Let's play Dragon Warrior!

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Rico
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Rico » Wed May 23, 2018 12:22 am

They should really have put an NPC somewhere with the information about Erdrick's Armor's swamp resistance instead of expecting you to notice as you leave Hauksness so the player knows there's a way to not hate getting the Token. Kind of a weird oversight in a game that otherwise is really good about NPCs filling you in on things (Garin's entrance, Flute/Golem, Armor location, Charlock hidden staircase....).

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Thu May 24, 2018 5:51 pm

Rico wrote:They should really have put an NPC somewhere with the information about Erdrick's Armor's swamp resistance instead of expecting you to notice as you leave Hauksness so the player knows there's a way to not hate getting the Token. Kind of a weird oversight in a game that otherwise is really good about NPCs filling you in on things (Garin's entrance, Flute/Golem, Armor location, Charlock hidden staircase....).


Ooof, yeah, that's a lot of info you get all at once that would really benefit from some sort of logical order. In a weird way, Dragon Warrior almost has a sort of open-world feel to it, and if it wasn't for the monsters you could go practically anywhere on foot from the start. It's a strange design stratagem for the era and you kind of have to expect a few notions of ideal sequence to fall through the cracks in that regard.

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Thu May 24, 2018 6:20 pm

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Erdrick's Sword is worth a whopping 40 Attack Power, which is 12 more than the Flame Sword. Considering that the strongest enemies we've seen so far, Blue Dragons, have 53 to 70 HP, this is huge. Other than that, the Sword has no special powers, it's just Really Freaking Strong. It's not even actually required to hurt the Dragonlord, despite how we've been led to believe it would be.

At any rate, let's see if it'll allow us to claw our way back out of Charlock in one piece.

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We run into our first Stoneman on the way back. They're a slight bit stronger than Blue Dragons and have half their Agility, but over twice the HP. Their SLEEP resistance is very low, but without MP this doesn't exactly help us right now.

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Our light completely runs out on the first basement. Fortunately we manage to keep going thanks to our map and, indeed, the THUD sound we make when we hit a wall. Hardly ideal, but workable.

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Whew, this sword is something else! We can end fights against Werewolves and Green Dragons in 2 to 3 turns now.

We reach Rimuldar without further difficulty, and spend the night there. Gwaelin informs us that we have less than 500 experience to go for level 18 though, so we go back to the Isle of Dragons for a bit of grinding before returning to Tantegel to restock and save.

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Holy crap, we're getting 13 Strength and 6 Agility. That's an even bigger increase in Attack Power than the one Erdrick's Sword gave us! We also earn ourselves a respectable 13 HP and 7 MP. Wow. Levels are real slow to come but this one packs a punch; none of that dinky "+0.7% damage" MMORPG nonsense for sure. Reaching level 19 will takes another 3000 experience.

Back in Brecconary, we purchase a load of Herbs, and just in case, a Torch. We're ready for another delve, but we'll be taking a detour through Kol first.

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Image: Hey, old man! Get a load of these beauties!
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If we needed any more confirmation, this means we're all set with our endgame gear. We stay one more night in Rimuldar to restore the juice we spent on REPEL, then head back into the darkness.

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Oh, REPEL even keeps us from harm on the surface of the Isle of Dragons by now! Talk about 2 MP well spent.

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Alright, once more from the top. Staircase A leads to behind the throne, and E is the start of the path back up towards the vault that used to contain Erdrick's Sword.

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We make our way down to the 4th basement again with 75 MP left. It's looking good! Let's try this staircase here, marked F.

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We start our first visit to the fifth basement.

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It's another very small floor, but we can only access the inner portion from here.

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Onward to floor 6!

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Well this looks important.

