Dragon Quest is one of the greatest RPG franchises of all time, and without it, the role-playing game as we know it today could not exist. Although Yuji Hori was inspired by some of the Western RPGs of the time, the way he and his team at Enix designed Dragon Quest would eventually inspire the wider design of JRPGs even in modern times.
Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and even Pokémon have the Enix and Dragon Quest franchises to thank for how they approach aspects of their gameplay and design. Whether in a big or small way, turn-based JRPGs, and even turn-based Western RPGs, are indebted to Dragon Quest.
We here at Sportskeeda are launching a new series of retrospective reviews. We’re going to take a look at some classic games and examine how they’ve stood up to date and their overall impact on video games.
As a lover of JRPGs, I am going to look at not only my first RPG, but a series that changed RPGs forever – Dragon Quest.
Dragon Quest is where my love of RPGs began
In the late 80s, RPGs were not particularly popular on consoles in the United States. Many were on the PC of the RPG era, and some of them were ported to the NES, but they just weren’t making a serious impact.
My introduction to role-playing games began with Nintendo Power. The first issue came with a copy of Dragon Warrior, which the Japanese would know as Dragon Quest.
Dragon Warrior was this new, flashy thing that was very different from the other NES games I was playing. Batman, Kid Icarus and Super Mario Bros. 3 were mostly straight-forward experiences.
A friend of mine in the street didn’t think it was worth anything, so he gave me his copy of Dragon Warrior. I already had a passion for reading, so I quickly fell in love with Dragon Warrior. It was tough, difficult and often very challenging. It was unforgiving and slow moving.
By exploring the world, talking to the townspeople, and grinding through battle after battle, you slowly rise in power. You rescue a princess, acquire powerful artifacts, and eventually reach the Dragon Lord. The curse of humanity, he gives you a chance to join him instead of fighting.
Of course, I did this the first time I went there, just to see what happened. This was my first experience with a game with “multiple endings”. In fact, Dragon Quest Builders is based on that bad ending. Life was never the same after that. My primary genre of choice turned out to be RPG. They’re longer, more story-driven games, and it’s more like an interactive book. There’s so much to love.
While the story of this particular game was fairly simple – save the princess and defeat the Dragon Lord – it was more complex in its gameplay. You had to find secret, hidden equipment, find a way to overtake the golem, search through dungeons, and fight powerful enemies.
Despite being a relatively simple, short game, it is a long game in a casual playthrough. It only has a few monsters that can be counted as “bosses” and doesn’t have much direction in terms of what you should do. However, that’s what makes it so great.
Turn-Based Battle Systems Have Dragon Quest to Thank
Dragon Quest has used a turn-based combat system since its inception, many of which are first person. Third-person camera view has also been used in more modern releases, but this was not the case initially.
It was a very simple, easy to understand system. You could not see the hero, only the enemy. In this game, it was always 1-on-1, versus the hero, a slime, a drool, or a dragon.
You can see your stats and a range of possible actions you can take. Normally, you attack first, but sometimes, enemies can drop a drop on you. You can even cast spells at the end! It’s worth noting that enemies can often cast exactly the same spells you could.
The hero and his enemy will clash in turn. You can attack with your weapon, cast a spell, or use an object while the enemy can attack, cast a spell (if they have a spell pool), or in some cases, such as Dragon Breath. Use special attack. Success means you gain XP and GP; Failure means you go back to the starting castle.
Virtually every major retro RPG has this game thanks to the style of combat they employ. Of course, there are exceptions, such as the Mana franchise. The Mother series, Final Fantasy, Saga, and many other series eventually employed some form of turn-based combat engine.
Although Final Fantasy would evolve beyond creating an ATB system, even modern RPGs created over the years, still consider the turn-based system.
Sure, there were turn-based games before Dragon Quest. However, the special design of the combat system was emulated and was followed by hundreds, if not thousands, of RPGs.
While enjoyable, it’s not a perfect game; far from it
While this RPG is an excellent game, the NES title we knew as Dragon Warrior is far from a perfect experience. At this time, RPGs didn’t give you a way to restore MP (Mana Points) in the traditional sense. You’ll have to go to an inn or go back to the prophet in the starting castle, who restores a set amount of MP each time you talk to him.
This, combined with the very limited amount of inventory space, means you have to go slow and steady. You can’t spam your spells because you have a very sparse mana pool. Also, every time you die, you only go back to the starting castle. This isn’t the last place you rested your head.
One point that is both good and bad is stat growth in the game. As you level up, you get stat points. However, you can influence it.
The stat growth you see in the game can be affected by your character’s name. There are many ways to check what a name would give you now, but at that time there was no ready access to the Internet.
You can handicap yourself and not even be aware of it. Depending on what you name your hero, you can give yourself a low-power boost, and if you want to focus on attacking with weapons, you’ll have a bad time.
Without knowledge of the game, you can wander the world forever and never find the three Erdrick items you need. You really need to know how to talk to everyone.
These days, there are tons of FAQs to guide you. However, at the time, not having a strategy guide could have disappointed many players.
What was the cultural impact of Dragon Quest?
Whether in the 1980s or 2010s, Dragon Quest Has made a serious cultural impact not only in Japan but around the world. Many games refer to Dragon Warrior as a game that caused them to regularly play RPGs.
At the time, Final Fantasy 1 contained a reference to Dragon Quest’s Erdrick. You may find a tomb in Elfheim that read, “Here les Erdric, 837-866, RIP”. However, in the US version, it was changed to Link.
Ichiban Kasuga (the protagonist of Yakuza: Like a Dragon) favorite game is Dragon Quest. The entire game uses a similar turn-based combat system, as well as musical references to the series.
Thanks to the popularity of this franchise, Dragon Quest games are not sold on weekdays in Japan. This was long believed to be just a rumour, but DQXI producer Yu Miyake confirmed it to be true.
“In short, yes it’s true. When Dragon Quest III came out, a lot of kids dropped out of school to buy the game. The police actually said, ‘You guys need to do something about this. It’s not right’ Is.’ [This was] Back in the era of Enix, and so Dragon Quest only started selling out on Saturdays. In fact, it is the only [series] Sold on Saturday. ,
The government didn’t really make any demands, but police officers complained about the problem of people dropping out of school and working when DQ3 came out. It’s such a popular franchise that many people leave work or school eagerly to play. That is the level of popularity and power of this franchise.
While the first game, which we knew as Dragon Warrior, was incredibly flawed, it was a challenging and enjoyable experience.
The game is now easily accessible. You don’t need to own an NES to play it. It has been re-released several times, most recently on the Nintendo Switch for a reduced price.
Although it can be vague and depressing at times, it is a game cherished by many and considered a gateway to the wonderful world of RPGs. Without this game, many of our favorite role-playing games would be completely different, if they even existed at all.
Edited by Rachel Simlih