Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dragon Warrior, part the first

There are so many copies of Dragon Warrior for the NES out there that there's a reasonable chance you're familiar with the basic story: DracoLord has kidnapped Lady Lora, and the player character, a descendent of the great hero Loto, must go to save her.

And those of you who are familiar with the NES game are now thinking, "Wait, those aren't the names." First thing I noticed too, and I started with Dragon Warrior III on the NES. As mentioned in the introductory post, the game was re-localized for Game Boy, tossing out the delightfully evocative NES translation with a more direct translation which retained the original Japanese names. "Thee" and "thou" were out (not necessarily a bad thing), as were Dragonlord, Gwaelin, and Erdrick among others. Apparently this was a request taken from Enix's forums; if true, it is another sign the internet signals the end of civilization. Square Enix has since gone back on this, and Dragon Quest IX refers back to the original NES localization. Or perhaps it was Nintendo? They published both Dragon Warrior on NES and Dragon Quest IX, after all... and it seems like Nintendo always does an impecable job localizing, favouring the intention of the text rather than the words in the text.

The game isn't a very long one, but I haven't gotten too far in it yet, having not yet fought a boss. After the King gave me my quest, I went to the town and bought a stick and a leather shield to defend myself, and then set upon grinding money to upgrade my gear before setting out in earnest. Along my grind I entered a cave, expecting to fight more enemies - it was empty except for Loto's tomb, which exhorted me as his descendent to find the three artifacts he used to save the world. When I made it to the next town, Garinham, I was finally informed I should head to the tomb. In Garinham I buy the copper sword and leather armor and set out for the next town, going east.

There's little preventing you from exploring the world beyond how tought the monsters get; monster difficulty is basically indicated by the number of bridges you cross. On the Game Boy, at least, this seems to be more of an approximation. All the grinding I've done means I go through the town of Kol, and the south to another island containing the next town, Rimuldar, before I am killed for the first time.

Death does not mean Game Over in Dragon Quest, it means resurrection with half your gold. This fairly light penalty (particular in 3 and later games, with the advent of banks where your gold, while not accessible, is safe) has undoubtably contributed to its popularity among Japanese people from all ages and all walks of life. Still, it's enough that I grind my way to 800 gold and buy the iron shield in Gorinham before returning to the island. There are only three shields, which makes the iron shield the second best shield in the game despite the fact that I have yet to fight a boss.

On my way back to the island, I take a detour and find an old man guarding a chest containing the rain staff. He'll give that to me if I bring him the Silver Harp, proving my worth as a hero and descendent of Loto. He doesn't say where I can find it, but I do know Gorin, who founded Gorinham, was a bard, so I can guess. Alas, it is presumably in the big locked building in Gorinham, so I'll need keys. And keys can be bought in Rimuldar. Once there, I buy a full complement of keys. A key can be used once, but you can carry up to six at a time, and there are locked doors all over the place. I unlock every door everywhere I've been (except Gorinham, where I need to go), eager to take what's been locked away. A guard tells me a real hero wouldn't steal from the chests he's guarding; I take what's in them and there are no apparent consequences. Another guard says that because I made it past a barrier - floor panels which do a lot of damage when you walk on them - I'm probably ready to go to Gorinham. It makes me glad I waited and unlocked all those doors, although I didn't gain a level doing it so I was already good enough. I grind my way to 1500 gold (with a slight detour when a Wolf Lord kills me - it shouldn't have happened, but I was playing sloppy) and buy a Steel Sword, and prepare to return to Gorinham.

Despite my slight distaste for the new translation, I'm still enjoying myself. The few clues given as to what you need to do next are sufficient, and finding the clues shows off the game dialogue's charm. Next time I'll speak a little about the player character's stats and the battle system, along with whatever the heck I end up doing.

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