Dragon Warrior III: - Lives up to the Legends
Written: Mar 17, 2008 (Updated Mar 17, 2008)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Absolutely Sweeping Quest, Good Storyline, Huge World, Fun Battle System, Good Soundtrack, Difficult
Cons:Graphics Are Somewhat Lacking
The Bottom Line: You Will Find No Better NES RPG Than Dragon Warrior III.
While it might not be very popular on this side of the world - Dragon Quest (as it's known by in Japan) is pretty much synonymous with role playing games and it's not hard to see why. The first game was one of the pioneers in the genre, and although the second game was more or less a mess it is still quite beloved. It wasn't until Dragon Quest III that the series really hit it's stride to become one of the primetime video game series' in Japan. Is it all talk or does Dragon Warrior III (as it's known in this part of the world) walk the walk? Read on to find out.
In Dragon Warrior III you assume the role of a teenager (you can choose your gender) who has just hit his/her 16th birthday. This means that your character is now old enough to set out on their own quest, and in this case, yours is to finish what your deceased father (he fell into a volcano, what luck) set out to do many years ago - defeat the world threat known as the archfiend Baramos. This quest will take you to the very ends of the world and even beyond.
Dragon Warrior III is actually a direct prequel to the original game - taking place hundreds of years before it. Though you begin the journey in a world very much unlike Alefgard (the setting for the original Dragon Warrior) eventually you will be thrust into a mysterious world veiled in darkness. This land is actually Alefgard, and it is here that you are given the task of restoring light and order. Anyone who has already played the original game can probably already guess that the main character is actually the legendary hero Erdrick often mentioned in the first two Dragon Warrior games.
This makes for the first truly compelling storyline in the series. Exploring Alefgard in the distant past is one of the major highlights here, and Enix did an absolutely wonderful job of mapping out this world. Some towns found in the original game are missing and at the same time the mysteriously destroyed village in the original game (Hauskness) is actually up and running for the first time in the series. It is fantastic to be able to explore the setting of the original games.
Dragon Warrior III plays out like your typical turn based classic style RPG. You are in control of a party of characters as you wander across the world map, enter towns to buy supplies, and explore very deep and dark dungeons all according to where the storyline sends you next. Battles break out randomly and once they do you are brought to a separate battle screen which displays the enemies and your character stats. Your characters have several different commands they can perform in battle which include the ability to attack, cast magic spells, use items, and run.
Your characters begin the game with very low battle statistics. As is common fare in RPGs everyone gains experience points from winning battles. Upon reaching set amounts they will gain levels. This in turn raises your characters' battle statistics (including attack, defense, hit points, magic points, etc) and allows them to learn new magic spells. Dragon Warrior III is a very difficult game, and as such you will frequently have to trod through many battles to become stronger before proceeding in the game. Because of this you'll need a fair amount of patience - Dragon Warrior III holds no bars when it comes to throwing very strong monsters at you and they won't hesitate to put you in your place.
This is all quite typical for a Dragon Warrior game, but there are a couple of new things that make part III stand out. First of all the only party member you're actually required to have is the main character, but at the same time, Dragon Warrior III allows you to take along three additional fighters. What's interesting is that you can customize these characters to your liking. In the first town you visit you can not only name your characters and choose their gender, but you're also given the ability to pick a class for them. These classes range from the physically adept soldier to frail but magical wizards. There are six different classes to choose from and they are all distinct from one another. The only one that's not particularly useful is the elusive Goof-off.
Halfway through the game the quest will lead you to a place called the Shrine of Dhama. This particular place gives you the option of changing the classes of your characters while retaining the abilities of their current persona. This allows you to completely customize your party's stats and magic. Want a soldier that can use healing magic? Simply transform your pilgrim into a soldier. This shrine is also the only place that you can transform your characters into the ultimate class - the sage. Unfortunately you can only have one sage ever because it requires a particular item that only appears once in the game. Also unfortunate is the fact that you cannot change your main character's class - he is stuck under the 'hero' label for the entire game.
