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Dragon Warrior II (Nintendo NES) Review
Review by 
7.68/10 from 6 user ratings

With the booming popularity of RPGs ("JRPGs") through the years, its often fun -- and depending who you ask, "important" -- to go back to yesteryear, and see just exactly how we got to where we are today. With Dragon Quest X right around the corner, now might be as good a time as any to check your roots, and see how it used to be..before so much of what we take for granted today was around.

The first game in the Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior series is, of course, Dragon Warrior, a game that most children of the 80's knew about due to it being awarded as a free gift by subscribing to Nintendo Power. A game that WASN'T given away by the truckload was Dragon Warrior II, a title that improved on many of the flaws of the first installment. While not receiving as much attention on the NES console as Dragon Warrior III or Dragon Warrior IV, it did play an instrumental role in pointing that ship in the right direction, coordinates set to "awesome."

Set 100 years after Dragon Warrior, a Hero in the line of Erdrick (who is known as "Loto" in some versions of the game) sets out on a journey to rid the world of Hargon and his minions, a foul creature who never sleeps, and has disrupted a century of peace. Boo!

What It Does Well

For anyone who can't take Dragon Warrior for the mind-numbing monotony of one-on-one battles..this game may provide enough spice to fix that up for you. Whereas the first game was "you vs. The World," this game allows you to recruit companions (mandatory). The first party-based game in the series, you'll lean on the Prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbrooke to aid you in your journey. Dragon Warrior had you play as a warrior-type character, able to equip lots of swords, shields, helmets, and heavy armor, learning few spells along the way. Dragon Warrior II splits up those duties; the Hero gets to carry the powerful equipment, the heavy-hitting soldier of the group, the Prince does lighter armor but boasts some magical abilities, and the Princess is quite close to the mage-type character so commonplace now, heavy in magic and light on hand-to-hand combat.

You might be thinking "hey, three-on-one doesn't seem so fair," but this has changed as well. In Dragon Warrior where every-single-battle was a one-on-one affair, you now find yourself fighting three enemies on a regular basis, and depending on which types of enemies they are, it can be plenty more (ie: those Metal Slimes are back, and sometimes there are 8 of them. Think of the experience.. ). More enemies per battle means more experience points, which means you level up faster, walk around less, and finish quicker. Solid. And because of the diverse run of bad guys, you'll have to employ a bit of strategy here and there, another break from the autopilot of "fight, fight, fight."

This game features a lot more weapons, armors, and spells than the previous game, and allows you to hold much more equipment as well, each character having their own items. One of those new Items is a Ship (though it doesn't go in your Inventory)! The Ship, which you get in the first half of the game, really opens things up and allows you to explore a much larger world, and get from place to place quicker instead of pacing around on foot through the entire continent. Speaking of that continent from Dragon Warrior (and somewhat of a spoiler, sorry), it has RETURNED (though scaled down a bit) and is accessible in Dragon Warrior II. Nearly unchanged (in both sight and sound) from the first game, you can set foot in Tantegel Castle, and get a Critical Nostalgia Hit square in your face. Really cool, and I wish more games did this. You're also able to find the same armor you -- as a player -- wore in the first game, gathering the same Erdrick's Armor set that your ancestor donned 100 years ago.

Lastly (though you'll notice it first), the game is prettier. More vibrant colors, more variation in both party members and NPCs designs, more tones in the enemies palettes, among other things, and a definite jump from the original game will be detected quite early. There is a wider variety of music, also, and unlike Dragon Warrior, it isn't as depressing this time around. Happy day!

What It Doesn't Do Well

While the addition of two new characters sounds awesome, it isn't always. You'll find very quickly that there isn't a whole heckuva lot of stuff you can equip on these other characters, and as the game wears on, you'll find those other characters somewhat underpowered, and definitely taking a backseat to the damage your Hero character is dealing..so much so, that its almost like the backseat of another car, two cars back. They do make up for the lack of physical offense with some powerful Magic, but MP doesn't last forever. In fact, the only way to restore magic points besides sleeping is with a Wizard's Ring, an item -- to my knowledge -- that can't be found or purchased, but only WON in a chance game of Lottery, or apparently on a random drop from a difficult monster late in the game. I could've used it dearly throughout my gameplay, but sadly never came across it. Bummer.

