IntroductionThe Forgotten Game
For many of us growing up and playing video games in the 80s, the Dragon Warrior series marked our first exposure to the RPG genera. The first game in the series was released in the US in August of 1989, more than 3 years after it had debuted in Japan. It was a fun game, fairly simple, with a formulaic plot that was good at the time because we had previously not really HAD plots in our video games. It was far more popular in Japan than in the US, where a sequel was produced and on the shelves within 8 months of the first game's release. The US wouldn't see that sequel until December of 1990.
The timing on that is fairly important. Dragon Warrior II (Dragon Quest in Japan, but there were some copyright issues in the US...) was a step up from the original Dragon Warrior with multiple characters, an easier interface, and a huge world that was about 4 times as large as in the original game. It featured a world-spanning quest, made easier by the inclusion of a ship to get you from place to place. As great as all these things were, however, by the time we saw them in the US they appeared obsolete. Before that, most US gamers had played a little game called Final Fantasy that let you have more characters, gave you more customization of your party, and featured an airship and a regular ship. Despite having been released in Japan nearly a year after the second entry of the DW/DQ series, Final Fantasy beat it to the American Market by 5 months. You might credit this twist of marketing with the dominance Final Fantasy held in the US, but the additional fallout to it was that a very good game ended up being relegated to a secondary position.
One of the most interesting things to me about how games is how they're perceived in different markets. To illustrate this, above we have the box art from the US release of the game. As you can see, it's actually pretty metal. You've got steel clad heroes surrounded by monsters kicking all kinds of ass.
Even the pictures in the instruction manual have a similar style, because Heroic Fantasy is Serious Business. Even when it's not being so serious..
How are these things viewed in Japan?
Well, first off you've got a much more cartoonish and goofy aesthetic that doesn't take itself so seriously. Those of you who are familiar with old school anime might also recognize something about the characters here. While the heroes from the US version are depicted as hardcore monster murderers, the Japanese version is a bit.. different.
Part of that is probably because of one Akira Toriyama, responsible for the monster and character design throughout the series. If you've played Chrono Trigger, he also had a huge roll in that. Assuming that you don't know him from either of those, he's also responsible for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. At any rate, on to the actual game...
About the Game
There's not much to say about the early DW/DQ games if you've played any of them. You select commands from a menu, move around the overworld, and fight monsters by selecting commands from more menus. I'm not going to go into exhaustive explanation about these things, although I might explain spells and statistics as we go along. As a note, I'm going to be playing the classic version on the NES in all of its hair-pulling Nintendo Hard glory.
What Has Gone Before
For those of you paying attention still, this is the basic story of Dragon Warrior I. LordAndrew did a great LP of it that you can read here: LP Archives: Dragon Warrior 1
In the ending of the original game, the hero wandered off with the heroine in search of a kingdom of their own. The opening for the second game contradicts this, and if you think about it for a second or two it makes sense. There's no mention of the King of Alefgard having any other children or a wife, so the only heir he's got is the hero who rescued and married his daughter. This turns the ending of Dragon Warrior I from striking out in search of your own kingdom to the hero going out conquering and forming an empire. By the time of this game, there are three kingdoms all ruled by the descendants of Erdrick: Moonbrook, Cannock, and Midenhall.
Our hero's journey begins in the Kingdom of Midenhall, near the eastern edge of the map. As you can see, the world is big enough that the original kingdom of Alefgard is just a small fraction of it. Now, about that hero...
What shall we call him? 8 characters, from the screen you see here.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Slouching Toward Cannock
- Chapter 2: Yakety Sax Cousin-Chasing Blues
- Chapter 3: Swamps Aplenty
- Chapter 4: The Thing About Towers
- Chapter 5: Things Fall Apart, The Center Cannot Hold
- Chapter 6: At Last, Direction!
- Chapter 7: How to Pay Yourself for Fighting Overtime
- Chapter 8: Here, Take This!
- Chapter 9: Eye See You
- Chapter 10: The Daily Commute
- Chapter 11: To the Grindstone
- Chapter 12: Shadowtime