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The Godfather of the Genre
The original Dragon Warrior is one of those games that along with Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter II can be recalled as the definitive genesis of a genre. Though Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy are at times included with this game as the forefathers of the genre, Dragon Warrior was the first and rightfully deserves its nickname as the ‘godfather’ of the RPG genre.
The brainchild of writer Yuji Horii, artist Akira Toriyama, and composer Koichi Sugiyama, Dragon Quest (as it is called in Japan) has since become a cultural phenomenon in the land of the rising sun. It even ousts the almighty Final Fantasy series there. Rightly it is difficult for us westerners to comprehend how this series has such a strong pull overseas, as the games are (in)famous for their dated visuals, rehashed sounds, and stark traditionalist gameplay. But the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series deserves acclaim just as much as any other RPG series, Final Fantasy included.
The original version of this game was released on the NES/Famicom in 1986, and has aged quite horribly. That is why this review is of the remixed version that appears on the Dragon Warrior I & 2 cartridge for the GameBoy Color. This version features enhanced graphics, upgraded (to GameBoy standards) tunes, and a streamlined interface. Other than that, the two versions are identical.
The graphics, firstly, are nothing special—even on the GBC. Nothing stands out as particularly striking, but nothing is revolting, either. These graphics are the bare-bones definition of functional, and for an RPG (especially a portable remake) that is admissible. The tunes, too, are nothing noteworthy. I mean, Sugiyama is an excellent composer who’s even influenced the likes of Nobuo Uematsu, but there is nothing on this soundtrack that stands out, really (though there is nothing extremely awful, either). Like the graphics, the generic music is just that: functional.
The original version had one of the worst user-to-game interfaces ever. Thankfully it has been fixed; that is, now you don’t have to open a menu every time you want to go up stairs, open a dresser, or just friggin’ TALK to somebody! Since you only play as one character the menus are nowhere near complex or confusing, though you can only carry SIX items!
As for the battles, they are all one on one. Thus, strategy is not a great big proponent. The battles are more like an exercise in who can hit who with the strongest the quickest. Thankfully this makes them go by extremely fast. That’s it really, and you will be spending A LOT of time doing this in order to keep up on levels and gain money. Not that this is a hard game at all; most RPGamers could probably finish this game in less than a day, maybe in one sitting.
Now for the story: you are commissioned to save the princess and defeat the Dragonlord. Nothing else. There really is no semblance of plot, as you go from town to town buying weapons and collecting artifacts in order to get to the Dragonlord’s castle and defeat him. The nameless hero receives no backstory save for the fact that he is descended of the great hero Loto. Story’s do not get any simpler than this, as grade-schoolers are capable of creating more complex scenarios.
Though Dragon Warrior was the first console RPG, that doesn’t mean it was wholly original. True, it set standards and such that would be propagated ad nauseum throughout the genre. However, in light of its story and simple battle system future games have done far more to add to the genre than this title has.
Thus concludes my review on Dragon Warrior, the great granddaddy of all console RPG’s. It is not a bad game, but it is only a classic in the historical sense. Though the experience you will have with this game is extremely simple and dated, one playthrough of this game (or at least familiarity with it) is just about mandatory for anyone who considers themselves an RPGamer.
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