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Title: Dragon Warrior III
Developer: Enix
Publisher: Enix
Date Published: February 10th, 1988
Platforms: NES (also remade for SNES and Game Boy Color; see other versions section near the bottom)
ESRB Rating: n/a

Thy enemy shall be the Archfiend Baramos!
The name of Archfiend Baramos is yet unknown in the world of men.
If things remain unchanged, before long the world will be destroyed by the Archfiend.
Baramos must be defeated!

Indeed! As the King of Aliahan so succinctly states above, Dragon Warrior III relates the deliberately undertaken quest of a young hero to find and defeat the evil plaguing the world.

Dragon Warrior III is considered by many gamers to be among the greatest old school RPGs for the original Nintendo. Some would even argue it is the high point in the respected Dragon Warrior series. When I think of this series in general, I think this game best represents it as a whole, with both its awesome achievements and annoying flaws. While the original Dragon Warrior was a genre spawning innovation and Dragon Warrior II expanded on many aspects of the original, Dragon Warrior III represents the crystallization and perfection of a tried and true formula. Boasting a party of four travelers with six selectable character classes, big sections of non-linear exploration in two familiar worlds and countless hours of game play, this was arguably the largest game of its time.

Especially notable is Akira Toriyama, one of the prominent figures in the video games industry. He is responsible for designing all the character and monster concept art in Dragon Warrior III as well as the rest of the Dragon Warrior series.

Game Play

Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, Dragon Warrior III follows the same RPG standard: walk around, get into battles and hopefully progress while this is going on. As the story is relatively inconsequential like many old NES games, there were only about four scenes (including the beginning and the end) the entire game.

While exploring, the Hero is moved by the player around the screen while followed by his three dutiful companions. You can open chests, talk to people, open doors (with the correct keys of course), search the ground or simply walk in four directions on the overhead view of a two dimensional plane. An annoying submenu pops up every time you press the "A" button that is identical to Dragon Warrior II's:

|                           | 
|  TALK            SPELL    |
|                           |
|  STATUS          ITEM     |
|                           |
|  SEARCH          EQUIP    |

Just as in Dragon Warrior I, II and IV, there is no "quick button" to do any of these commands without going through the menu first. Bah!

Thankfully, the submenu takes a back seat because the battles are the meat of the game. Every character, despite their class, has the ability to fight, parry and use items. Everyone except Soldiers, Merchants and Goof-offs can use magic. Whoever is leading the party has the option to retreat as well.

Quasi-famous Dragon Warrior monsters fill the game: Slimes, metal slimes, babbles and metal babbles all make an appearance. In addition to these cute and cuddly creatures, hordes of viciously difficult monsters run amok. The sheer variety of foes in this game is impressive. This is also the first Dragon Warrior game to have enemy bosses of levels such as Orochi, Baramos and Kandor.

  • Character Classes
  • Dragon Warrior III allows players to have a group of four characters: one Hero and three other classes. It also offers the choice of male or female characters. Strangely enough, even if you chose your hero to be a female heroine, the King of Aliahan still addresses you as "The brave son of Ortega..." Besides making a liar out of the king, there is little difference between having any of the characters be either male or female except for the avatar that marches around on the map screen.

