Game Review: Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior Title Screen

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Enix
  • Released: August 1989
  • Game Type: RPG
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-DQ-USA
  • Rarity: E (Very Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 8

    Box Scan
    Dragon Warrior Screen 1 Dragon Warrior Screen 2

    While some may say that the Final Fantasy series is the top RPG series of all time, one name that also contends for that title has to be Dragon Warrior (known as Dragon Quest in Japan). Created by Enix as an easy-to-play alternative to complicated games like Ultima, the Dragon Warrior series has been an RPG mainstay since its first release in 1986. Most of the features found in many RPGs today can be traced back to the first Dragon Warrior, from hit points to spells to sidequests and so on. The first four editions of the series was released for the Famicom (NES in Japan); in 1989 Nintendo decided to bring the first Dragon Warrior game to the U.S. as the first console RPG for the NES, and even gave it away in a promotional offer in Nintendo Power. Dragon Warrior I definetly laid the groundwork for the other NES RPGs to come, and after 20 years still manages to be a worthy quest even today.

    The story is typical RPG fare. The Kingdom of Alefgard was once a peaceful place, thanks to the mystical Ball of Light which resided in Tantegel Castle. One day Tantegel Castle was under attack by an army of monsters led by an evil warlord known only as Dragonlord. The monsters stole the Ball of Light and begin terrorizing the land All hope seemed lost, until a warrior named Erdrick appeared in the land and fought back against the army of monsters. Years later, the Dragonlord returned to attack Tantegel Castle again, and this time King Lorik's daughter, Princess Gwaelin, was abducted. You play as a descendant of Erdrick, and it's up to you to rescue the Princess and defeat the Dragonlord to bring peace back to the land.

    In this quest you have three objectives: prove you are the decendant of Erdrick, pind the Princess, and destroy Draognlord. Once you register your name you start in King Lorik's throne room in Tantegel Castle and from there you need to journey to many towns and places throughout the land. You do most of your traveling on the overworld map as you make your way from place to place. Each village has people you can talk to and shops where you can purchase weapons, armor and shields with the gold you earn from defeating the monsters that roam outside the towns. You also have to purchase items such as torches to light caves, keys to open locked doors, herbs to restore your hit points, and more.

    Outside the towns monsters can randomly attack you at any time, and once you bump into a monster you enter a fight scene where you both try to zap away the other's hit points. All battles are one-one-one (no groups) and are turn based, meaning you take a turn and it takes a turn. You only have a few options: attack, use and item, cast a spell, or try to run. If you manage to kill the monster you win experience points and gold. When you first set out on your quest you're a pretty weak person, barely able to handle slimes, so you need to fight many enemies to build up your experience levels. Once you get enough experience points, you go to the next experience level, and you become stronger in several attributes. At Level 3 on, you start learning magic spells, such as Heal, Hurt, and so on. Each spell costs a certain amount magic points (MP) to cast, so try not to use magic too much. The monsters get stronger the farther away you go from Tantegel Castle, especially if you cross a bridge to a new area. The creatures you find in the caves are especially tough. If you run low on hit points, you can return to a village and stay at an inn to recharge you hit points and magic points (it'll cost you, though). However if you run completely out of hit points in battle, you die, but it's not the end. King Lorik will resurrect you every time you perish, but it will cost you half your gold. You can also talk to the King at any time to save your game.
    Once you rescue the Princess you get her love which can tell you where you are in relation to the castle. You have to locate several important objects on your quest, but the three most important items you need to complete the game are the Stones of Sunlight, the Staff of Rain, and Erdrick's Token, which will prove you are indeed Erdrick's descendent. Once you have all three, you can obtain the Rainbow Drop and form the bridge to Charlock Castle, the stronghold of Dragonlord. There you fight the evil master himself in the final battle to decide the fate of the land.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are a mixed bag. In the overhead scenes there's plenty of color but everything is made up of blocks. The towns all look the same, as do the caves, and neither have very much detail. The sprites look fine but again aren't the best. The battle scenes, on the other hand, fare a little better. The monsters look pretty good, and unlike the other NES Dragon Warrior titles, you actually have a background in the fight scenes, which looks decent. The music also has its up and downs. Some of the main background tunes, like the overworld scenes and the dungeon theme, are nice to listen to. The battle music, on the other hand, is hard on the ears, and you'll be hearing it a lot. The sound effects are just there and nothing more.

    Since the game is mostly menu driven, there's really no problem with the controls. Moving your character around is pretty much a breeze. One curious thing is that in this game, to go up and down stairs you have to use the STAIRS command, which is redundant considering that 99% of all other RPGS (including the other Dragon Warriors) have you automatically go up and down when you touch them. You also have to use the TAKE command to claim any treasure chests you find. Other than that the controls are just fine.

    Challenge & Playability:
    Dragon Warrior may be an RPG in its simplest form. There's only a handful of towns, a few dungeons, and not much variety in weapons or armor. Also gamers used to having groups of heroes in other RPGs may not enjoy the whole one-on-one system this cart uses. But that doesn't mean you'll breeze right through it. This game still requires many hours to reach the end of your quest. Most of the time will be spent fighting numerous battles to get experience and raise funds for that new weapon. It can get tedious at time, but overall it does prove to be very fun and addicting. It also gives you satisfaction when you get strong enough and finally conquer that monster that plagued you for so long. The challenge level is pretty fair; it's not easy, but it's not really difficult either. Although the monsters do sometimes get advatages, such as free hits on you, the game never really gets frustrating. Usually you die from trying too much and not knowing when to run to an inn. One negative is that there's only one save spot in the whole game (King Lorik), which means you have to travel all the way back to Tantegel Castle to save your game. Unless you have a Wing of Wyvern or know the Return spell, you could be in for a long hike.

    After all is said and done Dragon Warrior may not be as advanced as the role-playing games that followed, but that doesn't make it a bad title. Quite the opposite; Dragon Warrior is still a very fun RPG to play through, even after all this time. Despite the less-than-stellar visuals and audio, and the fact that the laters games have more depth, DW1 still delivers some great gameplay that's challenging and addicting, especially for players who aren't RPG masters. Plus who wouldn't want to play through the pioneer of modern console RPGs. Overall while more advanced RPGs can be found on the NES, Dragon Warrior provies an enjoyable journey that PRG fans should definetly take up.

    - Review posted on May 13, 2006