Saturday, November 1, 2014

Game 30: Dragon Warrior III (NES) - A Father's Legacy

Game 30

Title: Dragon Warrior III
Released: June 1991 (February 1988 JPN)
Platform: NES
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
Genre: RPG
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Turn based
Series - Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest JPN)
The Dragon Warrior series has consistently been delayed a full 3 years before arriving in the states with an English translation. In each case, improvements were made over the originals by taking what they had learned from the latest iterations. Even though there's a sizable gap, this game holds up well against RPGs from 1991. I wonder how long that will last.
If only shields worked that well during the turn-based battles
The game stays true to the Dragon Warrior formula, but adds a couple new key features. A configurable party gives the player more control on how to tackle combat. Go heavy on magic, or straight up physical prowess. Characters are created with a name, class, and gender choice. There's also a day-night cycle; entering towns at night will change some NPC dialogue and positions.
That looks like it hurts
Dragon Warrior III is the first to begin with an intro. The hero's father, Ortega, is seen fighting a dragon near the edge of a volcano. They trade a few blows. Ortega slices off one of the dragon's wings. The dragon then bites deep into Ortega's shield, and drags him into the mouth of the volcano. Both are presumed dead. The game begins on the hero's 16th birthday. He's been invited to an audience with the king. Another first for the game is the ability to set the hero's gender. I wonder if the fawning princesses change their tune had Ortega had a daughter.
During the meeting with the king, he acknowledged the death of Ortega at the edge of a volcano (not sure how he knew), and how he expected the hero would follow in his footsteps. As promised, I named him Victar. The main goal is to defeat the Archfiend Baramos. Although the world has little awareness of this fiend, he poses a great threat against the world. With the main task at hand, it's time to form the party.
The default party, like I'd use them...
Now with full control of Victar, I explored the castle and town to gather clues. Talk of the castle was the thief Bakor, who had a key to open doors, being captured. He revealed an old man in the nearby Najima Tower stole it before his capture. I was also pointed towards a nearby cave that gave access to the tower, which was located on a small island. The land of Aliahan once at war had sealed off the travel door, but now it was time to find a way to open it.
I was then directed to the village of Reeve
Before I headed to Reeve I recruited party members. I named them based on those in my stream chat. It was suggested that I have a pilgrim, soldier, and wizard (no coincidence; this is the default party). I took this advice to heart, but subbed out the soldier for a fighter. Project_AKo was AKo, a female fighter. I named my female pilgrim after Celdia. Lastly, I created Karo after PrinceKaro and made him a wizard. I also created a few other characters, but we'll get to those as I used them. This was my starting party. I made my way to Reeve while building up some initial levels before I tackled the tower.
Staring down seven slimes in my first fight...frightening
Reeve was only a short trip to the northeast, easily found by following the grasslands. A townie revealed hidden tiles on the world map, those tiles that looked a bit odd, might actually be a hidden area housing passages, treasure, or hideouts. To the south of Reeve was one such tile. It had a jail door and stairs, which was a back passage to the tower and cave to the south. Not feeling up to taking on the tower quite yet, I gained a few levels while waiting for nightfall to explore both towns at night.
Drank a bit too much today did we?
While the NPC locations changed, there wasn't much I learned from anyone at night. It was interesting to see the differences at night, but it felt a bit useless. The castle was locked up, as were the stores. Only the inn allowed me to rest. Waiting until night must be done in the immediate area of a town that I wanted to explore at night as teleporting to any town magically sets the time to dawn. I'm sure I'll find some towns where the nightlife is a bit more exciting.
The cave to the tower is helpful for getting a few herbs
Finally inside the tower, I found an inn at the base. A strange sight in such a monster infested place. I easily made my way to the top and found the old man who absconded with the thief's key. I was expecting a fight or challenge of some king; however, the old man instead told me of a vision he had of giving the key to me. He asked me to accept it, and I did so gratefully.
A man who lives in the future has no present
The thief's key allowed me to open the yellow doors I'd come across. After gaining access to new areas, I learned of a magic ball that would open the travel door. I missed a clue that an old man in Reeve used to make the balls. Instead, I made my way to the shrine outside the travel door where an old man belittled me for not having a ball. "Get back to Reeve," he demanded. I found the door I missed that housed the old man and his magic balls. He provided one willingly for free.
Using the magic ball on the wall in the Cave of Enticement tears it down
