Dragon Warrior - Retroview

Not Quite Starting Off On the Right Foot

By: Robust Stu

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 2
   Interface 1
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 8
   Plot 1
   Localization 2
   Replay Value 0
   Visuals 1
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

20 Hours


Dragon Warrior

   Dragon Warrior is, along with Phantasy Star, one of the two RPGs most old school North American RPGamers started with. It is one of the most popular franchises in Japan, to the point that they actually legally blocked Enix from releasing a Dragon Warrior game in Japan during the week, because everybody would skip school and work to wait in line all day to maybe get a copy. Was this really that great a game that they had to go to such lengths? Wellllll...

   Storywise, no. The very basic story goes that long ago, the mighty warrior Erdrick defeated the EVIL Dragonlord and returned peace to the land of Alefgard. Many years later, the Dragonlord returned and began wreaking havoc upon Alefgard once more, going so far as to kidnap the King's daughter Gwaelin. You, as a descendant of Erdrick, must accomplish two things: rescue Princess Gwaelin, and defeat the Dragonlord once more. That's really about it, there's minimal dialogue and plot points beyond that, which really made the game drag a lot, as it turned into one long character building quest.

   The battle system is about as basic as you can get in an RPG. It's you against a monster, one on one, and you have four commands: Fight, Magic, Item or Run. I'm sure you can figure out what each of those do. If you lose a battle, you are revived and allowed to continue your quest, but with half your gold taken away. This could perhaps be because of the lack of a real storyline, but the battle system quickly started to wear on me and got repetitive very fast.

This is where it all begins
This is where it all begins  

   The visuals were absolutely pathetic, even considering the time and platform it was released on. The backgrounds are all blocky, didn't use much color, and look like somebody drew them on an Etch-A-Sketch. The character design was even worse. I don't care how famous the guy who did them is, *I* could draw the characters better than they looked in the game, and I failed high school art. The character sprites had almost no detail to them, and the enemies looked like they were drawn by a five year old. I know what Enix is capable of, and they definitely could have done a lot better than this.

   The soundtrack wasn't much better. There were only five or six tunes through the whole game, and it got really repetitive and mind numbing after a while. Due to the large amount of leveling up you need to do in the game; you will wind up having heard the battle music so many times you'll want to throw your TV out the window. The sound effects were absolutely horrible too, and totally unrealistic. The fact that they continue to use nearly the same sound effects to this day boggles my mind.

   The localization is a little harder to grade. On the one hand it was good by 1989's standards, but is horrible compared to what you'll find in Dragon Warrior 7 today and even to Dragon Warrior 4 just a few years after the release of the first game. While I might normally go easy on the localization of a game from the 80s, I consider how horribly done everything else in this game was, and realize they probably could have done better, but just didn't care to.

   This game was more an exercise in leveling up and getting new equipment rather than going on several quests and enjoying a good storyline, and quite frankly, if I had other RPGs to play in 1989, I would have played those instead of replaying this. This is the kind of game that you would play a bunch of times if you were, say, stranded on a desert island with nothing but a Nintendo, but given the opportunity I'd rather play almost anything else. If you've been through it once, you've seen more than enough of everything to keep you happy.

Thanks pal, you're a big help
Thanks pal, you're a big help  

   As I said before, along with Phantasy Star this was one of the first two RPGs to really hit it big on this side of the pond, so originality is probably going to be one of the only things this game gets a decent score in. Thankfully, the far less original Dragon Warrior games that followed this one improved upon the formula, even if it took them awhile.

Again, as I said before, this game is more an exercise in leveling up between the two main goals in the game, so that thankfully means this is a fairly short game. If you really beef up your warrior to the max and get the best equipment for him, you're probably looking at about 20 hours on this.

I have to admit, in 1989 I thought this was a really cool game, but looking at it now 13 years later having seen what else there is in the RPG world, I have to say that fascination is long gone and dead. Playing this game was sort of like dating your average looking, obnoxious high school girlfriend because she's the only thing you can get your hands on, then getting to college, seeing how much more there is in the world and instantly dumping her for something, ANYTHING else. If you see it in a discount bin and are interested, pick it up for historical purposes, but other than that, play something a little more interesting.

Recommendation To Avoid.

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