Posted by theuselessgod (339 posts) -

Busy today, so no cute little intros. Currently submitting two manuscripts to agents and editors. Wish me luck!

Here's some Kirby. Now get on with it!

Dragon Warrior III

A little background

Dragon Warrior III is the third and final chapter in the "Edrick" trilogy, the first three Dragon Warrior games connected by a similar, blue-armored chap who liked to murder innocent slimes. This game also came out in March of 1992, which is significant because at this point the SNES has been out in the US for a year. If you thought Dragon Warrior II got ignored, Dragon Warrior III was all but forgotten.

It's unfortunate, however, because it continues the Dragon Warrior NES traditions of taking the frameworks of the previous games and improving upon them without deviating too much from the original's ideas. It's a solid experience, and it's a pity most people have never played it (and it was not included in the three remade on the DS, either). It did get a remake on the Game Boy Color, though. Since that system's totally still relevant.

At any rate, on with the review!

First impressions last forever

The game still looks like Dragon Warrior. Same grid-based maps, same grid-lookin' overworld, same battles against slimes on a black backdrop, same opening a menu to do anything. Not bad, of course; it's become quite quaint by this point actually, but first impressions this game seems all too familiar.

But as I played further...

Dragon Warrior III is crazy cool, mostly because it introduces a class system, probably ripped off from its competitor, Final Fantasy (or Final Fantasy III). With unique classes ("Goof-Off") and not so unique ones ("Soldier"), you could tailor your party of three to be exactly what you wanted. But what is extra cool is when they hit lv 20, you had the option to change class and reset at lv 1, but keep all the cool stuff you've learned. Grind enough (or just have a lot of patience I guess) and you could technically make the Ultimate Warrior. It's a pretty sweet system that is a lot like Final Fantasy III/V/Tactics/X-2 but feels fresh to the Dragon Warrior formula.

There's a lot of other really cool touches as well, like the day/night cycle on the overworld map, the bank (which saves you from that killer "lose half your gold on death" thing from the previous Dragon Warrior games), a stronger, longer story, and more. As far as the first three Dragon Warrior games go, this one is easily the most accessible, while still retaining that old-school charm.

So what's the conclusion?

Dragon Warrior III is the best of the first trilogy, and a great way to cap off Edrick's journeys. It's neat to see how this game has story beats that tie into the first two games, and the improved battle and job system takes an already solid foundation and makes it better. It's one of the best JRPGs on the system, and still holds up quite well even to this day.

Copies are pricy, however, and have only been going up. Currently if you're lucky you can find a copy for $40, though most tend to run in the $50-60 price range. If you want to play it but don't care about the NES, the Game Boy Color version is cheaper, usually around $25.

Dragon Warrior IV

A little background

The final chapter in the NES Dragon Warrior saga, Dragon Warrior IV is also one of the best in the franchise. Released only seven months after Dragon Warrior III, Dragon Warrior IV hit the NES scene on US shores in October 1992, only two months before Final Fantasy V came out for the SNES in Japan. This makes Dragon Warrior IV easily the rarest of the bunch, though Square Enix did remake the game on the DS, so you can still experience it for cheap(er) that way.

I also would like to point out the completely uninspired US box art for both III and IV. Come on, guys...just some weapons? That's it? Even II had at least some dudes on it, even if it wasn't with the awesome Japanese art that actually fit the game. But...just a sword? You have a game with a rich story, multiple viewpoints, and intersecting arcs and a sword is the best you can come up with?!

Anyway, let's actually talk about the game.

First impressions last forever

Purple armor.

I'm playing as Ragnar, a warrior and leader of the guards, on a quest to slay monsters and save missing children, and I'm wearing purple armor?

Also, the color palettes of these games are all weird, but I only now noticed because of my armor clashing so horribly with the road. Maybe I'm fixating on something not important here.

Lastly (and this isn't really a "first impression" because it happens several hours in), not being able to control your AI characters when you play as the "Hero" was a dumb idea. Come on, Enix!

But as I played further...

Ok, now that my petty gripes are out of the way, I can say I love Dragon Warrior IV. It's such a cool game! First off, it takes five chapters before you actually get to the main character's line. Five chapters! And each chapter has their own hero (or set of heroes) that you control, providing background and meshing the whole story together. That's cool, especially for a NES game!

There's also tons of stuff to do in this game. Trade for better weapons. Play as a merchant. Gamble your money at a casino. Fight enemies (though the grind is almost completely gone in this game). Save your game at a Church. Watch as the story unfolds and meshes together. The possibilities are endless!

All this paired with faster gameplay, great music, same nostalgic graphics, and a great narrative. Dragon Warrior IV is a marvel on the NES.

So what's the conclusion?

This is easily the best NES RPG out there, though I guess I'll accept arguments between this one and Dragon Warrior III, if only because that game's class system is cool. But still: one of the best, for sure.

While Final Fantasy II/IV was getting awards for finally adding a narrative to JRPGs, Dragon Warrior IV was criminally ignored, and I'd argue it had a better story than Final Fantasy IV, or at least a more coherent one. That's not a diss on FF IV (love that game too), but...come on. You fly to the moon on a ship called the Lunar Whale. High art we weren't going for.

If you're a JRPG fan and a retro game collector, this will be your crown jewel in your collection. Unfortunately, it almost costs that much, with prices having skyrocketed in the last little bit, making carts by themselves in the $80 range. If you just want to play the game, the DS remake is considerably cheaper, and for the most part is wholly loyal to the original game.