Laser Grind, Volume I: NES

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Do you remember a time when the only games with RPG elements were RPGs? Laser Time remembers. Do you remember a time when you had to talk to 200 identical NPCs to find out what to do instead of following a glowing trail on your map? Laser Time remembers.


These games, as infuriating as they were (or still are), formed the foundations of several game empires that still exist today, so they must have done something right. So I have decided to explore the ancestors of our modern role-playing games, beginning with the glorious NES era, and give them a useless, arbitrary rating. I played three games, each of which spawned many many sequels. I took some notes, some pics, and several shots of bourbon, and I am now ready to share my experiences, starting with…

Dragon Quest (a.k.a. Dragon Warrior in the US)

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Released in Japan in 1986 and in the US in 1989, this game featured art stylings by beloved Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, whose cutesy characters such as the *ahem* slime are still mainstays in the 20+ year franchise of games, anime, and manga that spawned from Dragon Quest.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

C’mon, you know this guy.

On to the gameplay! Our hero Chris (Chri as his four digit-only friends know him) is the descendant of Erdrick, a hero who came to Alefgard long ago, defeated the Dragonlord, and returned light to the kingdom. Now that the DL has returned, kidnapped the princess, and set his darkness upon the lands, Chris must blah blah blah. You know where this is going.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

A tale as old as time…

Please note the various commands in the menu — these caught me off guard. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled in the last few years, but I found it very awkward to walk onto a stair, then have to open a menu and select “stairs.” The same is true of doors and treasure chests. I recall a sense of befuddlement as I stood on the first chest and hit search, only to be told, “there is a chest.” Ah, that’s what “take” is for…

Essentially, the game is a series of fetch quests, progressing through territories with stronger monsters. The inventory system is super limited, and only allows you to carry a few healing items — even fewer if you need a torch or other consumable. Fortunately, it treats certain items with the reverence befitting our hero’s namesake.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

“Verily! Blaze it 420!”

You are sent to these progressively more difficult locations to retrieve the legendary items necessary to create the Rainbow Bridge and reach the DragonLord’s Lair. Discovering the locations of said items, however, is a much more arduous a task than it sounds (when skipping GameFAQs, at least). You are forced to rely upon information from villagers spread throughout the game, who apparently don’t know you’re in kind of a hurry.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Howard defintely found an herb of his own.

Dragon Quest boasts a whole one playable character — a lonely quest for him, to be sure — and uses the now classic Magic Point (MP) system, which I’m going to assume you’re aware of. Fortunately for our lone warrior, enemies only appear one at a time as well, so there’s no fear of being outnumbered. Battles themselves are straightforward, turn-based, and don’t require a ton of strategy, save for a few times when you have to use a special item. Of course, you would only know about using that item if you talked to the exact right NPC on the other side of the world…

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

This game is so suggestive!

As you level up, your stats increase, and at certain levels, you can learn new spells. Leveling up is a bit of a struggle, or a grind (heh). But after a few hours of fighting the same enemy over and over, you will finally be ready to brave the Dragonlord’s lair.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Man, Jesus is gonna be mad.

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

“Defeat…?”

The inconsistent grammatical use of articles wasn’t the most infuriating thing about this fight. He’s such a boss that even the display couldn’t properly contain his might!

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Sick “burn,” dude.

I guess since this is the only boss fight in the game, it’s weirdly necessary to have him pelt you each turn with a move that takes just enough HP to force you to heal every other turn, making you to waste all your MP on healing. Even the legendary Sword of Erdrick could barely scratch him.

But 45 minutes later, Chris had finally vanquished the Dragonlord and triumphantly returned light to the Kingdom of Alefgard! For your hard work, you are rewarded with an eight minute FMV explaining what happens to all our main characters. Just kidding, you get this:

Laser Time, Laser Grind, RPG, NEs, Dragon Quest, Dragon Warrior, let's play, review, walkthrough

Thus ends the first of many games to carry the name Dragon Quest, and the first game in our exploration of the origins of modern role-playing video games.

This was a rough start; it took a lot longer than I expected, and the tedium was palpable. The lack of enemy variety really took its toll on my brain as I struggled to raise my level, and after a while even finding the “herb” wasn’t enough to keep it interesting. Here are my final ratings, which I must note mean nothing, because meaning is dumb:

  • Difficulty: 5/10
  • Character Cuteness: 9/10
  • NPC MVP: Howard
  • Size of Dragonlord: 11/10
  • Grind Factor:  8 Slimes

Article by contributor Humphrey.

14 thoughts on “Laser Grind, Volume I: NES

  1. In my day, we had to tell the game to use the stairs. Both directions! The Gameboy version took out a lot of the headaches.

    It was very easy to be killed by slimes early on if you didn’t spend a lot of time grinding before you walked more than ten or so squares. This is perhaps the grindiest game I’ve played.

  2. Only one boss? Happy they have not stuck to that in this series, love the DQ games. Happy to see a cool new article series(?) on LT hope you keep up with these regularly, interesting idea.

  3. Oooooo, This is good. This shit is right up my ally. Hope to see a lot of SMT stuff here in the future.

  4. A little dissapointed, I mean not one mention of Mtv’s the Grind star Eric Nies???? Just kidding brotha; my main man bringing the Dragon Warrior fire to the interweb pages of Lasertime! I can tell this new series is going to be fresher than a polar bear’s toenail!

  5. Howard definitely was the MVP, haha. Great read + commentary. Can’t wait to read more of your in-depth NES articles. 🙂

  6. Jesus, I never got around to playing the first DQ so I didn’t know how weird it was compared to later games.

  7. Holy crap! You beat the game at level 18? I’m 99% sure I was at level 24 and still never beat him. But I’m also pretty sure I refused to heal every other turn, convinced that there was some secret to beating him, like using HURT or even HEAL on him.
    It might have been over 20 years ago but I have a clear memory of it since I was convinced it was a puzzle and the internet was measured in bauds and had no gamefaqs.

    1. man, these new games have us convinced that theres a trick to every boss… but back in the day, boss fights were just as much of a grind as leveling was…

  8. Haha. Dragon Quest (properly pronounced Dragon Warrior) was my jam. I never got into final Fantasy as much, though that airship hasn’t sailed yet, perhaps. Playing those early rpgs without the help of the internet was sooo arduous, but sooo worth it. Often so desperate that I’d blindly search any “special” looking squares rather than go back and chat up every less than helpful yokel repeatedly. Good times. Ish.

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