Box art of the original North American NES release, titled Dragon Warrior
- Famicom / Nintendo Entertainment System
MSXSuper FamicomGame Boy Color
- JP: May 27, 1986
- NA: August 1989
Mobile phonesWiiAndroid, iOS
- JP: September 23, 1999
- NA: September 27, 2000
Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4Nintendo Switch
- JP: November 28, 2013
- WW: September 11, 2014
Dragon Quest,[lower-alpha 1] titled Dragon Warrior when initially localized to North America, is the first role-playing video game (RPG) in the Dragon Questmedia franchise. It was developed by Chunsoft for the Family Computer and published by Enix in Japan in 1986 as Dragon Quest and by Nintendo in 1989 in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Dragon Quest has been ported and remade for several video game platforms, including the MSX, PC-9801, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, and mobile phones. Players control a hero character who is charged with saving the Kingdom of Alefgard and rescuing its princess from the evil Dragonlord. Dragon Warrior's story became the second part in a trilogy. Several more anime and manga series, which revolve around this overarching plot were created.
Dragon Quest was created by Yuji Horii, who took inspiration from previous role-playing games such as Wizardry, Ultima, and his own 1983 game The Portopia Serial Murder Case. Horii wanted to create an RPG which would appeal to a wide audience of people who were unfamiliar with the genre of video games in general. He tried to place a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement, as well as simplify the interface and expose the mostly Western computer genre to the Japanese console market. Manga artist and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama produced the game's artwork and Koichi Sugiyama composed its music. The North American version features numerous changes, including battery-backed RAM save games (rather than using a password save system), modified character sprites, and pseudo-Elizabethan English style dialog.
Dragon Quest was commercially successful in Japan, with more than 2 million copies sold. Its release as Dragon Warrior in North America, and other Western countries, was less favorably received. Later, Western critics noted the game's shortcomings but acknowledged its importance to the genre. Fan-madeROM hacks were released with substantial changes to the game. The game's synthesized soundtrack has been orchestrated, and its music has been performed at numerous concerts. As a whole, Dragon Warrior has been credited with establishing the basic template for the Japanese console RPGs that followed.
Gameplay[edit | edit source]
Dragon Warrior is a role-playing video game. Its gameplay mechanics have been described, years after its release, as simplistic and spartan. Players control a young hero who sets out to defeat a being known as the Dragonlord. Before starting the game, players are presented with a menu which allows them to begin a new quest (a game), continue a previous quest, or change the speed in which messages appear on the screen. In the Japanese version, continuing a quest requires players to enter a password; in the North American Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) English version, the quest is saved onto the game cartridge's battery-backup (known in the game as an "Adventure Log" in the "Imperial Scrolls of Honor"). The English version also has options to delete or duplicate a saved quest. If players choose to start a new quest, they may give the hero any name they wish in either Japanese kana or English letters depending on the version. The hero's name has an effect on his initial ability scores and their statistical growth over the course of the game. Each stat falls into one of two categories, one with faster growth than the other, and the game determines which path each stat uses with a formula based on the kana or letters in the character's name.
Dragon Warrior presents players with a clear objective from the start and uses a series of smaller scenarios to increase the hero's strength in order to achieve the objective. The game begins in King Lorik's chamber in Tantegel Castle, where the hero receives information about the Dragonlord, whom he must defeat, and the stolen Balls of Light, which he must retrieve.[lower-alpha 2] After receiving some items and gold, the hero sets out on his quest. Much of Dragon Warrior is spent talking to townspeople and gathering information from them that leads to additional places, events, and secrets. Players are advised to take notes of these hints for future reference. Towns contain shops that sell improved weapons and armor; general stores where the player may buy other goods; inns that allow the hero to recover his health and magic, and shops that offer keys for purchase. Players may sell items at half price to shops that provide weapons, armor, or general goods. The hero's status window is shown whenever he stops moving, displaying his current experience level (LV) and the number of hit points (HP), magic points (MP), gold (G), and experience points (E).
