Readers of the Warp Zone section of the site as well as listeners of the Warp Zone Podcast will know that Dragon Warrior was my first introduction to the world of Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs). The original released in the U.S. in August of 1989, just a little over 30 years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. What some may not know is that Dragon Warrior III on the NES was my favorite of the bunch. It introduced a slew of new gameplay mechanics via its job system, meaning each party member could learn different abilities and spells from one another. The story was more intricate than prior installments and the graphics and sound took a major step up, which probably isn’t saying much because the series wasn’t exactly known for cutting edge visuals. We missed out on the amazing Super NES port, but the Game Boy Color version had remained my favorite version with lots of additional side content and improved visuals over the NES original. Now we have a modified version for the Switch with the proper Dragon Quest III moniker and the main game is still as addicting as ever. With the ability to play on the go or on the TV there’s no reason not to spend dozens of hours trying to thwart the evil demon Baramos.
As I just mentioned, there have been several versions of this game released over the last 30 years. So, what iteration can you expect with the Switch? Well, it’s essentially the same one that has appeared on mobile devices over the past few years, albeit with much-needed d-pad and button support. What this means is that the graphics feature highly detailed sprite work in the backgrounds and scenery. Gone is the boring black static background during combat, and in its place are beautifully illustrated portraits mimicking the area you’re currently exploring (i.e. forests, mountains, etc.). However, not all is perfect with the graphic presentation. If I may nitpick a bit (its sort of my job), all of the enemies have lost their sprite-based pixel art and are now sort of high-resolution clip art versions of their former selves. Perhaps because of this graphic “upgrade” they no longer animate like they did in the Game Boy Color and Super NES remasters. This is a big step backward in presentation is unfortunate to see. The playable and non-playable characters are also high definition but appear to retain some of their sprite attributes so they look pretty good overall. The towns and environments look even better than the Super NES and are very colorful and detailed, making them really pop on the TV and in handheld mode. Since you’ll be spending a ton of time fighting various monsters it would have been nice to see more attention devoted to animating the enemies.
A few other minor changes have been applied to the game, especially the opening moments. In the original you witnessed your father fighting a demon to the death, eventually both of them falling into a volcano. This scene is no longer present in this new version. In both the Game Boy Color and Super NES versions you’d even see some of the events unfold that led up to the fight on the mountaintop, and that’s been axed for this one as well. Perhaps Square Enix wanted the player to get to action quicker, but I feel this sort of diminishes the reason you’re going out on an adventure in the first place. Those are really the only concerns I have with this port, otherwise it plays a lot like I remember.
Dragon Quest III is a huge game to explore with many different lands to discover and townspeople to talk to. Just like before the enemy encounter rate is rather high, so don’t be surprised if you have to fight every few steps, especially in caves and towers. My best advice to newcomers is to tread lightly and try to fight each monster without attempting to run away, which doesn’t work as often as you’d like. Carry some medicinal and antidote herbs with you just incase! Of course since you get to create your party from the outset, it’s best to have a well-rounded group of heroes with you. The obvious choice is to include a Warrior, Mage, and Priest alongside your Hero. That way you’ll have some serious offensive attacking capabilities as well as some magical backup. You’ll be thankful when you learn some healing spells and others that can attack entire groups of enemies. There are other auxiliary classes that are also fun to play, but they’re a little more nuanced and best left for more seasoned players. Looking up a guide might be a good idea if you want more insight into what each does because the game doesn’t help at all with detailing the pros and cons.
If you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest game in the past you’ll be right at home here. The basic progression system is identical. You’ll often have to solve a local dilemma that the townspeople need help with and to do so usually requires you to go into a cave or something to take out an enemy or recover an item. Then you’ll solve that problem and move onto the next, all the while inching your way to your overall goal of killing Baramos. The game features a day-night cycle, which will have a direct impact on the potency of enemy monsters (the stronger ones come out at night) as well as which townspeople are available to chat. You should definitely check out each location during both times to uncover all the secrets. Once again you’ll find Mini Medals to collect that can be traded for more powerful weapons, so be sure to inspect every dresser drawer and pot!
I’m pleased to report that Dragon Quest III holds up very well despite it being such an old classic. The prettier graphics and fully orchestrated soundtrack definitely help, but the intriguing world design as well as the story really propels it along nicely. There are tons of secrets to try and uncover and the game still has a high difficulty curve, which will require some grinding to overcome. Some of the dungeons are brutal with fake floors and traps all over the place. Back on the NES I had the advantage of maps included with the game, but today you have the internet at your disposal. Don’t feel guilty looking up maps for dungeons or tips on where to find specific items because the game often does little to point you in the right direction.
I know that I’m partial to this game because I loved it so much back in the day. For those playing it for the first time and who have played modern era JRPGs I’m sure the story seems rather quaint. The game focuses less on plot twists and long exposition and more on small tales and just letting you go off and discover things on your own. In that sense some won’t appreciate it as much as others, but I still maintain it’s one of the best Dragon Quest games in the series and it still ranks high atop my all-time favorites. The Switch finally provides a way for U.S. gamers to play an updated version of the NES classic with proper controls, and for that I’m eternally grateful!
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds Of Salvation Review
- Graphics - 8.5/108.5/10
- Sound - 8.5/108.5/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation is a perfect mix of old and new. It features updated visuals and orchestrated music, but retains random encounters and can be a bit on the sparse side for informing newcomers on what to do next. Expect the same grinding and exploring the series is known for. I’m just happy we have a somewhat updated version finally available with proper controller support!