When I did my review of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, I mentioned that it was actually the 25th anniversary of the series along with several others. Honestly, that was just a coincidence; when I picked the game to be reviewed, I had no idea. I’m admitting this because it turns out I did it again with today’s game. Though, some people might not know this because of the ambiguity of the name. We celebrate the original release of the first game of a series; so we normally go by the Japanese title if it was ever changed. So, while in 1986, Dragon Quest was released in Japan, 3 years later, North America would see the same game as Dragon Warrior. Now, I’m aware that there are differences, but not enough to call them two different games, so this is indeed a review of the first game of the Dragon Quest series, just the North American localization of it. Here’s Dragon Warrior for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Ok, so one thing you might have already noticed is that I am not using the game’s music as I usually do. The reason is because it just put me to sleep. It’s so non-thrilling that it makes me suddenly narcoleptic. Even playing midafternoon, I still felt like I needed a nap after 10 minutes. Even the battle music isn’t exciting, so I had the TV on mute most of the time. (What we’re listening to here is a song from one of the later games of the series). The sound effects would be called “stock” if this were another game. However, this game is so early in RPG history that it’s really not; most of the other games that use these sound effects would come later, and so I’m thinking this game created the stock.
As for the graphics… they really don’t look good. Sadly most everything looks way too flat, as I don’t think there’s any shading. The character sprites could have been made bigger with the space they had to work with to give them all a little more detail (instead, some stuff just looks odd). The monster graphics are big enough, but some of the designs are used too frequently with a minimum of changes. Finally, any attack you use, even spells, all basically look like random flashes on screen. I know, it’s a little unfair to hold the game up to some of these standards being such an early RPG, but I’m just letting you know what you’ll be getting into if you plan on playing this game.
The game’s plot is pretty simple. Basically, you start off arriving in a castle and you’re asked to save a princess. And that’s basically it. Sure, you have to kill the evil that kidnapped the princess, but that’s to be expected. There are also other stories thrown in, but are little more than hints to puzzles.
Here’s where I have to point out something very different about this game compared to many modern RPGs; it feels more like one big area. Sure, you have different towns you can visit, but really, they’re just a reason to get better weapons and armor. There are sections where the enemies get noticeably harder, but never a clear line. As a matter of fact, if you pack enough herbs, you can probably just go right for the boss. However, you will be weak and will lose. And so we get to the main game play element: grinding. This game is nothing but a test in grinding. With little story and lack of real levels, the only thing you need to do for 99% of the game is beat down enemies until you’re strong enough. And know what this game made me realize? I really like level and gold grinding. Now, of course this isn’t the case for everyone, so if grinding in RPGs annoys you, you’ll really want to stay away from this game.Dragon Warrior made amazing advances in the RPG genre, but I stop myself from calling it “the first modern RPG” because I’m not 100% sure on the history behind it. However, it’s easy to understand menus it made it suddenly more accessible to a lot of people. It also input the idea that “the more you play, the better you become”, which put everyone on an even field, unlike platforming games at the time where some people proved to be naturally gifted. That said, this game has clearly NOT aged well: the graphics are flat, the music is boring, the sound effects have been heard a thousand times since, the menu maps aren’t intuitive and the game play will get dull. I’m aware of what the game did and it’s place in history, and as much as I love bringing you guys that kind of info, that isn’t what I score the games on. Really, this is only recommended for the serious gaming historians or lovers of grinding missions. I give Dragon Warrior for the NES 7 levels out of 10.