Dragon Warrior – the beginning of an epic series now know as Dragon Quest! Over the years, I have really come to enjoy the Dragon Quest games – especially Dragon Quest V – which is one of my favourite games of all time. After playing many of the newer ones, it was fun to finally come to back to where it all started!
At its core – this is the quintessential JRPG. There is cool music, dungeons to explore, towns to visit, weapons and armour to buy, and battles, and battles, and battles, and battles, and the occasional level up! You start your quest as a descendent of the great warrior Erdrich, a warrior who sought out and destroyed the dragonlord of the past (specifically the one from Dragon Warrior III)! You must search over the world to collect all of Erdricks’ old armour and weapons, and finally face off against the dragonlord once again and defeat him – simple but effective story!
In terms of gameplay, this game plays like many RPGs – you move around from a topdown perspective and explore the world. What makes this game unique compared to many other RPGs that came after is that the world is very much open-world…kinda like Skyrim in a very basic sense. The further that you get from the main castle, the harder the enemies become – but there is nothing specifically preventing you from exploring apart from difficult enemies. I really enjoyed this because it gave the world a real sense of danger, and made gaining levels and getting new equipment exciting as I was able to go further in the world as my character evolved, helping me to discover that next town or venturing to the lowest level of a dungeon.
Battling enemies is what you will be spending 70% of the game doing. Battles are random and occur often – lucky they are very quick if the enemies are not too difficult. In this game, you also have no party – it is you versus the enemy. While this 1 vs. 1 battle system is simple, there is still some strategy involved. You have access to your physical attacks, alongside a number of magic abilities. One complaint is that the magic attacks are quite random – sometimes doing low damage while other times doing massive damage. This randomness made of the battles feel more based around luck than strategy. There is also no real sense of customization of your character. Overall though, the battle system was fun and laid a good foundation for future Dragon Quest games.
Another cool aspect of the game was venturing into dark dungeons. Often times, you needed a torch to see anything in the caves, which made finding the treasure hard to locate but rewarding when found! In terms of things I did not like – the menu system has not aged well! I did not like having to open the menu to click on “door,” “stairs,” or “take,” to actually use those items on the overworld map. I also did not appreciate having to go visit the King each and every time that I wanted to save my game. No other towns in the game allowed me to save, which was frustrating because many of them are quite far from the King, who was located right next to the starter town.
In terms of music, this game created some of the timeless classics heard in all other Dragon Quest games – however, they have sounded a lot better in other games! Some of the other tracks and sound effects in general are quite primitive. In terms of graphics, they are simple but effective in conveying a fantasy world. Where the graphics really shine however is in the enemy design – the blue slimes, and many other enemies like the sandman were created here, and they still look great!
Overall, Dragon Warrior is an okay game that has not aged very well, but is still very much playable for diehard JRPG fans who want to know where it all started. When Dragon Warrior first came out, it was groundbreaking and helped lay the foundation for future RPGs including many of the Dragon Quest sequels. With this in mind, I give it a 6/10, but give it a “Historic Videogame” tag indicating how important it is historically to the RPG genre.
Final Score: 6/10