Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

rpg

DEC
18
2017
0

#60 – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance

It’s known as one of the worst NES games, and that mostly holds up.

Love that over half of the title screen is text.

To Beat: Reach the ending
Played: 9/29/17 – 10/2/17
Difficulty: 5/10
My Difficulty: 5/10
Video: AD&D Heroes of the Lance Longplay

Clearly, I am a huge gaming nerd, especially when it comes to Nintendo and the NES. Mostly I go it alone and play single-player games, but occasionally I will play multiplayer games. Tabletop gaming has become quite popular, and I do like to get together with friends to play sometimes. I don’t take it much farther than that, and so I have never been interested in Dungeons and Dragons. Maybe it’s the idea of a long campaign with a group of people that doesn’t appeal to me and my single-player ways. The NES has four games bearing the Dungeons and Dragons name and I had no interest in them. I had originally planned to skip them in this project altogether. However, plans change, so here we are with the first game in the set. AD&D: Heroes of the Lance is generally regarded as a bad game, and having played it for myself I can see why.

Dungeons and Dragons, abbreviated D&D, is a tabletop RPG that takes place in a fantasy setting. Players choose characters and team up to battle monsters and solve puzzles in scenarios devised and managed by a Dungeon Master. The game was originally published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc., or TSR, but is now published by Wizards of the Coast as of 1997. D&D split early on with the lighter game keeping the name, while a more rules-heavy experience was called Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, or AD&D. The NES games fall under the AD&D banner. These two games merged back together when the 3rd Edition of D&D released in the year 2000, and this structure remains today.

Naturally, there were many video games created or spun off from D&D. It’s mindboggling how many different series and games there are under so many different names that I can’t even begin to make sense of it myself let alone try to explain it. There are different series of games that might have familiar names to you, such as the Gold Box series, Baldur’s Gate, and Neverwinter Nights. Some follow the strict D&D ruleset, while others only utilize the setting. Several games are not RPGs at all. The NES received four different AD&D games, and in order of release they are Heroes of the Lance, DragonStrike, Pool of Radiance, and Hillsfar.

This intro screen has more color than anything else in the game.

AD&D: Heroes of the Lance was released on many home computers beginning in January 1988. The NES port of the game was released in January 1991, and the Famicom version came next in March 1991. It was developed by U.S. Gold Ltd. and Strategic Systems, Inc. Natsume is also credited as a developer, but as far as I can tell they are only linked to the game’s soundtrack. The NES game was published by FCI, while Pony Canyon published the Famicom game. The sequel, Dragons of Flame, was released on the Famicom in February 1992 but did not make it to the NES.

The story is based on the Dragonlance novels written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. In the land of Krynn, people have abandoned their traditions and faith, causing the Queen of Darkness, Takhisis, to awaken evil and take power in the land. The ruins of Xak Tsaroth hold the keys to restoring the traditions and regaining balance of power, and these keys are the Disks of Mishakal. Of course, Takhisis knows of the Disks and has sent the dragon Khisanth to protect them. You play the role of the party known as the Companions of the Lance, who must venture into Xak Tsaroth to fight the dragon, recover the disks, and restore the land of Krynn. After entering the ruins of Xak Tsaroth, the warrior Goldmoon of the Companions entrusted her blue crystal staff to a statue of the goddess Mishakal, who then blessed the staff and offered her power to aid in recovering the disks. You got all that, right?

Heroes of the Lance is one of the D&D games that is not a strict RPG. Instead, it is a side-scrolling dungeon crawler. You control the entire party of eight Companions of the Lance through the maze of Xak Tsaroth. All the action takes place in the side scrolling view. You enter other rooms to different parts of the maze, and the goal is to find the entrance to the next level of the dungeon. There are only three levels in the game, culminating in the final battle with Khisanth. Along the way you will fight enemies, jump over pits, cast spells, and collect items. You can rearrange your party of eight characters in any order you choose, and each member has their own stats, abilities, and weapons that aid in completing the adventure.

Perhaps this first screen is what many players have seen the most.

The eight characters in the party are Goldmoon, Sturm, Raistlin, Caramon, Tanis, Tasslehoff, Riverwind, and Flint. Goldmoon has the blue crystal staff which is used to cast clerical spells. Sturm is a powerful knight who wields a magical Long Sword. Raistlin is a physically weak mage with powerful magical abilities using the Staff of Magius. Caramon is another powerful warrior armed with both a sword and throwing spear. Tanis is a half-elf armed with a sword and a bow. Tasslehoff is of a race called kender, and he is armed with a hoopak which can be used as a sling for long range attacks and as a staff for close range combat. Riverwind is another strong fighter armed with a sword and a bow. Finally, Flint is a dwarf who wields both a battle axe and throwing axes.

