There was a period of time during the 90s that my brother and I enjoyed a ridiculous amount of role playing games. It was the golden era of the Super Nintendo, and games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger were mainstays in the cartridge slot. We immediately knew and understood each of these games; their battle systems and open worlds made complete sense to us. But we were not always so saavy when it came to video games.
When my brother and I were much younger, we would look forward to playing every game our father brought home for our Nintendo Entertainment System. It was a wonderful time for our hobby, since the jump in programming abilities and encouragement for new ideas produced novel and interesting genres to grace the medium. One of these novel genres was the Japanese RPG, which initially came to our house in the form of Dragon Warrior.
At first glance, this game looked like another action/adventure title similar to the Legend of Zelda. Dragon Warrior featured an overhead view, a high fantasy art style, and a bad-ass medieval scene on the front cover. When we started the game up and first opened the menu screen, my brother and I were rather perplexed. Why couldn’t we swing our sword on the main screen? What’s with all the talking to villagers? How do you fight? Since we did not have the instruction booklet (the lack of which remains a mystery to this day), we mostly guessed at how to play this new genre. Our plan to beat the dragon that resided on the front cover went as follows:
“Okay, so, you always start off in this town, right? And obviously the dragon is somewhere, otherwise why would it be called Dragon Warrior? So we have to leave town, and run as fast as we can to the next town before we get attacked by enemies. If it is a slime, we should be fine, because they run away a lot, but if it is one of those bat things, we are definitely gonna die. Then we gotta start back at the main town, and try again.”
Needless to say, this experience was not very fun for either of us, and this system of play did not make sense until Zelda II: The Adventure of Link came out, and gently took us by the hand into a softer version of the RPG universe. I eventually went back and played the remake of Dragon Warrior on the Game Boy Color. I enjoyed this version of the game immensely, but I couldn’t shake a slight sense of embarrassment the every time I left the main town of Tantegel. Despite a childhood filled with running around in my underwear and a cape non-stop, I still mark my lack of understanding Dragon Warrior as the major “dumb little kid” moment in my life.