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Red Dragons are the second strongest monsters in the entire game, and, discounting Metal Slimes, also the second most agile. They're about 50% resistant to STOPSPELL, and practically immune to other magic. If that wasn't spooky enough, they have a 25% chance to cast SLEEP! If they don't do so, they get another 25% chance to breathe fire instead of attacking. As we currently are, it's very much a good idea to stop them from casting as soon as possible. If one of them takes us by surprise and gets the first move, it can put us to sleep immediately and then chunk us down to 0 before we get a move.

On the plus side, Red Dragons are worth a whopping 100 experience points! That's only 15 less than Metal Slimes. If we can regularly survive these fights without too much expense, Charlock's lower levels become a much better grinding spot than the hills southwest of Hauksness. We're not exactly there yet though, we've had to blow a HEALMORE cast to beat this one.

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Hmm, this was just a straight line east, easy enough.

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Armored Knights are a bit weaker than Red Dragons, but still not to be underestimated. They're also highly resistant to SLEEP and somewhat vulnerable to STOPSPELL, but very weak to HURT. They have a 75% chance to cast HEALMORE when under a quarter of their max HP, making STOPSPELL mandatory at the moment, but they also otherwise have a 25% chance to cast HURTMORE as Wizards do.

And with that, we've seen every standard monster in the game. Armored Knights, Stonemen and Red Dragons are as hard as they get!

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Wait a minute.

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This floor seems to keep repeating. In fact, it's a subtle tell, but the dungeon theme does not get slower and lower as we take these staircases, as it did every time we reached a new floor. The eastern staircase doesn't actually take us down, it just returns us to the western staircase. This branch of the dungeon is effectively an infinite loop.

Image: Man, and I thought this place didn't make sense before.

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Going back up even once brings us back to the real floor above regardless of how "deep" we may have reached. We retrace our steps and take the G stairs.

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This leads us to the eastern side of the outer portion of floor 5, which is a straight shot to the staircase on the west side.

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Pretty straightforward, but given the last branch we explored, that's a little worrying. And doubly so considering that if this one doesn't pan out, we're out of options.

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Oh.

Oooooooh.

I think we found the right path.

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Hmm! We have 17 MP left so we're sadly just about ready to bail out, but at least we can rob the Dragonlord blind before we go.

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Maybe an Herb? Our stock is full.

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Oh, come on. If you put that thing on down here, you deserve whatever you get.

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Eh, we can spend our RETURN MP before we leave, I guess.

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That'd be pretty nice if money still had any value.

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...

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Wow. Okay then. Well, it's may not be important that we got our hands on this stuff, but the Dragonlord doesn't have it anymore, and that's what really matters. To time to hit the escape button and try again, but without the detours.

Or... hmm. We're halfway through our next level; I'll take a bit of time to grind and get back to you. Just for reference though, right now we're at 18, and the maximum level is 30.

Yeah. Ouch. That's a lot of grinding. Fortunately I don't think we'll need to get anywhere close to that.

Anyway, gimme a moment then.

...

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Aw man what.

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Welp, that's kind of a crummy set of stat increases, but our final spell is here.

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Our version of HURTMORE causes 58 to 65 points of defense-ignoring damage, at the low low price of 5 MP. It's resisted by the exact same enemy stat as the regular HURT. We usually hit endgame monsters for between 20 to 30 damage with our standard attacks, so it can be worth it to nuke down our tougher foes. It gets expensive in the long run but the idea is to see if sometimes a 5 MP HURTMORE is going to save us a 10 MP HEALMORE. Still, given the resistances of the creatures we're up against now, the increase in efficiency is fairly minor. Armored Knights are probably the only monsters it's truly worth using it on, but if you don't have Erdrick's Sword by the time you reach this level, it can be helpful against the likes of Werewolves, Starwyverns, Axe Knights and Green Dragons.

I want to try and push this sortie all the way through and see what happens, especially since every subsequent level from now on requires 4000 experience. Let's head back in.

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...whoops. Here's to STOPSPELL failing to land three times in a row and King Lorik having to build an extension to the royal treasury. Let's try again.

