Dragon Warrior III, released in 1991, tells how Erdrick's legend truly began. Although it is the concluding volume of the first
Dragon Warrior trilogy (Dragon Warrior IV starts an entirely new saga),
Dragon Warrior III actually takes place before its predecessors. You begin as a young
hero being presented to the King of Aliahan on his 16th birthday. The king
wishes you to follow in the footsteps of your father, the famed warrior Ortega,
who mysteriously vanished years ago. You are called upon to defeat the
Archfiend Baramos who, like all villainous demons, wishes to destroy the
world, or conquer it, or cast it into eternal darkness--whatever his
mood is. To defeat Baramos, you must gain allies, search deep dungeons, climb
towers, traverse the seas, and even fly upon the back of a legendary
phoenix. While the quest is rather standard RPG fare, it's still long and
challenging -- and at the time of Dragon Warrior III's release, the Dragon Warrior series
was the best-known console RPG series, so many devoted fans eagerly
snapped up the third installment.
The King and I
Like the original Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior III uses a class system,
though one a bit more complex. Your main character automatically belongs to
the special Hero class; the only choice you have is the hero's gender.
(Creating a female hero presents a few moments of awkwardness in the
dialogue, as the King of Aliahan believes you're Ortega's
son anyway. Maybe it's the armor...) The rest of your party can be
chosen from six other classes: Soldiers, who are strong fighters, but inept
magic-users; Pilgrims, who are the party's healers; Wizards, the opposite of
Soldiers, with weak attack and defense but powerful spells; Fighters,
martial artists who are agile and prone to getting "tremendous hits";
Merchants, average fighters who possess the unique ability to appraise
items; and Goof-Offs, lucky jokers who are pretty much useless in battle, but
good for a laugh. You choose the gender of your
party members as well; males have stronger attack and defense, females
greater agility and magic power. You can create up to twelve characters
for your party -- but only three may journey along with your hero and
gain experience, so it is unlikely that most players ever took advantage
of that feature. About midway through the game, you reach a shrine where you can change the classes of your pre-existing characters. Though the character has to start building experience again from the very first level, he or she retains his/her magical abilities, so you can create unique combinations
like a Soldier that can cast low-level healing spells. If you find a
special hidden item, you change one of your characters into a secret
class, the Sage, who possesses all the spells of a Pilgrim and Wizard,
plus increased attack and defense power.
Dragon Warrior III was one of the first console RPGs to incorporate the
passage of time. As you explore the overworld, day gradually gives
way to night, and night once more to day. More powerful monsters come out at night,
and it is easy for an unwary party venturing into new territory to be
mercilessly slaughtered. Towns are also affected; at night, castle gates
are shut tight, and most shops are closed (inns, of course, are always open).
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to return at night to sneak into a location guarded
during the day or speak to an important character with a nocturnal
lifestyle. In one case, paying a night visit to a village that appears abandoned by day reveals that it is a literal ghost town, and, like the world's living residents, the ghosts will aid you in your quest.
Aliahan... or is that Australia?
The geography of Dragon Warrior III is also quite interesting. The field map
resembles that of the Earth during the early period of continental drift,
and landmarks, countries, myths, and legends from our world are
incorporated into it -- your hometown of Aliahan is located on what appears
to eventually become Australia! Along its journey, your party visits the
Kingdom of Romaly (Rome), located on a peninsula that looks suspiciously
like a boot; the port town of Portoga (Portugal), where shipbuilding and
sea trade are major industries; the desert kingdom of Isis (Egypt) and its Great
Pyramid; the village of the prairie-dwelling Soo (Sioux) tribe; and the
island nation of Jipang (Japan), terrorized by the demon Orochi.
After much adventuring, treasure hunting, and level-building, your party
finally reaches the castle of the Archfiend Baramos, and, like all heroes, faces
the foe and smites him well. You return to the castle of Aliahan for
some well-deserved rest and celebration, when a horrible secret
is revealed: Baramos had his own master. The true enemy is the Master
Archfiend, Zoma, who rules "the dark realms." Vowing to do to him as you
did to Baramos, you set out for the Great Pit of Giaga, bravely venturing
into the unknown darkness... and ending up at a castle called Tantegel.
Sound familiar? This is the world of the first Dragon Warrior. You must seek out the Stones of Sunlight and the Staff of Rain so you can create a Rainbow Bridge leading to Zoma's
Castle. To do so, you must travel the land, visiting places like Kol,
Hauksness, and Rimuldar. You'll find your father Ortega (and witness his sad end), before putting away the Master Archfiend, Zoma ... ableit only temporarily. When you return to
Tantagel, the King, in his gtatitude, christens you with a new name:
Erdrick. And so begins the the legend that was introduced in the original Dragon Warrior.
While its character development is almost nil and the
graphics and sound are only average for a NES game, Dragon Warrior III still
told an interesting story and was quite successful for its time. Even today,
its rarity makes it highly desirable to game collectors. Many RPG fans
look back upon it as a solid entry in a well-respected series.
Retrospective by Kate Malloy, freelance.
|Dragon Warrior III
|Dragon Warrior III FAQ / Dungeon and world maps
|U.S. and Japanese box art