: Dragon Warrior IV
: 11 February 1990
, see Versions section below)
Dragon Warrior IV- A revolution in storytelling for video games.
A classic console RPG, Dragon Warrior IV's unique presentation of a well spun tale made it not only one of the largest, popular and greatest all time NES games, but also raised the bar of what a plot should be in video games. Without the Engrish, it's possible the plot would even hold up by today's standards. Nearly one of the last games to be released for NES, it had surprisingly dramatic and emotional appeal. While the Dragon Warrior series is known for its "Ye Olde stereotypical medieval Tolkienesque" setting, Dragon Warrior IV's presentation, depth and characters were unparalleled for its time.
For example, consider the main villain, Saro. He has a real motive for his actions! Indeed, video games where the bad guys don't try to conquer humanity just because of the primordial darkness of their black souls are certainly rare.
Saro becomes the bad guy because he falls in love with the last elf in the world of Dragon Warrior IV. Her name is Rosa and she cries rubies. Humans, being the greedy filthy buggers they are, constantly beat Rosa to make her cry and steal her ruby tears. One day, Saro comes along and saves her from a group of corrupt humans by killing them. Over the next few years, he builds a tower to hide her away in so she won't cry, protected from the sins of humanity. Ironically, her isolation in the tower makes her weep even more. Angry that she can't live happily in a world populated with humans, Saro, out of his love for her, decides he must exterminate humanity. Thus, he hatches a nihilistic plan to awaken a sleeping demon named Esturk (who is in fact, coincidentally, a generic bad guy who is evil just because) who can help him destroy humankind.
The game is divided into 5 chapters. Chapters 1-4 introduces one or more of the main characters, or "Chosen Ones", while relating their back plot. Chapter 5 is a sort of meta-chapter, where all these characters team up together with the main character, the Legendary Hero (who you get to name... more on this later). Consequently, Chapter 5 takes up slightly more than half of the entire game just by itself.
- Chapter I: The Royal Soldiers - The game begins with a high ranking soldier named Ragnar investigating the disappearance of two children in an uneventful and peaceful kingdom. During his search, he discovers a far reaching conspiracy trying to prevent the fulfillment of a prophesy: the coming of a Legendary Hero. By kidnapping children across the world, they hope to find and destroy the Hero. Thus, after saving the two children at the end of his chapter, Ragnar sets off to find and protect this Legendary Hero.
- Chapter II: Princess Alena's Adventure - The second chapter is almost like a mini-redux of Dragon Warrior II. There are three characters: Alena, the fist-fighting princess with an attitude; Christo, the scholarly Chancellor that learns all the heal spells; and Brey, the wizened old man that learns all the attack spells. Alena, a typical rebel teenage daughter, takes off from her father's castle in hoping to test her fighting skills. Christo and Brey, feeling responsible for the princess, join up with her. After doing general good deeds in surrounding communities and winning a world wide fighting tournament, Alena returns home to find her castle abandoned. She and her two friends set off to find her missing people.
- Chapter III: Taloon the Arms Merchant - Chapter three, which follows the jolly merchant Taloon, is an incredibly unique gaming experience. Unlike the rest of the game, there isn't progression by how powerful or what level your character is, but rather how much money you have. Taloon, being a merchant, has a variety of ways to gather money besides the old fashion slime slaying. He can work for his old boss for a daily commission, buy armor in normal towns and sell it to a kingdom preparing for war, set up his own shop full of weapons and armor, subsidize an armory for a king, or sell priceless artifacts found venturing caves. Once Taloon owns a shop (which costs 32,000 GP) and begins funding an underwater tunnel to a neighboring kingdom (another whooping 64,000 GP), his strange, but enjoyable chapter is over.
- Chapter IV: The Sisters of Monbaraba - Chapter four features two sisters, Nara the Fortuneteller and Mara the Dancer, and their quest to avenge their father's murder. The entire continent they live on is under somewhat an iron-fisted rule by a mysterious dictator named Keelon. After doing a bit of investigating, the sisters break into a castle where they believe their father's murderer hides. Unfortunately, there's a very strong lion monster living in the castle that swiftly beats the sisters down. After awakening, they escape from the castle and take a boat to escape the oppressive country.
- Chapter V: The Chosen Ones -
Let me begin Chapter 5 with one of my favorite video game anecdotes. As an NES cartridge, Dragon Warrior IV used a battery save system as opposed to a memory card or password save system. There were only three spots to save in and these spots were differentiated by a name you entered at the beginning of the game. This name is also what the name the Legendary Hero takes on, but he or she (you can chose its gender) doesn't appear until chapter 5. Since I was a stupid little kid when I first played this game, I didn't realize the name entered for the save spot on the cartridge would end up being the Hero's name as well. So, in my childish naivete, I named the save spot after myself, not knowing the Hero would be named likewise.
When Chapter 5 starts, a woman walks over to the Hero and says "It's done. (Hero's name), my dear child. Take this lunch to your father at the pond."
I damn near fell off my chair seeing the game address me by my first name for no apparent reason. It took me several moments before I realized the name of the save spot was how the hero was named. Duh.
