Almost twenty years before people paid $15 a month to wander around the World of Warcraft, endlessly killing things and gaining experience, Dragon Warrior allowed people to wander around the world of Alefgard, endlessly killing things and gaining experience. Technology.
Long ago, the hero Erdrick defeated the evil Dragonlord. And now the Dragonlord has returned and taken the Ball of Light that Erdrick used to defeat him. Once more, the world is shrouded in darkness. And so you, as the descendant of Erdrick, must defeat the Dragonlord and recover the Ball of Light. Oh, also, you have to rescue the kidnapped princess. The princess doesn't really have any bearing on the plot, and wasn't even kidnapped by the Dragonlord, but video game companies were required by law to have kidnapped princesses in all video games in the 80s. I'm pretty sure there's a tied-up princess at the end of Tetris if you play long enough.
Dragon Warrior is an old school roleplaying game. It's so old school that you don't even get a party, forced to rely on your solo abilities. You walk around the world, sometimes finding towns or caves, constantly assaulted by random enemies. Using your menu, you then fight these enemies, which yields gold and experience. The experience makes your level go up, which increases your offensive and defensive abilities along with your hit points and magic points, and teaches you spells at certain thresholds. The gold can be used to buy better weapons and armor, and helpful items. The farther you go, the more powerful the enemies become, so most of the game is just killing things until your level is high enough that you can fight your way to new areas.
There is some direction to the mindless level-gaining. According to the writings of Erdrick, you need three items to get to the island where the Dragonlord lives. As it turns out, almost all the mini-goals you'll find in the game (except one) are related to obtaining these three items. If you have to do something, chances are it's somewhere on a chain that leads to one of the items in question:
There is a guy who will trade the Silver Harp for the Staff of Rain.
There are a lot of locked doors around, but you won't be able to open them until you reach the town of Rimuldar, where keys are available.
You have to prove that you're really descended from Erdrick.
The other mini-goal is just a cave that contains a useful item, but isn't necessary to complete the game.
Even though it's mostly just experience-farming, it's actually pretty addictive.
I like the subtle cunning with which the game has been divided into a web of three chained quests. When I first played this game in my youth, I never even realized that it was so divided. It's only looking back on it now that I realize that even peripheral-looking quests help lead to a required item. Even saving the princess ultimately leads to finding one.
I hope this is one of the most famous aspects of Dragon Warrior: I love the speech patterns. It uses old English, with words like "thou" and "hast" and "thy" and "wilt." And not just for conversations with NPCs, either. Even stuff like combat dialogue is written that way. "Thou hast done well in defeating the Slime. Thy Experience increases by 1. Thy Gold increases by 2." Not bad for something translated from Japanese. In fact, all things considered, Dragon Warrior might be the best-translated game ever.
When you save the princess, you actually get to carry her back to the castle.
When it comes down to it, the game really is mostly monotony.
The people who laid out the treasures seemed to have no concept of how much a treasure should be worth. When you're exploring a cave, fighting enemies who give you 20 to 50 gold each, treasure chests that contain about 15 gold are pretty anticlimactic.
Like in Faxanadu, locked doors grow back when you leave the area, even though the keys are destroyed when used. The difference between Dragon Warrior and Faxanadu is that keys in Dragon Warrior are found in faraway towns and cost at least 53 gold each. That kinda sucks.
This doesn't come into play much if you're using a ROM and an emulator that supports save states, but the fact that you must go back to the beginning of the game every time you want to save really blows.
Why does there always have to be a princess to save?
TIPS & TRICKS
In Tantagel castle, there is a guy who offers you a blessing, which at first just seems to make the screen flash. Chances are you'll first talk to him at the beginning of the game, when you're at level 1. In that case, you won't realize that the flash is refilling your MP. But it is. Any time you talk to him, he completely restores your MP for free. The inn in Brecconary is for suckers. Once you learn the Heal spell, you can just cast that continuously on yourself, talk to the guy to refill your magic, and repeat until both HP and MP are full.
I haven't tested this, but when I looked at a FAQ to get the correct spelling of the word "Brecconary," I came upon a note which said that, if you sell the Dragon's Scale after putting it on, the bonus to defense it provides remains. That's worth an extra 10 gold and a slot in your inventory, if it's true.
The same FAQ says that adjusting the Fighter's Ring in battle sometimes makes weaker enemies run away, but that's horseshit. One, it doesn't work, and two, even if it did, taking into account the number of button presses required to activate the Fighter's Ring as opposed to just attacking and killing the enemy, combined with the gold and experience you get from killing the enemy, fighting is better.
Keep an eye out for characters named "Howard" and "Nester." They are a reference to some horrible comic strip characters in Nintendo Power magazine at that time. Howard Philips was some Nintendo guy who eventually moved to THQ (a big step down, given the quality of games THQ was producing at the time), and Nester was a stupid fuck Howard created to be Nintendo Power's mascot. Not long after Dragon Warrior was released, Nintendo had a promotion in which they gave away copies of the game free with subscriptions to the magazine.
Addictive or monotonous? That's for you to decide. To me, the mere fact that it can make me consider what should be monotony addictive is a good thing.
Thumbs up for Dragon Warrior.
A locked door. It looks innocent enough, but as it turns out, this particular locked door is part of the quest for one of Erdrick's three items.
Dragon Warrior is pretty unique in that the final dungeon, Charlock, is on the same screen as the game's start point, Tantagel.
This means I am in danger of dying. Can anyone tell me what colour that is? Orange? Red? Dusty pink?
I saved the princess, bitches.