Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior
A drawn image showing a knight in battle with a fire-breathing dragon. The game's title logo and a castle are superimposed over the scene.
North American box art
Developer(s) Chunsoft
Director(s) Koichi Nakamura
Producer(s) Yukinobu Chida
Designer(s) Yuji Horii
Programmer(s) Koichi Nakamura
Artist(s) Akira Toriyama
Composer(s) Koichi Sugiyama
Series Dragon Quest
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System, MSX, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy Color, mobile phones
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Role-playing game
Mode(s) Single-player
Media/distribution Cartridge, download

Dragon Warrior, known as Dragon Quest (ドラゴンクエスト Doragon Kuesuto?) in Japan, is the first role-playing video game (RPG) in the Dragon Quest media franchise. It was developed by Chunsoft for the Nintendo Entertainment System (known in Japan as the Family Computer or Famicom) and published by Enix in Japan in 1986. Dragon Warrior has been ported and remade for several video game platforms, including the MSX, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X68000, Super Nintendo (known in Japan as the Super Famicom), Game Boy Color, and mobile phones. During the game, players control a hero character who is charged with saving the kingdom of Alefgard and rescuing its princess from the antagonistic Dragonlord. Dragon Warrior's story later became the second part in a trilogy that encompasses the first three games in the series. Several anime and manga, which centered around this overarching plot, were created. Two of the manga take place between the events in Dragon Warrior and its prequel Dragon Warrior III.

The game was created by Yuji Horii, who took inspiration from previous RPGs such as Wizardry, Ultima, and his own 1983 title The Portopia Serial Murder Case. Horii wanted to create an RPG which would appeal to a wide audience of people who were unfamiliar with the genre or video games in general, place a greater emphasis than other RPGs on storytelling and emotional involvement, and expose the mainly Western genre to Japan. Manga artist and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama produced the game's artwork, while Koichi Sugiyama composed its music. A version of the game localized for North America was released in 1989 with numerous changes, including battery-backed RAM save games (rather than using a password save system), modified character sprites and location names, and pseudo-Elizabethan English style dialog.

Dragon Quest did well when it launched in Japan; in contrast, its release as Dragon Warrior in North America initially garnered less favorable reception. Later, Western critics noted the game's shortcomings but acknowledged its importance to the genre. Its original pseudo-Elizabethan English script has been praised in many of these reviews. Fan-made ROM hacks were released with substantial changes to the game. The game's sound effects have also been orchestrated, and its music has been performed at numerous concerts. Although the original Final Fantasy is considered more important due to its popularity in the West, Dragon Warrior has been credited with establishing the basic template for the Japanese console RPGs that followed.



Dragon Warrior is a role-playing video game. Its gameplay mechanics have been described, years after its release, as simplistic and spartan.[1][2] Players control a young hero who sets out to defeat a being known as the Dragonlord.[3] Before starting the game, players are presented with a menu which allows them to begin a new quest (a game), continue a previous quest, or change the speed in which messages appear on the screen. In the Japanese version, continuing a quest requires players to enter a password; in the North American Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) English version, the quest is saved onto the game cartridge's battery-backup (known in the game as an "Adventure Log" in the "Imperial Scrolls of Honor").[1] The English version also has options to delete or duplicate a saved quest. If players choose to start a new quest, they may give the hero any name they wish in either Japanese kana or English letters depending on the version.[4][5] The hero's name has an effect on his initial ability scores and their statistical growth over the course of the game. Each stat falls into one of two categories, one with faster growth than the other, and the game determines which path each stat uses with a formula based on the kana or letters in the character's name.[6]

Dragon Warrior provides players with a clear objective from the start and uses a series of smaller scenarios to increase the hero's strength in order to achieve the objective.[7] The game begins in King Lorik's chamber in Tantegel Castle, where the hero receives information about the Dragonlord and the stolen Balls of Light. After receiving some items and gold, the hero sets out on his quest to defeat the Dragonlord and retrieve the Balls of Light. Much of Dragon Warrior is spent talking to townspeople and gathering information from them that leads to additional places, events, and secrets. Players are advised to take notes on these hints for future reference. In addition to information, towns contain shops that sell improved weapons and armor; general stores where the player may buy other goods; inns that allow the hero to recover his health and magic; and shops that offer keys for purchase. Players may sell items at half price to shops that provide weapons, armor, or general goods. The hero's status window is shown whenever he stops moving, displaying his current experience level (LV) and the amount of hit points (HP), magic points (MP), gold (G), and experience points (E).[8][9]

A screenshot of a two-dimensional video game that shows a monster in the midst of a green landscape. Battle statistics and commands are displayed on the top and left sides of the image.
Battling a Slime in Dragon Warrior for the NES

