Dragon Warrior II

Enix’s Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior to North American players prior to the eighth installment, is the brainchild of scenario writer Yuji Horii, character and monster designer Akira Toriyama, and composer Koichi Sugiyama, its first installment seeing Japanese release back in 1986 in Japan and outside roughly three years later. Nintendo of America localized and marketed the first chapter to decent success, which would give foreign releases to the remaining NES Dragon Warrior titles as well. The second entry, Dragon Warrior II, saw its original NES release back in 1990 in America, while its GameBoy Color remake saw non-Japanese release in a compilation with the first installment about a decade later. Although it retains the franchise’s archaic traditions, the sequel is enjoyable nonetheless.

As has been the case with earlier Dragon Quest games, the first sequel sports random encounters, although the Repel spell can nullify fights with weaker enemies, alleviating some of the irritation typically associated with random battles. The player’s battle party consists of three characters: the protagonist, the Prince of Lorasia, who has good attack power but no magical capability; the Prince of Cannock, who has decent physical and magical abilities; and the Princess of Moonbrook, who has good magical capability but limited attack power. Upon beginning a battle, the player inputs commands for each of these character, including attacking, magic if available, defending to reduce damage, or item use, the party also able to escape, though this option naturally doesn’t work all the time.

Battles tend to be fairly quick, further alleviating the tension associated with the sequel’s random encounters, and upon victory, the player gains money, occasional items, and experience for each of the three playable characters, with level-ups happening occasionally. The defeat of all the player’s characters will cost half their current money (although later in the game the player will have access to banks where they can store away money in 1,000-Gold increments, somewhat alleviating the penalty), and revive only the Prince of Lorasia, with the player needing to resurrect his allies at a nearby church. Battles, especially late in the game, can be fairly difficult, although certain equipment usable as items in fights can actually be the difference between victory and defeat at times, and overall, the battle system has more going for it than against it.

One cannot say the same about control, which retains the Dragon Quest franchise’s archaic traditions such as limited inventory space for each character, with no sack into which to place excess items (although there are occasional storage facilities where players can drop off what they don’t need), and much dialogue and confirmations during shopping. The game also does a fairly poor job telling players how to advance the main storyline, and while the player ultimately acquires a map of the overworld, dungeons lack maps, and in the end, interaction leaves plenty room for improvement, although it does have occasional positive aspects such as easy menu system and the ability to see how equipment increases or decreases stats before buying it.

The story has some positive points as well, such as decent backstory that links the first and the second installments, alongside the fact that the playable characters have development as descendants of the hero Loto, and some of the main antagonist’s atrocities are visible in the introduction. Granted, there aren’t any dramatic scenes throughout the game, direction on where to go next is poor, and there are occasional inconsistencies with regards to the layout of Alefgard, the world in the first game, for instance, with Tantagel Castle and its accompanying town containing different layouts than in the first game. The plot, ultimately, is adequate for a remake of an 8-bit RPG.

Koichi Sugiyama, as usual, does a nice job with the soundtrack, in spite of some repetition and the primitive sound effects associated with the franchise.

The visuals make decent use of the GameBoy Color’s hues, although there is no visible scenery in battle, something that was oddly present in the remake of the first game for the system, and enemies contain no animation, despite Akira Toriyama’s monster art being decent in spite of some palette swaps.

Finally, the first sequel is fairly short like its predecessor, albeit somewhat longer, taking less than twenty hours to complete. In conclusion, Dragon Warrior II for the GameBoy Advance is a good sequel that hits many of the right points, particularly with regards to its gameplay, soundtrack, and to a lesser extent its story, although there are some parts that could have been better, such as the control scheme, what with poor direction on how to advance, the battle graphics, and the lack of any lasting appeal. Despite these flaws, the sequel is still fairly enjoyable, and is like its predecessor a good diving board into the Dragon Quest franchise.

The Good:
+Simple but quick battles.
+Story has some good aspects.
+Nice soundtrack.

The Bad:
-Poor direction on how to advance.
-Battle graphics could have been better.
-Little replay value.

The Bottom Line:
Good sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: GameBoy Color
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 6/10
Localization: 5/10
Lasting Appeal: 4/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 6.5 /10

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