There are some drawbacks to changing your character's classes - the most obvious being that they go back to being level 1. This in particular isn't that bad because they retain a portion of their statistics from their former class, and being at such a low level just means that levelling up will not take incredibly long because they no longer need so much experience points to grow. This single aspect makes this game the most dynamic 8-bit RPG released in this part of the world.
The world map is absolutely huge in scope - featuring over twenty five different towns (including those in the dark world), several different kinds of terrain, and a multitude of vast dungeons and towers. The world is much more diverse and huge than the ones featured in the past two Dragon Warrior games. It really goes to show you that Enix put a ton of effort into this sequel. Your characters are also given three methods of travel - on foot, by sea, and through the skies. Traveling across water is achieved only through sailing in the boat. New to the series though is the ability to fly which is achieved by awakening the ancient bird known as Ramia. She allows you to ride on her back and through this method is the only way to get to the tower of Baramos. The inclusion of this airship of sorts is a huge step forward for the series and a much welcome addition.
Make no mistake though - Dragon Warrior III is an unforgiving and difficult game. If you aren't familiar with classic RPGs this game will chew you up and spit you out, at least at first. The dungeons themselves are often very confusing and set up to be more like mazes, and as you find your way through you'll be battling against difficult monsters every step of the way. On top of that, new equipment is incredibly expensive most of the time. Going to a new area unprepared will more often than not equal your doom - and part of the reason this game is so long is because of how much experience and money you'll have to gather. If you're looking for a cakewalk then look elsewhere.
Despite being such a tremendous step forward for the series, Dragon Warrior III still perfectly retains the Dragon Warrior feel. There's a very particular atmosphere that the early games in this series have, and it's the strongest in this title. Despite the battle system's simplicity it's very fun and perfectly functional. The system for customizing your party is a perfect fit with the series. Because of the party building aspects this is the first Dragon Warrior title that's actually worth replaying.
The original Dragon Warrior and it's sequel weren't good looking games. With that said, Dragon Warrior III won't win any pageants, but it's a definite improvement. The game is quite blocky out of battle, and there really isn't much detail to the environments or characters. The game is fairly colorful though, and it features a decent amount of animation (such as characters and water). The battle scenes are a little bland featuring only a black background. The monster graphics are really good actually featuring a lot of detail. What's more is that they are pretty stylized and perfectly fit the Dragon Warrior 'look'. Overall the graphics are a mixed bag but they get the job done.
Dragon Warrior III's soundtrack is also a bit of a mixed bag. The music is at least perfectly fitting the atmosphere and style of the game so I can't really knock it too much. In particular a few songs are amazing. Ramia's theme is one of these - it's so well put together that it feels like it pushes the NES' sound chip to it's maximum output. Besides that the world map theme is also quite well done, and the game even features a remix of the original Dragon Warrior's world map theme that plays in the dark world. The sound effects are pretty much ripped from the earlier games. While they aren't particularly good they get the job done well enough and match the game quite well.
Controls are another story though. The game uses a menu system for performing any action besides walking. This means that to talk to someone you have to push A to bring up the menu, and then select talk. The same thing is true for opening treasure chests. Thankfully you no longer have to use this menu to go up and down stairs. The main menu (for changing equipment and using items) is slightly sluggish but once you get used to it there are no real problems. The battle menus are extremely easy to use which comes as a relief because you'll be seeing them a lot. Besides the major problems associated with using a menu to perform actions outside of battle everything else is okay.
Dragon Warrior III is, in my opinion, the quintessential 8-bit RPG. And keep in mind that statement is coming from an absolutely huge fan of RPGs. It's not that the early Final Fantasies and Phantasy Star (and even Dragon Warrior IV) weren't great, but Dragon Warrior III is in a league of it's own. It's nothing short of amazing, and no one should consider themself a big fan of RPGs without having been swept up in this grand quest.
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