Dragon Warrior, known as Dragon Quest (ドラゴンクエスト) in Japan, is a console role-playing game developed by Chunsoft and published in Japan by Enix (now Square Enix) in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Dragon Warrior has been ported and remade for several platforms including the MSX, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, and mobile phones.
It is the inaugural game in Enix's flagship Dragon Quest series, which was known as the Dragon Warrior series in North America until 2003 due to a trademark conflict with the role-playing game (RPG) DragonQuest and TSR, Inc. (later Wizards of the Coast). Dragon Warrior was one of the first exposures to console RPGs for gamers in the US when it was released. Its effects on the console RPG genre have been compared to be above and beyond that of the more widely recognized, in the west, title of Final Fantasy.
Dragon Warrior uses console role-playing game mechanics which were described by Kurt Kalata of Gamasutra as archaic in 2008. The player takes the role of a namable Hero. The Hero's name has an effect on his statistical growth over the course of the game. Battles are fought in a turn-based format and experience points and gold are awarded after every battle, allowing the Hero to level-up in ability and allows them to buy better weapons, armor, and items. Progression consists of traveling over an overworld map and through dungeons, fighting monsters encountered via random battles along the journey.
Although this is the first title released of the Dragon Warrior franchise, this game is actually the second, chronologically, of a three game series which share a storyline. The story is preceded by that of Dragon Warrior III and followed by Dragon Warrior II.
The protagonist of the story is a warrior who is a descendent of the legendary hero Erdrick (known as Loto in remakes). Starting in the chambers of King Lorik in Tantegel Castle, the player is made aware that the Dragonlord has stolen the Ball of Light which must be reclaimed to restore peace to the land. The princess, Gwaelin, has also been kidnapped, and is now held by a dragon in a distant cave.
Although this minimalistic story presents itself at the beginning, the player will find more minor story elements to the game as it progresses. These mostly occur through dialogues with non-player characters that detail rescuing the Princess Gwaelin, the destruction of the town of Hauksness, and the hints about relics needed to reach the Dragonlord. Once the Hero rescues Gwaelin, she falls in love with him and aids him in finding all the necessary items in order to reach the Dragonlord's castle. As the hero collects the final items, a Rainbow Bridge appears for the Hero to cross finally entering the Dragonlord's castle. After fighting his way through the castle and retrieving one last relic, the Hero confronts the Dragonlord. At this point the hero is given the choice to side with the Dragonlord or fight him. If the player chooses the former, the game ends with the implication that together with the Dragonlord the Hero enslaves the world. If the player refuses, the Hero fights and ultimately defeats the Dragonlord, bringing peace to the land. After returning to Tantegel Castle, the Hero sets off with Gwaelin across the ocean where their fate is ultimately revealed in the sequel, Dragon Warrior II.
The game's plot features multiple endings. When the player finally faces the Dragonlord, he offers the choice to join him and rule half the world. If "no" is selected, then the player engages in battle and gets a good ending after defeating him, but if the player chooses "yes", the player gets a bad ending. Defeat the Dragonlord and you get one of the three good endings based on where the princess is when you return to the castle (you brought her to the castle before killing the Dragonlord, you arrive carrying her after killing the Dragonlord, she's still imprisoned in the cave). The ending cutscene varies slightly for each ending. In the last one, the hero travels off to faroff lands alone. 
Development and release
Dragon Quest was originally released in Japan on May 26, 1986 for the Famicom. Designer Yuji Horii cited western RPGs like Wizardry and Ultima as inspiration for Dragon Quest's gameplay. The series has been released on multiple platforms since its initial release as well as a generic cell phone game in Japan in 2004, with updated graphics that are similar to those of Dragon Quest VI.
Reception and sales
Dragon Quest was wildly popular in Japan, and became the first in a series that now includes nine games with several spin-offs, including Dragon Quest Monsters. The release of Dragon Quest is regarded as a milestone in the history of the console RPG, a popular genre that also includes the Final Fantasy series. It was one of the first console RPG to use a top-down perspective, a staple of 2D console RPGs, and has since been cited by GameSpot as one of the fifteen most influential games in the history of video games. IGN called it the 8th best NES game of all time on their "Top 100 NES Games of all Time" and the 92nd best game of all time on their "Top 100 Games" list.
The initial NES version of Dragon Warrior was met with an overall average reception from North American critics, due to its late release there in 1989. Electronic Gaming Monthly's Quartermann said that the game was not "that special at all" but instead recommended readers to "play Ultima from FCI instead and you'll practically get the same game!" However, it was FCI's 1987 remake of Ultima III: Exodus that was heavily influenced by Dragon Quest, but since Dragon Quest's US release came too late in August 1989  (some six months after the US release of FCI's Ultima: Exodus remake, and some two years after The Legend of Zelda) American critics failed to see the significance of Dragon Quest.
Nintendo Power critics ranked the NES release of Dragon Warrior an average of 3/5 upon its original release, later rating it the 140th best game made on a Nintendo System in Nintendo Power's Top 200 Games list in 2006. Later reviews of the game after its success were made by IGN who gives it a 7.8 / 10, and TopTenReviews who gives it a 2.3667 out of 4. The GBC remake received fairly high marks for its release. Released along with Dragon Warrior II the dual game cartridge received an 8.0 out of 10 from IGN, a 9.6 out of 10 from GameSpot, and 8 out of 10 from Nintendo Power. It also received the RPGamer's GameBoy Color Award of the Year for 2000.
Seemingly primitive by today's standards, Dragon Warrior features one-on-one combat, a limited array of items and equipment, ten spells, five towns, and five dungeons. Chi Kong Lui of Gamecritics commented on how the game added "realism" to video games, writing "If a player perished in Dragon Warrior, he or she had to suffer the dire consequences of losing progress and precious gold. That element of death evoked a sense of instinctive fear and tension for survival". This, he said, allowed NES players to identify with the main character on a much larger scale. IGN writer Mark Nix compared the game's seemingly archaic plot to more modern RPGs, stating that "noble blood means nothing when the society is capitalist, aristocratic, or militaristic. Damsels don't need rescuing -- they need a battle axe and some magic tutoring in the field." The staff of Gamespy wrote that for many gamers, Dragon Warrior was their first exposure to the console RPG. "It opened my eyes to a fun new type of gameplay. Suddenly strategy (or at least pressing the "A" button) was more important than reflex, and the story was slightly (slightly!) more complex than the "rescue the princess" stuff I'd seen up 'till then. After all, Dragon Warrior was only half-over when you rescued its princess", they recalled when reviewing Dragon Quest VIII. 1up staff explained that the series was not immensely popular at first simply because "RPGs were not something American console gamers were used to," going on to say that it would take a decade for the genre to be "flashy enough to distract from all of those words they made you read." In a column called "Play Back", Nintendo Power's staff reflected on the game, naming its "historical significance" as its greatest aspect, noting that "playing Dragon Warrior these days can be a bit of a chore."
Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshō - To the Children Who Inherit the Emblem has sold well in Japan. For the week of August 26 through September 1, 2008, volume 7 was ranked 9th in Japan having sold 59,540 copies. For the week of February 24 through March 2, 2009, volume 8 was ranked 19th in Japan having sold 76,801 copies. For the week of October 26 through November 1, 2009, volume 9 was ranked 16th in Japan having sold 40,492 copies for a total of 60,467.
- Official Dragon Quest site (Japanese)
- Dragon Warrior guide at StrategyWiki
- Dragon Warrior at MobyGames