Dragon Warrior; An oldie, but a goodie
Dragon Warrior for the NES was released in North America in the Summer of 1989. (Released as Dragon Quest in 1986 in Japan) The title was changed to avoid infringing on the trademark on wargame publisher Simulations Publications's pen-and-paper RPG DragonQuest. Being one of the first games that started fans in the RPG genre it is often remembered.
"In olden days of yore, the realm of Alefgard was cloaked in darkness.
According to legend, a brave warrior, Erdrick, brought light back to the land
by defeating an evil being. He used the Ball of Light bequeathed to him by
a friend to drive off the enemies of Alefgard. He then gave the Ball of
Light to King Lorik, who unified Alefgard. The land was at peace for many
generations. In the time of King Lorik XVI, the Ball of Light were stolen
from Tantegel Castle by the evil Dragonlord, and once again the Kingdom of
Alefgard was plunged into darkness. Many travelers fell prey to the
merciless fangs of monsters, and the beautiful was transformed into
poisonous swamps that hindered travelers. It was also rumored that several
Towns and Villages were destroyed; wiped off the face of the land by Ghosts
Many brave warriors tried to recover the Ball of Light, but none of them
returned from Charlock, the Dragonlord's dark castle. The people longed for
peace, but did not give up hope. The great Seer Mahetta predicted that "One
day, a descendent of the valiant Edrick shall come forth to defeat the
That's basically the entire opening intro. After that, and speaking with the king in the beginning of the game, the actual story doesn't really come up that much during the game. You hear small snippets from townsfolk but nothing of any huge substance. Given this is an early RPG game on the NES you wouldn't really expect much more of a story than that and really it's enough to get you interested. Remember, that a lot of early RPG's required you to use your imagination. They were trying to cater to the fans of text based RPG games like D+D.
As I said before, this game doesn't have a whole lot in the backstory department. The depth comes from mainly the size and difficulty of it's dungeons and it's monsters. This game, like many requires quite a bit of what we today call grinding. If you are used to RPG's (especially early ones) Then this wont be a huge surprise to you. It has enough to keep you interested, so definitely not something that I consider a drawback. The biggest task is to get the items needed to get to the Dragonlords Charlock Castle, and finding the items of Erdrick's lore. Without using guides....this will take you a LONG time. I will say that the game does feature a lot of different enemies. 30+ different kinds. Although a lot of the "different kinds" I speak about just feature palette changes of about 15 or so original enemies just using different strategies to defeat the hero. Still though it's pretty advanced for it's time. There is no party in this game. This game doesn't have any adventures join you on your quest. The map is pretty large, so that is a bonus in it's favor and many of the dungeons are long and maze-like. Before you get the "Outside" spell this can be a pain as you have to make sure you get out before dying..which is easier said than done in many of the dungeons. Especially if you run out of magic (MP) as there are no "potions" to increase your MP while in a dungeon.
If I'm honest with myself this game really doesn't have a lot to keep you on the edge of your seat. You have to be a fan of RPG's to really appreciate this. As said before this game was first released in Japan in the mid 80's. What keeps you coming back for more is just the joy of saying you completed your quest and in the determination of finding all the items needed. A lot of people might get bored well before leveling up to the 20+ levels needed to defeat the Dragonlord.
For an early NES game, it's good. There isn't a ton of variety in the music, but it's not as repetitive as many games of it's time in this genre. The music and efx that it does feature are well done.
A lot of the difficulty is based on finding your way through maze like dungeons to find items needed to get to the Dragonlord. Also finding Erdrick's token and his armor are VERY difficult if you don't have a map. I remember this is one of the first games that Nintendo Power published a entire map of this game. If you didn't have this map you were searching around for hours trying to find the spot to "search" for Erdrick's armor, and token all while fighting VERY powerful enemies. Doing so when this game released required you to save the princess which gave you an item that told you of your coordinates on the map in relation of where you where to Tantagel Castle (Starting Castle) ...which was frustrating because there is nothing in the game to tell you of the map coordinates...lol
Like many games of it's time it required you to make note of ANYTHING of interest that the towns people would tell you. Break out a pen and paper because you will be taking tons of notes and making maps of all the Dungeons.
In summary, this game isn't one of those NES difficulty games, but there are some very cryptic moments without any sort of guide.
The graphics aren't what I would call "Great" overall for NES standards, but for it's time they are well done. Most of the graphics to this game are in the enemies/battles. Otherwise it's a top-down perspective of your lone warrior. I appreciate the detail that they put into that aspect of the game as most of the time will be spent fighting monsters.
For me there are many great (and frustrating) memories of playing through this game as a child. It has kept me coming back for more some 20+ years later as I have played through it several times over the years as I always like to go back to my roots as an RPG gamer. Fans of Pokemon games will appreciate it's simplicity in this manner. Although there are many RPG games on the NES I prefer over it (Including the Dragon Warrior Sequels) I still love to play through this game as it will give you many hours of mindless maze hunting and grinding enjoyment.