To safely progress to the next areas in the game, players need to accumulate experience points and gold by defeating enemies outside of towns – in the overworld and in dungeons. Apart from the Dragonlord's castle, there are no physical restrictions on where players can roam. Instead, monsters increase in difficulty as players venture further from Tantegel castle. As the hero's level increases, players can explore further afield with less risk. Enemies appear in random encounters and the hero fights one opponent at a time. The encounter rate is lowest on fields and increases in forests and hills. Battles are turn-based and fought from a first-person perspective while the hero remains off-screen. In combat, players must defeat the enemy by reducing its HP to zero. During combat, players have four commands: "fight", "run", "spell", and "item". The "fight" command causes the hero to attack the enemy with a weapon, or with his bare fists if no weapon is available, in an attempt to inflict damage. With the "run" command, the hero attempts to escape from a battle, which is recommended if his HP is low. The "spell" command casts magic that can, for example, heal the hero or damage the enemy. The "item" command uses herbs that replenish the hero's HP.
During combat, the hero loses HP when he takes damage, and the display turns red when his HP is low. If his HP falls to zero, he dies and is taken back to King Lorik to be resurrected, and loses half his gold "as punishment." If the hero succeeds in defeating an enemy, he gains experience points and gold; if he gains enough experience points, his experience level increases, giving him greater strength, agility, speed, and the ability to use magic spells. Every time a spell is used, the hero's MP decreases, with different spells costing different amounts of MP. Both HP and MP can be restored by resting at an inn. Additionally, a non-player character can replenish the hero's MP in Tantegel Castle. As the hero earns more gold, he can purchase better weapons, armor, and items. However, players have limited inventory space to hold items, so they must manage their item collection conservatively. The caves which the hero explores are dark and require the use of a torch or the "RADIANT" spell to display a temporary field of vision around the character. In the English version, players can return to King Lorik at any point to save the quest. Because the Japanese version does not have a battery backup, players receive a password to return to a quest at a later time.
The control pad may be used to move the hero in any direction and to move the flashing cursor in menu displays. Additional buttons confirm and cancel commands. In the English version, players use menu commands to talk to people, check their status, search beneath their feet, use items, take treasure chests, open doors, and go up or down stairs. However, in some of the game's later remakes, certain commands were assigned to buttons, navigating stairs became automatic, and the hero's speed was increased. In the Japanese version, characters always face forward, so players must choose a command and then a direction in which to perform that action. In the North American version, the hero turns to face the direction he is moving, making direction selection unnecessary.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Dragon Warrior's plot is a twist on saving a princess from a dragon, in that the player doesn't even have to meet with or speak with her to complete the game.
Backstory[edit | edit source]
Dragon Warrior, its sequel, Dragon Quest II, and its prequel, Dragon Quest III, comprise a trilogy with a shared timeline. The story's background begins when the kingdom of Alefgard was shrouded in permanent darkness. The brave warrior Erdrick (known as "Loto" in the Game Boy Color (GBC) remake of the game) defeated an evil creature and restored light to the land. In Erdrick's possession was the Ball of Light,[lower-alpha 2] which he used to drive away enemies who threatened the kingdom. Erdrick handed the Ball of Light to King Lorik, and Alefgard remained peaceful for a long time. The Ball of Light kept winters short in Alefgard and helped maintain peace and prosperity for the region.
However, there is one man who shunned the Ball of Light's radiance and secluded himself in a mountain cave. One day, while exploring the cave's extensive network of tunnels, the man encountered a sleeping dragon who awoke upon his entrance. He feared the dragon would incinerate him with its fiery breath, but the dragon instead knelt before him and obeyed his commands. This man, who is later discovered to be a dragon, became known as the Dragonlord. One day, after his soul became corrupted by learning magic, the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle and the nearby town of Breconnary with his fleet of dragons and set the town on fire. Riding a large red dragon, the Dragonlord descended upon Tantegel Castle and stole the Ball of Light. Soon, monsters began to appear throughout the entire land, destroying everything in their paths. Much of the land became poisonous marshes, and at least one destroyed town (Hauksness, whose name is erroneously transposed with that of Rimuldar in the "Adventurer's Handbook" walkthrough) never recovered and remains in ruins even as of the time of gameplay.