  • The Hero
  • - The Hero is an exemplary silent protagonist: he's a righteous main character and he doesn't talk. An all around good fighter and magician, the Hero begins the game with a strong add an array of healing, offensive and miscellaneous spells by the end. He looks almost exactly the same the Hero in Dragon Warrior II except with a more detail around the face and longer spiky hair.
  • Soldiers
  • - Soldiers are the work horses of the game. They have the most hit points, equip the best weapons and armor, and deal out the most attack damage. Their biggest drawbacks are their lack of any magic and the expensive prices of their equipment that goes obsolete every time you reach a new town.
  • Fighters
  • - Fighters are somewhat of a thrifty alternative to Soldiers. Because they fight ninja style with their hands, they have no need for costly equipment. Another big plus is their high critical hit rate; they put all other characters to shame in this department. On the down side, they have lower hit points and lower defense than Soldiers and therefore die more easily.
  • Wizards
  • - Wizards are the major magic users of the game. They get just about every offensive spell to complement their massive well of magic points. As expected from Wizards, they have low hit points, defense and physical attack.
  • Pilgrims
  • - Pilgrims are the game's healers. In the Game Boy Color version, they are called Priests, which sounds a bit more conventional. It would be quite a challenge to make it through DW III without one. They learn vital spells like Heal (aka Hoimi), Healmore (exactly like Heal only better) and Healus (which heals the entire party).
  • Merchants
  • - The Merchants are a mostly worthless class. They are essentially Soldiers that are weaker in every possible way, but have two abilities. They can appraise items, which tells the item's value, who can equip it and how much it can be sold for and they also find bonus gold after battles. Their GP finding ability is wasted due to the fact they can't equip the expensive things Soldiers can. You need a Merchant for story purposes, however. When you get to build a town late in the game, you need to permanently leave behind a merchant to help get its economy running.
  • Goof-offs
  • - Goof-offs can't really do anything except gain luck for level ups. And I have no idea what luck does in this game. Because of their relative uselessness, the "I Have No Life" bonus quest of Dragon Warrior III is to beat it only using the Hero and three Goof-offs.

    And finally, the special bonus class...

  • Sages - Sages are probably the most useful class in the game. Unfortunately, you can only get one. After reaching level 20, one of your characters can be turned into this prestigious class with a one-of-a-kind book that disappears after one use. Sages can equip more powerful weapons than either Pilgrims or Wizards. Their biggest boon is the ability to cast both Wizard offensive spells and Pilgrim healing spells.

The default group is the Hero, a Solider, a Wizard and a Pilgrim. Once the Wizard reaches level 20, it is a good idea to turn him into the sole Sage.

The World of Dragon Warrior III

There are actually two "worlds" in DW III; the sprawling main world with a striking resemblance to Earth and the world of Alefgard from the earlier games in the series.

The main world shares a variety of cultural and geographical similarities with the real world. A town by the name of "Romaly" sits equivalent to where "Rome" would be on a boot shaped peninsula. The village of Jipang is overtly influenced by Japanese culture and is on an island roughly where Japan would be. The town where the heroes obtain a ship is Portoga, where Portugal, famous for their sea-faring in earlier centuries, would be. The castle town of Isis, named after an Egyptian goddess, sits on the northern part of a squishy looking Africa right next to a dangerous pyramid. About the only blatant irregularity between is the gigantic circular island, home to the castle of Aliahan, approximately where the Philippines would be. In short, the cultures of geography of the main world of Dragon Warrior III is similar to our perception of the Middle Ages.

One of the coolest parts of Dragon Warrior III (and the other games in the series for that matter) is the Shrines. On the map screen, they are simple, ovular stone buildings. Upon entering them, a nostalgic and sad tune plays, invoking past images of sitting in my basement stuffing Cheez-Its in my mouth on long weekends. Although the pure randomness of what you might find in a Shrine is part of their mystique, there were a few things that most Shrines have: There are mystical blue portals that instantly teleport the heroes to another Shrine, possibly across a river or possibly to another continent. In older and run down Shrines, patches of harmful poison ground can be found on the outside. Often near castles there is a soldier that prevents you from using one of the mystic blue portals until a particular quest is completed. In isolated buildings you might find a philosophical and wise old man that gives some vital item in defeating the ultimate evil. Sometimes there is even treasure in the enigmatic monoliths, either hidden out of sight or unreachable due to locked doors.

