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Dragon Warrior III (NES) artwork

Dragon Warrior III (NES) review

"When I set out from my hometown in “Dragon Warrior III,” the first thing I saw was a tower on a solitary island. I couldn’t resist wondering what treasures lay within the spire and what dangers guarded them. In my quest to vanquish the odious Lord Baramos and avenge my father, I made it my first order of business to find a way into those walls and see what was inside. "

When I set out from my hometown in “Dragon Warrior III,” the first thing I saw was a tower on a solitary island. I couldn’t resist wondering what treasures lay within the spire and what dangers guarded them. In my quest to vanquish the odious Lord Baramos and avenge my father, I made it my first order of business to find a way into those walls and see what was inside.

That was one of many compelling structures I encountered during my journey. Another memorable one was a pyramid located to the north of the castle town of Isis. Its upper levels contained a treasure most valuable in my quest, but the going was tough. On the ground floor, there were concealed pitfalls that would drop whoever stepped on them into a basement chamber. This sub-level was enchanted with an anti-magic field, rendering the spells of both my comrades and my enemies useless. Unfortunately, the monsters didn’t need magic as badly as we did.

I’ve heard tales of secret stairs that descend deeper into the basement, where a chamber containing the Golden Claw resides. This gilded weapon is most powerful and could fetch a hefty sum of gold at the pawn shop, but whoever carries will it encounter twice the monsters. With the anti-magic field depriving me of healing and escape spells, I didn’t dare go for that treasure.

During many such expeditions, I encountered that fight or flee dilemma. My comrades and I would find ourselves virtually drained in the middle--or perhaps nearing the end?--of some monster’s den, and I had to make a call. Should I give in to the rational urge to retreat to some nearby sanctuary, or should I keep pressing onward under the hunch that maybe, just maybe the next chamber would contain the treasure we sought?

Looking back, the best thing about “Dragon Warrior III” was the balance it struck in its dungeon layouts. They are vast and convoluted enough to drain us, but also short enough that we often find ourselves rewarded for pressing on just that little bit more.

Yet there was one small but crucial detail that irritated me even during the game’s greatest moments. At the start of your journey, you are encouraged to visit a local pub to recruit a fellowship of warriors. I decided to bring along a Soldier, a Pilgrim--Cleric, and a Wizard. We had a solid group. The Soldier endured many attacks at the frontline for my more vulnerable team members, all the while dishing out damage in return. The Pilgrim kept us going through the densest of labyrinths with his healing and support spells. The Wizard, on the other hand, tried his hardest to be of use, but his magic had this unfortunate habit of backfiring.

I understand a Wizard can’t be a Gandalf right out of the box. There are experience levels to be gained, and maybe magic requires some trial and error on the road to mastery. But am I wrong to find it inexcusable that my Wizard’s magic is still failing as our quest nears its homestretch? Is it irrational for me to expect advanced spells like Explodet or Blazemost to at least dent the Lord of Darkness in our final showdown?

Whenever I wasted nine precious magic points to have a spell “not affect” the enemy, it took me out of the game. To the extent that I was “in the game,” however, I enjoyed it.

Rating: 7/10

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Community review by joseph_valencia (February 21, 2009)

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JANUS2 posted February 21, 2009:

Great review. It's short, but there isn't a wasted word. I loved the bit about the flight or flee dilemma. I think that tension of "do I go on? do I heal, do I save??!" is absolutely key in dungeon crawlers -- it's something that definitely made Fallout 3's dungeons tense anyway. Hearing that DW gets the balance between difficulty and reward right definitely makes it sound like a solid game. Also, it's nice to see you write a new review.
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joseph_valencia posted February 22, 2009:

Thanks! I spent about five drafts wittling this review down from the original 900 words. @_@
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sashanan posted February 22, 2009:

I've never gotten all that far in III, but your complaint about monsters shrugging off your attack even in the late game mirrors my recent experiences in the DS remake of DQIV. Eventually, I removed offensive casters from my lineup entirely to trade them for another strong sword arm, which at least damages the enemy reliably.
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joseph_valencia posted February 22, 2009:

Dragon Warrior III is actually worse. At least in part four, magic is useful against the final boss. Spell casting also gets much better from part five and onward.
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honestgamer posted February 22, 2009:

While I'm obviously not a fan of watching my magic attack miss in that game, it never really struck me as a flaw or took my out of the game. It was just one of the hazards of casting a badical spell. Dragon Warrior III is awesome. I actually prefer it to Dragon Warrior IV. As for V, I'll find out about that one soon enough. It's one of the next ones on my pile to review. The remake, at any rate.
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joseph_valencia posted February 22, 2009:

The idea of magic failing at random is completely stupid and irritating. The only hazard for casting a powerful spell should be losing 20 MP.
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zigfried posted February 22, 2009:

I agree with Spaceworlder. Wimpy fireballs missing their target is one thing, but high-level world-smoldering spells should always hit. Taking it a step further, it would piss me off if ANY attack consistently missed once someone was high level. Super-buff ninjas should have a damn good chance of hitting their targets whenever they swing their katana.

NOTE: I haven't played any Dragon Warrior games since the first one

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honestgamer posted February 22, 2009:

I get mad in an RPG when I'm fighting a blob of slime and my swing of the club misses or whatever, but we're talking about showdowns with badass villains here! It's entirely reasonable that powerful spells would have no effect if two warlocks are dueling. That's often the way things would go, honestly, until one opponent or another gets lucky and sneaks in a hit. When you're battling a final boss monster in a Dragon Warrior game, of course he's overpowered!

As an aside, it's not even a huge deal in the game. If you start out with a wizard and teach him a bunch of powerful magic, you can then switch his class late in the game and quickly build him up as a powerful warrior... who just happens to have access to killer spells. Or vice-versa. It's really not a big deal either way in Dragon Warrior III. That level of customization is just one of the game's many selling points.
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joseph_valencia posted February 22, 2009:

In the final battle, I expect my Wizard's spells to connect at least as much as my tank's attacks. Otherwise, why did I spend the whole game dragging him around with me? Carrying dead weight sucks.

Class-changing doesn't help at all either, since you have to spend hours grinding your character from Level 1 for him to catch up with the rest of your team. It's not like Dragon Quest IV where you can easily switch out Maya or Borya for Alena, or DQ6 where class-changing doesn't impact your EXP.
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honestgamer posted February 22, 2009:

Just find a few metal slimes and you're halfway there. The early levels build up a few at a time and the later ones aren't even terribly necessary if you have a good character.
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joseph_valencia posted February 22, 2009:

If only finding Metal Slimes was easy, and if only killing them was just as easy.
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jiggs posted February 23, 2009:

dragon warrior iii for me holds alot of memories. it was the first game i played in the series and it was tough as shit. the best part of the game was finding out you were playing the legendary warrior Erdrick and is the prequel to the first game..i thought that was an interesting twist for it's time.
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sashanan posted February 23, 2009:

If only finding Metal Slimes was easy, and if only killing them was just as easy.

Another DQIV benefit, I guess: Alena has them for breakfast, between her high speed and improved critical hit rate. My grind for the final boss was quick and painless.

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