Dragon Warrior review
Age has ravished its once great looks
Here we are - the granddaddy of RPGs on the NES. Dragon Warrior is one of those games that really helped define a genre. The Legend Of Zelda laid down some foundations, and Dragon Warrior built upon them. Of course, Final Fantasy finished it off with a storyline beyond the backstory, and ultimately, it's the superior title, but at that time, you just had to make do. Of course, nowadays, you don't have to! You can just play the newer, faster titles and not pay any attention to Dragon Warrior beyond what it did for the RPG genre back in the 80s. From the sounds of things, I may be making it out to be a game that didn't stand the test of time... does it? Find out.
Story: The backstory itself is a little more complicated than what you'd be used to in 80s gaming. It's about the hero, Edrick, and how he had slain the evil in the land. Eventually, evil rose again, and has polluted the land with darkness. It's up to our unnamed hero, the descendant of Edrick, to slay the new evil known as the Dragonlord. Of course, expect to hear of this story every time you get to a new town and talk to everybody, and believe me, you ought to talk to everybody, because they hold clues as to what you're meant to do throughout your quest.
Gameplay: The majority of the game is spent wandering the world map to complete your quest. To make things easier, you can strengthen yourself up through fighting randomly encountered enemies. Most battles can be fought by simply selecting the attack command on the battle menu. When you win, you gain EXP and gold, and, as you could probably tell, you'll need both sources of revenue - EXP to level up and get stronger, and gold to buy equipment as you travel throughout the land before finding the equipment used and left by Edrick.
As you level up, you'll not only increase in power, but also learn spells. When you start the game, you don't know anything about spells, but when you level up a bit, you'll learn your first spell - Heal. As soon as you learn this, HP healing items become obsolete... at least, until you run out of MP, which is inevitable if you spam Heal often. Thankfully, some guy in the castle can restore your MP, and resting in an inn at a town can restore both HP and MP, though the latter is for a fee. On the flipside, it may be worth it, especially as you journey further and further away from the castle... at least, until you eventually learn the ever so useful Return spell. Just keep some MP available, and you'll be good to go. It depends on the situation, especially since some enemies can prevent you from escaping, and will be making your trip to the castle shorter... for a fee of half the gold you have, and since you need gold in order to make things easier for you, you'll be royally screwed if you lose a battle. Worst yet, it takes a long time to get the gold you'll need to buy the equipment you'll need, so clear your schedule if you plan on playing this for whole days, and take some ritalin while you're at it, because you will get pretty bored while doing this. Granted that RPGs, especially the older ones, do this often, it's not to the point of overkill like this game is, and since there isn't much of a story to look forward to, you often don't feel motivated to progress.
When you're not on the overworld or in towns, you're exploring dungeons, which are mazes shrouded in darkness. At first, you feel lost, since all but the square you're on is pitch black. No worries - that's what candles are for! Granted that you bought some before heading into the dungeon or you've learned the Radiance spell (quite a ways down the line), you can illuminate the dungeon, making it easier to see. You'll not only deal with some rough enemies, but you'll also deal with getting lost. There aren't a large amount of paths to take, though you could find yourself going around in circles, and since candles don't last forever, make sure to have a few, or you'll be dead before you know it. At the end of dungeons, you'll be rewarded with treasure, though a dungeon has a boss guarding a big treasure at the end... let me just say that there aren't a whole lot of bosses throughout. Three, tops. To make up for that, they're pretty rough customers, especially the final boss, so keep your levels reasonable, or you'll fail. The pain of the ass bit in each dungeon is actually going down the stairs. You can't just walk into them; you have to open up the menu, and select stairs, which takes 4 tedious seconds, rather than the microsecond it should. Considering that Zelda got it right, it's kind of annoying doing this in each dungeon...
Almost forgot to mention - this game contains a battery save pack, so there aren't any long winded passwords to enter. Just speak with the king at the castle and opt to save. There's also an option to turn it off after this, but I suggest saving, not selecting to turn it off, then turn it off manually. You have to get up to hold reset as you turn it off the not-so manual way, so.. why not get off your butt and press the power button? Either way, it was a nice feature, since Dragon Warrior is a pretty big game, and grinding for longer than a half hour or so tends to get pretty boring.
Graphics: The graphics look a bit bland. Technically speaking, they're good enough for 1986, since everything at least looks as they should, though the colors are less than admirable. Looking at the game is a bit sleepworthy. Then again, considering the size of the world and the size of the cartridge, I... suppose that was inevitable. Then you encounter an enemy, and the visuals step it up some notches with some nice looking enemy designs and backgrounds. It's disappointing that the enemies don't actually move... at all, but it's nice to at least see something that looks good on the screen.
Audio: When it comes to the music, Dragon Warrior has some nice tunes. The dungeon tune has that foreboding vibe to it, and through the repetitious tracks, it keeps up this feeling. Of course, this is by 8-bit standards, before the quality we have now was possible. One track I grew to loathe was the overworld track. At first, it's a good, soothing track with that flute playing over a beat, but come to about spin 6000, and by the end, you'll be reaching for the mute button. In fact, other than the town and dungeon tunes, you'll probably find the music to be redundant over time, since the tracks are short and you'll be hearing them very often.
Overall: Dragon Warrior is a good game for the time period it was released in, but time seems to have ravished its once good looks. Everything has that archaic feeling, like it was literally made to just give us a taste of what was to come in the future. In that case, it does its job spectacularly, but if it was meant to be a timeless classic, it didn't quite do it, at least for me it doesn't. Eh. It's a nice history lesson, but that's about it.
Replay Value: 3/10
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