health holds out longer than theirs. Despite the similar combat, Xanadu doesn't have a whole lot to do with Dragon Slayer, an aspect that became typical of the series.
Number three in line. Not a long game, and not a complicted game, but an incredibly difficult game all the same. The game is an RPG platformer, and this time doesn't switch to a separate battle screen for combat.
It's got quite a lot of obscure tricks that must be performed to proceed, sort of like Namco's Tower of Druaga. It also has a strict 30 minute time limit! There is a fan-made English translation of this game, which also fixes some minor bugs and restores some features found disabled in the code.
Drasle Family, a.k.a. Legacy of the Wizard:
One of only three Dragon Slayer games to make it to the U.S. It's infamous there for its immense difficulty, and excellent music. I've played all the way through this, and can say that it's incredibly large, extremely hard, and yet strangely fun to play.
The game makes you work for every little thing, but it's very satisfying when it's all pulled off A Let's Play video report on the NES version of the game is up on YouTube, and demonstrates well the game's many insidious traps.
It's a side-scrolling action RPG with a four-member party and Wizardry-like character creation! Your party members follow behind sort of like the options from Gradius. It's especially interesting because, also like Wizardry, there were further adventures that could be purchased to take your characters into. The game got a DOS release in the U.S. under the auspices of Sierra On-Line, although none of the add-on disks made it over.
Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes:
A standard JRPG, nominally in the Dragon Quest mold, with the usual town/dungeon gameplay split, turn-based battles, and strong story elements indicative of the genre. As Xanadu earlier spun off into its own series, so did Legend of Heroes series; games in this series continue to this day in Japan.
Falcom's greatest hit was Ys, which is a shame as, for its good points, Ys is still painfully straight-forward. The Dragon Slayer games, for their weird action elements and platforming, paradoxically kept in closer contact with the spirit of old-school roleplaying. What a strange and wonderful collection of games.