Since it's the 30th anniversary of the release of the very first Dragon Quest game this week, we thought we'd be all topical and ask you about your favorite memory from the series. Perhaps it's playing one of the early NES releases and loving its storyline or characters, or maybe one of the newer games particularly tickled your fancy. Whatever it is, we're interested in hearing from you.
While you formulate your response, here's the USgamer team's favorite Dragon Quest moments.
I don't know what it was about Dragon Quest IX, exactly, but I fell hard for that game from the moment I first picked up the import to the point where I was stopping every few minutes at PAX 2010 to check out all the new people I had Street Passed at the show. No one specific memory of DQIX particularly stands out to me, though; it was more of a holistic obsession. The charming storylines, free-roaming gameplay (I hit a few subplots in the "wrong" order and it didn't hurt the story at all), the harvesting and crafting, and of course the disconnected multiplayer aspect of the game all added up to create around DQIX the kind of heady video game mania I haven't experienced much as an adult. I keep hoping to find that same combination in new game releases, but something tells me I probably never will — major game releases have become too expensive, too polished, too focus-tested to be allowed to feel as earnest, messy, and whimsical as DQIX. Maybe DQXI will pull it off, but who knows if we'll even see that in the U.S.? DQIX was a rare breed.
My first turn with the series was Dragon Quest V on the Nintendo DS, which I picked up at Jeremy's urging back when I was blogging for 1UP. If you haven't played Dragon Quest V, you might want to stop reading now, because I'm about to spoil one of the first big reveals. Anyway, this was the moment where I went all in on the series.
In the early going in Dragon Quest V, you are a child traveling with his father. You go on adventures, explore a haunted house with a girl named Bianca, meet a sabrecat cub, and so forth. But the fun stops when your father is killed and you are taken into slavery. At this point, I figured there would be a snappy escape sequence. Instead, 10 years passed and my character grew up, leaving me to think of how profoundly messed up it was that the hero spent the bulk of his formative years toiling away in a mine.
As I eventually discovered, Dragon Quest V takes place over the course of more than 20 years, during which your character marries, has kids, and tries to avenge the memory of his father. It makes for a deeply satisfying adventure - one that has rarely been matched in RPG history. Every Dragon Quest is special in its own way, but Dragon Quest V is my favorite. And it all begins with the moment your hero loses his childhood.
It's more than just a single moment, but I'm going to have to go with Torneko the merchant's chapter from Dragon Quest IV. In case you didn't know, this fourth installment of the series takes an approach that's still pretty original more than 25 years later: Each chapter of the story starts you off at square one with a completely new character (or characters) before uniting this massive group at the end in a grand battle against evil. Every chunk of DQIV has its charms, but by far the most memorable part of the story drops you into the shoes of Torneko, a pudgy merchant who really isn't cut out for heroics.
True, he eventually rises to the occasion, but the best moments of Torneko's chapter take the form of simulating the day-to-day drudgery of his life as a shopkeeper—which mostly involves haggling with customers. I'm sure this twist came as a bit of a surprise to RPG fans of the early '90s, but even though I first played DQIV via the 2008 DS port—and with prior knowledge of Torneko—but it still struck me as a very unique choice most RPGs still wouldn't bother making. Dragon Quest may seem pretty staid on the surface, but digging into the series reveals a host of interesting and atypical ideas, even in its earliest installments.
If you ask me to list all my favorite Dragon Quest moments, I’ll be sitting here until I turn into a withered, dusty Mummy Boy. There are a lot of moments worth immortalizing in the 30-year-old RPG series, but I think I’ll highlight one of my biggest “Wow!” moments: The opening for Dragon Quest III.
Despite the fact it inspired so many subsequent JRPGs, Dragon Quest III is a bit of an unusual RPG. You wake up on your birthday and your mom tells you it’s high time you got a job. Namely, following in your (vanished) father’s footsteps by attempting to slay the archfiend Baramos.
Once you have a quick discussion with the King and recruit some pals, you’re off. Much of the world is open to you from the start, and the only indication you’ve wandered too far off course is when a wild rat ambushes your party and sucks out your eyeballs.
Dragon Quest III offers a thin story, but that’s not the same thing as offering no story. In fact, Dragon Quest III gives you a glimpse of your father’s fate via an opening cinema that’s just awesome by late ‘80s Famicom / NES standards. Just look at that! Man! Go dad, go! If that doesn’t pump you up for your journey, I don’t know what will.
While we’re talking about Dragon Quest III’s subtle but potent shots at storytelling, I need to give a shout-out to the village of Tedanki, which is populated by ghosts who have no idea Baramos killed them off ages ago. When you visit the joint during the day, it’s a sad collection of shattered buildings, poisoned swamps, and skeletons. When you visit at night, however, it’s a lively place. In fact, the residents get very offended if you suggest they’re ghosts. Ever hear about that big river in Egypt, guys?
Dragon Quest III encourages you to build your own RPG experience (including your own town!), which also means taking in the game’s bits of story at your own pace. Nobody sits you down and tells you “Here’s how it is.” If you want to know what’s up, you have to take note of the world around you, and its inhabitants activities.
Oh, also noteworthy: Being able to choose a female hero at the game’s start. My eleven-year-old self appreciated that very much.