An event nearly two decades past. A fateful encounter that would forever change a young man’s destiny. A videogame that changed the very state of the videogame business. A pretentious introduction to a mediocre review.
“Take care and tempt not the fates.“
One of the first videogames I ever played was Dragon Warrior. Somehow, at four years old, I managed to enjoy the game. I suppose that, when I could barely read, the story seemed pretty interesting. It probably helped that I could fill in the massive plot holes and incredibly boring gameplay through the power of my imagination, and I did like knights and dragons and stuff when I was a little dood.
However, now that I am an adult, I can see the game for the terrible lack of effort that it is. Every aspect of the game had already been produced elsewhere, and the only credit it should be given is for pioneering the horrible frontiers of JRPGs. If it weren’t for Dragon Warrior, there might have actually been some creativity in Japanese role-playing games.
Well, OK, it’s likely that the Japanese RPG scene would have turned out the same, even without Dragon Warrior. Uncreative is to Japanese RPGs what incredibly boring and overly complicated are to Western RPGs. And, if all JRPGs lack creativity, and all JRPGs are from Japan, does all of Japan lack creativity? Given how many games Nintendo has made with the same characters, I’d be inclined to say “yes.” But we’re getting off topic.
The point is, Dragon Warrior never really became that popular in the West, and for good reason. The only reason I ever enjoyed it was because I was an overly imaginative child who lacked the reading capability to fully understand that the dialogue was idiotic. Despite all of this, the game is legendary in Japan, and two decades later, we’re still being flooded with copies using the same fundamentals. It’s kind of like Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. George Lucas knew how much money he could make off of the Star Wars franchise, and even though his earlier attempt to revive the series was mediocre, he figured that if he kept trying to cash in on the success of the originals, he’d break even at some point.
But, again, we’re getting off topic.
Dragon Warrior has barely average graphics for its day. The battle graphics and monsters are pretty good, but the map design and tiles are terrible. All of the maps look flat, and everything is separated into single-block chunks, which makes the world map look ridiculous. And when you first start the game and are greeted by a king running in place on a brick floor, surrounded by carpet samples, in a room that seems to be encased in that bumpy, grey foam stuff that they pack computer parts in, you can basically guess what the rest of the game is going to be like.
The music actually isn’t too bad, however. It was mostly decently composed, and it has a clean sound to it, although there are the requisite ear-bleeding tunes thrown in to meet release standards. Overall, it is pretty much on par with other games of the time.
In general, the game is barely average for is time. Sure, it was the first RPG released on the NES, but that’s like saying that Final Fantasy VII was the first Final Fantasy on the PlayStation. Many better games were released before it—the only thing it had going for it was that it was the first on that specific system. It merely collected aspects found in other games and put them together into one mediocre blob. Or, I guess it would be a slime, in this case. Lelelelele!
The one thing truly bad about this game is its controls. In order to interact with any object, you have to enter into a menu. It’s kind of like Earthbound, except that people like that game for some reason, even when they complained about the same problem in Dragon Warrior. Either way, as in Earthbound, this is especially annoying when you walk up to someone and try to talk to them, as they have a tendency to walk away from you, forcing you to close the menu, walk over to where they moved, and try again. Worse than Earthbound’s, however, this menu also includes options such as “Door” and “Stairs,” meaning that you have to enter the menu for every single possible interaction in the game.
There are other minor annoyances, as well. For example, button presses are only polled once or twice every second. This means that tapping a button will not achieve the desired result. You have to hold the button down until the game registers that it is being pressed. If you hold the button down, however, it may register twice and send you too far or enter you into another menu. A small problem, but considering the rest of the game, all of the little problems add up.
So, overall, the game isn’t very fun. The vague story is drawn out over tedious and poorly defined sidequests, requiring you to slowly traverse the gameworld, fighting random battles every step of the way. And, as if there aren’t enough random battles to begin with, much of the game is spent seeking them out in order to level up or buy equipment. Not a lot has changed in the world of JRPGs.
Even so, the game had an effect on me at that age. Like Curse, or one of those other status effects that lasts between battles and you only get rid of it by going back to town, and you try going to the inn and find out that the inn doesn’t cure it, so you have to find the town that actually has a priest, and by that time, the character is dead. It’s a lot like that, really.
But, for as bad of a game as it is, it forever determined my choices in gaming. While I can’t stand to play the game anymore, I still have a fetish for JRPGs. The more generic and cliché, the better! And I blame it all on Dragon Warrior. My first RPG. How sad.