The previous paragraph covers the offense of your buddies, and the defensive situation is even more dire. You're pretty much hosed here; the Hero is fine, but the Prince's best equipment choice is the same as the Princess', a cloak made from two hard to find materials. There can only be one (unless you glitch the game), and your unit without the cloak is not going to have a good time. The best option (after you get the cloak on the Prince, probably) is to purchase the most expensive armor in the game, priced at the sum of 65,000 gold (you stop collecting gold at 65,600 or something, Legend of Zelda style), a total that isn't reached lightly. And its not even that good, especially when compared to the armor you've got with good 'ol P1.

While the ship is a good thing, and the larger world is a good thing, it also means that it takes a darn long time to get from place to place. Some games give you the option of warping to towns you've already been to, but that is not the case here. You DO have the option of casting Return or using a Wing of Wyvern to go back to the town/area where you last Saved, but it isn't perfect. And without a special item, the only place you can save is in a Castle, with a King. You CANNOT save in every town, or in the field.

Even if you DO have that item, there are so many other Items that are mandatory that you probably won't have a lot of room in your inventory. Yes, the inventory is expanded, but you're forced to carry three types of keys, a flute, some other late-game special items that you MUST carry, and this is all ON TOP of your equipment. Lucky this is cleaned up in most other RPGs after the fact, but putting your Sword, Armor, Helmet, Shield, and Accessory all in your pocket doesn't leave room for much more. At the end of the game, everything I was carrying was stuff I NEEDED to carry, and I didn't have any Herbs or Antidotes on me at all. On the topic of healing from your inventory (as opposed to a Heal/Healmore/Healall spell), you only have the ability to revive a character ONCE per outing. Unlike other games where you use a Fenix Down or something like that, this game uses the Leaf of the World Tree to bring a character back to 1 HP, and you may only carry ONE at a time. If you use one up, you get to take a boat back to this island, well out of the way to pick up another one. If you have to use one in a dungeon area, hold your breath and hope for the best. Later on you do gain access to a Revive spell, but only one character has it, and it cannot be used in battle.

I had to use one up before the midway point into my "final run" to beat the game, and it got pretty hairy throughout. I had to ask myself "do I turn back, or do I move forward?" I moved forward, and I made it to the end. And actually, kinda weird here, I thought the final battle was "too easy" (especially in comparison to the hard as balls Dragonlord fight in Dragon Warrior). After losing here and there and everywhere prior, I got to the last guy and just wailed away on him, even after losing the Princess. He fell with relative ease, so much so that I let out a muted-yet-excitable-and-audible "oh?," and scrambled to turn up the TV for some sweet game ending music..

..but before you get there, you've got the "second half of the game." After the ship, the game opens up..but not in a good way. The freedom the game provides you is at the expense of direction. Once I grabbed the ship, I sailed around looking for something to do (I found Tantegel, cool), but got an "alright, what do I do?" feeling very quick. There is an area where you are supposed to look for "Treasure," by directions given to you, and it's apparently very touchy. I tried diving and diving at this disturbance in the water for treasure to no avail. I tried from all angles, all sides, all directions, and nothing worked. I grabbed an issue of Nintendo Power that I had acquired a week prior by chance, and one of the things in there was "Where is the Treasure?" It told me to look EXACTLY where I was looking, and within the next few attempts it told me I found some treasure. Bad hit detection or something? I'm not entirely sure what happened there..

Hand-in-hand with that type of stuff, the second half of the game basically begs you to use a walkthrough. Priding myself as an experienced player, I tried to do the entire game without any outside help whatsoever. I did occasionally check a map online as they would've been included with the game way back when, so I found that ok. When the second half came, and I had no idea what to do and no new information, I had to take a peek.

Exchanging that Treasure with someone in a town, you are given an "Echoing Flute," an item that you're supposed to play and it will resonate if there is a Crest nearby (you must collect all of them to get a special Item -- thankfully, these Crests are stored somewhere other than your inventory). The thing is, with few exceptions, you probably wouldn't naturally come across these Crests, and that goes for a lot of things in this game. I don't think this is me being a complainer or a whiner or whatever, but why in the world would you randomly search a tile in a random part of the world, repeatedly? There is nothing to clue you in to where something MIGHT be hidden, but just that it was placed there magically by the programming gods.

Once you get to the end of the game and you've got everything on you, chances are you're going to grind...for a while. I arrived at my Shrine before Hargon's Castle (nice that they put it there) around Level 24, and I disembarked around Level 33. My last few sessions were for the sole purpose of fighting, getting experience, and saving (every two fights or so). These guys that you're fighting though are -tough- , and sometimes pretty cheap. There are these guys, Gold Batboons that you fight in swarms of three, and sometimes there is NOTHING you can do about them. On numerous occasions I was fighting at usual, and they'd decide to cast Sacrafice. If they do this, your entire party dies, and you watch it happen, without warning or any defense. There is something very bothersome with the idea of a "footsoldier" having the ability to wipe out your world-traveling, monster-slaying warriors in one move. Again, this isn't a boss, but an enemy that you'll meet numerous times through the final portion of the game.

