Dragon Warrior III

   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.

World map
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
Developer Chun Soft
Publisher Enix
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform NES
Release Date

Dragon Warrior III FAQ / Dungeon and world maps
18 screenshots
Manual illustrations
U.S. and Japanese box art