If there's one thing to say about the combat, it's that it never gets too easy. Once I thought I had a handle on the enemies the game decided to ramp up the difficulty. However, the rewards for engaging the enemy don't keep up with the risk. Combat, like the first game, is completely menu and stat driven. Each character in the party is assigned actions in order
Unlike the first game there are additional party members for added strategy, items to invoke, and more spells (some actually useful (or maybe they were only useful because those character's physical attacks were useless)). The odds are stacked against the party in the final area, but while tensions were high I still felt like I was made progress. In the end, I think I just got lucky.
|I still can't get over how useless this spell is|
The Dragon Warrior series at this point still hasn't introduced any customization for the characters (beyond naming the hero). A lot of equipment is only for the main hero, and the other two are little more than support characters. The controls still feel stiff; I think it has something to do with the character stats that appear when standing still. I hope this is addressed in later games. Many times while steering my ship through rivers the party would disembark on land rather than make the next tight turn.
|Stare at the text and imagine the equipment on your character|
One thing that's definitely improving are the number of side quests. Everything fits well with the world, from random captured enemies to a shipwreck. The riddles, rumors, and hints do well to slowly introduce the world. If only there were a little more direction with the main quest. Half the time I didn't know why I was collecting the crests. At least when I was lost for something to do I knew in what general direction to look, even if I couldn't survive long in battle.
|I'll have you know, this hint only took me 1 hour before it clicked|
The story is rather generic. Some evil force is back and it's the party's job to destroy it. Did no one notice the monsters teeming from Rhone? I understand not having all of Erdrick's equipment from the get go for game balance purposes, but it isn't ever explained why the king can only afford to offer his one heir to the kingdom a copper sword and 50 gold. How about opening the treasury up, pops?
The story unfolds at a brisk pace, and introduces some intrigue with a stolen loom, a stolen key, and a ship to travel the world. The only thing really missing is a way for the player to influence the story. One NPC claimed to seek the Gaia Armor, but there was no way to give it to him.
|I'll meddle where I wish|
This really isn't a game series for collectors. Sure there's variety on offer, but inventory space is so limited that there's no way to store everything. Luckily if you do need to toss a unique item, or do so accidentally, it'll be in its original treasure chest. This also means it's possible to sell an item, and then retrieve it again: the Staff of Thunder is a keen example. I didn't do it in this instance, but if I were to play again I'd definitely take advantage. Money is always a valuable commodity, even if I wasn't losing half my reserve upon death.
|I wonder what goodies awaited in the lottery; I never won... I guess my luck only extends so far|
The world is much larger than the previous Dragon Warrior. The lack of direction and slow movement speed make it feel even grander since areas will need discovery more than once. There are a number of little areas to find, but only a handful are outside the necessary path to complete the game.
The graphics are only a slight improvement. It's a bit of let down that the tile sets only include one for towers and one for caves. The music seems to have a shorter loop than what I remember from the first game, even if there are more scores. There's always a sense of discovery when exploring uncharted islands, even when the findings are small.
|Finding this lone monolith felt like such an accomplishment|
Overall this was a fun experience. I'm glad I got to play it again after all these years. Will I do so again? Probably not. There isn't much on offer for a second attempt. This one is going to sit on my shelf for quite some time (in fact I may sell it, but we'll see).
Next up is a little known title--Little Ninja Brothers. It's an action-RPG, and I know the sequel on the SNES is rather short. I worry about running into a game where the first post is a winning one, but this should last at least two.
Before we get to that though, I ran through the game list on RPGamer.com. There are a lot of games I added from that list, enough to break the 1000 game mark. Many of them are likely to be discounted, but it's good to have them on the list. This means I've missed discussing a couple games though, so I'll revisit at least one of them before starting up a new game. I think I'm still on track to wrap up the game year by the end of the year, but it might be close.