To safely progress to the next areas in the game, players need to accumulate experience points and gold by defeating enemies outside of towns – in the overworld and in dungeons.[10] Apart from the Dragonlord's castle, there are no physical restrictions on where players can roam.[11] Instead, monsters increase in difficulty as players venture further from Tantegel castle. As the hero's level increases, players can explore further afield with less risk.[12] Enemies appear in random encounters and the hero fights one opponent at a time.[1] The encounter rate is lowest on fields and increases in forests and hills.[13] Battles are turn-based and fought from a first-person perspective while the hero remains off-screen.[1] In combat, players' objective is to defeat the enemy by reducing its HP to zero. During combat players have four commands: "fight", "run", "spell", and "item". The "fight" command causes the hero to attack the enemy with a weapon (or with his bare fists if no weapon is available) in an attempt to inflict damage. With the "run" command, the hero attempts to escape from a battle, which is recommended if his HP is low. The "spell" command casts magic that can, for example, heal the hero or damage the enemy. The "item" command uses herbs that replenish the hero's HP.[14]

During combat, the hero loses HP as when he takes damage, and the display turns red when his HP is low. If his HP falls to zero, he dies and is taken back to King Lorik to be resurrected, losing half his gold as punishment.[9] If the hero succeeds in defeating an enemy, he gains experience points and gold; if he gains enough experience points, his experience level increases, giving him greater strength, agility, speed, and the ability to use magic spells.[15] Every time a spell is used, the hero's MP decreases, with different spells costing different amounts of MP. Both HP and MP can be restored by resting at an inn. Additionally, a non-player character can replenish the hero's MP in Tantegel Castle.[14] As the hero earns more gold, he can purchase better weapons, armor, and items.[16] However, players have limited inventory space to hold items, so they need to manage their item collection conservatively.[1] The caves which the hero explores are dark and require the use of a torch to display a field of vision around the character.[17] In the English version, they can return to King Lorik at any point to save their quest.[15][18] Because the Japanese version does not have a battery backup, players receive a password to return to a quest at a later time.[1]

The control pad may be used to move the hero in any direction and to navigate the flashing cursor in menu displays. Additional buttons confirm and cancel commands. In the English version, players use menu commands to talk to people, check their status, search beneath their feet, use items, take treasure chests, open doors, and go up or down stairs.[1][2][19] However, in some of the game's later remakes, certain commands were assigned to buttons, navigating stairs became automatic,[10][20] and the hero's speed was increased.[1] In the Japanese version, characters always face forward, so players must choose a command and then a direction in which to perform that action.[1] In the North American version, the hero turns to face the direction he is moving, making direction selection unnecessary.[1]


Dragon Warrior's plot is a simplistic medieval "rescue the princess and slay the dragon" story.[2][10]


Dragon Warrior, its sequel, Dragon Warrior II, and its prequel, Dragon Warrior III, comprise a trilogy with a shared timeline.[21][22] The story's background goes back generations, when the kingdom of Alefgard was shrouded in permanent darkness. The brave warrior Erdrick (known as "Loto" in the Game Boy Color remake of the game) defeated an evil creature and restored light to the land. In Erdrick's possession were the Balls of Light, which he used to drive away enemies who threatened the kingdom. He handed the Balls of Light to King Lorik, and Alefgard remained peaceful for a long time.[3] The Balls of Light kept winters short in Alefgard and helped maintain peace and prosperity for the region.[23]

However, there was one man who shunned the Balls of Light's radiance and secluded himself in a mountain cave. One day, while exploring the cave's extensive network of tunnels, the man encountered a sleeping dragon who awoke upon his entrance. He feared the dragon would incinerate him with its fiery breath, but the dragon instead knelt before him and obeyed his commands. This man, who is later discovered to be a dragon,[24] became known as the Dragonlord.[23] One day, after his soul became corrupted by learning magic,[24] the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle and the nearby town of Breconnary with his fleet of dragons and set the town on fire. Riding a large red dragon, the Dragonlord descended upon Tantegel Castle and stole the Balls of Light. Soon, monsters began to appear throughout the entire land, destroying everything in their path.[23] Much of the land became poisonous marshes, and some towns and villages were completely destroyed.[3]

The following day, Erdrick arrived at Tantegel Castle to speak with King Lorik and offered his help to defeat the Dragonlord. After searching the land for clues to the Dragonlord's whereabouts, Erdrick found that he resided on an island that could only be accessed via a magical bridge that only a "Rainbow Drop" could generate. After venturing to the island, Erdrick was never heard from again.[23] Many years later, during King Lorik XVI's reign,[3] the Dragonlord attacked the kingdom again and captured Princess Gwaelin.[23] Many tried to rescue the princess and recover the Balls of Light from the Dragonlord's castle, Charlock, but none succeeded. The prophet Mahetta predicted that "One day, a descendant of the valiant Erdrick shall come forth to defeat the Dragonlord."[3] However, when the descendant (the game's hero) arrives, many of the people of Alefgard have forgotten the story of Erdrick, and those few who do remember consider it a myth and do not believe in Mahetta's prophecy. King Lorik starts to mourn the decline of his kingdom.[25]

