Review by KFHEWUI

"Tedious gameplay and stale story hamper Dragon Warrior from ever gaining traction"

Princess Gwaelin has been kidnapped, and the evil Dragonlord is trying to take over the land. A lone warrior whom is a descendant of Edrick can save Princess Gwaelin and the world.

The game begins with the player in the throne room of Tantegel Castle, and he is talking to the King. The King tells the player what is going on, and he will serve a vital role in the game. He will tell the player how much experience they need to level up, and he will also save the game. This is a problem I have with the save system which is that only the King can save the game, and it gets tiresome having to backtrack to save the game. Eventually an item can be obtained that will transport the player back to the castle, and there is a spell which will replace the item but that is not accessible until later in the game. Until then backtracking is the only way, and it gets old quickly.

In the throne room are several chests and knights, and talking to the knights reveal some backstory. There is one knight that moves around, and this knight can block the exit. The first time I started up the game, the knight became stuck on the door for two minutes, and all I could do was wait until he moves. This really gets old when store owners walk away from the counter and having to wait for them to walk back over. Even worse is that one time I had the knight get stuck on the stair, and I had to turn restart the game.

After finishing business in the throne room, the player will walk over to the stairs yet nothing will happen. In Dragon Warrior every action has to be selected from a menu that is accessible by hitting “A”, and this goes for talking, opening doors, picking up items, and using stairs, and it slows down the already slow game. It would have been better if the actions were streamlined to touching stairs uses them or just having to hit “A” at a door/people/chest to open/talk/take. The “B” could be used for the menu that brings up status/items/spells.

The controls are solid and responsive however the movement controls feel stiff. Pressing the D-Pad in the direction the player wants to move only turns the character in that direction and instead the button has to be held down for the character to take a step. Also the controls have a moment of not responding when the menu loads up in and out of combat. Aside from that the controls are decent, and the layout is very simple to grasp.

On the first floor of the castle are servants and knights, and if they are talked to, they can fill in more back story. Talking to citizens of towns will some give cryptic clues about where to go or how to gain a useful item but sometimes they will say something completely useless like one woman that says “I have no tomatoes”.

Leaving the town drops the player on the world, and the world map is large. The graphics look good, and the world map is covered with trees, water, mountains, deserts, caves, towns, and two castles. While the map looks great, the towns and caves are bland, and the caves are grey stone walls and red brick floors while the towns look the same with the addition of grass and water. All the towns look exactly the same with the only major difference being the layout of shops.

There is very little animation in the game aside from the moving legs and arms of characters, but the enemies have no animation instead the screen shakes whenever they attack the player while the enemies flash red when they are hit.

A slow yet eloquent tune starts playing, and it sounds great. The rest of the soundtrack fits the mood right from an ominous track in combat, and a mysterious track for caves.

After travelling around, a player will encounter enemies, and the system is random encounter. There is a major problem with the encounter system which is the absurd rate of encounter which ranges from a one step battle one step battle to one minute between battles, and it is happens with no pattern at all.

When an enemy is encountered a box pops with a backdrop and an enemy (when in a cave the backdrop is black), and two more boxes pop up. One of the boxes has stats like health points (HP), magic points (MP), gold (G), experience (E), etc., and the second box has actions that include attack, items, magic, and run. Luckily the combat is fast, and most battles do not take to longer. There is a nice variety of enemies ranging from scorpions, dragons, slime, golems, and skeletons however they do recycle enemy's sprites by swapping the colors.

Once the enemy is defeated, the player is reward with experience and gold, and the game is very generous with gold however it is stingy with experience. After reach the upper teens, leveling up can take upwards of an hour due to the low experience that is given, and the game has the max level at thirty.

First thing to do is gain several levels and save up money for armor and weapons. After doing this, the first cave can be entered, and every cave is dark. A torch will light up the cave however it does not light up much of the area around the player. A spell called radiant will light up a lot more, but that spell is not gained until the player is in the teens. The first cave is not too hard to navigate, and it is the only cave that has no enemies. The prize of the cave is a tablet written by Edrick.

After getting the tablet, the next step is more grinding, and this is a major flaw with the game. There is a weak and generic story with no character development and very little plot so to counter this out the player has to spend a large chunk of time leveling up and grinding for money for armor and weapons. This gets old very quickly, and I had a hard time playing through the later part of the game since there is no incentive or story to push my interest forward however I did see the game through to the end. There are only three bosses in the game, and the last boss is cheap. The first phase takes three hits, and he is finished. The second phase is cheap since the boss receives a spike in defense and attack, and each attack does under 10 damage to the boss while the boss can do around 30 for attack and 50 for fire breathing.

Also during my playthrough, I encountered a fatal bug which trapped me in combat with no way to escape, and the game said that a spell was trapping me in place and what was my command. Unfortunately, there is no way to get out of this (at least to my knowledge), and when I encountered this, I lost an hour worth of work so to avoid this saving is a must. This is a major bug, but it is a rare bug.

Dragon Warrior has the basics down for a good game, but ultimately the repetitive gameplay and lackluster story hold the game back from ever gaining ground.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 06/20/12

Game Release: Dragon Warrior (US, 08/31/89)

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