Console: NES Company: Enix Release Date: August 1991 Genre: RPG Number of Players: One Save Feature? Yes!
Although the previous two Dragon Warrior games had their moments, Dragon Warrior III was the first one that came across as being a truly great game. With its revolutionary class system and unique day-night feature, the third Dragon Warrior epic was clearly more advanced than the other RPGs of its day. It was also the first true prequel that I recall playing.
Overview: After completing the long, arduous journey known as Dragon Warrior II, the third installment in the greatest RPG series to ever grace the NES was like a breath of fresh air. It just seemed like Enix finally got it right with the third game. The gameplay felt more balanced, the new additions were quite revolutionary for not only the series but the RPG genre as a whole, and it was simply more enjoyable to play than the previous two games. It was still challenging at times and even seemingly unfair but still, at least there was no Rhone Cave this time around (Thank God for that!)
Without a doubt, the class system was the greatest gift that Dragon Warrior III gave to the RPG community. It was so simple yet so far-reaching in terms of its influence on the genre. Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Dragon Warrior VII are just a few of the games that come to mind that would have been very different had it not been for Dragon Warrior III.
Dragon Warrior III allows you to select not only the name and sex of each character that you decide to add to your party (this in itself was quite rare for games of this era) but the class as well. The class options include the following:
Hero: a well-balanced character with high attack power, HP, and good (and in some cases exclusive) support/offensive magic
Soldier: very high strength, HP, and exceptional growth in general (can't learn magic though)
Pilgrim: average strength, great at learning support magic
Mage: low strength but outstanding at learning offensive magic
Fighter: high strength and very high agility, the most proficient at inflicting outstanding hits on enemies
Merchant: decent attack power, able to snag extra gold pieces after battle as well as appraising items (can't learn magic however)
Goof-Off: lousy at just about everything except luck (which is off the charts) and laughs
Sage: outstanding character with decent strength, high agility, and ability to learn virtually every spell in the game
What was so cool about the class system was the variety of options at your disposal as well as the strategy involved. Although the recommended party was a Soldier, Pilgrim, and Mage (in addition to the Hero of course), you could now mix and match and try different combinations. For an extra challenge, bring a Goof-Off along!
This system really catered to the game's replay value as well. For the first time, there was actually some incentive to play the game more than once! For example, during my first playthrough (way back in 1996), I took along the ideal party I just mentioned. However, during my second playthrough (which is still in progress actually!), I decided to take along a Fighter, Merchant, and a Goof-Off instead (that lasted for an hour or so; I switched the Goof-Off for a much-needed Mage). It has truly been a different experience (a more difficult one for sure although I now prefer Fighters over Soldiers) which is amazing for a 1991 game pak!
The second notable addition to Dragon Warrior III would have to be the day-night feature. For the first time in RPG history, there was now a noticeable passage of time. As you journey throughout the world, you will notice your surroundings gradually shifting color and growing darker and darker until it is suddenly nighttime. Stronger and in some cases completely new enemies would appear and the chances of running into a random battle would increase significantly during the evening. Not only that but the various castles, towns, and villages located throughout the immense world of DW3 (by far the largest game of its kind during 1991) would change as well. Many of the townsfolk would say slightly different statements, villagers who had been gone during the day would now be available for comment, and passageways that had been blocked off/guarded during the day would be suddenly accessible. There was even one case where time itself reversed at night and allowed you to talk to people who had been tragically killed by the Archfiend possibly years ago! This feature gave Dragon Warrior III a complexity that simply did not exist in the first two games.
Still, DW3 is most definitely related to the previous two Dragon Warrior games. The battle system is virtually identical to the one found in Dragon Warrior II and the game plays so much like its predecessors...almost to a fault! Since it is indeed a prequel, you will find yourself trekking through very familiar territory as well.
Graphics: Although the graphics in Dragon Warrior III certainly won't blow anyone away, I felt that they served their purpose nicely. Overall, they are definitely better than the graphics in the first DW game and are probably slightly better than the ones in DW2. Like its immediate predecessor, the color scheme favored bright, vibrant colors over the more drab ones that pervaded the first DW game. While the overworld graphics haven't changed much except for the day-night feature (which was nicely done by the way) the castles and towns as a whole just look much better than they did in the past. This is clearly evident in Aliahan, the Hero's hometown. There is just a nice blend of bright colors and some of the little things like flowers lining the streets or pots/barrels/bushes found in homes impressed me (for a Dragon Warrior game mind you). The character graphics seemed sharp as well. This could simply be because each character has a different look depending on sex and class but I didn't notice the characters blending in with the background as badly as they did in DW2. Whatever the reason, the overall variety was just better than that found in the previous two games.