On the other side of the wall were stairs to a maze of pits and twisty passages. Eventually I came across a travel door, which looked very much like the pools of water from Dragon Warrior II. The magic pools of travel, the Archfiend Baramos, this all sounded vaguely familiar. I remembered a Dragon Warrior cartoon with a villain of the same name. With the power of the Internet, I've found the cartoon once again. Sadly, only 13 episodes were translated into English; I only remember 8. I'm going to avoid watching it again for now to make sure I avoid spoilers, but I remember getting up very early to watch this cartoon. It was a lot of fun.
New weapons I can't afford, must be a new town
I emerged on another continent near the castle town of Romaly. The king here had lost his golden crown. Actually, it was stolen by a thief named Kandar. The town had an underground monster arena that allowed me to bet on the outcome. There's no sure bet, but each monster has a payout based on their strength. It's a fun distraction, but really doesn't get me anywhere near affording the new equipment. In my youth, I would have abused the ability to save and reload to fully deck myself out in new gear.
Save and load until Black Raven wins, then repeat, so easy
A couple more names are dropped as I hear of the town of Kanave, and a tower to its west known as Shanpane. Rumor has it that is where Kandar resided. On my way north to Kanave, I stopped by a small shrine. It had a silver door, I'd already seen a few of them, and a man there explained a magic key could open it. Kanave offered a few more equipment upgrades that I couldn't afford, and stories of a town put to sleep by elves. I visited at night and found one store's treasures unguarded. The poison needle I lifted did not go to good use, but it was good test to see if the world cared if I stole... it didn't.
Kanave at night gets a bit spooky
I made my way west to the tower of Shanpane, and soon found myself facing off against Kandar's band of thieves. At first he attempted to flee by triggering a trap in the floor. When I went to confront him again, he was gone and so was his treasure. Only moments later I was in heated battle after dropping down to a lower floor.
Unfortunately Karo died during the fight
Up to this point I hadn't had a single death. The game seemed easy up to this point, so I decided to make it a little more interesting. Once a character died, I'd sub in another. So, I swapped out Karo for Everhate, the Merchant. Before that though, I had to deal with Kandar and his thieving ways. Even though I defeated him, Kandar was still alive and bargained his life for the crown. I definitely hadn't missed these non-choices; not accepting just causes Kandar to tell me I should reconsider.
Right after returning the crown I encountered another question where only a single answer was acceptable
The king of Romaly was so excited to have his crown back that he bestowed on Victar along with the kingship. All the townspeople rejoiced at their new king; however, the game wouldn't progress at this point. I couldn't access my inventory, leave the town, or get free equipment from the vendors (I'm the bloody king). I couldn't even gamble at the arena. I did find the old king, and talked him into taking the crown back. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was, but maybe it'll come into play later (or it's just a silly experience).
Noaniels? I suppose that's the next town
With the party back together and on task, I made my way north of Kanave. There I found Noaniels, a sleepy little town where everyone was taking an extended nap. Everyone except one old man who pointed me to the elves to the west. The elven queen was upset that her daughter Anne ran away with a man from Noaniels, so she put the town into an eternal sleep. Since I hadn't found Anne, or her man, I searched the nearby cave for them.
I learned how to appraise items during this exploration, an ability exclusive to merchants and so far useless
Turned out Anne had fled to this cave with the Dream Ruby. I found the ruby in a chest along with a letter, her final words. She wrote that she could not live in a world where she could not be with her beloved. I returned to the queen with the letter and the Ruby. She regretted her decision, took the ruby, and gave me some waking powder. The town of Noaniels was now lively, and bustling with nothing but rumors to head east of Romaly. I suppose I now have enough levels to survive.
This whole side story is rather dark, and very little time is spent reflecting on it
When the king of Aliahan suggested I was following in my father's footsteps, I didn't know he meant that so literally. The people of Noaniels said that Ortega stayed often in one of the inn rooms, but they'd been asleep for years and there was no trace of him. The town of Assaram was said to have a key, and Ortega previously headed to obtain it.
Welcome to Assaram! Would you be interested in this diamond crusted two-piece swimsuit?
Assaram was home to belly dancers, haggling merchants, and over priced bathing suits. There was no sign of the key. One helpful man pointed me to the town of Isis to the west, in the middle of the desert. I haggled a bit with the merchants, but the items were overpriced even after talking them down as low as they would go. The nightlife was a bit more active. The weapon shop only opened at night, but I didn't have any money. A psychic tried to sweet-talk me, but led me upstairs only for her dad to pop up with some joke that was probably lost in translation.
The show wasn't much to look at either; looked just like rehearsal to me
On my way to Isis I found a small shrine with a man that told me the magic key was hidden in a pyramid to the north of Isis, and that town was near an oasis. The over world only showed a small pond or lake, but getting near it caused the viewpoint to shift closer as if it were a town. However, only two tiles near the southern edge allowed me to enter the safety of Isis. A queen of exceptional beauty ruled the land.