The controls are complex and they change somewhat depending on the situation. You walk left and right using the D-pad. If you walk in the same direction for a while you will start running, or you can run by holding Up combined with either Left or Right. While running you can jump with A. You can also duck while standing still by holding A and pressing Down. That isn’t intuitive, but it occasionally helps. There is a compass on the bottom left of the screen, and one of the directions lights up if you are standing by a door. You can proceed through the door by holding either Up or Down depending on which side the door is on. You must hold the button for a full second to go through the door. You can use the B button combined with a direction for the lead character to use ranged weapons. If enemies are too close then you can’t use ranged weapons, and you also have to equip them before you can use them in the first place. The Select button both brings up and exits the main menu.

Combat introduces some different controls. If an enemy is near enough, the word Combat will display on the bottom. You can’t use ranged weapons anymore when this indicator in on. You can still move, duck, jump, run, and enter the menu the same as above. To attack the enemy with the lead character, hold down the B button to swing your weapon. You need to be right next to the enemy to land any hits. You can keep the B button held to do continuous attacks. You can also attack high by holding the D-pad diagonally Up and toward the enemy, and attack low diagonally with Down. Some enemies can only be hit high or low. You will see a little circle whenever you land an attack, but you will miss about as often as you hit.

Well actually this is the screen you will see the most often.

You will spend a lot of time in the game menu. While in the menu, press A to choose an option, press B to cancel and go back, and press Select to leave the menu. The Hero Select option lets you view each character’s stats, health, and items. You also use Hero Select to move party members around. Press A to choose a party member, and press A again when a different party member is highlighted to swap the two characters. Magic User Spells lets you use Raistlin’s spells, and Clerical Staff Spells lets you use Goldmoon’s spells. More on spells in a bit. The Use command lets you use some items like potions and equip some items like bows. For example, to equip Caramon’s throwing spear, go to the Use command, select Caramon, and then select the spear. It will then appear next to the Using field on both the Use or Hero Select screen when successfully equipped. The Score option shows you how many of each enemy you have killed as well as your experience points and score. Yes, Heroes of the Lance has a scoring system. The Give, Drop, and Take commands all move items around. Use the Give command to trade items between party members just like how you switch characters around. Drop puts an item on the ground, and Take is used to pick items up. You can find items on the ground or even in the background during play. Stand near one and use the Take command to give it to whichever party member you want. You can save the game at almost any time using the Save command, or load a save file anytime with the Load command. There are three save slots that either display as Old if it has save data or New if it is empty.

To cast spells with Raistlin or Goldmoon, you have to do two things. First, you must equip each character with their staff with the Use command. Second, you have to put the spellcaster in the front row. On the screen, the top four characters are in the front row and the others are in the back row. Party alignment is also important because any of the front row characters can take damage during combat, although the lead character is most likely to take the hit. Use either of the spell commands in the menu to display the spells and select one to cast it. While exploring, if the spellcaster is the lead character, you can simply cast the last spell used with the B button as a long range attack. In combat range, you must use the menu to cast spells.

Trapping enemies and running past them is an effective strategy.

Raistlin is the only character that can use the Magic User Spells option. This option displays the spell list and the charge meter showing how much power is left in the staff. Each spell uses up a different amount of charge, and when this meter is empty you can no longer cast spells. The same goes for Goldmoon and her Clerical Staff Spells. Raistlin’s magic spells are primarily combat oriented. Charm, Sleep, and Web are all used to temporarily stop enemies. Magic Missile and Burning Hands are attack spells. Detect Magic highlights magical items in the field with sparkles, and Detect Invisible reveals invisible objects. The Final Strike spell uses up all the energy in the staff to defeat all monsters on screen, though Raistlin loses his life in the process. To use this spell, you have to put Raistlin in the lead and also be outside of close combat range.