Main story

The game begins when the player assumes the role of a stranger who arrives at Tantegel Castle. A castle guard tells him that a dragon has captured the princess and is holding her captive in a distant cave.[26] Determined to rescue the princess and defeat the Dragonlord, he discovers an ancient tablet hidden inside a desert cave; carved on the tablet is a message from Erdrick that outlines what the hero needs to do to follow in Erdrick's footsteps and defeat the Dragonlord.[23] The hero eventually rescues Princess Gwaelin, but realizes that in order to restore light to Alefgard, he must defeat the Dragonlord at Charlock Castle. After the hero collects a series of relics, he creates a bridge to reach Charlock and fights his way through the castle before finally confronting the Dragonlord. At this point the hero is given a choice – to side with the Dragonlord or to challenge him. If players choose the former, the game ends, the hero is put to sleep, and the game freezes;[1] however, in the Game Boy Color remake, the hero instead wakes up from a bad dream. If players choose to fight, a final battle between the hero and the Dragonlord commences.[23][27]

Once the hero defeats the Dragonlord, he triumphantly returns to Tantegel Castle where King Lorik offers his kingdom over as a reward. The hero turns down the offer and instead wishes to find his own kingdom. Accompanied by Princess Gwaelin, the hero then sets off in search of a new land; this sets the stage for the events in Dragon Warrior II, which take place many years later and tells the story of three of the hero's descendants.[23][28][29]


In Dragon Warrior the hero and the Dragonlord are the two main characters. Other major supporting characters include King Lorik; his daughter, Princess Gwaelin; and two sages the hero meets along his journey.[8]

The hero, who comes from a land beyond Alefgard,[30] is a descendant of the legendary Erdrick.[31][32] When he arrives, he does not appear to be a warrior – he arrives without weapons or armor – and is ignorant of the situation. The populace thinks his claims to defeat the Dragonlord are preposterous; however, King Lorik saw something to give him hope and aids him on his quest.[30]

The Dragonlord is a dragon from Charlock Castle whose soul became evil by learning magic.[24] Rumors say that, through a spy network, he knows everything that happens in Alefgard.[30] He seeks "unlimited power and destruction",[24] which results in a rising tide of evil throughout Alefgard.[3] The Dragonlord's intention is to enslave the world with his army of monsters that are guided by his will.[8][30] He rules from Charlock Castle, visible from Tantegel Castle, the game's starting point.[8][7]

Development and release

Yuji Horii and his team at Chunsoft began Dragon Quest's production in 1985.[33] It was released in Japan in 1986 for the NES, the MSX,[34][35] and the NEC PC-9801.[36] Dragon Quest has been released on multiple platforms since its initial release, including the Sharp X68000 in 1992 in Japan,[37] and for mobile phones in 2004 with updated graphics similar to those of Dragon Quest VI.[38]

Historical backdrop

When Eidansha Boshu Service Center was founded in 1975 it published tabloid magazines that advertised real estate. In 1982, after failing to establish a chain of stores, the company's founder Yasuhiro Fukushima transformed it into a software company devoted to gaming and renamed it Enix. To find talent for the newly renamed company, Fukushima held the "Enix Game Hobby Program Contest". The competition was styled after manga competitions, advertised in both computer and manga magazines, and had a ¥1 million prize for the winners. The winners were Kazuro Morita (ja), Koichi Nakamura, and manga magazine Shōnen Jump editor Yuji Horii, who was the top winner. Horii designed a tennis game, Love Match Tennis, which became Enix's first release. While he did not believe he would win, he was motivated by his editor who enjoyed the games and would publish Horii's articles on them. Later, when Enix began creating games for the NES, Fukushima held another contest. This time the already renowned Nakamura won with his "cartoonish and creative contest entry" Door Door, which became Enix's first release for the NES.[39]

Horii's earliest influence behind Dragon Quest was his own 1983 PC visual novel The Portopia Serial Murder Case[40] – a murder mystery game where text and images tell a story and players solve puzzles through text-based commands. The game bears similarities to games such as Déjà Vu, Mystery House and Zork.[39][41] Horii wanted to advance the game's storyline by using dialogue. Portopia was originally released for Japan's NEC PC-6001 and was later ported to the NES in 1985.[41] The port was Enix's second release for the system and the first game which Horii and Nakamura worked on together on.[39] Horii redesigned the interface for the port to accommodate the console's limited controls,[41] and added areas to the game in which the detective battles monsters.[39] While Portopia did not directly result in Dragon Quest's creation, it was, according to 1UP.com, "a proving ground" for the RPG.[41]

At the time I first made Dragon Quest, computer and video game RPGs were still very much in the realm of hardcore fans and not very accessible to other players. So I decided to create a system that was easy to understand and emotionally involving, and then placed my story within that framework.