While the battle graphics were identical to DW2 in format (you would see your enemies facing you with black background graphics), the enemy graphics seemed, once again, slightly sharper for some reason. I've got to say that many of the enemies looked great and the sheer variety was amazing for an NES game. Of course, you had plenty of duplicates (same enemies with a different color or a slightly different feature) but even the newer games seem to do this. I still missed the colorful background found in the original Dragon Warrior, however. It's not a huge deal but the black background just didn't do it for me. It seemed like a cop-out of sorts.
Music: Like the first two Dragon Warrior games, DW3 featured plenty of catchy, memorable music. Once you've got the town theme or overworld track in your head, there's no forgetting it! What's amazing is that the first two Dragon Warrior games also contained exceptional music in the overworld screen. How Koichi Sugiyama (the composer) was able to come up with yet another great tune is beyond me.
Although the main overworld track is a dandy, my favorite track in the game has to be the classic "My Road, My Journey" remix that plays very late in the game. Just hearing this incredibly nostalgic tune once more was too cool! That and the fact that it occurs so late in the game was quite a surprise. It definitely gave the kingdom of Alefgard the perfect feel...just like it did in the original game.
Ramia's theme is also a dandy. Although it sounds very dated now, the tune that plays while you fly high above the world on the legendary bird was great for its time. The ship theme is okay (nothing can compare with FF1's theme), the village track is soft and soothing, and the castle theme is grand and majestic as usual.
While it wasn't horrible or anything, the battle music, unfortunately, still didn't have that "it" factor. It's okay and all but just pales in comparison to the other tracks in the game. What's unfortunate is that you'll be hearing it a lot! It's kind of odd hearing the beautiful rendition of "My Road, My Journey" and suddenly hearing the average battle theme again. And, although this was a 1991 release, I wish that the boss battle music would have been a different theme. Even the first Final Fantasy game had different music during a boss battle!!
At least the music that plays during the game's final battle was different. It was actually pretty good and the ending theme which followed was fantasic! If only all of the music could have been like this...
It's probably not worth mentioning but the sound effects were good...if you liked the ones in Dragon Warrior II. Everything in terms of SFX is virtually identical to what you heard in the previous DW game and even the original Dragon Warrior. While this might not say much for originality, I didn't mind.
Play Control: Like the game's sound effects, the play control is pretty much identical to that found in DW2. I thought that Enix once again did a nice job of making the controls easy to use and laying everything out nicely. Keeping track of inventory, checking character attributes, and using the "Search" function couldn't be easier! Selecting battle functions was easy as usual and being able to climb stairs automatically was wonderful! (you used to have to select a climb option which was a real bear) If only you could open doors without having to use a certain key every time...
Challenge: Although it probably wasn't quite as difficult as the previous Dragon Warrior games thanks to now having four characters in your party and not having to navigate the hellish Rhone Cave, it could still be a very testy game at times. There were a few dungeons where caution was paramount (notably the one that leads to the Silver Orb as well as the ones where magic doesn't work) and a few tough-as-nails bosses (Baramos comes to mind).
Of course, any truly great RPG is going to present enough challenges to get the juices flowing. You want to avoid overkill though. While Dragon Warrior III becomes quite non-linear once you get a ship, it's not as crazy as the second DW game where you not only had no idea of where to go, but 90% of the new places contained impossibly difficult enemies. Thankfully, the third DW game achieved a much greater balance in terms of difficulty. It could be challenging to find out what to do next or where to go and there were plenty of tough enemies to deal with. The game never really gets overbearing though.
