The Dragon Quest series was hardly the first to include sentient slime monsters. In fact, they seem to be pretty standard in fantasy role-playing games. According to this, producer Yuji Horii was directly inspired by the Creeping Crud from the PC game Wizardry. It was character designer Akira Toriyama who decided to make DQ’s Slimes look like brightly colored Hershey’s Kisses with smiling faces.
Cute slime monsters? Well, maybe he was influenced by Slimer from Ghostbusters, who in the movie was just one of the many ghosts captured by the team, but took on the cute sidekick role in the Saturday morning cartoon.
Actually, I think that cartoon started in the same year the first DQ game was released in Japan, which makes a connection unlikely, but perhaps it’s somehow telling that the mid-eighties was especially receptive to adorable lumps of protoplasm. Anyway, the Slimes have become the most recognizable enemies in the DQ series, and they’re almost always the weakest monsters encountered. While most Slimes in the games are enemies despite their friendly smiles, they were also among the first monsters your protagonists could befriend. A few nice Slimes show up in DQ4, and that’s before recruiting monsters became a significant part of the games. Throughout the series and related games, there are a lot of different varieties of Slime. Here are some of the most prominent:
Metal Slime – While they don’t have much more in the way of hit points than your ordinary Slime (in fact, I think they have less in some games), killing them can be a major challenge. They’re very difficult to hit, and even when you can make contact with one, you’re most often only going to remove one hit point at a time. In addition, they’re quite prone to running away (although how they can do that isn’t entirely clear). So why even bother fighting them? Well, because they give a lot of experience, especially compared to other monsters that appear around the same time in the game. When I encounter Metal Slimes, I usually just put all of my characters in attack mode, and hope that they’ll take out at least one.
Babbles, AKA Liquid Slimes – Originating in DQ2, these creatures are apparently less solid than their counterparts. The ordinary green variety is poisonous, which can be a real pain, especially before someone learns the Antidote spell. The metal kind (sometimes called “Metabbles”) grant even more experience than Metal Slimes, but they have more hit points and are more powerful attackers, usually able to get in a few blasts of low-level fire spells before heading for the hills.
Healslimes, AKA Healers – These beings don’t look much like the ordinary Slimes, but much more like jellyfish. In fact, their sprites are simply differently colored versions of the Man O’ War, although I don’t think that sea monster is generally considered part of the Slime family.
Healslimes and their relatives (Cureslimes and Medislimes) can attack, but their general role consists of healing the other monsters.
In DQ4, the first monster who can help out your heroes is a Healslime named Healie, who dreams of being human, and eventually succeeds in some unexplained way.
Slime Knights – These are actually tiny knights who ride around on Slimes. You wouldn’t think they’d make the best steeds, but since some of the later games feature Slime racing, I guess they’re more agile than you might think. I don’t think it’s ever been revealed what the actual knights look like under their armor.
King Slimes – One of my favorite encounters in DQ4 was always the part during Chapter 4 when you’d run into a lot of Slimes, who would proceed to merge together into a King Slime. The King Slime is obviously more powerful than ordinary Slimes, being versed in magic as well as ordinary fighting skills. An ordinary King Slime isn’t that difficult to defeat, but there are some more difficult varieties. The King Metal Slime grants more experience than any other monster, but is practically impossible to defeat. There’s also the King Healslime, which doesn’t look much like an ordinary Healslime; and several varieties of Gem Slime.
One Captain N episode, “The Trojan Dragon,” has the N Team encounter a group of Slimes. They look nastier than the ones in the actual games, and spit out acidic material to attack. I guess we can’t blame the writers too much, since their only source was the original Dragon Warrior, which gave no indication as to how Slimes might attack. Still, I have to wonder why practically none of the Captain N characters matched their in-game equivalents.