For the majority of this decade there has been a huge divide between home console and computer games. Nearly all of the ones that have appeared on systems that hook up to the television rely on twitch reflexes of the player. Thus action games have seen the most popularity over the years, with countless space shooters, ladder climbers, maze munchers, and machine gun toting commandos taking center stage. Even slower paced adventure games like The Legend of Zelda and Legacy of the Wizard require expert hand-eye coordination to conquer.
While it’s true that computers have just as many high-octane action software titles, they also feature a line of games that don’t require lightning fast reflexes to play. They have a wide swath of point and click adventure games as well as traditional role-playing games (RPGs) that have seen massive success as they cater toward slowly building up your characters’ stats to win the day. Now, Nintendo wants a piece of that older audience pie and they hope that Dragon Warrior will be just what the doctor ordered.
So, what exactly is the difference between RPGs and other genres of games? There’s no clear line that must be crossed to designate a game with the RPG moniker, but games that fall into this category generally rely less on nimble thumbs and more on your brain. In the case of Dragon Warrior, this means that you won’t be quickly pressing buttons to win a battle. Instead, you’re treated to a more strategic turn-based combat system. When you encounter a monster you select from a menu and give the hero a command. You can fight, use magic, use an item, or run. Once you select the interaction, you see the results play out. After your hero takes his turn, then the enemy gets a chance to fight back or run. This plays out as fast or as slow as you want, so you can take your time to think of what your next move will be.
As you defeat more enemies you’ll gain something called Experience Points. These add up and eventually when you’ve accumulated enough your hero character will level up, which grants him more powers. Things like maximum health and magic will often increase and you might even learn new, more powerful magic spells to aid on your epic quest. You also gain a small amount of gold after every battle. You’ll need this to purchase new equipment and vital items to keep you alive. More powerful swords and stronger pieces of armor will be necessary to progress through the game’s story.
Speaking of, it turns out that the King’s daughter has been kidnapped and it’s up to you to go and rescue her. If this sounds like a hundred different games you’ve already played, you’d be correct – but in plot only. You see the game will have you exploring a vast overworld, called Alefgard, in search of the missing princess. Scattered about are swamps, forests, caves, and towns just waiting for you to discover and search every inch of them. But beware; you can’t go into a cave without being prepared. Remember to bring along some torches so you can see what’s lurking in the dark and a few herbs to heal your wounds!
For many gamers Dragon Warrior will be their first RPG, so there are a few more tidbits to know about. First of all, there are two scenarios, exploring and combat. While roaming the overworld you have a zoomed out perspective of your character. Enemies can be lurking anywhere, so as you walk around you’ll eventually step on a tile that contains a monster. When this happens the screen switches to a first person view of the enemy so you’re face-to-face with the beast! At first you’ll come across some easy foes, like Slimes, that should only take a hit or two to defeat. As you get further away from your home base, Tantagel Castle, you’ll find the enemies gradually become more difficult to slay. Bridges separate some territories and this is usually a good indicator that on the other side you’ll encounter stronger baddies. In addition, be careful when entering a cave because they’re usually littered with more hard to kill monsters.
Luckily, you can build up your hero’s stats by constantly battling easier monsters. It may take awhile, but as you gain more experience points your level will increase, giving you more health and magic as well as higher hitting power. Collect a bunch of gold to save up for the next best weapon to really deal some massive damage. If you do find yourself in a sticky situation, you may want to hang back and level up before going back to that location. Once your health is depleted you’ll lose a life and be brought back to life with only half of your gold – which can be catastrophic if you’ve been saving up for a long time for a new weapon.
The story is told via various characters that you can interact with in towns. Be sure to speak to each one and find out tidbits of the story and hints as to where to go next. These areas are safe havens from monsters, so you don’t need to worry about combat here. Stay at an Inn to regain your health and magic before venturing back out into the wilderness. Each town has different people to chat with and often new and more exciting weapons and items to purchase. As you level up and gain new magic spells you’ll even be able to warp back to places you’ve already been – very handy! To save your game you’ll need to talk to the King at the castle. The battery back-up cartridge will let you continue your quest the next time you turn it on. This adventure should take most newcomers over 20 hours, and easily more if it’s your first go.
Dragon Warrior, known as Dragon Quest in Japan, has become a huge cultural phenomenon in that country. They’re already on the third game in the series, which has already sold over 3 million copies! The original came out way back in 1986 over there, which means the graphics and music are probably not going to wow anybody in the U.S. since we’ve been playing newer games. The overworld is a bit lacking in detail and the small characters in the towns don’t do the game any favors, but I must admit the battle screens are very detailed and the monster designs are a pleasure to look at. The lack of animation in combat is a disappointment and we’ve seen much better-looking games.
However, graphics aren’t everything in a game. The soundtrack is pretty great, although limited in number of tracks. The overworld music will be stuck in your head for days given how many times you’ll hear it. My favorite track from the game is the town music, which is just so happy and jubilant.
Dragon Warrior makes up for its lackluster presentation with a compelling story and massive map that’s just begging to be explored. Never before have I been so engrossed in a game’s world to the point that by the end of the game I knew the names of all the towns and locations by heart. I’ve dabbled in semi-RPG mechanics before with titles like Zelda II: The Adventure of Link where experience points level up a character, but this is my first pure RPG and it really resonated with me. Consider me addicted! I can only hope this one sells enough to warrant bringing the sequels over as well.
Dragon Warrior Review
- Graphics - 6/106/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 8.5/108.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8.5/108.5/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Dragon Warrior is a different kind of game than what we’ve become accustomed to on the NES. There’s plenty of fighting, strategizing, and exploring to be had here. The sense of going on a big adventure is unparalleled on the system and gamers of all ages (assuming they can read) should give this one a try!