Dragon Warrior- Retroview

Thou Hast Done Well in Reading this Review

By: Castomel

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 3
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 8
   Plot 4
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Patience, Pet...
   Time to Complete

10-20 hours

Objects in mirror look nicer than they appear

Title Screen

   I admit it- I live in the past. If the main theme of most of my reviews(mainly, the fact that they're retroviews) hasn't quite clicked in, then you probably haven't read any of them, which is either a sign of a) bad taste on your part or b) the fact they didn't even bronzify my name after my fifth review(sigh...). That aside, I like old games. I can sit there for hours on end, listening to grating, 12-second long melodies in square wave while gallantly busting up imps, magidrakees, and... well, given the staff members at this site, I'll just gloss over my somewhat violent history with slimes. Heck, I even like the graphics to a certain extent; at least they don't follow a colour scheme primarily based around washed-out greys, greens, and blues. I guess this is just a long-winded excuse for the score I give Dragon Warrior. No, it's not a masterpiece of gaming by today's standard, its menu system is tedious and cumbersome, the graphics pretty much stink, and no piece of music exceeds 20 seconds, but it's FUN! With that in mind, shall we proceed?

 There's no statement quite so classic as "A slime draws near. Command?" If you take out "slime" and insert anything from 'Droll' to 'Werewolf' to 'Dragonlord', you've got an idea of how this game's battle system operates. It pretty much introduced menu-based fighting, and offered scanty options such as run, magic, fight, and item, the hallmarks of RPG fighting. As far as these go, you pretty much have to rely on the text to get an idea of just how super you are. Unless you get a critical hit(in which case the screen shakes with magnificent force) you're playing this by numbers, reading all about the slime's hits decreasing by... well, slimes are the footpads of the DW world, so it's usually a fair bit. Anyway, it's clunky, it's crappy, it doesn't really have much in the way of excitement, even FF1 had better spell effects(mmm... zappy clouds) but it's fun! Numbers are more than sufficient to keep a battle going, since really that's what all battles pretty much come down to in RPGs anyway. This one is just without the pretty pictures. Kind of skimpy, but I must reiterate, it retains the basic element of enjoyability.

By far the worst part of the game is the interface. It is necessary to select any action you might want to perform, be it opening a door, using stairs or even talking to people, from a menu. Thankfully, every subsequent RPG made(with a few possible exceptions) eliminated this irritating feature, but it slows down gameplay like nobody's business. It makes such already near-impossible tasks as finding a fairy flute, which is mostly akin to the proverbial needle in the haystack(well.. unless you follow instructions) twice as time-consuming, and is generally annoying. I can't really make excuses for this asinine approach, so I'll just leave it alone wondering why the programmers didn't spend a FEW extra minutes making more easily usable stairs.

Lorik starts RPG tradition of kings never leaving their thrones
Lorik sitting on his throne crate  

   The music of Dragon Warrior can more or less be summed up as follows: Doo-do-dooooo, do-do-doo-do-doo-do-doo-dooo-doooooo... Doo-doo-doooo, do-do-doo-do-doo-dooooo. Add some semblance of tune. Toss in a few bleeps and bips, and you've got your music and sound. Note, however, that the world theme is so repetitive that anybody who's ever played this game will recognize it immediately.

Here's one area where this game just can't go wrong. After all, it was one of the first RPGs, if not the first, so there really wasn't much to copy from. I suppose you could niggle and claim it was shamelessly ripped off from D&D, but then again, if it hadn't been, we might still be playing that and that alone. Everything about this game was new when it first came out, and so it was very original at the time. Unfortunately, originality is not a term that is applicable to this game's plot. Why? Well, aside from a few basic themes such as "Save the Princess", "Get the Shiny Armour that's Really Strong" and "Kill the Big Dark Evil Bad Guy in His Big Dark Evil Castle of Death", there's really nothing there. I suppose the moral implications of the plight of the beleaguered slimes might cause a few people to lose some sleep, but there's really no plot to speak of. Which doesn't really matter, because really, these three elements are central to the plot of any RPG. It's all you need.

     One of the fun things about DW is the archaic english used. It's a reasonable job of translation, and nobody's really going to lose sleep over the occasional misplaced 'hath'. This was really one of the first text-heavy games imported from Japan, so it was a fairly good job. In fact, there really aren't any glaring errors to speak of(as an aside, pretty much the only typo I remember noticing when I was a kid was from Super Mario 2, when Clawgrip became Clawglip in the end credits. Good old Clawglip...), which immediately ranks this ahead of such stalwart efforts as FFT.

If I only had a boat...
Where's a rainbow bridge when you need one?  

   I played this game to death from when I was 9 until I was 12 or so, and then I sold it for a cool 20 bucks so I could get a SNES. Kinda wish I hadn't, but there are still ways for me to play it, most of them not condoned by this site. If I still had it, I'd probably still be playing it, although probably not to the extent I did back in the day. Because of its somewhat linear structure, there aren't any side quests to speak of, so replay value is mostly restricted to nostalgia. Which is generally enough for me.

Visuals suck. Any questions? Find me a NES game where they didn't and I'll give you... well, nothing, really. Just rest assured that if I was in the habit of giving stuff away, you'd get some of it. Not for skill, though. This game is somewhat difficult, and if you wander into the wrong area of the map, you can very quickly get sauted by an errant dragon if your level is too low. That said, you should be on a reasonable level fairly quickly, and this game shouldn't take all that long to complete(however, it did come equipped with one of those fancy save batteries, so it was longer than your average NES game)

. So that's my take on a classic. While certainly not the best game, this one has earned its place in my heart, and it was what turned me into an RPG fanatic when the games began coming out in earnest. Though rudimentary, it is nonetheless worth your time to play it, just to see where everything began.

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