The following day, Erdrick arrived at Tantegel Castle to speak with King Lorik and offered his help to defeat the Dragonlord. After searching the land for clues to the Dragonlord's whereabouts, Erdrick found that the Dragonlord lived on an island that could be accessed only via a magical bridge that only a "Rainbow Drop" could generate. After venturing to the island, Erdrick was never heard from again. Many years later, during King Lorik XVI's reign, the Dragonlord attacked the kingdom again and captured Princess Gwaelin. Many heroes tried to rescue the princess and recover the Ball of Light from the Dragonlord's castle, called Charlock, but none succeeded. The prophet Mahetta predicted that "One day, a descendant of the valiant Erdrick shall come forth to defeat the Dragonlord." However, when the descendant (the game's hero) arrives, many of the people of Alefgard have forgotten the story of Erdrick, and those few who do remember consider it a myth and do not believe in Mahetta's prophecy. King Lorik starts to mourn the decline of his kingdom.
Main story[edit | edit source]
The game begins when the player assumes the role of a stranger who arrives at Tantegel Castle. A castle guard tells him that a dragon has captured the princess and is holding her captive in a distant cave. Determined to rescue the princess and defeat the Dragonlord, he discovers an ancient tablet hidden inside a desert cave; carved on the tablet is a message from Erdrick that outlines what the hero needs to do to follow in Erdrick's footsteps and defeat the Dragonlord. The hero eventually rescues Princess Gwaelin, but realizes that in order to restore light to Alefgard, he must defeat the Dragonlord at Charlock Castle. After the hero collects a series of relics, he creates a bridge to reach Charlock and fights his way through the castle before finally confronting the Dragonlord. At this point the hero is given a dialogue choice – to side with the Dragonlord or to challenge him. If players choose the former, the game ends, the hero is put to sleep, and the game freezes; however, in the GBC remake, the hero instead wakes up from a bad dream. If players choose to fight, a final battle between the hero and the Dragonlord commences.
Once the hero defeats the Dragonlord he reclaims the Ball of Light, eradicating all monsters in Alefgard, and triumphantly returns to Tantegel Castle where King Lorik offers his kingdom as a reward. The hero turns down the offer and instead wishes to find his own kingdom. Accompanied by Princess Gwaelin, the hero then sets off in search of a new land; this sets the stage for the events in Dragon Warrior II, which take place many years later and tells the story of three of the hero's descendants.
Characters[edit | edit source]
In Dragon Warrior the hero and the Dragonlord are the two main characters. Other major supporting characters are King Lorik (King Lars in the GBC remake); his daughter Princess Gwaelin (Lady Lora), and two sages the hero meets during his journey.
The hero, who comes from a land beyond Alefgard, is a descendant of the legendary Erdrick. When the hero arrives, he does not appear to be a warrior – he arrives without weapons or armor – and is ignorant of the situation. The populace thinks his claim of the ability to defeat the Dragonlord are preposterous; however, King Lorik sees this ability, which give him hope and he aids the hero on his quest.
The Dragonlord is a dragon who rules from Charlock Castle, which is visible from Tantegel Castle, the game's starting point. His soul became evil by learning magic. Rumors say that, through a spy network, he knows everything that happens in Alefgard. He seeks "unlimited power and destruction", which results in a rising tide of evil throughout Alefgard. The Dragonlord wants to enslave the world with his army of monsters that he controls with his will.
Development and release[edit | edit source]
|Game Boy Color||1999||2000||N/A|
|PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS||2017||N/A||N/A|
Yuji Horii and his team at Chunsoft began developing Dragon Quest in 1985. It was released in Japan in 1986 for the Famicom, the MSX, and the PC-9801.Dragon Quest has been released on multiple platforms since its initial release, including mobile phones in 2004 with updated graphics similar to those of Dragon Quest VI.
Historical backdrop[edit | edit source]
When Eidansha Boshu Service Center was founded in 1975 it published tabloid magazines that advertised real estate. In 1982, after failing to establish a chain of stores, the company's founder Yasuhiro Fukushima transformed it into a software company devoted to gaming and created Enix. To find talent for the company, Fukushima held the "Enix Game Hobby Program Contest". The competition was styled after manga competitions, was advertised in computer and manga magazines, and had a ¥1 million prize for the winners. The winners were Kazuro Morita (森田和郎), Koichi Nakamura, and manga magazine Shōnen Jump editor Yuji Horii, who was the top winner. Horii designed a tennis game, Love Match Tennis, which became Enix's first release. While he did not believe he would win, he was motivated by his editor, who enjoyed the games and published Horii's articles on them. Later, when Enix began creating games for the NES, Fukushima held another contest. This time, Nakamura won with his "cartoonish and creative contest entry" Door Door, which became Enix's first release for the NES.
