Dragon Warrior Monsters - Reader Retroview  

Starry Night
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

10-100 Hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   A boy named Terry and his sister Milayou are about to call it a night until a monster from another world kidnaps Milayou, with Terry following along to rescue her, finding himself in a kingdom in a giant tree. Here he learns that if he wins the Starry Night Tournament, he can make a wish, and thus proceeds to hunt and train monsters to win the tournament and rescue Milayou. Dragon Warrior Monsters for the Game Boy Color saw its release as the Pokémon craze began, although it does feature many gameplay differences and proves to be an enjoyable title in its own right, despite its shortcomings.

   The Kingdom of GreatTree features a number of Travelers' Gates to other worlds inhabited by monsters, with these worlds each containing a certain number of randomly-generated floors the player must traverse to the bottom to fight a boss of sorts; the player can only exit these worlds by using WarpWings. Enemies are randomly encountered, with Terry's party of up to three monsters fighting an enemy party of up to three foes. Terry himself does not actively participate in combat, although he can use an item before his monsters and the enemy beat up one another in a round.

   As for battle commands, Terry can choose three different general A.I. options for each of his monsters, including Charge, where his monsters primarily use attack skills; Mixed, where his monsters chiefly use support skills; and Cautious, where his monsters use defensive and healing skills. The player can choose specific commands for each enemy, but depending upon a monster's personality, he or she might not follow Terry's orders and act on his or her own instincts. Using the aforementioned A.I. commands, however, very gradually alters a monster's personality. Constantly selecting specific commands for all monsters, though, can be tedious, but the player can easily select the Fight option from the main battle menu to have all monsters execute their previous commands.

Must've changed his name somehow... Experience points...for a computer game?

   Winning a battle nets Terry's monsters experience and the occasional level up, with his monsters sometimes learning new skills; each monster, though, can only hold up to eight skills, so monsters must sometimes drop skills if the player wishes. Surprisingly, the player doesn't gain money from battles, and must instead find it randomly lying around in dungeons, from the occasional treasure chest, and by selling items if desired. If all of Terry's monsters die in battle, he returns to GreatTree with half his gold lost (though storing gold in the depository can nullify this penalty) and most carried items lost as well.

   Throughout his quest, Terry can capture new monsters by using various kinds of meat to gain the foes' satisfaction, and then killing the desired monster last. If successful, the monster will offer to join Terry's party, and if he accepts, he can name it, and can either take it into his current party or send it to the Monster Farm, which can hold up to nineteen monsters; even monsters on the Farm that aren't in Terry's party gain some experience as he fights through dungeons. If desired, Terry can have his monsters "sleep" on the Farm in which case they won't gain experience, although doing so frees up space so Terry can capture more monsters.

   Another interesting feature of combat is monster breeding, where Terry can mate a male and female monster to obtain a monster egg that he can hatch for a price. After doing so, Terry will lose the monsters that he mated, and the new monster will start at level one, although he or she will inherit skills from his or her parents and have better stats at higher levels. Moreover, accessing new Travelers' Gates requires Terry to participate at the monster arena, where his monster party fights three opponent monster parties, in which case he can't use items or select specific commands for his monsters.

Must be a leprechaun nearby... Following the money trail

   Overall, the combat system is fairly enjoyable and fast-paced, with only a few shortcomings such as the aforementioned tedium of selecting specific commands for all of Terry's monsters before each round of combat (which requires going through a few submenus), the inability to change monster commands when Terry uses items, and variable turn order. As for difficulty, it can fluctuate somewhat depending on Terry's monsters, but the game is neither too hard nor too easy. All in all, given that the game's main focus is combat, it's fortunate the battle system is well more than tolerable.

   The interface is acceptable for the most part, with easy menus, monster management, and a simple save system while Terry is in GreatTree, although there are some annoyances, such as the limit on inventory space and even the limit on depository space; the random dungeons might be a turn-off to players, as well. Still, interaction is by no means bad, and doesn't detract too heavily from the game.

   Though many considered Dragon Warrior Monsters a Pokémon clone when it first came out (the Dragon Quest franchise, in fact, started the monster-capturing craze with its fifth installment long before the first Pokémon title), it does feature significant gameplay differences, such as party combat and monster breeding, that make it feel inventive in its own right. It does derive elements from the main installments of the Dragon Quest series such as many monsters and story events at the end of dungeons, although it's still plentifully distinctive.

Can't think of a good conclusion to the joke... Two jesters, a priest, and a monster tamer walked into a throne room...

   Story-wise, Dragon Warrior Monsters is a prequel to Dragon Quest VI, featuring its characters Terry and Milayou, though it really doesn't accomplish a whole lot in the realm of plot, without any major sense of suspense or significant twists. The story bits encountered at the end of each dungeon are basically rehashes of scenes from other Dragon Quest games, and don't contribute a whole lot to the overall plot. All in all, the story is hardly a driving point throughout the game.

   The music, though, is one of the game's high points, with composer Koichi Sugiyama providing another nice soundtrack for the series. Although there aren't that many tracks, what they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. The sound effects, however, could've been better, yet Dragon Warrior Monsters is very easy on the ears.

   Visually, Dragon Warrior Monsters doesn't excel, with simple sprites, scenery, and battle graphics where monsters are inanimate, although the colors and monster designs by Akira Toriyama are decent, and overall, while the graphics aren't superb, they certainly don't detract from the game.

   Finally, the game can be short or lengthy, depending upon whether or not the player decides to hunt for every monster, breed monsters constantly, and/or participate in the post-game quests, all of which can easily make playing time range somewhere from ten to a hundred hours. In the end, Dragon Warrior Monsters is a fairly enjoyable romp, with a few things going for it such as its combat system and music, although it does have some things going against it like its story. Those who can look past its shortcomings, though, especially those who enjoy monster-capturing RPGs, are likely to find themselves occupied for a good while.

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