Where would we be without the Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan) franchise? Seriously?! How would RPG’s on the NES have played out differently if Enix hadn’t published this magical set of RPG’s for a fledgling system braking all the rules in a marketplace that only 3 years earlier had nearly imploded on itself. Sure you have Square’s Final Fantasy series coupled with the merger of the two companies to create the RPG juggernaut Square Enix, but we have to look back to what started it all on the NES… and then look at its sequel. We are looking at Dragon Warrior II after all.
Eight months after the release of the first Dragon Warrior, and a mere two years after the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Dragon Warrior II hit the scene. This game took off like wildfire in Japan selling well over 2 million units before it came to America where it saw a moderately successful release. RPG’s weren’t really hot sellers in America until well into the 1990’s. It’s considered by many to be not only a sequel to the first game but a way for Enix to show that they listened to the consumer by fixing some of the issues the first game had. It’s almost hard to type that last sentence as the last thing I want to do is ever suggest there was anything wrong with Dragon Warrior. Alas, Enix was right to address these issues as they move in the direction of what most RPG’s would become.
One of the first things they did was introduce a pseudo party system to Dragon Warrior II. I say pseudo party system as later games would allow you to pick and choose your party while Dragon Warrior II had a set 3 characters, two of which you get later in the game through your travels. As a matter of fact the first half of the game is party building which sounds like a cheap way to artificially extend the game, but it happens organically as you adventure around the world of Alefgard and Middenhall Castle. By the time you find your first additional party member you’re well established as a mid-level fighter with some pretty legit armour and weapons. The second party member is a cross between a warrior and a wizard, something closely akin to a Cleric in the D&D world though with a whole lot less healing abilities. When you finally find the third party member I’d estimate that you’re more than halfway through the game. She is closer in nature to the traditional White Mage, though as she gets stronger she has more Red Mage attributes and nearing the end of the game will become one of your most powerful party members.
Cast of Characters:
- Lorasia – The Prince of Middenhall, the ancestor of the famous warrior Erdrick, and the main character controlled by the player. He is sent on this mission by his father and plays the part of the classic RPG Warrior.
- Samantoria – The Prince of Cannock, the Cleric of the group and the second party member of the game. In later games his class would fall more in line with the Hero Class of Dragon Warrior tradition.
- Moonbrook – The Princess of Moonbrooke, the final party member, and the classic Mage of the party. Her castle is destroyed in the opening seconds of the game.
- Hargon – An evil sorcerer and the main antagonist who starts the game by destroying Moonbrooke Castle thus sending our adventurers on their journey.
One of the greatest moments in the game is when you realize that a small portion of the map of Dragon Warrior II is actually the entire map from Dragon Warrior I. You can even visit the original castle of the evil Dragonlord and speak to his ancestor who turns out to be kind of nice and understanding. And unless I’m terribly mistaken the starting castle of Dragon Warrior, Tantegel Castle and its neighbor city, is also a location you can visit and there are secrets in the now combined castle and town that hint at the first game.
Connecting game storylines seems rather silly to discuss as they are pretty commonplace today. But in 1987 when this game launched that was nearly unheard of. Enix was doing it right and would continue this tradition with the third installment of the game, though in a much more grandiose way. However, that’s a tale for another time.
To finish off I wanted to mention that Dragon Warrior II is still a relatively inexpensive pick-up for an NES Classic. You can find it on eBay for a reasonable price and it’s not so rare you won’t find it at your friendly local game store. That being said, Dragon Warrior II and pretty much most classic Enix, Square, and Square Enix RPG’s can be downloaded for a very reasonable price from iTunes. It was a glorious day when I found out that little nugget of information. I immediately downloaded Dragon Warrior II as well as the other three NES titles onto my iPad and thus ended my productivity at work. They are great remakes of the original games with some helpful upgrades here and there. One downside to playing the iOS versions are that a few things have changed, so if you get stuck and need a walkthrough, there is a chance it won’t help you that much. The other issue I had, at least at first, were the controls. There is a bit of a learning curve involved with the controls, but once you get it down they work fine.
I won’t deny my love for Dragon Warrior II and pretty much the entire franchise. It is a series of games I’ll play and beat at least once a year. Within the last five years I haven’t gone 365 days without picking out one of the classic titles and putting it through its paces. It’s simply a great franchise.
Do yourself a favor and play these games again when you get the chance. And if you’ve never played these games, then consider this a call to action. Happy Gaming!
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