Anyway, the Legendary Hero lives in a small, isolated village that inevitably gets sacked by Saro and his cronies. Surviving only through the selfless sacrifice of a friend named Celia, the Hero sets off in the wilderness in search of the power to avenge his family and friends with. The next large chunk of the game is searching for the other seven characters. There's usually a quest involved such as "save the village", "find the Magic Key" or "deliver this paperclip" before the characters join up with the Hero. Once everyone is united, they begin to search for the Zenithian equipment, which imbues the Hero with special evil-slaying powers. The game seems to wind down when the Hero kills the revived demon Esturk, but Saro, driven mad because Rosa was murdered, retreats to a dark underworld hoping to evolve into Necrosaro, another incarnation of Esturk (he's re-pixelated blue instead of red).
A final showdown is set up and the Hero ventures from a castle in the clouds to the depths of the world where most of the evil monsters chill. It turns these generic bad guys had been manipulating Saro the whole time as they were directly responsible for Rosa's kidnapping and subsequent death!!! They did it only the set off the insanity inside of Saro. The Hero goes ahead and slays them like a good hero should, then proceeds through a nameless castle that is the last level. In the end, the final battle takes place on a stylish giant mountain looming over the dark underworld. The Hero and the Chosen Ones defeat the evolving Necrosaro to bring peace to the land.
At first, the ending appears to be dark and grim as the Hero returns to his tiny mountain village to remember that all the family and friends had been killed. The Hero really had no life outside of killing slimes and the such. However, the supposedly dead friend Celia appears out of nowhere and embraces the Hero. The destroyed town suddenly grows flowers everywhere, the seven Chosen Ones rush into the village and suddenly, it's a happy ending.
I feel the game play of Dragon Warrior IV is best described in comparison to its immediate predecessor, Dragon Warrior III. The two games are almost exactly the same in game play with a few exceptions.
Like every other NES Dragon Warrior (I-III), the character being controlled moves around on a two dimensional plane. If anyone else is has "joined your party", they obediently follow behind the player's avatar. There are towns, castles, caves, towers and Shinres among other locations scattered across the world. Wandering around just about anywhere except inside of towns leads to random battles.
Random battles feature the crazy monsters of Akira Toriyama, the famous magna artist and character designer for the entire Dragon Warrior series. These battles are where most of the game takes place. I would say that are identical to Dragon Warrior III, except you can't control your characters. Some wise guy had the bright idea to let the computer control the characters that were not introduced in the chapter the player was in. This means Chapter 5, which is more than half the game, no one is controllable except for the Hero. What an obnoxious and glaringly bad design flaw.
As usual, pressing the "A" button brings up an annoying submenu. However, Dragon Warrior IV's menu is slightly modified from the earlier ones:
| TALK SPELL |
| STATUS ITEM |
| EQUIP TACTICS |
| DOOR SEARCH |
The door button is a vast improvement; now you don't have to rummage through your inventory to find keys to open doors anymore. The tactics button basically gave your uncontrollabe party members an attack plan like "Don't use MP", "Defensive" or "Offensive".
Because only four people are allowed in a battle at once, a reserve system was introduced. Every character that wasn't in the immediate party sat around in a wagon, ready to be put into battle. They still got experience... But only if the wagon was with the main group. The wagon went pretty much anywhere except levels like caves and towers.
Dragon Warrior IV as part of the Dragon Warrior series
As far as the Dragon Warriors released in the US go, this one had the best plot by far. Dragon Warrior VII, despite being a two disc Playstation game, had a fairly inconsequential plot as the other Dragon Warriors did. However, Dragon Warrior IV suffered in game play because of the strict plot advancement and inability to control characters in Chapter 5. Basically, Dragon Warrior IV can be seen as Dragon Warrior III with a much better plot, but less fun battle system.
The original NES cartridge of Dragon Warrior IV is incredibly rare. The only copy I ever saw was at a local video rental store. I tried to get them to sell me their copy for years, but it eventually got stolen by someone else. Bastards.
Because of its extreme rarity, emulation becomes the only realistic option. The Dragon Warrior IV ROM has a few notable characteristics- It's one of largest NES ROMs at exactly one megabyte. yerricde informs that 100-in-1 Contra Function 16 is another one of the uncommon megabyte NES ROMs. Also, it's incompatible with many emulators. I know it works on the latest version of NESticle as well as FCE Ultra, but for some reason, it took the emulation community quite a while to get it running correctly.
On the back of the US Dragon Warrior VII instruction booklet, there is an advertisement for a Playstation version of Dragon Warrior IV, completely revamped it 32-bit style with improvements all around. However, Enix wimped out and decided to not port it. Thus, the Playstation version of Dragon Warrior IV remains a Japanese only release. It came out November 22, 2001.
malcster informs me that there is also an SNES remake titled "Torneco no Daibouken" also released only in Japan. Besides the name, I have no idea what else is different.
Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest - Dragon Warrior II - Dragon Warrior III - Dragon Warrior IV - Dragon Quest V Dragon Quest VI - Dragon Warrior VII
Playing the game
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