In 1991 a gem of a game came out called “Dragon Warrior 3.” It was released 3 years previously under the name Dragon Quest 3. After a while Japan would decide to just flip the entire series over to Dragon Quest.
Growing up I was quite late to get a Nintendo… actually very late. My parents owned a computer which my dad did business on. I played Pacman and Leisure Suit Larry on that sucker but had really not enjoyed the console life many had. Consoles were expensive and Nintendo was selling their plastic cartridges at $100 a pop.
The Super Nintendo is released in 1990 in Canada. The same year regular Nintendo consoles went on massive sales and my parents picked me up one. Of course I was too young to really know there was a lick of difference because honestly, not a lot of people had gaming consoles.
So it should not be weird at all that my parents bought me Dragon Warrior 3 in 1991. Game developers were still making games for the Nintendo all the way up until about 1995. So even though my parents were about a decade late to the race there was still a lot of use out of that Nintendo.
Dragon Warrior 3 is one of the few games I simply have not finished. It was my first look at sandbox. It is also because of this game that I have such an angry view of sandbox games.
Every time someone goes on the forums and declares they want a sandbox MMORPG I honestly don’t think these people know what a sandbox is.
A sandbox RPG is cryptic as all hell. There are no tips guiding your way. There is nothing telling you where you need to go. The game is full of all the tools you need to beat the game… but there’s no way to know how to get them.
That was Dragon Warrior 3 in a nutshell. As a child with an infinite amount of patience I could forgive the game for being so cryptic because honestly… I didn’t know better. I spent endless months on this game just trying to push myself further.
The game did have a lot of unique and new features. The game had a night and day cycle. In the night time different enemies would come out than the day.
The game also featured a class system in which (unlike Final Fantasy) you could choose what allies you had. Each class had its strengths.
But honestly all of this was just a trap. In all of my months playing this game I found out you need a Merchant class (the single most useless class) in order to beat the game.
It’s kind of like in Megaman when you get that boomarang ability and its utterly useless but it is how you kill the last boss. Same concept.
The game also seemed to be devoid of a white man, a healer class. This of course is once again a trap. The healer class is actually a class called the “Goof Off” or the “Jester.” This character was also quite useless. Whenever you would tell him to attack a lot of times he’d just goof off and do nothing. At Level 20 he would transform into a Sage and become your most important group member… but until then you are carrying him everywhere.
So you have to carry around two useless characters… great. The game offered you the ability to train up everyone and create various group compositions. I think this was originally their intention but doing that is time consuming. You have five classes in the game (Warrior, Fighter, Wizard, Merchant, and Goof Off). The only way to level up is by beating enemies. This basically means it will take you twice as long to beat the game because you are spending so much time just grinding out random monsters.
The game did have its charm.
My little brother was never really into games. This game in particular was just too hard for the little tyke. But there was a gambling part of the game that I let him play. There is this monster battle arena in which you place bets on which monster will win. There are various odds and every now and then the long shot could win. I’d let him pick who would win and he’d get to pick and cheer for his champion. It’d be great when he picked the slime (the weakest enemy in the game) and it’d beat a Green Wolf (one of the strongest enemies in the game).
One thing I never did do is beat the game. The game is insanely hard and has some of the most punishing enemies any RPG has ever had. I know when people think of JRPGs they think of these relatively easy grind fests where eventually you hit a certain level where you can just beat the game.
This is not that game.
Not in the slightest. It is by far one of the hardest RPGs to come out.
A lot of this has to do with how smart the AI seem to be. The AI seem to always pick off the lowest healthed and weakest targets. This means that by having those heavy hitters (who you need to beat the last boss) you have people who are going to die a lot.
Saving the game revolved around going to some weird point and speaking with some random old guy… just to continue on the theme of this game being insanely cryptic. You could spend hours grinding out levels and then lose it all in a single battle gone wrong.
I don’t know many people who have beaten this game… in fact i know of none… not a single one. I setup a new YouTube series today in which I’m going to try and beat this game once and for all.
The game more or less got shelved for me once I got a Super Nintendo. The new Super Nintendo came with a tonne of games. This is because the Super Nintendo had been out for quite some time and I was once again late to the race. I had tones of super easy super Nintendo games to crush. This left Dragon Warrior 3 behind.
What Happened to Dragon Warrior?
Dragon Quest is the flagship title of Enix. When they made Dragon Quest 1 they had a huge hit. They continued to make clones of it and release them as new games. Each release only had minor improvements, but people kept buying them.
The name Dragon Warrior comes from the idea that no one in North America really liked RPGs so no one would buy a “Dragon Quest.” People were far more likely to buy a Dragon Warrior. The box art even shows their attempt to trick people into thinking they were buying an action title:
Ironic that Enix is well known for this game, but Enix never made a single Dragon Warrior game. They had always got other studios to make these games for them.
One big problem Enix had was intense market competition, with Square. Square were the first people who really broke into North America. Their Super Nintendo RPGs were all insanely popular and Enix simply did not have enough ambition to really see that Americans could enjoy RPGs like Japanese did.
They stopped shipping to North America. Dragon Quest 4-6 would not be available in North America. This represents every Dragon Quest game from 1991 all the way to 2000.
Square had taken this time to dominate the North American market and make all of their RPGs household names.
Enix attempted to test the waters of North America again with Dragon Quest 7… renamed Dragon Warrior 7. The game would be released on the new and hip Playstation console. In Japan the game was a big hit selling over 3M copies. In North America it was a flop selling under 200,000 copies. Worst yet the previous year saw Enix stock plummet down to nothing all because they had not released a game in a long time.
With their sales of Dragon Warrior doing so poorly they entered talks with Square for a merger. Square had just released “Final Fantasy :The Spirits Within” which was a massive commercial flop as well. Of course this was just a bad movie, not a bad game.
In 2001 negotiations ended and Square and Enix became a single entity “Square Enix.” With the new partnering they felt they could make a smash hit with Dragon Quest 8. They released in for the Playstation 2… and it didn’t make a dent. The brand was just not recognizable to North America and no one wanted to invest in an eight sequel to a franchise they had never heard of.
It was announced that all future Dragon Warrior releases would be released to handheld consoles. Dragon Quest 9 would be released to the DS.
Dragon Warrior represents a Japanese phenomena that no one else really understood and that is the legacy that will stay with it.