Torneko: The Last Hope is a spin-off game that takes place in the Dragon Warrior universe. In the game, you assume the role of Torneko, the chubby shopkeeper from Dragon Warrior IV. But the game has more in common with a little-known Genesis game named Fatal Labyrinth than it does with any of the Dragon Warrior games.
Indeed, with the exception of little ties to the series in its monsters and items, the game really doesn't have a lot in common with the Dragon Warrior games. Instead of creating a full-fledged RPG, the developers went for a quick and easy dungeon-filled hack-and-slash adventure, short on story and long on wandering through mazelike dungeons. Essentially, what little storyline is in place simply directs you to the next dungeon with little or no fanfare. The game seems to have been designed with short spurts of playing in mind. Each time you complete a dungeon, your level is reset back to level one, and until you get your storehouse repaired, all the items you find in the dungeons are lost as well. You'll occasionally be allowed to save your game mid-dungeon, but these saves are treated as temporary, as they're erased as soon as you load them up.
It may not seem like it, since you can move around almost completely at will, but the entire game is turn-based. Enemies only move or take action when you do, so for every step you take, item you use, or attack you execute, every enemy in the dungeon gets to take one action. For the most part, once you enter a room that has enemies in it, they start moving in your direction until they're close enough to attack. In addition to hand-to-hand attacks, you can execute ranged attacks with arrows or various magic items, such as scrolls or wands. Also like Fatal Labyrinth, the game has a hunger meter. If you don't occasionally eat some bread, you'll begin to slowly lose health. All in all, the dungeons aren't too challenging, provided you avoid getting surrounded by monsters.
Graphically, Torneko might as well be a SNES game. There's really nothing in the game that looks 32-bit, and the game looks just like old SNES RPGs used to look, complete with characters that constantly walk in place. The game's old-style look isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. In fact, the 16-bit look actually gives the game a great deal of charm. The sound effects are pretty unremarkable, but the music is quite good, and it provides a terrific theme to each of the game's many dungeons.
The random design of the dungeons and the lack of a real story may turn off a lot of RPG players. But if you're an RPG fan looking for some lighter fare, Torneko is a charming little adventure that manages to push the nostalgia button without feeling overly dated.