Goldmoon can use all Clerical spells with her Blue Crystal Staff. She has two healing spells, Cure Light Wounds and Cure Critical Wounds. Protection from Evil weakens enemies near the party, while Prayer builds the party up temporarily. Find Traps shows any traps on screen, such as falling rocks. She has two combat spells. Hold Person can disable an enemy like the Charm or Sleep spells, and Spiritual Hammer is an attack spell. Goldmoon can revive defeated party members with the Raise Dead spell. If a character is killed in combat, their body remains on the ground. You can stand near it and use Raise Dead to revive the character with a few hit points. However, if you change screens before reviving the character or cause the lead party member to fall in a pit, they are gone for good. In this case, their character portrait shows a tombstone instead of being grayed out. The last spell is Deflect Dragon Breath, which causes the lead character to glow and avoid all damage from the acid spewed by dragon hatchlings. If Goldmoon is defeated, a few other characters can pick up her staff and perform a subset of Clerical spells.

There are quite a few items found in the dungeon. There are five colors of potions that do different effects, such as healing, party member protection, or holding enemies. A ring or a gem ring can be equipped with the Use command which makes the wearer harder to hit in combat. Raistlin can use a Scroll or a Wand to perform a long range attack without using power from his staff. The remaining items have no effect except for adding points to your score while you carry them. Such items are gems, coins, gold bars, chalices, and shields.

This waterfall is awfully pretty.

This was my first time playing through AD&D: Heroes of the Lance. At the beginning of my project, I put this game and many others near the end of the list which I call my snub list. Now I am bringing those games back into the fold occasionally as I see fit, and it had been awhile since I pulled one of my snubbed games into the forefront. I’m reasonably sure I bought this game at my local game store at the time when they were slow to keep up with price increases. I could bundle games and get every fourth game free, so I took advantage of that frequently. The price of this game hasn’t really moved though. I think it was an $8 game at that store and that’s in line with its current value. I have the manual for it that I got separately, although with a missing cover.

I gave the game a test drive just to check the battery, and in those few minutes I couldn’t get off the first screen. At a glance, it is an intimidating game to say the least. There are so many menu options and character statistics. Who are all these characters and what do they bring to the table? Spell casting doesn’t work right away. The first screen features a pit that I bet most players fall in right away trying to figure out what to do. I sure did. I see I can go through a door to the north and another to the south, but my character won’t go that way because I’m just pressing Up or Down instead of holding the direction button. The game has a bad reputation for all these reasons. The manual is an absolute must, and I’m guessing most people that have tried the game played without reading the manual, further souring their first impressions. I read through the manual several times, and I needed it by my side as I played before the game started to unfold.

One of my biggest gripes with Heroes of the Lance is the level layout. The compass is there to help orient you, but from room to room it can twist in various directions. Say you are in a room that runs north and south. The next room may also run north and south, so you know you are in a different room that runs parallel. Other times, the next room runs west to east, so you then start spreading out more. To make it more confusing, if this north to south hallway has an east door and a west door opposite each other, sometimes both doors lead to the same room and other times they lead to separate rooms. Both doors leading to the same room can make sense if you picture it as two perpendicular hallways that intersect, and you are simply reorienting your view by turning 90 degrees. It’s just that this is not evident at first. Most of the hallways looks the same anyway with the same drab gray colors. All this combined is the perfect recipe for getting lost. I am good at mental mapmaking, but it only took a few screens into the game before I needed to begin drawing. Even then, I ran into problems. The layout seems nonsensical at times. Sometimes the map has loops in it, and other times it appears that you are going in a direction that overlaps with something else in the level. It’s hard enough to map the dungeon without having to consider verticality. It’s ugly, unthoughtful design.

Basic platforming is also frustrating.

The good news is that there are clear, one-way transitions between the three levels of the dungeon. Go the correct way and you may see a short cutscene of your character falling to the level below. This is not a pit that kills you and you are going the right way when this happens. If you successfully map your way to that spot, then you effectively have that level solved. It’s not always easy getting there. There is one section in Level 2 that I am convinced is impossible to map out. It’s a door maze with several hallways, all with multiple doors. I started finding new items after going through many hallways, so I know I was hitting unique screens still. Fortunately, this section is not on the critical path and can (and should) be skipped completely.

Once I reached Level 3, I was running low on magic so I elected to start over. It was quick getting back there and I was in a much better state than my first try. The final level was the easiest area to map and I did so completely. It was straightforward to beat the game at that point. It took me about four hours to beat the game the first time. I knew I could beat the game much quicker than that, so I recorded a longplay. I admit, I really enjoyed blowing through the game again once I figured it all out. The second play lasted 20 minutes. The ending of the game teases you with the sequel, AD&D Dragons of Flame, which was never released on NES. Dragons of Flame did make it to Famicom, though I won’t be playing it.