Yuji Horii on the design of the first Dragon Quest[42]

The original idea for Dragon Quest came during the development of Portopia. Horii and Nakamura came across the RPG Wizardry at a Macworld Conference & Expo. While it had some influence on Portopia, Horii liked the game's depth and visuals. He wanted to create a game similar to Wizardry, while attempting to expose the mainly Western-exclusive RPG genre to Japan and expand the genre past computer enthusiasts.[39][41] Along with Wizardry, Horii cited Ultima as an inspiration for Dragon Quest's gameplay,[43][44] specifically the first-person random battles in Wizardry and the overhead perspective of the latter.[1] While the RPG genre was predominantly Western and limited to PCs, Japanese gamers enjoyed "home-grown" games such as the The Black Onyx and the Dragon Slayer series alongside Western RPG ports. However, while he and Nakamura enjoyed the dungeon crawling and statistical nature of Wizardry, they realized most people would not. This had not originally been a concern, but the success of Super Mario Bros. greatly increased the potential audience of any new NES game. To create Dragon Quest, the gameplay needed to be simplified.[39] According to Horii: "There was no keyboard, and the system was much simpler, using just a [game] controller. But I still thought that it would be really exciting for the player to play as their alter ego in the game. I personally was playing Wizardry and Ultima at the time, and I really enjoyed seeing my own self in the game."[41]

In order to create an RPG that would appeal to a wide audience who were unfamiliar with the genre or video games in general, Horii wanted to create a new kind of RPG that did not rely on previous experience with the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, did not require hundreds of hours of rote fighting, and could appeal to any kind of gamer. To accomplish this he needed to simplify the system and have players associate themselves with the hero.[39][42] Thus as the game progressed, the hero would become stronger, in contrast to games like Super Mario Bros. where the character Mario did not become more powerful over the course of the game.[39] He wanted to build on Portopia and place a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement. He developed a coming of age tale that audiences could relate to and made use of RPG level-building gameplay as a way to represent this.[40]

Japanese development

Horii believed that the NES was the ideal platform for Dragon Quest because, players would not have to worry about spending money if they got a game over, and they could continue playing from where they left off, unlike if it was an arcade game. He wanted to include multiple player characters but was forced to use only one due to memory constraints. Horri knew that RPGs had a higher learning curve than other video games of the time, and to compensate for this he implemented quick level-ups at the start of the game and gave players a clear final goal that is visible from the world map's starting point: the Dragonlord's castle. He also provided a series of smaller scenarios in order to build up the player's strength to achieve the final objective.[7] He created an open world which is not blocked physically in any way except by monsters that can easily kill unprepared players; Gamasutra described this as one of the earliest examples of nonlinear gameplay. Horii used bridges to signify a change in difficulty. He also implemented a level progression with a high starting growth rate that decelerates over time, which contrasted to the random initial stats and constant growth rates of the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.[45]

To make the game appeal to a larger audience, the renowned Manga artist and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama was hired to produce the artwork.[39][46] As with Dragon Ball, Toriyama's artwork features characters "whose strength and cunning transcend generations", but also includes humorous elements such as a chibi style.[47]

Koichi Sugiyama, the game's music composer, sought Enix out. Sugiyama sent a PC game's feedback questionnaire to Enix; he was already a well known television composer, and, upon seeing Sugiyama's feedback, Fukushima contacted him to confirm that "he was the Sugiyama from television."[39] Upon confirmation, Fukushima asked if he would compose a score for Dragon Quest, which Sugiyama agreed.[39] The game's classical score would be his second video game composition after Wingman 2.[48] He said it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme. Sugiyama noted the difficulty in adding a personal touch to the short jingles, but that his past experience with creating music for TV commercials helped. According to Sugiyama, there are only "three to five seconds" to catch the audience's attention through music. The theme and his other jingles for Dragon Quest have remained relatively intact in its sequels.[48]

North American localization

Two-dimensional video game screenshots that show the same scene. The background is identical, but the characters look different.
Dragon Quest (left) and Dragon Warrior (right) had noticeable graphical differences.

Coverage of Dragon Quest's North American localization first appeared in Nintendo Fun Club News's Winter 1988 issue – where the title changed to Dragon Warrior. The title was changed to avoid infringing on the trademark on wargame publisher Simulations Publications's pen-and-paper RPG DragonQuest – a game which, after the company's bankruptcy in 1982, was purchased by TSR, Inc. and continued to be published as an alternative to Dungeons & Dragons until 1987.[44][49] The article about the game featured images from the game's Japanese version as well as Erdrick's original name ("Roto"), the Dragonlord's original name ("Dragon King"), and the original name of the game's starting location (Radatome Castle). It briefly explained the backstory and basic gameplay elements, comparing the game to The Legend of Zelda.[50] The game was later mentioned in Nintendo Power's "Pak Watch" preview section in March 1989, mentioning Dragon Quest III's Japanese release in the magazine's premiere July 1988 issue. It again mentioned the rename from Dragon Quest to Dragon Warrior, how the game inspired two Japanese sequels, and how its release was "still a ways off".[51]

