Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior IV (NES)

Well, I finally reached the summit! I have finally conquered all of the Dragon Warrior games for the original Nintendo! It was a massive and very time consuming undertaking with a lot of experience point grinding and wandering around aimlessly without the Nintendo Hotline to call.

After my experience playing the two previous games, this one was so refreshing and it didn’t force me to have to grind my ass off for what felt like weeks on end. This installment in the franchise finally got the XP issue fixed, as it is pretty much a perfectly balanced game in that regard.

This is also the most innovative in the series for several reasons.

First, the story is broken out into five acts. That’s right, you play five very different chapters, each introducing new protagonists. In the fifth act, you finally get to play as your self named “hero” character. But as that chapter rolls on, you are joined by new party members, most of whom are made up of the other characters you played as in the earlier acts.

Second, the party size in this game is immense. You now have eight or more characters to rotate into your playing party of four. What’s even cooler, is that when you get XP from battles, the inactive characters also level up. This way you don’t have to do extra XP grinding with a myriad of lineups trying to have everyone maintain the same level.

Third, this also adds in part-time party members that help out on certain missions. This is kind of cool as the game sort of throws new allies at you as you progress. It makes this feel like a bigger, more important story as the decent people of the land want to directly assist you.

I really liked the maps and the structure of the overworld, as well as the dungeons and towers. This is the best designed game of the lot and most locations feel unique and also different than what you’ve encountered in the games before this one.

Between the game play and the overall design, this Dragon Warrior is like a whole new game, even if the graphical style is the same as the previous three.

I love old school 8-bit RPGs and the Dragon Warrior games for the original Nintendo are my favorite of the bunch. But this one is absolutely perfect from start to finish. While I gave the first game a perfect score, I wish I could give this one a score higher than that. Where I thought the first one was mostly perfect, this one greatly exceeds it.

Rating: 10+/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior III (NES)

My biggest complaint about Dragon Warrior II was the grinding. Sadly, it may actually be worse in this chapter, as I felt like I spent countless hours being forced to grind away for experience points in an effort to progress in the game.

Still, this was a damn good installment in the series and in spite of my fun and the adventure screeching to a halt too often, the game was great when I was able to actually play it and not get my ass kicked.

I like that the overworld map was very similar to Earth and that once you’ve been everywhere and have defeated the big evil, a chasm opens up, revealing a new darkworld where the real big evil lives. So once you think that you’ve beat the game, you realize that there is a whole new world to explore and save from darkness.

Also, the ending of this game leads into the story of Dragon Warrior I. So this is a prequel. Although, that can be figured out if you pay attention to and remember all the details from the first and third games.

Overall, this game felt much larger in scale than the others. The second game felt massive compared to the first but this one feels like it also dwarfed its predecessor since it gave you a second world map. Additionally, this one also took the longest to play. But, again, a lot of that was grinding and grinding hard.

For fans of the series, this is a pretty satisfying chapter. Dragon Warrior always had the edge for me over Final Fantasy back in the early days of the two franchises. However, after I play through Dragon Warrior IV, I do plan to give the 8-bit Final Fantasy games a replay, as it’s been decades and my opinion on which franchise was better, could now be very different.

If it weren’t for all the tedious grinding, this would have been a 10 out of 10.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior II (NES)

In my review of the first Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest game, I’m sure I talked about how it was one of my favorite RPGs of all-time and my number one favorite for the original Nintendo.

I tried playing this one way back in the day but I couldn’t get a handle on it. I think that when I was a kid, I found it difficult because of all the bells and whistles that Enix added to this game.

You see, instead of being one badass knight, you now had a party with three characters and you also found yourself in battles with multiple enemies, sometimes as many as eight! In the original game, all the encounters were always one-on-one.

As a kid, I felt overwhelmed by this game. But as years rolled on and I played more advanced RPGs, the things that caught me offguard with this game weren’t really a problem for me anymore.

In fact, the innovations that this game made, changed the RPG landscape going forward, as everyone else started developing RPGs with parties and multiple monsters to fight all at once.

Looking at this now, and at face value, this is everything that the first game was but even better!

However, as great as this is and as much as I enjoy most of it, it’s bogged down by some problems. But the issues it has have more to do with this being the first of its kind and not having the understanding of how important gameplay balance is to an RPG.

This game is massive when compared to its predecessor. There is so much area to explore but it can be a bit much and remembering which town is which and how to get to an area is hard to remember. You definitely need to use maps with this game.

Additionally, some of the dungeons are massive and completely maddening.

But the biggest issue, is that the leveling system is unbalanced with the pacing of the game and you have to literally spend hours upon hours grinding away for experience points. The problem with that, is that it ruins the game’s momentum.

Before you can go to the final castle and run through a string of five, yes five, powerful bosses, you have to spend days, maybe weeks, building up your characters. And your second character is a total weakling that dies all the time and makes it hard for him to collect experience because of that.

Also, the game is impossible without using guides. You can talk to every person in every town but most of the time, it is never clear what you need to do to advance the plot. Playing this now, I kept a walkthrough of bullet points handy because I would have been lost without it.

A lot of people shit on this game and I understand why. I still loved playing it though. And from what I’ve heard, Dragon Warrior III corrects a lot of this game’s mistakes. I plan on playing that one in the very near future.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Dragon Warrior (NES)

The original Dragon Warrior or Dragon Quest was the first legit role-playing game that I ever played as a child. I played this before I touched any of the Final Fantasy games and just after I had conquered the original Zelda, which was more of an action RPG.

My childhood best friend and I spent a lot of time on this but we weren’t in a rush. We loved the experience of playing through this and not having the Internet around to walk us through the tough bits. We spent months on this after school but eventually we got to the end and beat the big bad. We actually saved the game in a way that we could both have a shot at fighting the final boss.

Dragon Warrior was such a great experience that I got RPG fever and had to play through its sequels, as well as the Final Fantasy games that came out for the original Nintendo and the Game Boy.

Whenever I play any RPG, I can’t stop myself from comparing it to my experience playing this game. The only other game in the genre that made me feel like this was Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation, almost ten years later.

Dragon Warrior was an imaginative game that gave me the Dungeons & Dragons experience that I missed out on because my uber religious mother wouldn’t let me play the “Devil’s Game” with my cousins in the ’80s.

Having just played through this masterpiece again, I was transported back to the late ’80s and felt the excitement and emotion that this gave me back then. Truth be told, I have to fire this up every few years, just to bask in its awesomeness and perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.