Another aspect of this game’s reputation is that it is a difficult game, but I found that really wasn’t the case. The game seems so difficult at first for all the reasons mentioned here, and that’s true, it is difficult to start. You have a lot of learn and you will probably play poorly trying to get your bearings. This makes saving anywhere such a godsend. Take advantage of it by saving frequently and reloading if things don’t go well. Don’t go too long without saving so that if you need to reload you have a better chance of remembering where you are. Mapping the game on paper goes a long way as well, even if the map itself is crude like mine. Once you find the entrance to the next level and can get there from the start, you can do what I did and restart the game if things go south. The game is short with only the three levels and it isn’t a huge setback to start over with the knowledge gained. Sadly, Heroes of the Lance will permit you into situations where the game is unwinnable and you have to start over, but this is not much of a burden as it would appear. I would say the game begins like it has well above average difficulty and then becomes a low difficulty game at the end, depending on your aptitude for mapping. Suddenly a 5/10 rating seems about right!

Make sure to protect yourself when fighting the dragon hatchlings.

I know this review has gone on long enough, but I’m going to share my tips and strategy for beating Heroes of the Lance. I’m spoiling quite a lot here. I’ll begin with perhaps my biggest revelation about this game. Most of the content in this game means nothing. Other than health, the statistics do not tell you anything. The game can be beaten with only three characters and fewer than half the spells. You need to know how to kill enemies and jump a little. That’s all. Here’s how you do it. Set Caramon as your lead character and put Raistlin and Goldmoon in the third and fourth spots in the front row. Go to the Use command to equip both Raistlin’s staff and Goldmoon’s staff so you can cast spells. Most of the enemies in this game are affected by the Web spell. When these enemies are stuck in a web, you can kill them if you want or run right past them. Web didn’t work on short enemies or the dragon hatchlings, so you have to fight them. Use only downward attacks on the short enemies. You might be able to jump past them if you want to try that. The hatchlings are the biggest nuisance here. For them, use the Deflect Dragon Breath spell so you don’t get hurt by their acid and keep reapplying it when the spell wears off for as long as you battle them. They constantly back away from you in close range, so you have to step forward and take a stab or two. Just repeat that until you either kill them or move them far enough out of the way to get where you are going. In general, monitor your health and heal with the Cure Light Wounds spell as often as needed to keep your HP topped off. Save often, as much as you feel comfortable. The Prayer spell might come in handy for a few tricky screens, but it isn’t essential. At the final battle with the dragon Khisanth, first get close enough to engage him in battle. Set Goldmoon as the lead character and press both the B button and Right to throw the staff into the dragon killing him instantly. It is that simple, and it is not even a spoiler since the manual tells you to do this. Grab the disks, wait a few seconds, and enjoy the ending.

In conclusion, yes, AD&D: Heroes of the Lance is a bad game. Poor controls, sluggish movement, drab graphics, a confusing dungeon, and frivolous, unnecessary elements make for an unpleasant experience. I haven’t mentioned the music at all, which is easily the best part of this game. The composer Seiji Toda and arranger and programmer Iku Mizutani did an excellent job with the music and they both deserve far more credit than they have received. The music aside, I would not recommend this game. If you like map making, you might get a little enjoyment here, and it’s not the worst game to play solely by walkthrough if you want to go that route. As for me, I’m really pleased I conquered the game on my own. It feels like a big accomplishment, and that is such a good feeling that makes it all worth it.

#60 – Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of the Lance

 
AUG
24
2017
0

#50 – Dragon Warrior

Baby’s first RPG!

Title screen fanfare is nice!

To Beat: Reach the Ending
Played: 4/18/17 – 4/27/17
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 1/10
Video: Dragon Warrior Endgame

It took me longer than I expected to get this far, but I have finally reached this milestone of the review of my 50th completed game. I thought I might do special games at milestones like this one, but my current plan is to take games as they come. In this case, it ended up working out to a game that is good enough for the 50th post. Dragon Warrior is an extremely basic role-playing game, or RPG, but it is an important game that eased me to the genre and was a gateway to more complicated and challenging games in this style.

Dragon Quest is the first game is a long running series of RPG games under the same name. Yuji Horii created Dragon Quest in response to other RPGs of the time like Wizardry and Ultima. The driving force behind Dragon Quest was that it would appeal to a much wider audience, even those who are not interested in or familiar with video games at all. The result was a much more simplistic game with a larger focus on story to draw more players in. Dragon Quest was very successful in Japan and it still one of the most popular game series there today. Dragon Quest XI was just recently released in 2017, and there are various spinoff titles and remakes as well as forays into novels, manga, and anime.

