Review by GothamKnight
"This game is not for everyone, but that can be a good thing."
Ahh, yes, the Dragon Warrior series. Americans gamers have long been denied the whole set of Dragon Quest games, but Enix-Square is hopefully coming to their senses. This is the first and last Dragon Warrior to appear on the PSX, and like I said it's not for everyone. Its best features are its humongous job system, sprawling islands to explore, and a classic RPG storyline. You will probably love it if you are an RPG addict. If you are looking for an easy and story heavy game, play Final Fantasy VIII through X. This is Dragon Warrior, and thus you have to be prepared.
Graphics: Ok, let's get the obvious thing out of the way first. This game isn't going to win any awards for its graphics anytime soon. I would have to say its similar to Grandia in the style of its 3D overworld and town graphics. Your characters and NPCs are 2D sprites that stay true to the cartoony Dragon Warrior tradition, and they look nice. As always, characters and monsters are designed by Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama. The character designs are not as inspired as the ones from the last six games, and are somewhat average. The main character also looks goofy. In battle the enemy sprites look amazing and have the best 2D animation I have seen on the Playstation. Their movements are over-exaggerated and extremely fluid. The 3D, however, is very outdated. The backgrounds of the battle screen are done in 3D and spell effects are 3D as well. Those effects are pretty nifty, nothing special. There are also 3D cutscenes here and there. I agree with another's opinion that anime cutscenes by Toriyama would have been excellent. Once again, you don't see your own characters in battle, which is a shame, but stays true to the DW canon. One aspect that was a letdown was when your characters change classes, they don't change in appearance. That would have been a nice addition and seemingly not too hard to implement by the game designers.
Sound: The music is classic Koichi Sugiyama (he composed all of the DQ music). The quality of music is a mixed bag. There are many good tracks, though, and the music has a distinctly old school flavor. The battle music, however, does get repetitive. The sound effects throughout the game are very 8-bit, which is too bad. It would have added something nice to the game. Music is one of the most important aspects of an RPG, and unfortunately the music here is not as strong as in other games. It suits its purpose here fine, as a backdrop to your exploring.
Gameplay: Here are the real meat and potatoes of the game. You are offered a plethora of job classes which you can master. Each class has eight levels, and there are around 20 classes total (not sure of the exact number). Some classes are a must because of their handy skills and/or spells. Unfortunately, this is a game that has many random battles. So if you despise random battles, this game may not be for you. In battle you can fight it out normally or use spells and skills. The party AI is so-so, but you can take over if you need to.
This game is ridiculously long, averaging 100 hours at least. You have to level up if you have any hope of beating the bosses. And that brings us to the difficulty factor of this game. I would have to say that this is one of the hardest RPGs I've ever played. For some, that may be frustrating, but I like a good boss fight. You definitely get a feeling of satisfaction after whooping a boss that has been beating you over and over again. Towards the end of the game, its nice having souped up uber-heroes that beat everything to a pulp. So, for level-up junkies this game is a dream.
The story, while thin at points, is not as banal as most people make it out to be. It is your traditional kind of storyline, and thankfully it keeps you interested till the end. There is a nice puzzle element to the game as you find different elemental Shards to unlock more islands. The story focuses more on the townspeople you help than your own party, but I dont want to spoil the story.
Oh, and one last thing, the translation is kind of botched in places and that was really a shame. This game is one of the most respected in Japan, and when it was brought over here something special was lost.
Replayability: Coming back to master all the classes, and seeing if you can fly through the game faster than before definitely help the replay factor. However, that all depends if you have time to kill.
So, here's the overall breakdown:
+ Challenging battles and bosses
+ Extensive job system
+ Giant world to explore
- Many random battles
- Length may put many off
- Presentation could have been improved
So I give it an 8/10, and rate it as one of the best RPGs on the Playstation. Hardcore RPG players will more likely enjoy it. Now bring on Dragon Warrior VIII!!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/09/04
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