And lastly, again, while you have those extra players and more stuff to do, you'll find yourself doing the same things over and over again in each fight: Attack with the Hero, Attack / Use a Shield to Heal with the Prince, Cast Mass Magic spell with the Princess. I suppose this isn't very different from a lot of other games, but still somewhat frustrating. There is a Thunder Wand that the Princess can equip, and you can use it as an Item as well, casting a lightning attack on enemies, doing about 25-30 damage on average. Towards the end of the game when guys routinely have 100-170 hit points, this isn't going to do nearly enough. You'll rely on your Hero to do the work while the rest of the party watches, and struggles to keep up.

In Closing

It sounds like I'm really dogging this game in some parts (as my What It Doesn't Do Well section is larger than the first, haha), but I had a good time with it, especially early on. It was fun to feel accomplished recruiting the Prince and then the Princess, opening things up and being able to buy more equipment and such. I with that the other members were able to be competitive physically, something that I KNOW is possible because it exists in so many other games throughout history. Again, this is a game from 1990, and just the second in a series of "going on ten," and it did take a nice big step up from Dragon Warrior.

Should you give it a shot? Eh.. yeah, sure! It's not THAT bad of a game, and it'll definitely make you appreciate how far we've come since then. If you played and liked Dragon Warrior, I do think you'll like Dragon Warrior II a lot better. If you live in Japan (of COURSE you do!!) and have access to the Dragon Quest Collection (if/when it comes out), do it to it. If you're interested, and have your NES and eBay, track this puppy down. I got II, III, and IV in the same week I think it ran me about 70 bucks. You shouldn't pay too much for Dragon Warrior II; the expensive ones (especially if you're looking for a "complete" set with box) are Dragon Warrior III and IV. Look for a barebones bundle, the internet will help you out with Maps and Monster Charts.

Thanks for reading, friends; it was a long journey, but it has now ended. Hargon is defeated, and we can all rest together.

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Posted: 03/06/12, 10:33:22  - Edited by 
 on: 03/06/12, 22:48:13    
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Some games age well, and some don't.

Super Mario Brothers holds up decently, it has some rough spots, but it's still playable because the controls are serviceable and there is nothing obtuse or broken about it.

The Legend of Zelda, I have mixed feelings on. It has its problems, like the shortness of Link's sword, and the obscure clues and progression, but I actually don't have many issues playing it today. Is that just because I played it back in its time? Most likely. If I didn't already know the game, I doubt I would bother playing it today. But it may still be a decent game for some newcomers, if they use a guide or look up the maps that came with the game.

Dragon Warrior's no fun, though. With how traditional Dragon Quest is, there are eight (well, seven -- DQII is not better) games that offer the same thing except a whole lot more.

You're right though, it's all about what people expect from a game. I think that anyone who didn't grow up playing NES games, or at least didn't own an NES, won't be able to get into NES games today. Very few of them have aged well. That's just been my observation, though, it's certainly not conclusive of everyone, nor do I think it is.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 03:43:29
Mop it up said:
Some games age well, and some don't.

Super Mario Brothers holds up decently, it has some rough spots, but it's still playable because the controls are serviceable and there is nothing obtuse or broken about it.

The Legend of Zelda, I have mixed feelings on. It has its problems, like the shortness of Link's sword, and the obscure clues and progression, but I actually don't have many issues playing it today. Is that just because I played it back in its time? Most likely. If I didn't already know the game, I doubt I would bother playing it today. But it may still be a decent game for some newcomers, if they use a guide or look up the maps that came with the game.

Dragon Warrior's no fun, though. With how traditional Dragon Quest is, there are eight (well, seven -- DQII is not better) games that offer the same thing except a whole lot more.