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Whew, we do better on the way this time, with 72 MP left for the last floor.

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Oof. I think I'll go for another level. We need about 1800 EXP, so I'll see you in a bit.

...

Actually, while the grind happens, let's take a moment to talk about the endgame.

Dragon Warrior doesn't have a lot of typical dungeons, and even fewer mandatory ones. In terms of difficulty, Garin's Grave is midgame material, but the next one is Charlock. That's quite the step up, isn't it? If you're strong enough to find the Silver Harp, but not so strong that it's absurdly easy to do so, it'll be a long, long time before you get to delve beneath the surface again.

That said, I think that the march to Cantlin is effectively equivalent to a dungeon, and the discovery of Hauksness on the way mechanically and thematically signals the beginning of the end.

By the time you can explore the southwest of Alefgard, and can take out Wolflords and Wyverns, you know you should expect two more towns. That means two more inns, two more areas with reliable grinding spots and gear upgrades. Except that you find Hauksness surrounded by extremely difficult Knights, Demon Knights and Rogue Scorpions, and town is effing gone. Heck, it's worse than gone, it's filled with monsters that we now know also show up in Charlock, and it is completely a mess.

This is the first time that the game shows us the threat and power of the Dragonlord, instead of just having some villager tell us about it. The place isn't just deserted, it has been destroyed and tainted, its dwellings shattered and its ground poisoned. You were expecting succor, you were expecting an inn and a couple stores and maybe some clues, but find no help whatsoever. The true scope of what you're up against has materialized, and it literally makes the game flow skip a beat.

Your next goal is then immediately Cantlin. Except that there are three ways to the east, and two of them loop into each other through hills and deserts. The region isn't strictly a dungeon of course, but it plays the same resource-attrition game as one. I think that in a perhaps primitive fashion, the game is brilliant in its use of the overworld as much more than a way to go from one place to another, especially here. Your travels culminate in a boss battle, and the city that is your reward is packed with essential information and great equipment.

And once you're done with following the leads you get in Cantlin? You're moments away from the final dungeon, with (almost) no new overworld region to cover, and chances are you've earned your final set of buyable gear by beating the same monsters that populate the first few floors there and you can immediately dive right in.

Of course, the trade-off for this structure is that between the Grave and Cantlin, the difficulty regularly increases much faster than your statistical ability to deal with it. That means grinding, and a lot of it.

Speaking of which: level 20! 5 Strength, 2 Agility, 7 HP, 12 MP. Could be gimpier, but still pretty gimpy. Let's see where it takes us.

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We've got 61 MP left. That ought to be enough, right?

There's only one more thing to do before we step forward.

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Image: Hello sweetikin pumpkin mumpkin!
Image: Hi love. Aren't you laying it on a bit thick?
Image: We're having dinner, he's right here.
Image: Say hi for me.
Image: Perhaps later. What's going on? I can't tell where thou art at all.
Image: I think I'm at the bottom of Charlock and there's a weird guy with a dorky haircut in here. Do you think that's the Dragonlord?
Image: I wouldn't know... I've never met him. It certainly doesn't sound like him. Would dragons really bow to one not of their kind?
Image: Yeah, I kinda thought he would be a dragon too.
Image: Doth he look like a villain?
Image: A fashion villain maybe. But there's a bunch of dragons running around in here and clearly they haven't torn him to pieces. Maybe he's the real deal.
Image: He must be some sort of magic-user! Doth he look like one?
Image: I'm a magic-user and we look nothing alike. I guess he's sort of wizardy. Eh, I'm out of options anyway, I'm going to talk to him.
Image: Please, be careful. I'm not saying this just for me, either. Everyone is counting on you.
Image: I know. Don't worry, I won't forget it. Just... Whatever it is you're eating, make sure your dad doesn't get the last piece, alright?
Image: That's a promise. Come back safe, my love.
Image: Doing my best to, darling.
Image: Tempt not the Faaaaaaaaates!
Image: Father! Please get thineself off the li-

Welp. Here we go.