Dragon Quest was released on the Famicom in Japan on May 27th, 1986. It was developed by Chunsoft and published by Enix, now known as Square Enix. North America would not receive this game on the NES until all the way in August 1989, just a few months before Dragon Quest IV released in Japan. Here the name was changed to Dragon Warrior due to a naming conflict with the pen and paper RPG DragonQuest. Its success in Japan did not translate over to the US and sales were poor. In 1990, Nintendo Power gave away copies of the game as a subscription bonus for the magazine, and that greatly helped the series gain traction. The NES would eventually receive all four Famicom Dragon Quest titles under the Dragon Warrior name.

Some olde time English here.

The plot of Dragon Warrior is a simple one. In the land of Alefgard, the evil Dragonlord had stolen the Balls of Light from Tantegel Castle under the rule of King Lorik. The hero Erdrick managed to reach the Dragonlord’s castle on an island but was never heard from again. Years later, the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle again, kidnapping Princess Gwaelin in the process. You play as an unnamed hero who seeks to follow in the footsteps of Erdrick by defeating the Dragonlord, retrieving the Ball of Light, and saving the princess.

A lot of what I have to say about Dragon Warrior is not only basic knowledge of this game, but of RPGs in general. If you have played any games of this style, most of the game description will be quite familiar. Dragon Warrior was aimed at newcomers, and so this review is also going to be focused on that same audience. I do think there is still value in Dragon Warrior as a beginner’s RPG, so I’m happy to go into detail that might be more rudimentary for some.

When you begin the game, you choose from one of three save slots. When starting a new game, you will give your hero an eight-character name and set the text speed. The game begins in a top-down view in the king’s throne room in Tantegel Castle. The king will give you an explanation of the task at hand, and from there you are on your own. You will want to visit the king often over the course of your adventure because this is the only place you can save your game. For now, this area serves as a pretty decent tutorial for how you navigate the menu and see all the things you can do.

The game would be over sooner if you could swim.

You use the D-pad to move the hero in the four cardinal directions as well as move the cursor to choose options on the menu. Press A to bring up the Command menu. As a rule, the A button proceeds and the B buttons cancels or goes back. You can also press Start to pause while walking around, but there is never a reason to do so.

There are many options on the Command menu. The first option is Talk which lets you talk or interact with the person you are facing. Status lets you see your statistics such as health, attack power, or which weapons and armor you are using. The Stairs command lets you walk up and down stairs that you are standing on. Most games will assume you want to take the stairs when you stand on them, but here you must use the specific command. Search lets you examine the ground at your feet for anything interesting. Spell brings up a list of spells that you can cast, but at the start of the game you don’t have any available. The Item screen lets you view and use items you are holding. You can only carry eight items, but certain items group together so you can hold several of them while only utilizing a single item slot. Door lets you open a closed door you are facing, but only if you have a key. The Take command lets you open a treasure chest you are standing on.

When you bring up the Command menu or just stand still for a while, you bring up a panel on screen that displays some basic stats. The LV counter is for your experience level. This indicates how powerful you are and it begins at one. HP stands for Hit Points and this is your health. MP stands for Magic Points. You spend magic points to cast spells. G stands for Gold which is the game’s currency. E stands for Experience Points and you earn these by defeating enemies.

I’ll take one of everything, please.

One of the chests in the throne room contains some gold to get you started. One of the first things you will want to do is spend that gold on some equipment. Unfortunately, there are not any shops inside the castle, but you still want to explore and talk to people here. Exiting the castle takes you to the world map. There is a nearby town to the east called Brecconary that should be your next stop. There are more people in town to talk to as well as places to shop.

The shop in the northwest corner of town is the weapon shop. You can only hold one weapon, one armor, and one shield at a time. There are several options and the more expensive options are more effective. An equipped weapon increases your attack power and either an equipped armor or shield increases your defense. When you buy something from this shop that replaces something already equipped, the shop will buy back the old item at half its value.

The shop in the southeast part of town is the item shop. Here you can buy or sell items from your item stock. It might be useful early on to buy an herb that lets you restore some health from anywhere. The inn is located in the southwest corner of the town. You can spend some gold to stay the night which replenishes all your HP and MP. The shops and the inn are the basic features of each town you encounter in the game.

Get used to seeing this screen a lot.