Dragon Warrior was released in North America by Nintendo of America under the direction of Satoru Iwata with help from Horii in August 1989 – months before the Japanese release of Dragon Quest IV.[52][53] Because the game was released in North America nearly three years after the original release in Japan, the graphics were improved. Instead of lengthy passwords with kana characters, the North American version features a battery-backed RAM savegame.[1] Akira Toriyama's artwork in the instruction booklets was also changed to reflect the more serious tone that Enix wanted to convey to the North American audience; while the characters maintain the same poses, they have a more serious and mature look than in the Japanese versions.[47] The game's character sprites were changed so that they face their direction of travel; in the Japanese versions, the sprites are smaller and only face forwards, requiring players to choose a direction for actions from a menu. Spells were given self-explanatory one-word titles instead of the made-up words of the Japanese version. Locations were renamed, and dialogue was rewritten from its more whimiscal style comparable to Dragon Ball to a style inspired by Elizabethan English,[1][54] with sentences such as "Thy hit points have decreased by 1.".[52] Nintendo also removed any salacious humor and religious connotations from the English version.[52] One of the more notable changes in the North American version involves a woman in the town where the hero first buys keys. In the North American version, the woman sells tomatoes, but in the Japanese version, she offers to sell puff-puff – a Japanese onomatopoeia for a girl rubbing her breasts in someone's face, which can also be used for the general term of a girl juggling her own breasts.[44] The term has been included in the game's sequels as well as in Toriyama's Dragon Ball series.[55]

While Toriyama would later become more widely known for the North American success of Dragon Ball Z, he was unknown outside of Japan when Dragon Warrior was released. Katsuya Terada created some of the artwork for the early Dragon Warrior articles in Nintendo Power. Neither Terada nor those editing the artwork for the instruction booklet completely ignored Toriyama's work; they used the settings and character poses to create alternate artwork with an "American flavor".[56] While the Japanese hero was drawn in a super deformed manga style, the English version's appearance is based on "the West's template of a medieval hero".[56]

In June 1989, Electronic Gaming Monthly's "Quartermann" speculated that Dragon Warrior would be Nintendo's "big release" in North America that Christmas. He based this on the series's immense popularity in Japan especially after Dragon Quest III's sales.[57] Nintendo Power provided three feature articles on Dragon Warrior from May to October 1989[15][24][32] and the November–December 1989 issue includes a strategy guide.[58] The March–April 1990 issue of Nintendo Power has a map of the game world, with a poster of Super Contra on the other side; this issue also features a Dragon Warrior text adventure.[59]

In late 1990, Nintendo Power gave away free copies of Dragon Warrior to subscribers,[41] including a 64-page "Explorer's Handbook" that has a full walkthrough of the game and additional backstory not mentioned in the original instruction booklet.[60] Nintendo was desperate to get rid of unsold copies of the game, so they gave them away for free to subscribers.[61] At the time, the game cost US$50, and the magazine's subscription fee was only $20 ($89 and $35 respectively, adjusted for inflation).[52] The giveaway attracted nearly 500,000 new magazine subscribers, and many others renewed their subscription just to get the game.[52][61][62] This ultimately led to the success of the series in the Western market.[61]


A two-dimensional video game screenshot that shows the protagonist in front of a castle. The graphics are more detailed than those in the previous game images.
Dragon Quest, updated for the Japanese Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The image shows Tantegel Castle, the hero's starting location (center), and the Dragonlord's Charlock Castle (bottom-right).

Enix remade Dragon Quest, along with Dragon Quest II, for a one-cartridge compilation known as Dragon Quest I + II for the Super Nintendo on December 18, 1993. The remake sold over 1.2 million copies in Japan.[63] In 1998, Enix released BS Dragon Quest for the Super Nintendo Satellaview extension exclusively in Japan.[64] The latte consisted of four one-hour scenarios where players would download on a weekly scnerios. Players were tasked each week with leveling their character, and collecting medals and completeting scenerio specific conditions with special events designed to occur under specific conditions in real-time.[65]

Dragon Warrior was re-released, along with Dragon Warrior II, as part of a similar compilation for the Game Boy Color (GBC), titled Dragon Warrior I & II. It was developed by Tose and released by Enix on September 23, 1999 in Japan and September 27, 2000, in North America.[66][67] It uses an entirely new translation, discarding the pseudo-Elizabethan English style and using names closer to the Japanese version.[10][44] In this remake, "Dragonlord" is changed to "DracoLord", and "Erdrick" is changed to "Loto". Several additional features were added. For example, players can quicksave their game anytime outside of battle (the quicksave is then deleted after it or standard saved game is loaded)[2][20] and they can store some of their gold for future use in a bank in case they die.[10] The menu was streamlined and monsters yield more experience and gold to reduce the amount of time needed to increase levels and to make saving up for purchases faster.[20]

Both the Nintendo and Super Nintendo versions of the game, along with Dragon Quest II and Dragon Quest III, are scheduled to be re-released under the Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Collection compilation for the Wii in Japan on September 15, 2011. The compilation will include original copies of the strategy guides for the games as well as original artwork and material on the games' development.[34]

Related media

Dragon Warrior has spawned related media in the form of a manga series (which has been adapted to anime) and a symphonic video game soundtrack.