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Image: Ah, alright then. I was wondering. Thanks for clearing that up.
Image: I have been waiting long for one such as thee. I give thee now a chance to share this world and to rule half of it if thou will now stand beside me.
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Image: Wait, what? Half the world? That would instantly solve most of my problems! Can we get that in writing? Come on man, get a quill, I can't agree to this fast enough. Do I have to sign in blood?
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Image: Did I stutter? Hop to it, I don't have all day!
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As the screen turns black and red, we lose all of our money, all of our experience, and our sprite reverts to the unarmed version, implying that our equipment is also gone. I'm not sure what the significance of the "If thou dies..." line is. In the Japanese version, the Dragonlord actually gives you your password (that version had passwords instead of a battery-backed save), but here he definitely doesn't save for you so I don't know what the deal is.

Anyway, just like that, the descendant of Erdrick succumbs to the temptation of darkness, and we get the only true "game over" Dragon Warrior has to offer. The game remains frozen on this screen, looping the deepest dungeon theme over and over again, until you turn the console off. Good grief, even today this still creeps me out.

...but we all know this isn't actually what happens to our hero, right? Let's take it again from the top.



Yikes.

The Dragonlord's human form has a Strength of 90 and an Agility of 75, putting him about on par with a Green Dragon. He is highly resistant, but not completely immune, to all magic. He'll cast STOPSPELL 25% of the time, and otherwise will cast HURTMORE 75% of the time or attack. The STOPSPELL cast is basically there to make sure you have immunity to it from Erdrick's Armor, because there's no going through this entire fight without HEALMORE unless you're grossly overleveled. All in all, he's not too scary.

Until you give him enough damage, that is; 76 to 100 points' worth.

The Dragonlord's true form does not mess around. He gets a Strength of 140 and an Agility of 200, the latter of which is second only to Metal Slimes. He also keeps his resistances. His dodge stat is a big zero, but you never get to roll excellent blows against him, so you have to chip away at his 130 HP the old fashioned way. Every turn he either attacks or uses a unique improved fire breath that does a base 65 to 72 damage, reduced to 42 to 48 by our armor.

Unfortunately, the Dragonlord is a stat check. There's no strategy to him, and random chance barely even has an effect (no crits, no dodge). You hit him as long as your HP is high enough not to get one-shot on the next turn, and then you cast HEALMORE for as long as your MP holds up. You can technically two- or three-shot him with HURTMORE, but that 15/16 resistance is no joke.

Well... I say random chance barely has an effect... In a way, Charlock itself is as much the final boss as the Dragonlord is. The outcome of the battle is very much influenced by how many HEALMORE casts we have in our pocket when we reach the end, and the more efficiently we can fight out way down, the better our chances are. Even then though, gaining levels is the largest part of the solution.

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Image: Did I not tell you to avoid tempting the Fates?
Image: He was right there! What was I supposed to do, Your Royal Dadness? Turn around and walk back out because he looked spooky?
Image: I... Ah... Point conceded.
Image: Besides, I knew you had my back. We're all working hard together on this, aren't we?
Image: That we are! I am working very hard indeed!
Image: Bravo, my lord.

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Image: Anyway, we were right, honey. The Dragonlord actually is a giant dragon.
Image: What of the strange man?
Image: He's... the Dragonlord's chump costume, I suppose. I don't get it either. Anyway, I better give it another shot. All my love, sweetheart.
Image: See thee in better spirits then, bravy-wavy-baby!
Image: *approval intensifies*

So. Here's the plan. I'm gonna farm up another level, and try again. If I can't beat him then, I'll get another one, and so on and so forth. Oooo-wheee. See ya in a bit!

...

Oh hey, while we got a minute or forty, I put together a compilation of the dungeon music variations, all eight of them, each more terrifying than the last.