Horii's earliest inspiration for Dragon Quest is his own 1983 PC visual novelThe Portopia Serial Murder Case – a murder mystery adventure game that bears some similarities to games such as Mystery House, Zork, King's Quest, and particularly Déjà Vu. Horii wanted to advance the game's storyline by using dialogue. Portopia was originally released for Japan's NEC PC-6001 and was later ported to the NES in 1985. The port is Enix's second release for the system and the first game which Horii and Nakamura worked on together. Horii redesigned the interface for the port to accommodate the console's limited controls, and added a dungeon-crawling area which the detective explores. While Portopia did not directly result in Dragon Quest's creation, it was, according to 1UP.com, "a proving ground" for the RPG. The menu-based command system of Portopia would later be used in Dragon Quest.
At the time I first made Dragon Quest, computer and video game RPGs were still very much in the realm of hardcore fans and not very accessible to other players. So I decided to create a system that was easy to understand and emotionally involving, and then placed my story within that framework.
The original idea for Dragon Quest came during the development of the NES port of Portopia. Horii and Nakamura came across the RPG Wizardry at a Macworld Conference & Expo. While it had some influence on the NES Portopia's dungeon crawl segments, Horii liked the game's depth and visuals. He wanted to create a game similar to Wizardry, to expose the mainly Western-exclusive RPG genre to Japan and to expand the genre past computer enthusiasts. Horii also cited Ultima as an inspiration for Dragon Quest's gameplay, specifically the first-personrandom battles in Wizardry and the overhead perspective of Ultima. While the RPG genre was predominantly Western and limited to PCs, Japanese gamers enjoyed home-grown games such as The Black Onyx and the Dragon Slayer series alongside Western RPG ports. However, while Horii and Nakamura enjoyed the dungeon crawling and statistical nature of Wizardry, they realized most people would not. This had not originally been a concern, but the success of Super Mario Bros. greatly increased the potential audience of any new Famicom/NES game. To create Dragon Quest, the gameplay needed to be simplified. According to Horii: "There was no keyboard, and the system was much simpler, using just a [game] controller. But I still thought that it would be really exciting for the player to play as their alter ego in the game. I personally was playing Wizardry and Ultima at the time, and I really enjoyed seeing my own self in the game."
In order to create an RPG that would appeal to a wide audience unfamiliar with the genre, and video games in general, Horii wanted to create a new kind of RPG that did not rely on previous experience with the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, did not require hundreds of hours of rote fighting, and could appeal to any kind of gamer. To accomplish this he needed to simplify the system and have players associate themselves with the hero. Thus as the game progressed, the hero would become stronger, in contrast to games like Super Mario Bros. where the character Mario did not become progressively more powerful during the game. He wanted to build on Portopia and place a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement. He developed a coming-of-age tale that audiences could relate to and made use of RPG level-building gameplay as a way to represent this.
Japanese development[edit | edit source]
Horii believed that the Famicom was the ideal platform for Dragon Quest, because unlike arcade games, players would not worry about spending money if they got a game over, and they could continue playing from where they left off. Whenever the player loses a battle, they would immediately be restored to a previous save point rather than the game ending and returned to the main menu, making the game more accessible. He also wanted to include multiple player characters but was forced to use only one due to memory constraints. Horii knew that RPGs had a steeper learning curve than other video games of the time, and to compensate for this he implemented quick level-ups at the start of the game and gave players a clear final goal that is visible from the world map's starting point: the Dragonlord's castle. He also provided a series of smaller scenarios in order to build up the player's strength to achieve the final objective. He created an open world which is not blocked physically in any way except by monsters that can easily kill unprepared players; Gamasutra described this as one of the earliest examples of nonlinear gameplay. Horii used bridges to signify changes in difficulty and implemented a level progression with a high starting growth rate that decelerates over time, which contrasted to the random initial stats and constant growth rates of the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. To make the game appeal to a larger audience, manga artist and creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama, was hired to produce the artwork. As with Dragon Ball, Toriyama's artwork features characters "whose strength and cunning transcend generations", but also includes humorous elements such as a chibi style.
