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The GameSpy Hall of Fame: Dragon Warrior
Every Tuesday, we induct a new game into our Hall of Fame. These games were chosen either because of their brilliant gameplay (which makes them playable to this day), or because they innovated in such a way to reshape gaming in their time.
By William Cassidy | Feb. 1, 2002

Sit thee back and thou shalt hear a tale. Yon tale is one of grand adventuring, set amidst the ancient times when dark magic did threaten the land, when accurs'd dragons did innocent maidens abduct, and when thou couldst not taketh more than three steps out of the village without tripping o'er Slimes. 'Twas a time that did driveth even the hardiest of souls to distraction, much as writing in yon outdated style is't doing to me. Art not thou already grown tired of't?
Back in the ancient days (1989 to be exact), the Western world became acquainted with a game that had already been a Japanese institution for years. Dragon Quest first arrived in the Land of the Rising Sun in '86. It stemmed from three men's desire to create an involved role-playing game that was still simple enough to appeal to a wide range of players. The three principal designers of Dragon Quest were Artist Akira Toriyama, who is also the creator of Dragon Ball Z, Music Composer Koichi Sugiyama, and Director Yuji Hori. Their combined efforts created a gaming dynasty, fundamentally shaped the role-playing genre, and even inspired a new Japanese law.

When Enix brought this groundbreaking game to America, they were forced to change its title, because TSR -- the makers of Dungeons & Dragons -- owned the trademark to the name Dragon Quest. As a result, the American version of the game became known as Dragon Warrior. Thanks to a promotion enabling Nintendo Power subscribers to get a free copy of the game, thousands upon thousands of American NES owners would come to love that name.

A Genre Builder

Dragon Warrior was such a seminal RPG that everything about it sounds clich´┐Ż today. A fantastically evil force has descended over the Kingdom of Alefgard, blighting the land with nasty monsters. The cause of all this mayhem is the Dragonlord, who dispenses his particular brand of wickedness from dark Charlock Castle. Fortunately a hero arrives on the scene -- a descendant of the legendary warrior Erdrick, who drove away the previous fantastically evil force to threaten the land. (Alefgard, like all ancient kingdoms, has to contend with nasty world-destroying threats every couple of generations. Insurance rates must be hell there). Our hero starts out in Tantagel Castle armed with absolutely nothing; he doesn't even have a name until you give him one. However, the kindly King generously shells out 120 gold pieces to get him started in his world-saving quest -- enough for him to buy some clothes and a bamboo pole. Gee, thanks.

Even if you haven't played Dragon Warrior, you can guess the rest. The hero isn't much of a fighter at the start, but by battling the weak enemies (Slimes) that just happen to live outside the castle, he gradually earns experience and gold. He levels up, learns attack and healing magic, buys better weapons and armor, and is able to explore an ever-increasing area. He meets people in villages, all of whom are very talkative but always say the same things. He rescues a captured princess, who pledges her undying love to the hero in one of the most romantic moments seen in a videogame. He finds the mystical equipment that belonged to his famous ancestor. Finally he's strong enough to take on the Dragonlord, a nogoodnik who attempts to trick our hero into joining him and assumes two different forms before finally being defeated. Practically all of these features became standard issue for console RPGs ever afterward.

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