The composition of your party plays a huge role in the challenge level as well. By adding one of the more average classes such as a Merchant or including a Goof-Off in any party, the challenge level will automatically soar. Even with the recommended party of a Soldier, Pilgrim, and Mage, you probably won't get through the game unscathed. That's the beauty of the Dragon Warrior series though. Only the best of the best will emerge from any DW game without losing at least once. There is still enough challenge in even the "easiest" Dragon Warrior game to press even the masters. That's why I continue to preach about the older games like DW3 being more difficult than today's games. It's because they are!! :)
Storyline: When I first learned that Dragon Warrior III was a prequel, I was quite intrigued to say the least. Since I had already played the first two games in the series, I was very familiar with the world of Alefgard and Midenhall. It would be wild to go back in time before the first Dragon Warrior game and see how the legend of Erdrick (the hero was is referred to time and time again in DW1 and 2) was born.
What's funny about Dragon Warrior III is that, for the longest time, you're unable to see the connection between this game and the other two. Basically, the game takes place in an entirely new world with the Kingdom of Aliahan as the starting point. The story begins with the Hero following in the footsteps of his father, Ortega. Having left on an epic journey himself and assumably falling in battle against a great dragon (the game's intro shows the battle), Ortega's legacy rests with his only son. There are whispers throughout not only the Kingdom of Aliahan but the entire world of the Archfiend Baramos wreaking havoc. He is your chief nemesis and clearly, any hopes of peace are only a fool's hope unless Baramos is wiped out. Without any clues to go on, you and three party members of your choosing embark on a quest to locate the lair of Baramos and to ultimately defeat him in mortal combat.
Of course, as in any Dragon Warrior game, there are plenty of obstacles between you and the final battle. There are plenty of people to help, problems to solve, and bartering to be done along the way (there comes a point where you trade pepper of all things for a ship!) There are the three keys, the eerie phantom ship, and the six legendary orbs to hunt down as well.
Where things really get interesting is right after the "final" battle with Baramos. A huge chasm in the earth opens its jaws and, to the amazement of everyone, a mysterious dark world lies somewhere below that abyss. Here's where everything finally comes together for the dark world is none other than the legendary Kingdom of Alefgard!! Just talking to people and observing some of the little intricacies reveals that this game takes place well before the first DW game. Seeing the main tunnel unfinished (it was complete in DW), a priest at a boy, and the magic key guru before he became famous (or infamous as the case may be) was incredible! The landscape is virtually identical to that found in DW with classic towns such as Kol and Hauksness making a return appearance. It was just so odd...it felt like I leapt out of DW3 and started playing the original Dragon Warrior game again.
Although the story doesn't show any real development for the longest time, I thought that Enix did themselves proud with the whole prequel idea. Playing a game that took place before the original was such a novel idea at the time! You can't help but wonder if DW3 somehow influenced the development of a later release by the name of Chrono Trigger as well.
Funfactor: With so many new features and a huge world to explore, it's hard to see why anyone wouldn't like this game. Having four members in your party and being able to choose different classes was so enjoyable and the day-night feature gave the game more punch in terms of strategy and depth. The memorable atmosphere, incredible "nostalgia" factor, and impressive story helped the third Dragon Warrior game to achieve more balance across the board in general. And of course, the gameplay was solid as ever. Granted, DW3 had a few minor kinks here and there but overall, it was a huge improvement over the first two games in the series.
Negatives: Like the first two Dragon Warrior games, the graphics were definitely on the average side. This is especially the case with the battle graphics. While the enemies look impressive, the black background was simply unacceptable for a game being released after Final Fantasy. Not being able to see your characters in battle was getting a little irritating by this time (not as bad as it was in DWVII, however).
While the music as a whole was very solid, I felt that it lacked a certain degree of spunk. It didn't have that upbeat, cheery overworld theme or town theme that was found in Dragon Warrior II (which, for all its flaws, had an exceptional soundtrack). The battle music was pretty average as well and, as I ranted about earlier, there was still no boss battle theme!
Other than a few cosmetic features, there's not much to gripe about. Some might complain of DW3 being too non-linear at times (i.e. not steering you enough in the right direction) but I have no qualms with that...especially since I played DW2 right before starting DW3.
Ratings: Graphics: 3.8 Music: 3.7 Play Control: 4.2 Challenge: 4.8 Storyline: 4.5 Funfactor: 4.5 Overall Score: 25.3 out of 30.0 Overall Rating: Bronze Bravo
Back to NES NostalgiaLast Updated: May 20, 2006