The first quarter of the game is generally doing good heroic deeds around the land trying to figure out WTF is going on. This includes recovering a lost king's crown, waking up a village of perpetually sleeping people, exploring ancient pyramids and carrying spices half way around the world to buy a ship. And once the heroes trade for the ship, nearly the rest of the game is spent searching for six different colored orbs scattered across the world:

  • Green - A prisoner in the ghostly village of Tendaki randomly hands over this orb... Because he's a nice guy? Anyway, you have to have a particularly rare key to get to his cell before taking advantage of his generosity.
  • Red
  • - Beneath a hidden staircase inside of a pirates' hideout, a few treasure boxes can be found. One of them, coincidentally, has the Red orb in it.
  • Purple
  • - After going through a long and arduous cave, you need to kill a dragon named Orochi... Twice. Then he drops the orb.
  • Blue - The blue orb is the prize for the Hero to journey solo through Gaia's Navel, a level that would really damn hard with your entire group, making it damn near impossible with just one character.
  • Yellow - There's a point in the game where you have to build a town. I'm thinking this is the first console RPG where you get to do this as a sort of mini-game, but I'm not sure. If so, than other console RPGs like Breath of Fire 3 and Dark Cloud that let you build towns in a similar fashion basically had their grounding in Dragon Warrior III. Oh yeah, once the town is finished building, you get the Yellow orb.
  • Silver - The Silver orb is given to the heroes by an old man in one of the cool little Shrines. Unfortunately, this Shrine is unreachable without first going through a nasty place full of extremely difficult monsters called The Cave to Necrogond. While its difficult, it doesn't hold a candle to sheer challenge of Dragon Warrior II's Cave to Rhone.

The world of Alefgard, the setting of Dragon Warriors I and II, comprises the final ending sequence of the game. Once the heroes find the orbs and use them to revive a phoenix named Ramia, they fly to the foul Baramos' castle and promptly deliver a beating. However!! A more insidious evil lay in the shadows, manipulating Baramos' every move! Who would have thought? Zoma, the MASTER Archfiend, had silently bided his time in the dark world, aka Alefgard, to spread his evil to the normal world! After a quick journey through Alefgard where the heroes can pick up some uber equipment and kill some metal babbles for insane amounts of XP, Zoma is stomped on and peace is returned to the land.

Dragon Warrior III as part of the Dragon Warrior series

As I mentioned earlier, Dragon Warrior III is considered by some to be the high point in the series. This is certainly arguable as the original Dragon Warrior created the RPG genre for home consoles and Dragon Warrior VII (as of this write up) is the best selling Playstation game of all time in Japan. However, this installment in the series is where everything developed previously was smoothed over, perfected, and expanded into an epic quest that had only been hinted at before. The addition of more choice through the character classes and the non-linear collection of the orbs certainly added to the overwhelming enormity of the world. For its time, Dragon Warrior III achieved a rare robust and ambitious sense of overarching completion that many other games simply paled before it. Its success led to another astoundingly large NES sequel, Dragon Warrior IV.

Other versions of Dragon Warrior III

There are two other versions of Dragon Warrior III that are significantly different than the NES version I discussed here. On SNES, Dragon Warrior III Reprise was release which was an updated version. I know very little about it except that it had completely reworked text and greatly improved graphics. For Game Boy Color, there was a re-release that is very similar to the NES version. However, I haven't played it either. I understand that there is an entire new class, Thieves, and that much of the text and translation has been reworked there as well. From what I've read, it would appear that both versions remain highly faithful to this original rendition.

Update! Amib has provided me with some info on the Game Boy Color release. He says Thieves have a range of abilities to steal items and search for treasure. The GBC release is true to the original, except with larger text (for easy reading on the small screen), and names changed to match the rerelease of DW1&2 GB."

Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest - Dragon Warrior II - Dragon Warrior III - Dragon Warrior IV - Dragon Quest V Dragon Quest VI - Dragon Warrior VII

Sources: Playing the game www.gamefaqs.com This write-up complies with the E2 FAQ: Video Games standards.

Goof-offs (or Jesters in the GBC remake) actually do have a very important and powerful skill - when they reach level 20, they can become Sages without needing the Book Of Sages. In fact, it's actually better to get your Sages via this method, as the twenty levels of Jester give your Sage a nice bonus to luck.

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