Anime and manga

The manga series, Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō (ドラゴンクエスト列伝 ロトの紋章?, Dragon Quest Saga: Emblem of Roto), was written by Chiaki Kawamata and Junji Koyanagi, with artwork by Kamui Fujiwara. Monthly Shōnen Gangan published it from 1991 to 1997.[68] Enix compiled the series into 21 volumes,[69] which were later released on CD in 1994. It was released on December 11, 2009 for the PlayStation Store as part of the initial launch of Sony's digital comic distribution.[70] In 1996, an anime movie based on the manga was released on video cassette.[71] Square Enix published a sequel series, Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō ~Monshō o Tsugumono-tachi e~ (ドラゴンクエスト列伝 ロトの紋章 ~紋章を継ぐ者達へ~?, Dragon Quest Retsuden: Emblem of Roto – To the Children Who Inherit the Emblem), starting in 2005.[72] Jun Eishima (ja) wrote the first four volumes, while Takashi Umemura wrote the last five; Yuji Horii supervised the manga, while Kamui Fujiwara contributed the artwork.[73]

Dragon Quest Saga: Emblem of Roto is meant to take place between Dragon Warrior III and Dragon Warrior. The plot follows a storyline in which, after monsters possessed Carmen's king for seven years, the kingdom fell to the hordes of evil. The only survivors were Prince Arus and an army General's daughter, Lunafrea. Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Loran, a child is born and is named Jagan per the demon lord Imagine's orders. Arus and Lunafrea set out to defeat the monsters and restore peace to the world.[74] The sequel, To the Children Who Inherit the Emblem, takes place five years after the events in Dragon Quest Saga: Emblem of Roto. The world is once again in chaos and a young boy, Arosu (アロス?), sets out to gather companions to help him save the world from evil.[73]


Koichi Sugiyama composed and directed the game's music.[43] The soundtrack included eight tracks, which have been described by RPGFan as "the foundation for Sugiyama's career".[75] The pieces have been arranged and incorporated into later Dragon Warrior games' soundtracks.[75] The music has been released in a variety of different formats. The first was as a Drama CD, released by Enix on July 19, 1991, which incorporated a spoken story with the music.[76][77] Super Famicom Edition Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest I, published by Sony Records on January 12, 1994, followed; the soundtrack featured orchestral versions of the tracks played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as well as the original versions of the tunes.[78] The game's classical score was considered revolutionary for console game music.[79] The soundtrack's "eight melodies" approach set the template for most RPG soundtracks released since then, hundreds of which have been organized in a similar manner.[80]

The orchestral albums for Dragon Warrior I and II were combined in Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest I•II, released by SME Visual Works on August 23, 2000, King Records reprinted it on October 7, 2009.[81] The orchestral tracks were again released in the Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest I album, including orchestral versions of the game's sound effects.[75] Numerous live concerts have featured performances of the game's music; many performances were later released as albums such as Dragon Quest in Concert and Suite Dragon Quest I•II.[82][83]

Reception and sales

NES version

Review scores
Publication Score
Famitsu 35 / 40
GameSpot 8.0 / 10
IGN 9.6 / 10 7.8 / 10
Nintendo Power 8 / 10 3 / 5
Aggregate scores
GameRankings 84.36%

Initial sales of the game were so low, Enix was going to lose money, but several Shonen Jump articles by Horii helped increased its sales substantially. People liked Toriyama's artwork and Sugiyama's music, which the book Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life said "was richer and more exciting than any game music had ever sounded".[39] The game was extremely popular in Japan and became the first in a series that, as of 2011, includes nine games with several spin-off series and stand-alone titles. The Japanese version sold over 2 million copies (and Shonen Jump increased its weekly sales from 4.5 to 6 million due to Dragon Quest tie-ins).[39] The Dragon Quest I & II remake for the SNES sold 1.2 million copies.[63][84] Dragon Warrior's initial English version was met with average results overall. Nintendo Power ranked it as third out of five upon its original release.[24] It debuted at No. 7 on the magazine's bimonthly "Top 30" top NES games list in November 1989.[85] It climbed to No. 5 in January 1990 and remained there for 4 months;[86][87] it then dropped to No. 11 in May,[88] No. 14 in July,[89] and No. 16 in September 1990 before it dropped off the list.[90] In the "Nintendo Power Awards 1989", the game was nominated for "Best Theme, Fun" and "Best Overall";[91] it failed to win in either category.[92] In response to Japanese youths' arrests while waiting for Dragon Quest III's release, Electronic Gaming Monthly's Quartermann said that the game was not "that special at all". He compared Dragon Warrior to the NES' Ultima III: Exodus and told others to play that game instead.[93] While the English version has been seen as a flop,[61] there are skeptics. According to Power-Up author and video game expert Chris Kohler, the Nintendo Power subscription was a succcess and allowed Enix to bring the next three games over. Moreover, Nintendo profited immensely from the Dragon Warrior subscription giveaway. The sales generated from the subscription helped bankroll Nintendo because "Nintendo Power was essentially a hundred-page monthly ad for Nintendo products", and it was now in thousands of households.[52]

