For the longest time I've loved Dragon Quest and I'm always looking for an excuse to rant about it. Ever since this site has come up I've been thinking about countless new ways to rant about the series. But one thing lead to another and I've been busy for the most part. But now that it's Spring Break and I have nothing to do I figure now would be the best time to start. My plan isn't so much to review the games but to write an OVERview of the games. I'm not going to cover everyone though. Oh no, there are already some pretty good reviews on this site for some of the Dragon Quest games. But I plan to tackle the Erdrick trilogy since I figure that many people haven't played it and well it's the first three games so what better place to start than at the beginning? I might move on to the Zenithia trilogy since it has my favorite Dragon Quest game in it but we'll see where this review takes us. So now let's cover all the need to know info about one of the best things to come from Japan EVER!!!!
The Humble History
For those not in the know, Dragon Quest is an RPG series from Japan. It's the Bread and Butter for the gaming company Enix, who in April of 2003 merged with another big-time Japanese company Square and the company became Square Enix. Enix started out in 1972 and it's name was originally Eidansha Boshu Service Center. But that was changed to Enix in 1982. The new name Enix is derived from a word-pun (what else would you expect from Japan :D). The name comes from both the Fire Bird itself the PhoENIX and the world's first real computer ENIAC (It makes sense when you take in account the Japanese pronunciation of Enix sounds more like Enikkusu).
But back to the year 1982. That was a very big year for the company indeed. It's the year that Enix decided to take the company in a new direction and try it's hand at videogames. So that year they held a contest to see who could make the best PC game program and wouldn't you know it a young upstart by the name of Yuji Horii was one of the winners of said contest with his game called Love Match Tennis. Ah truly a man who made such a manly game is destined for great things. Oh and he was. Mr.Horii wold go on to accomplish great things and help put Enix on the Map.
One of Mr.Horii's earliest success was a game called Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken. Which from what I've been told translates to The Portopia Serial Murder Case . This game is not only credited as one of the first ever Visual Novels ever made but also served as inspiration to another up-and-coming game designer in the industry. None other than THE Hideo Kojima the man behind Metal Gear was inspired by Mr.Horri's little game. Because of that Mr.Kojima felt that the gaming industry COULD be used to tell dynamic and epic stories. Which he was always writing since he was a young boy. So wow!!! Mr.Horii has already done the industry quite a big favor by helping to develop Visual Novels and inspire Mr.Kojima. But his work doesn't end their. The year 1986 is where the party really starts.
So is Anyone still Reading this?
Alright first I want to remind everyone that this is SUPPOSE to be about Dragon Quest and not about how awesome Yuji Horii is. And next I want to reassure everyone that we're coming back to Dragon Quest now don't worry. lol In 1985 Mr. Horii and his team at Chunsoft (a game developer that was founded by members from Enix that has a close relationship with Enix) began to make the game Dragon Quest. The original intent of Mr. Horii's little game was to introduce the world of RPG's the likes of Wizardy and Ultima to Japan which at the time was a very niche hobby there. On May 26,1986 the game was finally released to the world on both the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent to the NES) and the MSX (a home computer at the time had a pretty decent library of games). Mr.Horii stated that he wanted to combine aspects from both those series to make a his game. So we got the over-head view of Ultima on the maps and the 1st-person view of Wizardy in the fights. By copying and ultimately learning from the western RPG computer games Mr.Horii made one of the first ever console RPG's/JRPG's. Mr. Horii wanted a broad audience to be able to enjoy his game though so he tried his best to not follow along with the mythologies of series like D&D and instead opted to make his own worlds, and mythos, and monsters, and weapons, etc. The game was a hit and naturally it became a series.
Even though Mr.Horii wanted to avoid the mythos of the well-established series like D&D his stories certainly never strived too far from those series. At it's heart Dragon Quest is the told-over-and-over-again-story kind of series. But the series itself has such charm and is well-executed that I doubt it will ever matter. In short Dragon Quest's story isn't no edgy fight demons PERSONA story or go on awesome anime adventure TALES story. Dragon Quest managed to stay closer to those original RPG's from the west and focus on stories like saving the princes and defeating the Demon Lord for the ten millionth time. The story in Dragon Quest I is no different
Story-Time is When the Kiddies Fall Asleep
The story in Dragon Quest I is simple and easy enough to follow. You play as an unnamed character who you can name at your digression. The character (who will now be referred to as the HERO) turns out to be the descendant of a legendary Hero named Erdrick who saved your kingdom of Alefgard from the evil years ago. But now the Dragon Lord has stolen the Ball of light and has capture the Princess Gwaelin. The king beseeches the young HERO to take up arms and save his beloved daughter and put a stop to the Evils of the Dragon Lord. And with that the quest begins.
The HERO is then thrusted into a world of cute monsters that need slaying and a Princess that needs saving. But you know what the story is pretty awesome. It's Dragon Quest penchant for minor and NPC characters that make it work so well. Every character has something to say which is good because you'll need to listen to all the characters you can to figure out what to do. Plus of course the lovely Princess falls for the HERO. Besides being one the first console RPG's Dragon Quest is also one of the first RPG's to give you the player a moral dilemma. A decision that can ether save the world or end it. Can you believe that at the end of your journey when you encounter the Dragon Lord he ask the HERO to join him. AND YOU CAN!!!!!! If you join the Dragon Lord it's implied that together you two rule the world with an iron fist and enslave all of man. Than there's the more heroic route of turning him down. You don't end up the overlord of all of the world but by going this route you DO get the girl. And with the Dragon Lord slain the HERO and his love Gwaelin sail off into the sunset and into the next game in the trilogy!!! Quite an awesome story for 1986 I think. :D
So like . . . How's the Gameplay?
