Enix is on a roll with the Dragon Warrior franchise. In the second half of 2001, we'll see an amazing four new entries into the series: On the Game Boy Color, a two-part sequel to Dragon Warrior Monsters named Cobi's Journey and Tara's Adventure will ship in the fall, and the long, long-awaited Dragon Warrior VII will finally make it to the PlayStation before Christmas. Enix is beginning the Dragon Warrior deluge this summer on the Game Boy Color with Dragon Warrior III, the follow-up to last year's portable combo Dragon Warrior I&II. Certainly, DWIII is a worthy port of its old NES ancestor and that game's subsequent remake on the Super Famicom, but its firm grounding in the RPG old-school means that only the hard-core need apply.
Dragon Warrior III's story is taken from the classic annals of RPG-dom. You begin the game as the nameless hero, waking on your 16th birthday to a quest imposed on you by the king himself. It seems that many years before, your father Ortega embarked on a journey to slay the Demon Lord Baramos and never returned. Ortega is presumed dead, and it falls to you to stop Baramos before he decides to destroy the world. DWIII is set in the same world as the first two Dragon Warrior games, but it occurs before either of them, making it a sort of prehistory.
In gameplay terms, Dragon Warrior III is as original an RPG as you can get. Before the multimedia RPG epics of today, games like the early Dragon Warriors set the standard for the number crunching and turn-based combat of the genre, and little has changed in DWIII's transition to portable form. As the hero, you choose three companions at the outset of the game from a variety of classes, such as warrior, mage, cleric, and even jester. After forming your party, you set off on your journey, and you can expect dungeons, battles, magic, gold, and experience points aplenty--die-hard RPG players will be in heaven, but novices may find the lack of action and preponderance of raw stats a daunting combination. If you're not a fan of the RPG genre to begin with, Dragon Warrior III won't change your mind.
A few things have been added to the new Game Boy Color version of Dragon Warrior III. First, the graphics are somewhat enhanced--the backgrounds are nicely constructed, and the animation of the enemies in battle is amazingly fluid and fun to watch. Battles have no backgrounds, though, leaving you with only the enemies and plain-text menus. The game also has a new prelude that doubles as a character creation scheme. As the game begins, an invisible entity asks you a series of questions that, along with an odd dream sequence, will determine the personality of your main character. This classification controls how your hero's stats will develop as he levels up throughout the game. Finally, providing a break from the questing, DWIII has a couple of minor diversions. First up is a Pachisi minigame that provides you with items when you win. Second, monsters in the game will randomly yield different medals that you can collect and trade with other DWIII players. Collecting enough of the medals will unlock secrets.
Dragon Warrior III is a fine game, but it's not for everyone. Serious role-players will appreciate this throwback to the RPG days of yore, but if you know you don't like the console RPG experience, steer clear. Recent RPG initiates who've cut their teeth on flashier fare like the PlayStation Final Fantasy games or Legend of Dragoon might do well to take a trip back and see how the genre evolved. In short, Dragon Warrior III knows its audience, and for a game that originally came out over a decade ago, it's doing pretty well.