Aaaaaaand level 21, let's see... 3 Strength, 2 Agility, 10 HP, 6 MP.

Ick.

Well, I meant what I said, let's make an attempt.

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This time we ran away from anything tougher than a Wizard and only used Herbs to heal, so we're starting the fight with 120 MP!

Whew.

Okay.

Get pumped.



!!!

Well that was some decent Dragon Warriorin'!

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I know I said there were no item drops from combat in this game, but... gotta keep some suprises for the end!

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We are immediately teleported outside, with all our HP and MP restored.

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The Ball of Light isn't in our inventory, for some reason.

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Image: By the light, you did it!
Image: Well hey, news travel fast.
Image: We could see the radiance from here, it was wonderful!
Image: The deed is done, then. Sit tight, sweetheart. I'm coming home, and I got your ticket out right here. Just a matter of time now.
Image: It can't possibly be soon enough. I'll be waiting!

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It is no longer possible to get into a random encounter. Every monster in Alefgard was instantly vaporized the moment we got our hands on the Ball.

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Let's see what the good folk of Rimuldar have to say about this, shall we?

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As far as I know, everyone in the world says one of these two lines at random.

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Even this old fart is coming around!

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Oh dang, the wounded guard in Brecconary still isn't doing any better.

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The guards will actually let you in even if you're wearing the Cursed Belt. It's only polite, really.

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Everyone else in the castle also only says that King Lorik awaits.

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Whew. We're almost done here. One more rescue.

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If you refuse to take Gwaelin along... well, you guessed it: "But thou must!" But it's not like we'd do to that to her, right?

If you haven't actually rescued Gwaelin, the ending proceeds the same way, but she just doesn't show up and nobody makes any mention of her. Harsh!

If you've brought Gwaelin to the Dragonlord fight, most easily accomplished by only rescuing her once you're ready to beat the game, the ending also largely proceeds the same way, with the same dialog from all parties. The only difference is of course that she doesn't come down from the throne room, since she's already in your arms.

With that, history is made.

Dragon Warrior is not a perfect game by any means, but its ideas and the execution of these ideas set the foundation for an entire genre, its myriad successors either iterating and building on its systems and adding notions of their own, or sometimes merely being cargo-cult imitators with only the most superficial understanding of its strengths. And it all started with a king, a hero with a stick, a villain in a castle, a quest, and a continent.

Before I sign off, I have to give props to Toshiko Watson and the rest of the translation team. There is a hell of a lot of text in this game for its era, and they managed to make it elegant and flavorful in a way to puts to shame decades' worth of subsequent gaming history.

Alright then. Thanks for following along, dear readers. Good grief, did I miss this nonsense or what? It's been a pleasure. Of course, as the ending credits say, there are many roads yet to travel, and I look forward to traveling them in your company. Erdrick's bloodline still has a lot of work to do, after all. But for the moment...

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Image: I'd say that went alright.
Image: I can hardly believe I'm finally free!
Image: So, where to next? Was there ever a shipyard in Alefgard?
Image: Not exactly, no. But Kol has good lumber for sure, and it's close to the sea.
Image: Kol, eh? I'm sure I can afford to pay someone there to lash a few planks together.
Image: I am still the Princess, and thou art a hero. It would not be unreasonable to set thine expectations a touch higher.
Image: Ha, whatever you say, Your Highness. Anyway, we're out of sight of Tantegel by now. Do you want to use your own feet for a spell?
Image: Oh! I... In fact, I... would not mind being carried a bit further. If that is fine by thee.
Image: Well, you've been through enough, I don't mind spoiling you some more.