Just look at her... I mean... imagine how beautiful she'd be in 3D
While in town I picked up a couple things about the pyramid. There's an area where spells don't work, and most of the treasures have already been pillaged by thieves. The magic key was the only prize I sought. Some kids were singing a song about some buttons, and I noted the order down (east first, then west). Also, there was a hidden item, the Meteorite Armband, said to reside inside the castle. I wasn't able to find it though, even when I searched at night.
I did find this little guy though, isn't his evil face just so cute!
I then made a couple of attempts at the pyramid. Sadly, Ako met a tragic end. I swapped in the Goof-off Darkwing. She's stayed a key part the party. Even with her constant singing (off-key), daydreaming (instead of attacking), and attempts to flee (rather than defend), I just couldn't part with that kind glance. Then, while grinding to get Darkwing some levels, and survivability, my party became sleep locked. Probably the worst way to lose in Dragon Warrior is watching as your party is slowly picked apart in their sleep.
And so I bade farewell to Everhate
To continue the theme of trying out each class, I put in Dryz the Soldier. With some extra grinding, and some additional equipment purchased for my new warrior, I worked my way back slowly into the pyramid. One thing I hadn't encountered to this point were trapped chests, and the first man-eater was a bit of a surprise. When Celdia died my heart sank quite a bit. My original party now obliterated I considered why I was even going on with this challenge (keeping characters dead, not the RPG quest). I pressed on without her though, and made my way through the pyramid. I pushed some buttons, unlocked a door, and found the key. I did grab some Flashy Clothes for Darkwing.
I then thought long and hard about whether or not to risk these chests as well; I should probably go back and collect now that I've leveled a bit more
I subbed in another female pilgrim, Anderina, but she didn't quite live up to Celdia's heritage. I again questioned if I made the best decision. With the Magic Key in hand I revisited every silver door I marked done. The queen of Isis was in her bed chamber having a late-night party with all her handmaidens. She told me of a treasure at her feet, a Wizard Ring. I was hoping for the fabled Meteorite Armband, but I'll take what I can. The Wizard Ring restored MP, but uses were limited and it crumbled to dust before I realized I should conserve it.
I gained access to the town of Portoga as well, but the king just sent me further east
Near Assaram was a cave with a crabby old dwarf named Norud. With a royal scroll from the king, he allowed me access through Bolef's Path. On the other side I found a shrine to the north, which didn't offer anything other than a place to rest my head. To the southeast was the town of Baharata, which is where I could gather up some pepper. Unfortunately they were having trouble with a local band of thieves.
Found this little demonite hiding out pretending to be a cat, except he forgot to change his appearance
When I arrived at night in the town of Baharata, it seemed the nighttime locations and dialogue weren't used. All the shops were open, and a scripted event was happening. A woman named Tania had been kidnapped. Galen, pepper store owner and fiance to Tania, decided to take it upon himself to get captured so he can reunite with Tania. The only other point of interest were the sacred waters of the Ganges river. There's a lot of references to real-world places in this game, or places with slightly altered names. I don't know how I feel about that.
That's convenient... have you heard anything about an Archfiend Baramos?
And so it came to pass, that while exploring the nearby cave, most of my party died. Darkwing and Dryz both fell. I then subbed in MournD a pilgrim, and Smarmy another Goof-off. Both died quickly, and so my full roster was exhausted. Instead of permanently removing anyone though, I gave up on the idea of keeping characters dead and resurrected Dryz, Celdia, and Darkwing as my permanent party. They've been very good to me so far. I scoured that cave, but it didn't understand where I supposed to go until I ran across a random NPC that mentioned seeing a man walk south followed by a lock click.
Haha, like the game would actually give me a choice!
On the other side was the band of thieves. Actually, the same thieves I released. That's right, Kandar was back. After fending off his gang, I rescued Galen and Tania. Their elated jubilation was cut short when Kandar returned. Kandar went down a little tougher, but no one in my party fell. Once again he begged for his life, and once again I had no choice but to agree to release him. With Galen and Tania safely back in town, Galen gave me some pepper, free of charge.
Ship get!
I traded the pepper for a ship, and now the world is my oyster. I called it a night at that point, but anticipated getting lost wandering around the world a few times over. A man at the shrine south of Portoga spoke of 6 orbs I would find that would allow me to travel over the world without the ship. Around the coast I'd find Tedanki, Baharata, and then Jipang. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm actually further into the game than I've written about here, but this post is already long enough. I'll catch up on posting soon.
This seemed like a good place to break
Elapsed Time: 14h26m (Total Time: 14h26m)