You're right though, it's all about what people expect from a game. I think that anyone who didn't grow up playing NES games, or at least didn't own an NES, won't be able to get into NES games today. Very few of them have aged well. That's just been my observation, though, it's certainly not conclusive of everyone, nor do I think it is.
That same argument can be applied to so many other series. And I think very few games from any system age all that well. How many N64 games still hold up today? Not many based on percentage of how many games are on the system. How many PS1 games have aged well? Probably an even lower percentage. If you didn't find the game fun, that's cool, but I know many people do and enjoy going back to the beginning of console J-RPGs as we know them today. I think if you're interested at all in the history and legacy of great games series and where they started, the original Dragon Quest is a must-play, right up there with Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda on the NES.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 04:14:44  - Edited by 
 on: 03/07/12, 04:16:40
I agree a lot old games don't age well. Nostalgia is a powerful force. Recognizing it is very important.

I also agree that people interested in Dragon Quest and RPGs should try the first Dragon Warrior game. We may disagree on some of the details, but I don't think our overall viewpoint is that different. :)

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 04:22:01
I'm still confused as to how to use the Merchant Convoy. Can I not buy things between every chapter? Where are they accessible from my "base"?

Nevermind I found it

Edit 2:
This is completely the wrong thread haha.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 05:15:11  - Edited by 
 on: 03/07/12, 05:46:16
I'm able to enjoy a lot of older games, regardless of how gaming has "progressed" since then. I still play pre-NES games to this day, even. I don't know if I fully subscribe to the idea of games aging poorly, but one that I think makes a good case for that concept is the original Dragon Warrior. I spent most of my time in that game just grinding the same few monsters mindlessly for hours at a time. It didn't help that I think the original Dragon Warrior's soundtrack is pretty bad, so I would listen to my iPod while just grinding, and would often fall asleep doing so I eventually got powerful enough to where I could beat the game, but that's not a game I ever plan on replaying.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 05:30:36
I never understood Dragon Warrior when I was a kid, even though I LOVED the theme from the castle. One of my FAVORITE tracks on the NES. I think I tried to get into it via emulation many years later, but at that point I just appreciated what it was and moved on. Similarly, I tried diving into the original Final Fantasy. A fun way to see how the series has or hasn't changed, but I never finished it. I think I actually got fairly far in it, but at some point just got sick of dealing with parts that were more archaic. Gameplay mechanics will only get me so far. I think I've found that I play some RPGs in SPITE of their gameplay, because I think they fun stories and characters. This is a prime reason why I still love the original Mario RPG over the Paper Mario games, and it's an enormous reason I love first Mario and Luigi game (though I actually think its battle system is my favorite in any RPG....ever).

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 06:20:21
To anyone interested in understanding the appeal of old RPGs, I recommend the editorial How RPGs Lost Their Way on Jeremy Parish's blog (though it's someone else who wrote it). I think he explains perfectly what makes these games fun and addictive.


The GBC version was made significantly more palatable than the original game, WoS, so that probably helped you enjoy it. Just the fact that you don't have to select "stair" or didn't have to grind as much...

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 07:02:45  - Edited by 
 on: 03/07/12, 07:04:01
Yeah you're probably right about that. I do have the original NES cartridge but I haven't really spent time with it since I no longer have a NES. Boo!

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 07:30:19
@Guillaume Maybe it'll come to the eShop? ::holds breath:: ::realizes it was a bad idea::

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 07:33:04



Ack, is that in the first Dragon Warrior? I should've included this in here then. No more "Stair" command!

@Mop it up

Nostalgia is powerful, sure, but I'm playing Kirby's Adventure right now, and I never even really played that when I was younger. Mrs_Mustache played it for the FIRST TIME yesterday, and she loves it. Nostalgia doesn't work at that point.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 08:33:27
@Guillaume That was a good read I often find that I have no interest in completing games that feature things like the "magic seeds" gameplay concept. It's the opposite of fun as far as I'm concerned, and it doesn't feel like I'm being awarded for knowing how to play the game well. I'm just being rewarded for wasting my time doing boring, mundane tasks.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 08:39:12
That whole talk about having to use GameFaqs to scour a game for every goody is incredibly articulate. All I could think of was the absurd weapon upgrade system in Final Fantasy VIII, and the incredibly weird mechanic of turning enemies into cards, which somehow all related to getting the best weapons and summons in the game I believe. I can't remember exactly how it all worked, but there's absolutely no way on Earth that someone could figure it all out without looking it up. If you did, then bravo, because I have no idea how you did it.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 09:04:26
Mustache writing a review?! Oh, it's of a super-old game. Do one for MVP Baseball 2005 next!

Man, that title screen is detailed! For the day... Plus, I like the boxart. It's kind of like Frazetta-lite.

I actually beat the first DW. But never moved on to the second. To be honest, I didn't even know that it was released here. I do like the series' moxie, though. Something about the simplicity and charm appeals to me in a way that FF never did. Plus, the music is sweeeet.