Most of your time in Dragon Warrior will be spent battling enemies. As you explore the world map or caves, an enemy may appear on screen that you must engage one on one. This bring up a smaller Command menu. Both Spell and Item appear on this menu and they act the same as in the standard menu. Fight lets you attack the enemy. Run gives you the chance to run from the fight and keep exploring, although the enemy may not let you escape. You and the enemy alternate turns until one either wins the fight or runs away. There is a text box at the bottom of the screen that describes what is going on, such as whose turn it is and how much damage is inflicted.

When you win a fight, you are awarded both gold and experience points. If your HP is running low, the text boxes all change color from white to red to show that you are getting close to death. If you succumb to the enemy, then you are returned to the castle in front of the king. Not only does he lecture you on dying, but you lose half of your gold. The good news is you do not lose any experience points or equipment when you die, so even if you lose many fights you will continue to get stronger as long as you keep playing.

When you meet certain thresholds of experience points, you will gain a level. This is noted after a battle with some fanfare. Going up a level gives you stat boosts. You can gain strength, agility, maximum HP, maximum MP, and sometimes even learn a new spell. The strength stat translates into additional points in the attack power stat, and agility translates into additional defense points.

A warrior and a wizard!

At certain levels, you will also learn a new magic spell. Each spell requires a certain amount of MP to cast. You will learn ten spells in all and they have various uses either in combat, while adventuring, or both. The Heal spell restores some of your HP. Hurt is a combat spell that deals damage to the enemy. Sleep is a combat spell that sometimes lulls your enemy to sleep, preventing them from taking their attack turns until they wake up. Radiant is used in dark caves to see as many as three tiles ahead of you in all directions. Stopspell is a combat spell that may prevent the enemy from casting their own spells. Outside lets you leave a cave automatically, and the Return spell sends you back to the castle from anywhere in the overworld. Repel is used on the world map to keep weak enemies from engaging you in battle. There is also a stronger healing spell called Healmore and a final attack spell called Hurtmore.

As you venture further out into the world, you will come across stronger enemies. Not only do later enemies have more health, attack, and defense, but some can cast spells of their own or do alternate attacks. You will need to spend a lot of time fighting weaker enemies and testing yourself to see if you can take on stronger enemies that bestow more gold and experience. You will encounter other towns throughout Alefgard that have new shops with better equipment, as well as different tips about the world to point you in the right direction for story progress. But most of Dragon Warrior is spent fighting enemies to strengthen yourself for tougher enemies.

I have beaten Dragon Warrior several times over the years and I am very familiar with the game even now. I remember finding the game while going out to yard sales with my grandparents as a kid. It was out of place for sure, laying on a table complete in box amidst random knick-knacks. It cost only $5 and they were happy to buy it for me. I didn’t know anything about the game from Nintendo Power because I wasn’t subscribing then, and it may well have been one of the subscription incentive copies. Happy to find a new NES game that day, I gave it a play that night and I got sucked in. The simplicity of the game combined with an abundance of childhood free time was the perfect recipe for a new RPG addiction.

You are the Dragon Warrior after all.

Aside from tracking down a few items, Dragon Warrior is a very easy game. For me, the challenge lies in making the time to play through it. I estimate it took me 15-20 hours to complete the game, though I insisted on leveling up to the highest possible level. I already knew the areas that were best for gaining experience points more rapidly. That helped keep the game shorter, as well as reaching towns as early as possible to buy better equipment. The more time I could spend fighting tough enemies, the faster I could max out experience points. Another time saving tip is that Dragon Warrior is just about a perfect game to grind while doing something else, such as watching TV. I’m not ashamed to admit I grinded out a few levels while listening and participating on conference calls while working from home.

The speedrunning community has managed to achieve seemingly impossible times in completing Dragon Warrior. What took me over 15 hours to accomplish has been done in a world record speedrun that runs a little over 25 minutes. There are certain timings to inputting commands that lets the hero do things like make higher damage attacks, dodge enemy attacks, and avoid random encounters. By using these timings combined with a heavy dose of luck, Dragon Warrior can be beaten at a very low experience level. It’s all very impressive!

Dragon Warrior was a formative game for me. It was my entry point into the Japanese RPG genre at a time when I could give a lot of energy into the experience. From there I sought out the NES sequels, and I eventually moved that interest over to the SNES and some of its top-class RPGs. Therefore, I have much appreciation for Dragon Warrior. Outside of that context, it’s not a game I see myself playing again unless I get bit hard by the nostalgia bug. It’s too simple, too plain, and too grindy. But if you are looking to get into the genre while not getting too deep into the weeds, Dragon Warrior is a fine place to start.

#50 – Dragon Warrior