Dragon Warrior (NES) review
"Posing as the son of the great warrior Erdrick (who wasnít great enough to wipe out the resident Dragonlord threat threatening the land of Alefgard), he is not only handy with a sword, but also with magic. Or, I should say, he will be....eventually. Initially, he is only suited to clumsily bopping weak slimes with a club and then running back to town before those weaklings overwhelm him."
According to what Iíve been told many times by others, this is the time of year when one is supposed to reflect on things theyíre thankful for. While that sort of positive thinking really isnít my style, as I prefer dwelling on each and every slight Iíve endured, there is ONE thing I can truly say makes me thankful -- Dragon Warrior.
We interrupt your regularly-scheduled review as Overdriveís family and friends desert him in a mass exodus.
Ahhh.....didnít need Ďem anyway! Now, to get back to my point, itís not like Dragon Warrior is some exceptional work of technology. Itís a slow-paced, clunky NES role-playing game. A typical gaming session consists of me running in circles around a town fighting enemies, resting in town when my health gets too low and repeating the cycle until my brain starts threatening to shut down vital organs if I donít provide it with a more stimulating activity. Iíve played countless RPGs on a number of systems and, to be honest, Dragon Warrior doesnít stack up well against many of them.
But Iíd be hard-pressed to name an American-released RPG I find more significant. Simply put, this game changed the genre. Back in the day, most RPGs tended to be centered around maze-like dungeons seen from a first-person perspective. Building up a party was a slow, arduous task and it was very easy to have days of hard work wiped out in the blink of an eye (everyone whoís accidentally teleported INTO a wall in Wizardry, raise your hand). Sure, these games were rewarding, but they werenít always fun. Painstakingly mapping out every step my party took while fighting hordes of battles that (in some games) could easily take up to 10 minutes to complete was draining, to say the least.
Dragon Warrior was different. Enix seemed determined to take those classic computer RPGs, strip them down and make them more accessible to the casual gamer. As an early attempt to accomplish that goal, Dragon Warrior is clunky and can get somewhat boring, but it was a definite first step down a path that eventually produced multitudes of superior games (including the SEVEN sequels to this one).
By this point, I probably should clarify one thing, so I don't give the wrong impression. Despite the tone Iíve been using in describing Dragon Warrior, I do not find it to be a pathetic relic, only tolerated due to its historical significance. While I donít get the same enjoyment from it that I did in the weeks after its release, it still has a certain amount of charm.
Unlike its sequels (and most other console-based RPGs), a party in Dragon Warrior consists of a mere one character. Posing as the son of the great warrior Erdrick (who wasnít great enough to wipe out the resident Dragonlord threat threatening the land of Alefgard), he is not only handy with a sword, but also with magic. Or, I should say, he will be....eventually. Initially, he is only suited to clumsily bopping weak slimes with a club and then running back to town before those weaklings overwhelm him.
After a few brief forays outside of town (around when I was starting to wonder exactly why Alefgardís king had commissioned my oafish character to rescue his daughter and save the world), the boy started to show a little spine. He gained a few levels and was able to dispel those pesky slimes with one hit. I was able to stay outside for longer periods of time and rake in a goodly sum of money in the process. Shortly afterwards, I had bought a nice copper sword and some QUALITY armor. I was in business.
And then I crossed a bridge....
In the world of Dragon Warrior, bridges are more than paths over rivers -- they are ways to separate one group of foes from another. Where Mr. Hero starts his quest, only a handful of weak critters dare to impede him, but after crossing that first bridge, things pick up a bit. Taking the wrong bridge (like I did), can easily cause things to get a bit too intense. I might have gotten reasonably proficient at killing slimes and ghosts, but I was no match for werewolves and skeletons....at least not yet.
So, I trained some more and (through a bit of trial-and-error) figured out what order I was supposed to tackle Alefgardís regions. What seems like mindless level-building to me today was fresh and new back then. I rejoiced whenever I earned enough money to upgrade my equipment and felt a certain sense of satisfaction when each purchase and/or level-up granted me the right to travel a bit further or stay outside of town a bit longer. The habits I picked up from this game have stayed with me for many years. I still refuse to leave early-game towns until I've bought everything I can use from their armories -- regardless of how long it takes!
Dragon Warrior awoke in me an insatiable desire to play more and more console RPGs. As those games improved on the formula, I gradually lost my desire to play Dragon Warrior. It's a game that's hard to recommend to genre newcomers, as its slow pace stands in sharp contrast to todayís fast-paced, story-driven games.
However, I also canít bash this game or give it a negative review. Yes, itís outdated and only likely to provide enjoyment to the most fanatical of old-school gamers (like me, who still goes through it once every year or two), but I look at Dragon Warrior as one of those games that is far greater than the sum of its parts. It might be ugly, it might constantly get on my nerves by forcing me to access a menu just to go up or down a staircase and it might repeatedly make an atrocious ďthunkĒ sound every time my character bumps into a wall, but it also drew me into an entire genre of games and created an interest in RPGs that has spanned well over a decade.
And with that, who needs things like family and friends getting in the way and taking up my precious time? Not I, at least when that pesky Dragonlord is still on the loose!
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 23, 2005)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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