Still, it's tragic that you regressed back to your walkthrough days, Robbo...

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 16:41:13

In the battle of "headache vs. old game that nobody else is playing," the headache will always win.

Walkthrough is MANDATORY. If X-pert can manage this game WITHOUT a walkthrough or help, I'll give him...something.

Posted by 
 on: 03/07/12, 22:39:35
I actually think that the field theme from the original Dragon Warrior is one of the most epic game themes ever composed. I'm not really sure what it is about it, but it just captures that feeling of stepping out into the vast world all by yourself...

The Game Boy Color versions of Dragon Warrior I, II, and III are actually downports of the Super Famicom remakes, so they have revamped graphics and sound, new equipment, new character classes (DWIII), and more odds and ends that make them better games.

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 00:28:52
My first, and only, experience with Dragon Warrior/Quest is with the first one. I too got it for free because of Nintendo Power. I didn't enjoy the game that much. I felt there was too much grinding, it felt lonely (not in a good way), and the music (as you mentioned) was depressing. I'm glad the second outing fixed much of that.

On a related note, I also didn't enjoy the original Final Fantasy either (I think I also got this through Nintendo Power). Even though the music was better and it didn't feel lonely, the game seemed kind of aimless and haphazard while the main characters had, literally, no personality. It wasn't until I asked for a Game Genie and my dad got me Final Fantasy II (IV) on the SNES (best mistake ever) that I finally got into RPGs. It was love at first sight and I've had an ongoing relationship with RPGs ever since.

Getting back on track, how do further Dragon Warriors (Quests) fare? And I mean, all of them.

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 01:06:34

I've heard huge things about III, and Dragon Warrior IV has been my Holy Grail for years after renting it way back when.

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 01:57:43
@Mr_Mustache I'll take that challenge

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 02:17:49

Does it go both ways? Interesting, indeed..

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 02:19:16
My quick thoughts on the Dragon Warrior/Quest games I've played:

Dragon Warrior II: See my previous post.

Dragon Warrior III: Even although this games has a larger world (at least twice as big as DWII, if not moreso), it felt like it had better direction than DWII so it was easier to find where to go next. It also has more of a story than previous games which makes the towns and such more interesting. This game also introduced two major things to the series, a day/night system and character creation. Unfortunately, the character creation means that the characters are devoid of personality, just like the first Final Fantasy game. With the day/night system, certain monsters appear only during day or night, and some towns also have different events happen at night.

Dragon Warrior IV: This is the best of the NES games, for me. The story may not be anything unique, but it's separated into five chapters, which was kind of ahead of its time. Each chapter focuses on different characters, and you don't even get the Hero until the final chapter when everyone meets up. Although there's no character creation this time, the characters all still represent the classes found in DWIII, so it's pretty much the same thing except they have personalities. The only drawback is that in the final chapter, you can command only the Hero: every other member of your party acts of their own accord (AI). Fortunately, the DS version fixes this. The game has good story, characters, music, locations... it's one of the more complete packages you'll find in the Dragon Quest series.

Dragon Quest V: This game also has interesting story progression. It's sort of set up in chapters, except this time, it's "generations." When you start out, the Hero is a six-year-old boy. As you go through the game, you'll follow him as a teenager, and then, in the final generation, he's a father with two children, who will become your party members. It's a unique way to tell the story for sure, but it presents a problem: few party members until the end. Sometimes you'll have one, but usually, you have to rely on the new feature in this game: monster recruiting. That's right, before there was Pokémon, Dragon Quest let you capture monz and fight with them. These monsters of course have no personality, and few are very good at battling either, so the grind of recruiting and training monsters can really slow the game down in parts.

Dragon Quest VIII: This is my favourite of the series so far. Just bringing Dragon Quest into 3D makes it a whole new world to explore, and the combination of familiar sights and new conventions make for a great mix. There's no party-building this time, so you use the same group of four throughout the game. This makes them some of the more personable characters in the series (Yangus is pretty awesome), but leaves less customization, although there is some in the form of skills. Each member has five skills that you put points into on level up, which will teach them weapon skills, spells, and more. There's also a way to mix items to create new items; hold onto your old equips, because you never know what you may be able to make with them! Sadly, this game is only on the PS2.

I have yet to play VI, VII, and IX. I own all but VII, so unless that gets re-released, I'll probably not play it.

Posted by 
 on: 03/08/12, 02:23:24
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