Game Review: Dragon Warrior II
Dragon Warrior II

Dragon Warror II Title Screen

  • Publisher: Enix
  • Developer: Enix
  • Released: September 1990
  • Game Type: RPG
  • Players: 1
  • Product Number: NES-D2-USA
  • Rarity: C+ (Borderline Common)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 7

    Box Scan
    Dragon Warrior II Screen 1 Dragon Warrior II Screen 2

    When the first Dragon Warrior was released, it was a hit in Japan and the U.S. and basically created the console RPG genre. But while the game was fun is was also a little on the short side, plus there wasn't much in the way of variety. So Enix decided to release a follow-up to their masterpiece that kept the same core gameplay but also expanded it, such as a world map that's four times the original, more new spells, more weapons, and the ability to control a group of heroes instead of just one person. Dragon Quest II hit the streets of Japan in 1987 and was a even bigger success that the original. Three years later the game made its way to North America as Dragon Warrior II, with Enix themselves handling the localization through their American branch. While DW2 does provide a decent follow up to the original, several major factors keep it from being a stellar sequel.

    This entry takes place 100 years after the first. In the previous game the land of Alefgard was threatenend by the wicked Dragonlord, until a descendent of the great warrior Erdrick was able to defeat him and restore peace to the land. He then took Princess Gwaelin's hand in marriage and together they settled the land of Torland. Gwaelin then brought forth three children, two sons and a daugher, and soon each of the children received a kingdom to rule. The elder prince received the kingdom of Midenhall, the younger prince recieved the kingdom of Cannock, and the youngest princess received the kingdom of Moonbroke.

    After a century had passed, peace was threatened in Torland when the evil sorceror Hargon attaked the kingdom of Moonbroke. As the castle fell to the carnage, a lone soldier escaped the seige and traveled to Midenhall, where he warned the King about the trouble. The King feels he his too old to help out, so he asks his heir (that's you) to defeat Hargon. The Prince of Midenhall takes up the call to arms, but first he must find his other two cousins, the prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbroke, before he can battle Hargon for the fate of the world.

    After watching the intro, it's basic Dragon Warrior business as usual. Your main objective is to somehow defeat Hargon, who's holled up in the city of Rhone. You start out controlling the Prince of Midenhall and you're alone at first, which means your first mission is to find the Prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbroke, who are given random names by the computer. Once you hook up with them, they become your companions in the quest, and they have different abilities to help you. The Prince of Midenhall is the best fighter but can't use any magic, the Princess of Moonbroke is well-versed in magic but is very weak in combat, and the Prince of Cannock is a decent fighter who has his own set of magic spells.

    For the most part, this game plays the same as the first Dragon Warrior, including plenty of treasure hunting and monster killing. The forumla is basically the same; kill monsters that randomly attack you to get experience points and gold to buy items from the shops in the towns. But this game sports several new features and improvements. Your quest now covers four times the area of the first one, with plenty of caves and dungeons to explore. The monsters you encounter now attack in groups instead of just one at a time, and they oftentimes will try and gang up on you, so you'll be grateful you have two others to back you up. There's also plenty more towns and castles to visit, which contain weapons shops, item stores, inns to restore your HP and MP, and more. The amount of weapons and armor you can utilize has grown, but remember that the Prince of Cannock and Princess cannot equip certain items. At one point in the game, you even obtain a ship to sail to other lands, further expanding the world you can explore.
    The gameplay itself also sports some new features. Instead of having one single save point like in the first game, DW2 has many save points; the castles and certain places have people you can speak with to record your progress, so you don't have to go back to the starting point every time you want to save. Another improvement is you don't have to buy torches and keys anymore. All of the caves and dungeons are fully lit, and while there's only four keys, you can use them multiple times. This game also introduces the House of Healing; if any of your characters die in battle, you can bring them to the House of Healing and they'll resurrect him/her. It'll cost you, though, and the resurrected hero starts with only 1 HP.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are a mixed bag. On one hand, the visuals of the overworld have improved over the original; the world map looks tons better with some good details, including larger detailed sprites for the towns and castles and whatever. The villages and caves also look great with some nice touches; they actually look like villages and caves instead of bunches of blocks. On the other hand, the battle scenes are disappointing; while the monsters you fight are well drawn and sport some good detail, you don't get any backgrounds at all, just a boring black screen. Sadly this is something that'll crop up in DW3 and DW4 as well.

    The music also has its ups and downs. Some of the background tunes are decent, such as the dungeon theme, but others, like the overworld theme after you find both characters and the battle theme, are pretty annoying and not as fun to listen to. (I actually prefer the other overworld tune) The sound effects are decent, like the sound that plays when you cast a spell, but are nothing special.

    Just like the last title, this game is menu driven, so there's very little problems moving the cursor around and selecting commands, but this game improved the interface somewhat. Gone are tedious commands like STAIRS and TAKE. On the other hand, the interface can seem clunky at times, especially when you're tyring to use and item or open a door. As far as moving your character around goes, there's very little problems.

    Challenge & Playability:
    The core gameplay of Dragon Warrior II does several things right but also several things wrong. The biggest negative against DW2 is its difficulty level. Simply put this game can be very hard and even frustrating. Enemies seemingly attack you at every step you take, and sometimes they pop up the instant you exit a town or cave. During the battles the monsters often get to deal their damage first before you can launch your attacks, and they usually will gang up on a single character until he/she perishes, leading to many trips to the House of Healing. This especially crops up when you start the game without your allies. Also while it's nice to have three characters to control, when you find them they each start at Level 1, meaning you have to take the time to level them up, and they can be easy prey for the monsters. One more thing is that this game doesn't really tell you how to progress in your journey, since the clues you get from the villagers aren't very useful, leaving you wondering where to go next. This basically means that if you don't have a strategy guide or a world map to lead you along, you'll basically be wondering all over the world wondering where to go next.

    Fortunately this game's positives outweigh the negatives. The new features really add to the Dragon Warrior experience, plus the three-hero party system provides the oppertunity for some strategy to use for the battles. Despite the frustrating difficulty, DW2 still has that addictive charm that keeps you coming back even after you've died a dozen times, hoping to finally conquer that monsters or complete that dungeon that's been plaguing you.

    So the bottom line is even with its problems, Dragon Warrior II still proves to be a good entry in the series. It does provide a fun yet flawed quest, and at least you won't finish it too quickly; you'll have to put in a good amount of gameplay time to reach the end. While the little improvements like the lighted-up caves really help out the overall gameplay, the fact is Enix still could have done a better job with this game; it would have been better if you could choose the classes for your partners, and they should have reduced the difficulty, among other things. Also it's hard to recommend this game instead of Dragon Warriors 3 & 4, both of which are first-rate RPGs, or even the first one, which wasn't as frustrating as this entry. Nevertheless Dragon Warrior II still deserves a playthrough or two, and if you're brave enough to put up with the frustration, you'll still have a worthwhile adventure.

    - Review posted on March 19, 2007