The grandfather of all JRPG’s, Dragon Quest is probably the most important RPG that will be mentioned in this blog. While not the first console RPG, it’s definitely the one that set the template for every JRPG to follow. With its simple menu system, turn based combat, top down view, leveling up, and even equipping items.
Released in Japan in 1986, series creator Yuji Horii wanted to bring role playing video games to a wider audience, as the genre was relegated to PC’s, which was still a niche demographic. The technical limitations of the NES posed a problem, as old PC RPG’s were very complex, and some even required a large book just to play the game. Horii got creative and created a very simple, yet very effective template for the menus, which then became the base standard for many RPG’s to this day.
The game came out three years later in North America (localized as Dragon Warrior due to licensing issues over a similarly named pen and paper RPG). With this version of the game came many differences, most noticeably technical differences. The original Famicom release utilized a password save system, but the NES version introduced a battery save function. Also the graphics were updated, as the player and NPC sprites all faced on direction, the NES version not only improved the quality of the sprites, they also gave them graphics for facing different directions.
Like many other games in the franchise, Dragon Quest was remade several times, and unlike the original Final Fantasy, did not change any of the game mechanics and were really just graphical updates. The game was first remade for the Super Famicom, and was made using Dragon Quest V’s engine, and also contained Dragon Quest II. While it looked and sounded significantly better than the 8-bit original, it doesn’t look as good as later SNES games (especially with later DQ releases like DQ6 and the remake of DQ3), and was really just a souped up NES game. Despite this, it was the best looking version of the game for many years. Sadly this version never left Japan, but English fan translations exist.
Then came the Gameboy Color remake, which also came packaged with Dragon Quest II. While inferior to the SNES version in both graphics and sound, it was still better than the NES version. Luckily this version came to North America, and was probably the best looking way to play the game. This version also sported a quick save, which made things much more convenient, as you could only save by talking to the King in previous versions. Though the quick saves were merely temporary, as loading one deletes the save.
The game was remade yet again for mobile phones in Japan. This update sported significant graphic and sound updates, but was originally never released outside of Japan. Later these games were ported to Android and iOS devices with slightly updated graphics, and touch screen capabilities. This version is definitely the best looking version of the game.
Many years ago the legendary hero Erdrick (Loto in the Gameboy version) defeated an evil creature and gained the ball of light and restored light to the land. Erdrick handed the ball to the king of Alefgard who held onto it, as it brought peace and prosperity to Alefgard. There was a man who shunned the ball of light, and stole it. He man then met up with a dragon and then tamed it to obey his every command, and the man is later discovered to not only be a dragon himself, but is the Dragonlord. The Dragonlord later became corrupted by learning magic, and then began to wreak havoc across the land of Alefgard. Erdrick returns to defeat the Dragonlord, but is never heard from ever again.
Several years later to the present time, a mysterious warrior appears in Tantegal Castle, and the king tells him that a dragon has appeared and kidnapped Princess Gwaelin, and you are tasked with saving her. Thus your adventure begins.
The game is a very bare boned and textbook RPG, though it also wrote the textbook for the core template. It plays like every other top down RPG with random encounters. It definitely feels incredibly archaic compared to later JRPG’s (or even later Dragon Quest games), though the genre had to start from somewhere. You play as one character the entire game, and you never gain any party members.
Battles incredibly simple. You fight one on one with every enemy in the game. Compared to later games which introduce strategy in battles using different skills or classes, this game lacks any of that. The only thing one must do to progress through the game, is to just level up. The only way the game slightly deviates from that, is that you can also buy or find better equipment that gives you a better chance in battle.
The game also doesn’t necessarily deviate far from the only two objectives in the game, save the princess, and defeating the Dragonlord. The first half of the game is really just you grinding your ass off to not only get a high enough level to beat the dragon who kidnapped the princess, but also to collect enough money to have the equipment to survive it. The second half slightly deviates from that, with you collecting items that gain you access to the Dragonlord’s castle, but you still spend a large chunk grinding.
Like every Dragon Quest game to follow, characters and monsters are designed by famed Dragonball artist Akira Toriyama. While the NES version does retain that for the monsters, the graphical limitations do hinder it. Though compared to other NES RPG’s, this one looks very comparable. Like mentioned above, the various ports are all graphical enhancements that all look very nice for the platforms they were designed on, which the mobile versions being the best.
While not having very many audio tracks, the game still has very iconic music, ranging from the series fanfare, to towns and battle music. The game also is the origin of the famous jingles for when you level up and even when the battle ends.
The music is very good, and like every other Dragon Quest game, has its soundtrack performed by a symphony orchestra. Definitely worth a listen.
Dragon Quest is a classic game, but not one that’s very recommendable to a modern audience. While an incredibly important game, it hasn’t necessarily aged well, and is really only there for players who are either hardcore Dragon Quest fans, or just hardcore RPG fanatics. For today’s gamers, it’s definitely worth a play for curiosity’s sake.