Review by Psycho Penguin
"For a game with so many flaws, it's amazing it still stands the test of time."
THE RPG REVOLUTION STARTS!!!!1!!1! But is it a good start?
The year is 1985. A small company named Enix tries a revolutionary concept and decides to release a game called ''Dragon Quest'' for the Famicom. The first ever console RPG was released, and as they say, the rest is history. Despite the fact the Dragon Quest series never really caught on in America, it's still the best selling video game series in the history of Japan, even outselling Final Fantasy.
Fast forward a few years. Enix decides to release the game in the United States, under the name ''Dragon Warrior''. While it is a fairly popular game at release, it disappointingly did not reach estimated sales, and it took the role playing genre many years to finally hit the mainstream audience it was desperately seeking for many years. Heck, they got so desperate at one point, they decided to give away copies of it for free for new Nintendo Power subscribers.
Despite the fact the series never got popular in America, and the role playing genre took a long time to hit mainstream here in the States, it doesn't mean Dragon Warrior's a bad game, or that it's Dragon Warrior's fault. Nope, this is actually a pretty good game. Despite its many glaring faults, it's still a fun game that stands the test of time, which is quite amazing since it has more flaws then perhaps any role playing game in history (well, besides Ultima: Exodus.)
Guess what? You have to save a princess!
I might as well kick off this review properly by mentioning one of the main flaws. The storyline is so simple, it makes Super Mario Brothers seem like quantum physics. Okay, not really, but the basic storyline is that you're the son of an ancient legendary hero, and you have to go save the Princess from an evil Dragon Lord. Yes, that's the entire storyline. You don't even have any story scenes besides the beginning of the game and the end of the game.
You want to talk about lack of character development in recent role playing games? This game has NO character development. No story development. Nothing. You spend the whole game doing random jobs without having any sort of purpose. Wow, find a key to open a cave so you can pass through. Defeat a Golem for no real reason. It's like watching a Chuck Norris movie: You're wondering what the hell the guy's fighting for.
So, you walk around, and stuff.
It controls pretty decently, though. The menu system is not the most complex ever, that's for sure. There's only a few options, and they're pretty easy to figure out on your own. However, I hate the whole notion of needing to push ''open'' on the menu to open a door, and especially needing to go to ''STAIRS'' on the menu just to go up and down stairs. It's pointless and adds to the frustration a little bit.
As I touched on a little bit a few paragraphs ago, Dragon Warrior doesn't really seem like a complete game. Like something's missing. For one, you just go from town to town to fufill random blocks in your path to the final castle. There's no story scenes, and nothing to do in any of the towns except buy stuff. There's only about three dungeons in the entire game, and even fewer bosses. You could complete the entire game in a few hours if you wanted.
Also, the game adds some degree of frustration by forcing you to spend an assanine amount of time fighting enemies in order to gain enough gold to buy new weapons and armor. You fight one on one battles the entire game, meaning you never get anyone to join you, and you only face one enemy in every battle in the game. And people dog Mystic Quest for being ''too simple''. This game makes Mystic Quest look like Everquest.
The battle system could definitely have used some work, but hey, every Dragon Warrior game works like this, so it doesn't seem all that bad. It's all menu based, even the damage is shown in a menu. It's not really all that interactive, as this game makes you feel like you are watching the battles. I know every role playing game on the planet (except a few) makes you tap buttons to win battles, but at least they show stuff on screen to make you feel like you're controlling your guy. Here, you push attack, a sound happens, and ''Thou hath done 7 damage to Blue Slime!'' shows on the menu. That's it. Then the enemy disappears if he died. Wow.
There's also no puzzles in the game. The dungeons simply require you to buy some torches to keep them lit up, then walk around until you find the exit. Sure, you could find some chests, but they usually contain mundane items you could find in shops for a quarter. Therefore, there's no real sense of exploration.
It's not even the most annoying aspect. That would be having to return to the main castle just to save every time. There's nothing better than being in front of the final castle and needing to save. Let me just say the final castle isn't exactly right next door to the main castle. Yes, you can use the wings to transport to the main castle, but saving anywhere on the map would have been nice.
Now you see why I said this game has a lot of flaws. Regardless, it's still a surprisingly fun game. There's a certain aura that this game carries that gives off this fun feeling, that there's actually a purpose for you to be playing it. The battles are fun, and it's awesome to see how much more damage you do as you level up. For a game with as many technical design issues as this one, it's still an awesome game to play, and that really says something.
.... And the music's good, too!
I love the music in this game. How can anyone forget the classic overworld theme once they hear it for the first time? It's simply one of the greatest video game songs ever. The battle theme is also awesome, and the final boss theme is pretty cool. However, there is an issue in the music department, as well. There's not enough variety. I think there's about five songs in the entire game. Town theme, castle theme, battle theme, dungeon theme, overworld theme. The five songs sure are great, though.
Graphically, the game has graphics.
The graphics aren't exactly 2002-ish, so all you FFX fanboys who whine about the deformed characters of Final Fantasy 7 better go find something else to play. For those of you that can accept the 1985 graphics, it's awesome. The enemy designs are great, and varied. Slimes look like slimes, birds look like birds, etc. And the Dragon Lord is simply huge. The main character walks fluidly and does not suffer from any lack of frame loss. The only problem I had was it's all plain and lacked any sort of creativity.
I like this game.
Due to the lack of secrets, Dragon Warrior may not have the highest replay value ever. Or so you may think. I've completed this game six times now, and I keep coming back for more. It's simply so much fun to play despite its flaws and lack of secrets. It can also prove to be pretty challenging if you don't keep levelled up, especially the Wyvern and some of the other later enemies, which will murder you if you are not prepared.
There's no game that has as many flaws as Dragon Warrior and still manages to be quite as good. The game suffers from so many technical and design issues, that it's amazing it even got the Nintendo Seal of Quality. But there's a reason it got it. It's simply so much fun to play. Disregard the fact this game was given away for free. It's still one of the best role playing games to come out on the NES, and is definitely one to cherish as the game that started the console RPG era.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 06/28/02, Updated 06/28/02
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