If you're one of the many millions of non-Japanese gamers who ignored the PC Engine or TurboGrafx-16 back in the late 1980s and early 1990s--or, you know, you're young enough that this is the first you're hearing of either of those NEC-made consoles--you may not know much, if anything, about Dungeon Explorer.
The best way to describe it, I think, is to say it's a clone of Atari's Gauntlet, itself a product of the 1980s. That's not an entirely accurate comparison, mind you, as Dungeon Explorer takes that classic quarter-mucher's overhead hack-and-slash gameplay and builds on it greatly. Still, there's little doubt the team behind Dungeon Explorer looked toward Gauntlet while developing their title, so I'm comfortable leaving my description as is.
Gameplay isn't the only area in which Dungeon Explorer bests Gauntlet, by the way. It also beats it in the graphics department.
Now, that's not to say the PC Engine title's the looker of the 16-bit generation, but it's definitely atmospheric. To see what I mean, check out the screenshots found in videogameden.com's and thebrothersduomazov.com's write-ups on this five-player game.
Of course, you expect an atmospheric experience when you play at Atlus-developed game, right? Wait, you didn't know the company behind Shin Megami Tensei and Persona made Dungeon Explorer? Well, it did.
And then Hudson Soft--the now-defunct company that brought the world the Adventure Island, Bomberman and a number of other series--published it. (In 1989, to be exact.)
As for Dungeon Explorer's lovely packaging, which is supposed to be the focus of this post, I've got to say its cover (and HuCard) illustration is my favorite part of the whole she-bang. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's among the best the PC Engine has to offer when it comes to box art.
That's not to say other components aren't ogle-worthy, too. For instance, Dungeon Explorer's instruction manual is filled to the brim with fabulous illustrations like the ones--of the game's cast of characters--showcased in the photo above. (For scans of the entire Dungeon Explorer manual, check out my latest "Manual Stimulation" post.)
With all that said, have any of you played Dungeon Explorer--or even Gauntlet? If so, share your thoughts on those titles in the comments section that follows. (Fair warning: I could talk about the latter for hours.)
See also: 'five PC Engine games you've overlooked and need to play ASAP'