Total time played: 14 hours
Short review: The first accessible RPG on the NES. Not as good as Final Fantasy due to an unnecessarily menu system but still a classic.
Interesting links related to Dragon Warrior
- Speedrun (tool assisted in 17min 47sec)
- How to beat Dragon Warrior in 5 minutes
- Video Review (CGRUndertow)
- Dragon Warrior dungeon maps
I first heard of this game through Nintendo Power and it wasn’t something that really struck my 7 year old fancy. However, my mom and a friend of hers bought it on release day, plowed through it in a week and then sold it to a local video store before I had a chance to play it. I ended up buying all 4 Dragon Warrior games for $2 each at a yard sale a couple of years later and played through the first game in high school.
Dragon Warrior is the first RPG I played and I loved it. But, that is because it was the first RPG I had played. The game is very basic compared to other games in the genre. The story is very typical “save the princess.”
The game features a large overworld similar to Zelda where you walk long distances to reach towns to buy better weapons and longer distances to find dungeons where you pillage treasure and fight monsters. That is pretty much the entire game. It is a loooong game by NES standards. While walking around the overworld you are randomly thrown into battles with enemies ranging from a small slime to a giant dragon. As you start the game you are very weak, have no money, no weapons, no armor and no experience. The only way to get these things is to fight monsters. As you kill enemies you earn experience points and gold. Experience points help your character level up which increases your hit points, magic points, attack power, speed and every once in a blue moon you learn a new spell. The gold is used to buy stronger weapons, tougher armor and healing herbs.
The enemy that drops the most gold is the “Goldman” who I did not encounter often enough. He would drop up to 199 gold with each fight, other enemies drop between 1-99 gold mid-way through the game. Some of the items cost over 10,000 gold so, I spent a lot of time trying to build up gold.
If you were to break down the game it would be 90% fighting the same enemies over and over trying to level up, 10% actual progressing the story. Not to mention, without a map of the overworld and all of the caves you are going to spend a lot of time wandering aimlessly looking for something to do. As the game progressed I went from being mad at how many fights I got into and how much time I spent grinding gold and experience but at some point I quit getting mad and found the fighting to be almost therapeutic. The music fits perfectly and every time I would get a level up or acquire a new item that makes fighting a little easier I got a little rush. But, once I had the best sword and armor and no longer needed gold for anything I started to grow tired of fighting enemies again but I had to keep doing it as I wasn’t strong enough to fight the Dragonlord.
The enemies kind of guide you on your journey. If you find a new enemy and it kills you really quickly you probably aren’t ready to go that way just yet.
At the beginning of the game you are given the option to choose the speed at which the text appears on the screen throughout the game. If you do not choose “fast” you are going to regret it. Each battle is filled with text of the attacks you and your enemy do and after a very small number of battles you will be pulling your hair out wishing they would go by faster. Later RPG’s keep the same formula but the battles are now more action based and don’t require as much reading.
My biggest gripe about the game, other than the amount of time I spent trying to build experience, is that you have to open the menu and select “stairs” to walk up or down stairs, select “door” to open a door, select “talk” to talk to someone. In the other great NES RPG Final Fantasy all of this is done by hitting the A button, you don’t have to open a menu. The menu and the level grinding make Dragon Warrior drag on longer than it needs to. I understand that back in the early days of gaming programmers wanted people to get their money’s worth out of a game so they did anything they could to make it longer but in 2016 I would rather play a shorter game that isn’t so tedious.
I ended up beating the game on level 19 which required 22,000 experience points. To put that in perspective, I don’t know that I found any enemy who gave me more than 54 experience points per battle and a lot of the enemies give 2-10 experience points per battle. Well, that is unless you count the metal slime which gives 115 experience but I only was able to defeat 2 of them while playing.
My routine was as follows:
- walk to a spot where the strongest enemies I could beat were
- Fight enemies until my hit points were low
- Use the heal spell to replace hitpoints
- fight enemies until him hit points were low and I had no more magic power to perform heal spell
- Use herbs to heal myself until I ran out of herbs
- walk back to a village and stay at the Inn to replace my hit points and magic power.
Eventually, when I got the strongest armor in the game I no longer needed to do all of that as each step I took replaced one hit point. This means I didn’t need to use as many heal spells or herbs which meant I didn’t have to walk back to town to stay at the Inn as often. But, even with that I still had to spend 3-4 hours fighting random battles from the time I was able to fight the final boss until I was strong enough to defeat him.
The game is still a classic and if you are looking to play an RPG for the first time and have 12-15 hours to kill this one will teach you the basics without confusing you with difficult spells and complex side quests.