• Latecomer Reviews: Dragon Quest


    Living in Central Europe has its share of drawbacks. To an avid JRPG fan such as myself, the biggest one was growing up in a place where the only console available was a bootleg version of the NES called a "Pegazus". Needless to say, I was introduced to the genre fairly late, with Final Fantasy being my gateway drug. While digging through information about this newly discovered series, I came across Dragon Quest, to which FF reportedly owed a lot. The premise did not seem appealing enough at the time, however, so I just gave the series a pass and only decided to try it when DQ VIII came out on the PS2. Though I sucked at it, and hard, I still enjoyed it, but not enough to really try and dig into this series. Well, this changed recently, as I noticed the original six DQ games are available on iOS. I promptly downloaded it and beat it in two days. Here's what I thought about the experience.


    Going in, I knew Dragon Quest is simple. It's a small world with a basic story where your level cap is 30 and you control only one character. There are no dramatic twists from the beginning you know you have to save the princess and defeat the Dragonlord. And that's really it. There is no narrative to speak of really, and in that regard, Dragon Quest was exactly what I expected. Which, surprisingly, was not a bad thing. With the overabundance of melodrama so prevalent in JRPGs nowadays, it was really refreshing to enter this open yet small adventure and just fill in the blanks with your imagination. Throughout the game, I felt this was actually my own personal adventure, and every level I gained was a huge achievement. My imagination is really what helped me get by so fast, as you really need to stop and grind for substantial amounts of time. The game is not difficult at all, however, as long as you are properly leveled and equipped. This is not Shin Megami Tensei where the bosses will just pull mean strategies out of their asses. If you devote your time to grind, you shouldn't have any trouble at all. Simple and straightforward really sums up everything about the game.


    Dragon Quest plays really well on the iOS. The updated graphics and music are quite nice, though I really have no comparison to the original NES release. I would also like to note that I am incredibly grateful to Square Enix for making the game vertical. Not only does the virtual controller not clutter the screen because you can just see so much above and below, but the game can be played with one hand, which is great news since winter is almost here and I can play on the go with only one hand being exposed to potential frostbite.


    The monster designs are extremely memorable thanks to the simple but effective style of Akira Toriyama. The music is done by Koichi Sugiyama and, while I can tell that he is a classically trained composer who knows what he's doing what with the layered form his tracks have, his compositions are way too neoclassical for me to enjoy, but that's a matter of personal taste. I especially disliked all the town themes, but the world map, dungeon, and battle themes were all pretty good. Still, I guess this is part of the Dragon Quest charm that people enjoy so much, since Sugiyama is one of the unchanging pillars of the series, so treat it as a very personal nitpick. I also did not care for the script at all. The entire game is told through quasi-Early Modern English and it really made me cringe (especially since the writers sometimes seem to be unable to tell the difference between 'thee' and 'thou' which is criminal). The names of the monsters, on the other hand, are filled with puns that make me wince. But then again, I know my attitude towards that is more the exception than the rule, so I suppose it can be enjoyed by a lot of people.


    Overall, I was surprised with how much fun I had, since I got exactly what I was expecting. Dragon Quest is very much the most traditional RPG you can imagine, but paradoxically, playing it now for the first time feels refreshing and engrossing. If you haven't tried it yourself yet and are curious about this landmark game that gave rise to all other JRPGs, I highly recommend it.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Latecomer Reviews: Dragon Quest started by Fynn View original post
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      I enjoyed the original DQ. Largely for the reasons you said yourself about moving away from the melodrama chocking the franchise these days. Did they change the UI for exploring towns? In the original, even using stairs and opening doors was menu driven so I'm curious if they fixed that to a simple action button like every other game in the genre.
    1. Pumpkin's Avatar
      Pumpkin -
      V is an amazing game and you should play it
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      I will play V eventually! I actually asked Santa to bring me the DS DQ games, so hopefully I'll be able to play all the available games until VII and VIII for 3DS come out in the West.

      I did not encounter any menus like that, Wolf, no. I just approached the stairs to climbed them and tapped the screen to open locked doors, no complications whatsoever.
    1. Sephex's Avatar
      Sephex -
      I played through this version earlier this year. I am old enough where I played the original US version back in the day. I'm talking about before Final Fantasy was released. Man, what a weird time thinking back on it.

      I've also played the GBC version and a translated rom of the SNES version that never came to the US. Like those versions, I felt the phone version streamlined some of the mechanics while still keeping the old school feel alive and well. I usually don't like grinding all that much in RPGs, but it just works for games this old. I feels like part of the journey rather than a chore. In a weird way, it seems realistic. I can picture this lone warrior headed out to the monster infested world growing more powerful with each monster he downs.

      Anyway, this was a good port/remake. DQII is also worth it for the phone.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      I have II and III on the phone as well, and I'm actually almost done with II, so keep an eye out for another review soon
    1. theundeadhero's Avatar
      theundeadhero -
      It was my first RPG back in the NES days so it holds a special place for me. It's also the only RPG I really grind in for the sake of gaining levels. In others, I fight until I have the gold to buy stuff from towns, but in this game that isn't enough, you need higher stats. A very long time ago I challenged myself to beat the game at level 17 when you learn healmore, and after several resets and long walks back to the Dragonlord I finally won. I consider it a pretty high ranking accomplishment on my list.
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