The gameplay in Dragon Quest I is pretty basic at it's core. The game works just like any standard RPG. You have to go to towns to buy materials needed for your quest, collect loot and exp by killing innocent monsters you randomly encounter and leveling-up to become stronger. So the game is old-school Ninten-hard for some people. It can be grueling and sadly it can be a little boring. The gameplay hasn't aged all too well. It's still solid and a fun RPG but it's just old. So for anyone who can't handle that I suggest you skip ahead. In fact I say skip this whole trilogy and go right into Dragon Quest IV on the DS. Players be warned this game is old, it's hard, and it's nothing special by today's standards in games. But for their time it was revolutionary. Dragon Quest I was one of the first console RPG's and it helped to establish many of the standards of gameplay we know and love (I hope) in our RPG's today. Anyone looking for a fun retro-RPG should definitely pick it up.
Music is my Thing
The music in the game is of course 8-bit. Dragon Quest has always had trouble giving people full orchestrated music actually. A lot of times we just get compressed files. But thankfully some of the games in the west re-orchestrate the music to increase it's sound quality. Now obviously that's not happening in a NES game so we're stuck with 8-bit tunes. But I have to say the tunes are quite fun. I almost fainted the first time I booted up the old game and heard the Dragon Quest theme at the title screen in it's 8-bit form. I was blown away. It sounded quite nice. The music for it's time carries well and never gets too grating. Koichi Sugiyama the music composer of the Dragon Quest series never disappoints and is able to hit each emotion just right. He is a very important part of what gives the series it's charm and he did it very well in this game.
Wow, Why do all the characters look like Goku?
I'm sure some of you guys who are familiar with the anime/manga Dragon Ball can see some similarities between the character designs of the Dragon Quest series and that series. Well that's very astute of you. It's no accident. Ever since the very fist game Mr.Horii saw it fitting to hire the popular mangaka (Japanese comic book writer/artist) Akira Toriyama to design the world, the monsters, and all the characters. Akira Toriyama just so happens to be the same guy who made Dragon Ball. Mr. Toriyama's art is also another very important part of the formula that helps to give the series it's charm.
I'm so Confused!!!!!!!!
Over the course of Dragon Quest's history in the west it has gone through many name changes that even affect the most recent game to hit the states (the remake of Dragon Quest VI for the DS). The series itself was atcually called by a different name all together until the release of Dragon Quest VIII in November of 2005. Before that game the series was called Dragon Warrior in the west so to avoid a copy-write infringement of a pen-and-paper RPG called Dragon Quest that unfortunately beat Enix to the rights of that name in America. But THAT Dragon Quest has fallen off into oblivion and the REAL Dragon Quest has been able to reclaim it's name to the western audience. Dragon Quest I has had quite a bit of inconsistent names and name changes over the years. To help clear it up I'll tell you some of the bigger name changes you should be aware of. The legendary Hero that you're a descendant of is named Erdrick is the USA NES version and is named Roto in the Japanese version. It's made even more confusing because when the GameBoy Remakes where brought over to the US they were given a new translation and Erdrick's name was changed to Loto; which even though goes against the official romanization of the Japanese name, it is still a correct translation. The GameBoy remake also changes the names of the Princess from Gwaelin to Lora. Lastly the Dragon Lord's name has changed to the Draco Lord. But other than that you should be pretty good for the first game.
So wait, What's that About A GameBoy Remake?
Dragon Quest I has been remade a good couple of times just like any other classic has. There are many versions of the game in Japan. You can play it on your Cellphone, your NES, the MSX, your GameBoy Color, ans the Super Famicom (the Japanese equivalent to the Super NES). The west has only gotten the NES version and the GameBoy remake. The GameBoy Remake does come packaged with Dragon Quest II on the same cartridge as well. The Super Famicom version of the game also comes packaged with both Dragon Quest I & II too. That version has been translated by some dedicated fans. Now I don't support piracy but I don't think Square Enix will lose any money over you getting your hands on the ROM. So seek it at your own digression. The Super Famicom version boast improved graphics and sound. I haven't played through the Super Famicom version 100% but it's a solid game. So the question is "What version so I get?" Well I guess it depends. The NES version is just fine and is how I first played the game, and the Super Famicom version is FREE and pretty good. But I have to pick the GameBoy Remake. If you really want to experience the game I suggest trying to hunt down that one. It is just a better package. They added new features like a quick-save and the game now has a more streamlined menu system. The monsters give you more experience and gold after being defeated. This makes the amount of time needed to raise levels and save up for purchases decrease greatly ans causes the game to be more fast-paced and thus easier. The game greatly advantages from that. By cutting down on the old grind I think you'll be able to stand the game more. Plus you get Dragon Quest II as an added bonuses!!! :)
Now for the score. It's a hard thing to score a game that's older than me so I'm going to give it two scores. A score for it's time and a score for us now
BACK THEN: 5/5 The game was revolutionary and pushed the technology to it's bounds. Yuji Horii's little game was also very influential and for that it gets a 5.
NOW: 2/5 The game's story isn't anything special, the gameplay can bore many newer players who are looking for more action, and even for those who love RPG's it's nothing special by today's standards.
So to be fair I'm going to give the game a rank in-between those two scores. So how about a 3. Yeah that sounds fine.
On a side-Note I just thought it would be fitting to post this video. I enjoyed it and thought it showed some of the best things about all the Dragon Quest games. Enjoy:
What did you think of this review?