  1. I like how in fourteen and a half hours you've surpassed the progress I've made in two and a half years! I haven't explored the Pyramid yet and am grinding outside of Isis.

    I've sent my four Dragon Warrior cartridges away to have their batteries replaced, so I likely won't be playing Dragon Warrior III until well after you've beaten it, at least at this rate.

    1. I have a feeling I'm coming up on stuck very soon. Hopefully I didn't spoil too much for you. I hope the new batteries work out.

    2. I always go to for my battery replacements and translated games. The guy who runs the site has always been top-notch and I've never had a single problem with any of his services.

    3. I'm really not sure about the legality of translated games, but I'll leave the link alone because battery replacements are a nice service.

  2. It is an honor to be vicariously discarding the lives of hapless mercenaries in your playthrough.

    1. You are a ruthless, but fair leader. However, you've become partial to three now and stuck with them... even when two of them had an identity crisis. I'll get to that part soon.

  3. Thanks so much for reminding me of the cartoon! I knew I was getting up at 5am on Saturdays to watch _something_, but I could never remember what it was. Teddy Ruxpin? Captain N? No, those were later... Now, at least, I have one of the shows I must have watched! I loved the games, and therefore the cartoon as a kid would have been awesome, but trying to watch it again is painful.... (Same goes with the other two I just mentioned - Captain N is dreadful nowadays).

    I remember some kind of vampire town that would make sense that you had to visit only during a certain time of the day... was that in Dragon Warrior III? I can't remember now.

    1. Someone else watched it! I think it started at 6 am, but moved to 5 am for who knows what reason. I think at that point we had to rely on our VCR to record it. Glad I could bring back some good memories.

      I've come across a town where there's only people at night. It's kind of cool for that, but up to that point (and after) it's gimmicky and I don't really care much for it.

    2. I remember at the time really liking that feature. It might not be useful, but it just made so much sense. I've been walking around outside all day and now its getting dark. I definitely felt more immersed in my youth.

    3. You know what, I think maybe I was a little harsh calling it gimmicky. At the start of the game though, it really doesn't seem to add much. The game does a couple of neat things with the mechanic though. I can see it adding some realism to the world. Maybe I'm becoming too cynical.