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Dragon Warrior 4 - Retroview

The Best NES RPG, Period

By: Robust Stu


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Moderate
   Time to Complete

35-45 hours

 
Overall
8
Criteria

Dragon Warrior 4
 

   Dragon Warrior IV is the culmination of the series as it related to the NES. This was the game where they finally got everything right. Pretty much every complaint I had about the earlier games was fixed, and it went a long way toward my enjoyment of my first RPG series. What made this game so great? Well, let's take a look.

   The story was divided into five chapters, the first four of which all had their own unique characters and story, all of which came together in the fifth. In chapter one, you play Ragnar, Captain of the Guard charged with finding all the missing children from the village of Izmit. In chapter two, you play Alena, Renegade Tomboy Princess in search of adventure. Chapter three sees you take control of Taloon, the ambitious merchant who seeks to make his fortune abroad. In chapter four, you witness the story of Nara and Mara, the sisters of Monbaraba, who are searching for the villain who killed their father. Finally, in chapter five you play the hero, and must gather together the protagonists from the first four chapters, and together defeat the great evil trying to destroy the world. For the first time in the series, the story has a lot of depth, and is a lot more engrossing than the previous "Go to town that is being terrorized, go to nearby cave and defeat monster/retrieve treasure, return to town where everything is now awesome, go to next town, rinse, wash, repeat."

   The battle system is the standard fare from the first three games with the usual Fight, Magic, Run, Item & Parry. It's same old, same old, four party members against the monsters...except for the fifth chapter. In the fifth chapter, you get the ability to switch characters in mid battle, which is kind of a neat feature that you might recognize from later games in the series and Final Fantasy X. Additionally, the fifth chapter features an AI battle system, in which you only directly control the hero, but the setting you put the AI on (IE Use No MP, Offensive, Defensive) affects the actions of your partners. In some ways, it makes things easier for you decision-making wise, but on the other hand your partners periodically do completely what you don't want them to, which can result in your battle plan getting a little messed up.


Dammit, you didn't print my letter yesterday!!!
Dammit, you didn't print my letter yesterday!!!  

   The music was the best of the NES Dragon Warrior games, and I feel is one of the better soundtracks of any NES game, period. There were a wide variety of good tunes, each of which perfectly fit the location you visited. It didn't seem like you got the same music in EVERY SINGLE DUNGEON, which was one of my main complaints about previous games in the series. The sound effects are one thing that, unfortunately, haven't improved, or in fact changed since the first game. They still sound unrealistic and bleepy.

   This game was quite original, mainly because of the chapter system. It added a totally new dimension to CRPG storytelling, and a welcome one that I feel game developers would do good to put in some future RPGs. It definitely broke up the monotony I might have otherwise felt with this game, since everything else (except the awesome story) had been seen in previous DW games.

   The localizations in Dragon Warrior games is typically good, but I found this one to be particularly good. It might have something to do with the fact that this is the first game in the series with a real, coherent storyline, but maybe it's just me. Everything came across loud and clear, and you didn't have to sit there thinking "Now what in the hell are they trying to say?" As far as replay value goes, you're not going to find anything new in the game the second time around, but this is a very fun game, and deserves at least a second play through. The only thing that might dissuade one from playing again is the long, confusing dungeons full of tough enemies, but those are standard fare for Dragon Warrior games, so if you've played one before, you know what you're in for.

   The graphics were very good, too. A lot of attention was paid to detail and unlike the stilted early attempts at character design from the first two games, all the enemies looked very good. The backgrounds looked great, the monsters were very detailed, and even the characters were detailed, even for an 8-bit RPG. Plus, the backgrounds were all colorful and very nice looking. A castle LOOKED like a castle, and burned down destroyed towns LOOKED like burned down destroyed towns. A definite step up from earlier games in the series.


Hmmm...is she hot?
Hmmm...is she hot?  

   This is a pretty lengthy game. Like most Dragon Warrior games, there's a lot of leveling up involved. That, plus the requisite long, confusing dungeons, put this game at about a 40 hour effort. Quite a feat for an NES game, if I do say so myself. However, I enjoyed this game very much, and think that the 40 hours is well worth your time.

Well, I can honestly say that this is my favorite NES RPG ever, and even holds up against a lot of current stuff. Some RPGs have one or two good points, but the rest of the game is a flop. This game pretty much does well at everything and when you put it all together, it makes one hell of an RPG. If you can find a copy somewhere, buy it now.

Highly Recommended.




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