Koichi Sugiyama, the game's music composer, sought Enix out. Sugiyama sent a PC game's feedback questionnaire to Enix. He was already a well-known television composer, and, upon seeing Sugiyama's feedback, Fukushima contacted him to confirm that "he was the Sugiyama from television." Upon confirmation, Fukushima asked Sugiyama to compose a score for Dragon Quest. The game's classical score was Sugiyama's second video game composition after Wingman 2. Sugiyama said it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme, and noted the difficulty in adding a personal touch to the short jingles, but that his past experience with creating music for television commercials helped. According to Sugiyama, the composer has between three and five seconds to catch the audience's attention through music. The theme and his other jingles for Dragon Quest have remained relatively intact in its sequels.
1989 North American localization[edit | edit source]
Coverage of Dragon Quest's North American localization first appeared in Nintendo Fun Club News's winter 1988 issue – where the title changed to Dragon Warrior. The title was changed to avoid infringing on the trademark on wargame publisher Simulations Publications's pen-and-paper RPGDragonQuest. The article about the game featured images from the game's Japanese version, Erdrick's original name ("Roto"), the Dragonlord's original name ("Dragon King"), and the original name of the game's starting location (Radatome Castle). It briefly explained the backstory and basic gameplay elements, comparing the game to The Legend of Zelda. The game was later mentioned in Nintendo Power's "Pak Watch" preview section in March 1989, mentioning Dragon Quest III's Japanese release in the magazine's premiere July 1988 issue. It again mentioned the change of name from Dragon Quest to Dragon Warrior, its inspiration of two Japanese sequels, and that its release was still distant in time.
Dragon Warrior was released in North America by Nintendo of America under the direction of Satoru Iwata with help from Horii in August 1989 – months before the Japanese release of Dragon Quest IV. Because the game was released in North America nearly three years after the original release in Japan, the graphics were improved. Instead of lengthy passwords with kana characters, the North American version features a battery-backed RAM savegame. Akira Toriyama's artwork in the instruction booklets was also changed to reflect more of a traditional tone as found in popular American based RPGs such as the Ultima series. The game's character sprites were changed so that they face their direction of travel; in the Japanese versions, the sprites are smaller and face only forwards, requiring players to choose a direction for actions from a menu. Spells were given self-explanatory one-word titles instead of the made-up words of the Japanese version. Locations were renamed, and dialogue was rewritten from its whimsical style comparable to Dragon Ball to a style inspired by Elizabethan English, with sentences such as "Thy hit points have decreased by 1." Nintendo also removed salacious humor and religious connotations from the English-language version. For example, in the Japanese version, in the town where the hero first buys keys, a woman offers to sell puff-puff – a Japanese onomatopoeia for a girl rubbing her breasts in someone's face, or juggling her own breasts. In the North American version, the same woman sells tomatoes. The term has been included in the game's sequels as well as in Toriyama's Dragon Ball series.
Katsuya Terada created some of the artwork for the early Dragon Warrior articles in Nintendo Power. Neither Terada nor those editing the artwork for the instruction booklet followed Toriyama's work; they instead used the settings and character poses to create alternate artwork in an American style. While the Japanese hero was drawn in a super deformed manga style, the English version's appearance is based on "the West's template of a medieval hero".
In June 1989, Electronic Gaming Monthly's "Quartermann" speculated that Dragon Warrior would be Nintendo's "big release" in North America that Christmas. He based this on the series's immense popularity in Japan especially after Dragon Quest III's sales.Nintendo Power provided three feature articles on Dragon Warrior for issues between May and October 1989 and the November–December 1989 issue includes a strategy guide. The March–April 1990 issue of Nintendo Power has a map of the game world, with a poster of Super Contra on the other side, and also features a Dragon Warrior text adventure.
In late 1990, Nintendo Power gave free copies of Dragon Warrior to subscribers, including a 64-page "Explorer's Handbook" that has a full walkthrough of the game and additional backstory not mentioned in the original instruction booklet. Nintendo was reportedly interested in getting rid of unsold copies of the game, so it gave them away to subscribers. At the time, the game cost approximately US$50 at retail and the magazine's subscription fee was only US$20 ($Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "[". and $Expression error: Unrecognized punctuation character "[". respectively, adjusted for inflation). The giveaway attracted nearly 500,000 new magazine subscribers, and many more renewed their subscription just to get the game. This ultimately led to the success of the series in the Western market.
Re-releases and remakes[edit | edit source]