Thursday, August 7, 2014

15-Year-Anniversary Series: Dragon Warrior

This is the first of a series of discussions celebrating the 15-year-anniversary for some popular NES titles. In 1989, the NES was at the top of the video game world.  The Atari 7800 and XE both flopped and the Sega Master System couldn't keep up with the Nintendo snowball of popularity (the Genesis did get released TECHNICALLY in August of '89 but that was in such limited quantities that it really wasn't a competitor…yet).  

Earlier that year, Ultima: Exodus was released and showed that there was a growing niche in console gaming for the RPG.   As a former FCI game counselor, I will hold back my editorializing of the NES release of Ultima for a later date (there are only so many times you can tell people that the sword was on a, "tiny two space island just north of the map" before you begin to lose your mind).  I digress.  With the success of Legend of Zelda, Nintendo began publishing more intricate titles in the late 80s.  Dragon Warrior was the necessary step between Zelda and Final Fantasy (which would be released a year later) even though there were several shortcomings.  Shortcomings aside, it did open up the world of the JRPG to the Western world. 

So, what do we know about Dragon Warrior…

Game: Dragon Warrior
Released: August, 1989 (US)
Developed:  Yuji Horii (known for Ultima and Wizardry)

Things you may not have known:
Name Change
- The Japanese title was Dragon Quest but had to be changed in the US to avoid copyright infringement of DragonQuest a card game RPG (think D&D).

Japanese to US Changes
- Since there was such a lengthy period between the releases, the graphics were improved from the Japanese to the American version.
- To add to that, they also removed the password system and replaced it with a battery backup.

-  Apparently America wasn't ready for "puff puff" or the art of a woman rubbing her boobies in someone's face.  They had taken that offering from one of the town folk out and replaced it with a simple offering of tomatoes.  That's like comparing, well, boobies to tomatoes.  

I remember reading the pre-release Electronic Gaming Monthly article calling Dragon Warrior the biggest game for Nintendo for 1989.  A year later, I asked David White (who was Quarterman at EGM at the time before his departure) why he made such a bold prediction and his theory was due to the popularity of the Japanese version.  In hindsight, remembering Dave's love for PC RPGs, it was more likely he was hoping for that genre to become mainstream and he would be the great predictor (a major reason for his departure was a failed PC mag that he orchestrated on the same subject).  Personally, I didn't mind Dragon Warrior.  I also don't recall completing it making me think I got bored with it.  It wasn't flashy by any means and it wasn't as intricate as the Final Fantasy series but it was a helluva lot better than Ultima.  I'd say it would be worth a play but you may get put off by the mechanics and the dialogue. 


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