The game's release has been regarded as a milestone in the history of the console RPG.[33][49] Kohler noted that Toriyama's and Sugiyama's contributions to the game "made Dragon Quest as visually and aurally exciting as the game play was unique and sophisticated."[39] GameSpot named it as one of the fifteen most influential titles in video game history.[94] IGN listed it as the eighth best all-time NES game.[95] In 2005, they listed it as the 92nd-best all-time video game,[96] and in the list's 2007 version, they listed it as the 29th best.[97] Nintendo Power rated Dragon Warrior as the 140th-best game made on a Nintendo System in their Top 200 Games list in 2006.[98] IGN reviewed the game years later and gave it a 7.8 out of 10,[99] and RPGamer's Bill Johnson gave it a 4 out of 5 overall score.[2][100] The NES' localization has received considerable praise for adding extra characters and depth to the story.[1][2] The stylized dialogue's removal in the GBC remake has similarly been lamented.[10]

Seemingly primitive by today's standards, Dragon Warrior features one-on-one combat, a limited item and equipment array, ten spells, five towns, and five dungeons.[1][2][6][32] 1UP.com explained why the series was not immensely popular at first in North America; American console gamers were not used to the idea of RPGs, and they said that would take a decade for the genre to be "flashy enough to distract from all of those words they made you read".[61] GameCritics' Chi Kong Lui commented on how the game added "realism" to video games, writing: "If a player perished in Dragon Warrior, he or she had to suffer the dire consequences of losing progress and precious gold. That element of death evoked a sense of instinctive fear and tension for survival."[101] This, he said, allowed players to identify with the main character on a much larger scale. IGN writer Mark Nix compared the game's seemingly archaic plot to more modern RPGs; he said: "Noble blood means nothing when the society is capitalist, aristocratic, or militaristic. Damsels don't need rescuing – they need a battle axe and some magic tutoring in the field."[10] While reviewing Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, GameSpy staff wrote that, for many gamers, Dragon Warrior was their first exposure to the console RPG. Recalling their past, one of the staff members commented:

"It opened my eyes to a fun new type of gameplay. Suddenly strategy (or at least pressing the "A" button) was more important than reflex, and the story was slightly (slightly!) more complex than the 'rescue the princess' stuff I'd seen up 'till then. After all, Dragon Warrior was only half-over when you rescued its princess."[102]

Bill Johnson compared Dragon Warrior to modern RPGs by noting the complete lack of replay value, which is due as much to the requirement that almost everything in the game must be done to beat it as to its difficulty. Johnson still noted the game's historical importance; he said: "[Playing Dragon Warrior is] a tough road to walk, but reaching its end will instill [sic] a new appreciation of what today's RPG's are all about."[2] The 2009 book Vintage Games contrasted the game to the 1986 NES title The Legend of Zelda; it said, while both titles share common RPG elements, Zelda featured a fantasy setting and magic but no level or turn-based combat system, and Dragon Warrior featured both.[103] In a column called "Play Back", Nintendo Power reflected on the game, naming its historical significance as its greatest aspect; it noted that "playing Dragon Warrior these days can be a bit of a chore".[44] GamePro's Kat Bailey, Justin Haywald, Ray Barnholt, and special guest Tim Rogers commented about the game for its 25th anniversary public release. Their comparison of the Japanese version's graphics were that they were extremely poor and while they were improved for the English version, they were still simplistic. However, they mentioned that the MSX version was the worst. They also commented on the English version's box art that made it look like that the game was created entirely within the United States. Tim Rogers commented that his favorite aspect of the game was the English dialogue, and he was disappointed by its removal in the GBC remake; Kay Bailey mentioned that she found the game initially unapporachable because of the amounts of menu text.[54]


Famitsu gave the SNES compilation remake Dragon Quest I + II a 35 out of 40 rating.[104] The Sateliteview remake was given a mixed, but overall positive review by Microgroup. The touches such as the real-time event and vocing was appericated, but their implimentation was left much to be desired. However they medal collection was a nice way to compete with friends and overall enjoyed the game.[65] Dragon Warrior's English remake, as part of the dual GBC cartridge Dragon Warrior I & II, received better reviews than the original, garnering overall high praise. IGN and Nintendo Power gave it an 8 out of 10. IGN's Marc Nix noted that while "it's one of the only interesting RPGs on the Game Boy Color to actually make American shores", players will feel frustrated; those who played the original will lament the changes, while new players will feel that the game is too linear and simple.[105][106] GameSpot gave it a 9.6 out of 10, citing the great improvements to sound quality and the appeal of playing both games in succession,[107] and GameRankings reports an 83.46% overall score.[106] It received RPGamer's Game Boy Color Award of the Year for 2000.[108] Comparing it to its NES counterpart, RPGamer's Derek Cavin gave it 3 out of 5, noting that the game is above average in all major accounts, particularly praising the visual elements. While he criticized the game's repetitiveness, he said that it is short enough that most players should finish the game before it becomes an issue.[100] Combined, both the SNES and GBC remakes sold more than 1.94 million copies worldwide.[109] With the remakes' good sales performances, Enix went on to release Dragon Warrior III for the GBC in 2001, which was based on a previously unreleased SNES update of Dragon Quest III' English version.[110]

