SummaryRudimentary In Many Ways But Exemplary Overall
The GoodDragon Warrior was the first real RPG for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). You play as a descendant of the great warrior Erdrick sent to save the princess and slay the evil Dragonlord. Standard RPG conventions abound: purchase equipment, fight random battles to gain levels, talk to NPCs in various towns scattered across the world... This is basically the template for all of the early Japanese RPG titles. I'll admit that I didn't play this game back when it came out. In fact, I didn't even own an NES and, unlike Final Fantasy or Crystalis, I never watched someone play this game either. My opinions therefore are not tainted with nostalgia nor are they informed by the time period in which this game was released.
Amazingly, Enix got a lot of things right. The difficulty here is fairly steep and so every small accomplishment feels monumental. Just making it intact to the second town in the game takes at least an hour and is cause for celebration. Also, surprisingly, the battles don't feel terribly repetitive in the early parts of the game even though they undoubtedly are. Battling cute, colorful slimes or fat bat-like creatures (called Drakees) is not nearly the chore it would seem, even when those battles have to be repeated ad nauseum in order to gain a few levels and a bit of gold for better equipment. But the best part about this game is the feeling of adventure and wanderlust it breeds in the player. Unlike other RPGs of the time, you aren't restricted in where you can go by feeble storyline annoyances such as a broken bridge that can only be fixed by finding a mystical tree, freeing a woodsman, etc etc etc. You can go most places right off the bat. The only thing holding you back is your low level, your lack of strength and defense. It could be said that this works in the same way, but I disagree. Having roadblocks all over the map greatly discourages exploration and makes a game feel very linear. While Dragon Warrior is in many ways as linear as any other early RPG, it never quite feels that way because the map is completely open. The one blocked off part of the map also leads to one of the less linear parts of the game: in order to reach the Dragonlord's castle, you have to collect several items to create a "rainbow bridge." They can be collected in pretty much any order. Another thing that can be done at various times in the game is rescuing the princess. There's nothing stopping you from battling her guard early and in fact so long as you have the sleep spell you've got a chance of defeating him. All of this adds up to creating an experience that is in many ways quite different from other early games of this nature. This game really sends you on an adventure, rather than a walk from one plot point to the next.
The BadThere is plenty that could distract and annoy those weaned on recent RPGs. DW is a HARD game. It will repeatedly and gleefully kick your ass at every turn. It isn't a difficult game in that there are no real puzzles to solve or complicated things to do during battles, but if you aren't the right level for the area you are wandering around in, expect to have your ass handed to you. Secondly, many things that gamers now would take for granted are things that DW does not do for you. For instance, you have to select an option from a menu in order to walk down a flight of stairs. You can't just push yourself onto the stairs icon and have the game automatically sends you down to the next floor (or up as the case may be). You have very limited room in your inventory, you can only carry six healing herbs or torches and you need some light source in order to navigate the dungeons. Mapping dungeons is a requirement. Probably the worst thing about DW is that there will be times where you'll need to find certain items in order to advance and you'll have no idea where to look for them. Many of the people that have things that you need are completely unhelpful in telling you what it is they are looking for (like the guy who just says you failed your task every time you talk to him). Also, there will be one point in the game where you'll need to do some serious leveling up in order to advance and it will take a LONG time to do this. I never really minded all the level grinding in this game until I got to this part. It's about halfway through, right before you start looking for Erdrick's items. It was the one time where I actually resented the difficulty of the game and felt the tediousness of building levels.
The Bottom LineDespite its many short-comings, DW really delivers a great and refreshing role-playing experience. While the storyline is fairly rudimentary and the gameplay is fairly basic, Dragon Warrior has a lot of charm, and its sense of adventure more than makes up for any of its problems. If you want to actually feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and wayfaring this is definitely the NES RPG to play.