As a videogame critic, I’ll admit that I am biased, particularly with regards to my very first console RPG, the original Dragon Warrior on the Nintendo Entertainment System, with its generally easy gameplay and decent dialogue. Years later, the first game would receive a port alongside its first sequel to the Super NES, although since Enix’s American branch was closed at the time, these remakes did not see English versions. A few years later came a second port of both games to the GameBoy Color, with the first game, Dragon Warrior I, still holding up decently today.
Dragon Warrior’s randomly-encountered battles are fairly simplistic, with just the protagonist squaring off against one foe in turn-based battle. The player can have the hero attack, use an MP-consuming magic spell, use an item, or attempt to run away, with the option to escape not always working. Given this simplicity, battles tend to go by fast, and as long as the player upgrades equipment when they have enough money, they will likely survive the game. On the overworld, the player can use Repel magic to nullify encounters with weaker monsters, though the spell doesn’t work in dungeons.
Dying in a battle resurrects the player at the starting castle with half their money lost, although the player can somewhat nullify this penalty by storing gold in increments of a thousand at a bank in the nearby town. Overall, the battle system works well, with only some minor flaws such as the inability to determine whether the player or the enemy will take their turn first in a round of battle, and a minimal amount of grinding being necessary to make it through the game, with leveling to overcome more powerful foes generally being easy.
Control is generally solid, with easy menus and controls, not to mention a handy quicksave feature since the player can only perform permanent saves at the first castle, though an option to dash would have been welcome, and inexperienced players might find themselves lost at times, though the world is generally small compared to the first game’s sequels. While inventory space has a limit, the player can put excess items at a storage facility in the town adjacent to the starting castle. Ultimately, the game interacts nicely with the player.
Dragon Warrior has more story than its previous incarnations did, given the new anime intro seen upon starting a new game, with plenty backstory about Loto the legendary hero (originally Erdrick). The lesser dialogue space of the GameBoy Color resulted in the translators changing names of various people and places, for instance, with the Dragonlord now being DracoLord, which sounds awkward. Translation aside, the story is more than adequate for a short game, although there are some parts that could have benefited from better development.
Koichi Sugiyama’s soundtrack is a high point of the game, with the tracks containing more notes than their NES incarnations, with some such as the dark dungeon theme having variations. Sound effects, however, are minimal, although the game still sounds nice overall.
The GameBoy Color port also looks nice, with Akira Toriyama’s monster designs shining the most, although in battle they are inanimate, despite the presence of some indicative scenery around the enemies in battle, and a retained first-person perspective in combat.
Finally, the first game is fairly short, about five to ten hours, with some grinding occasionally necessary if the player wishes to make their life easier by obtaining better equipment, and in the instance that they become lost. Despite its flaws, Dragon Warrior I for the GameBoy Color is perhaps the definitive version of the game, given things such as the handy quicksave feature that make it easier to play on the go, although it does have its issues with things such as the compressed text space upon localization, not to mention the lack of replay value since once the player beats the game, there really isn’t any reason to go back to it, despite its good qualities.
+Simple, quick battle system.
+Nice music and graphics.
-Story could have been better-developed.
-Compressed names for localization.
-Not much replay value despite short length.
The Bottom Line:
Nice start to the series.
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Playing Time: 5-10 Hours