Related media

Square Enix Music Online's Juan2Darien reviewed the game's symphonic scores: Dragon Quest Suite; Dragon Quest I Remix Symphonic Suite (London Philharmonic Orchestra); Dragon Quest I & II Symphonic Suite (London Phil. Orchestra Remastered); and Dragon Quest I Symphonic Suite (Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra). Comparing each of the symphonic suites individually, he gave all ratings ranging 7 through 9 out of 10, however he still found the Tokyo Strings Ensemble recording superior to the aforementioned symphonic suites. While the music is somewhat flat, Juan2Darien acknowledged this is due to the source material and instead focused his praise on Koichi Sugiyama's and the orchestras' effort to compose an above-average piece despite the limitation.[111] Gamasutra's Kurt Kalata also praised the symphonies' melody, commenting that "the overworld theme ... is pretty simplistic and grating, but actually sounds pretty beautiful when played by a live orchestra".[1]

Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō – To the Children Who Inherit the Emblem has sold well in Japan. For the week of August 26 to September 1, 2008, volume 7 was ranked 9th in Japan, selling 59,540 copies.[112] For the week of February 24 to March 2, 2009, volume 8 was ranked 19th in Japan, selling 76,801 copies.[113] For the week of October 26 to November 1, 2009, volume 9 was ranked 16th in Japan, selling 40,492 copies for a total of 60,467.[72]


Bits and pieces of Dragon Warrior had been seen in videogames before, but never all sewn up together so neatly. DW's incredible combination of gameplay elements established it as THE template for console RPGs to follow.

William Cassidy, The GameSpy Hall of Fame: Dragon Warrior[114]

Dragon Warrior's release has been marked as one of the few notable turning points in video game history.[33] The game has been listed as a genre builder for RPGs around the world.[33][49][115] Its popularity in Japan synonymous RPGs in general.[39] While the game's elements had been in previous RPGs titles, it set the template for all others to follow; almost all of its elements became the foundation for nearly every game of the genre to come, from gameplay to narrative,[49][101][114][115][116] replacing D&D as the model to follow. In addition, according to Shigeru Miyamoto, the success of Dragon Quest changed the nature of video game development by making scenario writers far more important.[39]

When Dragon Warrior was released, many of the development techniques used were intended to make up for hardware limitations, but contemporary RPG developers continue to use them despite technological advances that would normally render them unnecessary.[101] Dragon Warrior introduced the damsel-in-distress storyline that many RPGs follow,[94] as well as a romance element that remains a staple of the genre.[117] The game's 2D graphic style was also used by most RPGs until the usage of 3D graphics.[94] Dragon Warrior's top-down perspective has become "a dead giveaway to an RPG".[94] The game featured elements still found in most RPGs, such as the ability to obtain better equipment, major quests that intertwine with minor subquests, an incremental spell system, usage of hit points and experience points, and a medieval theme.[118] Reviewers said that, while Final Fantasy has been considered more important due to its popularity and attention in North America, Dragon Warrior laid down the fundamentals on which that game was based.[94][114][115] Dragon Quest is also credited with affecting D&D's leveling system to even out its randomness by giving more bonuses early on and giving starting characters maximum hit points at their initial level.[45]

In the Nintendo Power's November 2010 issue, in celebration of the NES' 25th anniversary in North America, Horii recalled the making of Dragon Warrior. A fan of basic RPG mechanics, he had sought to simplify the interfaces, saying that many other RPGs' interfaces at the time "were so complicated that they intimidated new users". He said that the simplified gameplay was what made the game appealing to people and was what made the franchise's success possible. Moreover, he heard from others at the time that the NES lacked sufficient capacity for RPGs, motivating him more to make one.[119]

Dragon Quest became a national phenomenon in Japan, inspiring spinoff media and other fan items such as figurines.[114] The video game industry has called it as Japan's national game.[120] Horii, who was linked through his Shonen Jump articles, increased immensely becoming a common household name in Japan similar to that of Stephen Speilberg in the United States; in contrast Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, is not nearly as well known.[39] In a Famitsu poll, the Japanese public voted Dragon Quest as their 7th most favorite game for the NES.[121] Several clones such as Glory of Heracles and Legend of the Ghost Lion and Mother were inspired by the Japanese version's success.[122] For Mother, Shigesato Itoi (a fan of Dragon Quest) and Miyamoto (a detractor of RPGs in general) worked together to create an RPG that would subvert the Dragon Quest RPG template. Itoi did so by changing the setting and themes from the Middle Ages to America.[39] In addition, Dragon Warrior, along with other NES titles, has spawned many ROM hacks in recent years. One notable hack includes Super Mario Remix II; the hack features a new plot and revised character sprites to reflect the Mario series, while the gameplay and layout remain the same.[123] Its popularity has become so prevalent in Japan, asking the common Japanese individual "to draw 'slime'" will lead them to draw a shape similar to that of the game's slime.[39]


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