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Friday
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Friday » Thu May 24, 2018 10:10 pm

I remember once I got in a fight with a friend about which game was more iconic, Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior (the originals for NES) and it came down to "Dragon Warrior has final boss music and Chaos just uses the normal fight theme like a chump"
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Friday
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Friday » Thu May 24, 2018 10:10 pm

Also Dragonlord steps on your textbox because he don't give a fuck
ImageImageImage

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Friday
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Friday » Thu May 24, 2018 10:13 pm

Anyway thanks for this, I've always loved the original DW trilogy and am super looking forward to 2 and 3.

you better let us vote for what party you take in 3
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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Thu May 24, 2018 11:46 pm

Friday wrote:I remember once I got in a fight with a friend about which game was more iconic, Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior (the originals for NES) and it came down to "Dragon Warrior has final boss music and Chaos just uses the normal fight theme like a chump"


Gah, it's such a cool theme too, despite its length. I think the music in 2 is so, so much better than in 1, but with the Overture, the Dragonlord fight and the ending theme, you can definitely see 1987 Sugiyama from where 1986 Sugiyama is standing.

Friday wrote:Also Dragonlord steps on your textbox because he don't give a fuck


It's a bad habit that his minions take after, too. The Armored Knight's shield overlaps the spell selection box so much that you have to guess whether you're casting RADIANT or STOPSPELL.

Friday wrote:Anyway thanks for this, I've always loved the original DW trilogy and am super looking forward to 2 and 3.

you better let us vote for what party you take in 3


Well, I ain't running two simultaneous LPs for the same game so the brontovotes will be added together with the awfulvotes just like for Nocturne, but there will definitely be voting. I've reached the Dharma Shrine with three goof-offs before, I'm not afraid of democracy. :cool:

Everyone voting for a merchant gets on my shitlist tho. Snore!

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Thu May 24, 2018 11:59 pm

Oh uh I guess on the other hand a merchant would be super fun to write flavor dialog for so shitlist threat removed, sorry.

i don't even have a shitlist i dunno why i mentioned that

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nosimpleway
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby nosimpleway » Fri May 25, 2018 8:57 am

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"No? ...But thou must."

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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Mothra » Fri May 25, 2018 10:24 am

Enjoyed this. Been reading during really shitty meetings as of recent and it's been grand. Looking forward to the next one.

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Fri May 25, 2018 4:43 pm

nosimpleway wrote:
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"No? ...But thou must."


Well, it's a mite harder to pull that trick on someone who just broke into your heavily guarded island fortress fulling intending to stab you. But really...

Image: Dragonlord, I rescued Princess Gwaelin. I carried Princess Gwaelin. Princess Gwaelin is a friend of mine. Dragonlord, you're no Princess Gwaelin.

Mothra wrote:Enjoyed this. Been reading during really shitty meetings as of recent and it's been grand. Looking forward to the next one.


[wiggum]I'm useful![/wiggum]

:grin:

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Rico
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby Rico » Sat May 26, 2018 3:58 am

François wrote:Dragon Warrior is not a perfect game by any means, but its ideas and the execution of these ideas set the foundation for an entire genre, its myriad successors either iterating and building on its systems and adding notions of their own, or sometimes merely being cargo-cult imitators with only the most superficial understanding of its strengths. And it all started with a king, a hero with a stick, a villain in a castle, a quest, and a continent.


So far ahead of its time that Dragon Quest III released at virtually the same time as the first Final Fantasy.

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Sat May 26, 2018 4:44 am

Yeah that's kinda nuts. In at least a limited sense, both FF1 and DQ3 were building on top of DQ2. Party customization was definitely in the JRPG zeitgeist back then.

Well, okay, FF1 was building on top of both DQ2 and D&D, heh.

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François
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Re: Let's play Dragon Warrior!

Postby François » Sat May 26, 2018 4:58 pm

Okay so I've been meaning to take a week or two off to clear my head and start fresh on 2, but... I already have two episodes ready to go because I'm a god-damned animal I guess.

CAN'T STOP THE LP TRAIN BABY CHOO CHOO

Anyway, I'll still wait a bit to actually start posting, so I can build a backlog and seamlessly take a break later when I need to. Fortunately DW2 won't require voting, if I remember correctly.

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