Dragon Quest, published by Square Enix, is a popular series of role-playing video games (RPG) that was originally released in Japan in 1986 and then in North America in 1989 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The game was originally titled “Dragon Warrior” when it was released in the United States to avoid copyright infringement of a written game called DragonQuest.
The series continued to be called Dragon Warrior in America until 2005. The version of the original game that was released in America had better graphics than the Japanese version and featured a battery-powered save system that was considered superior to the Japanese password-based back-up system. Dragon Quest was one of the first console games to feature turn-based role-playing and has continued to live on in gaming culture through the release of many sequels with Dragon Quest XI being scheduled for release in 2017 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo NX.
Dragon Quest’s Turn-Based RPG
The Dragon Quest games allow the player to take on the identity of a main character that has the ability to explore towns and fight monsters. When navigating the towns, the player is able to buy various supplies, such as defensive armor, stronger weapons, and miscellaneous items that will aid in the fight against the monsters, provided the player has the gold needed. When exploring beyond the towns, players are likely to encounter enemies. The game perspective shifts to allow players to access battle menu options that can be used to select or change magic, weapons, or battle items.
Players can also use the battle menu to opt to flee from a fight altogether, unless the player has encountered a boss fight. The boss fights must be completed to carry the game plot forward. Upon survival of a battle encounter, the player will be rewarded with experience points (XP) toward leveling up, which can increase character stats, and gold, the game currency required to buy better items for future fights. Defeated enemies often drop items that the character can then pick up.
Save points are established in Dragon Quest by players entering a church and speaking to a holy person to save progress. In the original Dragon Warrior game, the player had to engage with a king or ruler to establish a save point.
These save points are also important because if an entire party – the main character and any companions – dies in a battle with a monster, half of the party’s gold is taken and the party is automatically transported to a nearby save point where the main character is revived. The main character is then responsible for paying the priest or nun to resurrect the other members of the party.
Friends and Foes
Several of the games in the Dragon Quest franchise – including Dragon Warrior 3 (III), Dragon Quest 6 (VI), Dragon Quest 7 (VII), and Dragon Quest 9 (IX) – allow the player to select character classes for the members of the party. The possible classes vary by game and level achieved and include:
- Cleric / Priest / Pilgrim / Mage: abilities focus on healing, defense, and fortifying spells (defense)
- Fighter / Martial Artist: increased speed, agility, and strength stats
- Jester: increased luck and vitality stats
- Thief: increased agility and luck stats
- Warrior: no magic ability and low agility but high health (or hit points / HP), strength, vitality stats
- Merchant: increased vitality and intelligence stats
The characters may encounter several monsters often during the game, such as slimes, drackies, shadows, mummies, skeletons, dragons, and trick bags. The slime monster, widely popular among Dragon Quest players, is the symbol of the game community. The slime, a smiling droplet of water, is an original monster Dragon Quest players encounter.
The player can sometimes recruit monsters to join forces and fight with the party depending on the Dragon Quest game edition. Erdrick / Loto is the main character of the series with several game sequels being focused on a descendant or distant relative of Erdrick. Zenithia, or the Zenith Castle, is a recurring landmark in Dragon Quest that is thought to represent a new start for the player.
The Legacy of Dragon Quest
Dragon Quest has inspired several spin-off games, including a game centered on a slime character. Dragon Warrior Monsters is a popular spin-off game that allows the main character to breed monsters to fight in battles instead of requiring the main character to actively participate in fights.
Dragon Quest has also found its way to the realm of arcade games where it has developed into Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road, which allows players to compete for monster trading cards that are dispensed from the arcade machine itself. Extending its popular reach beyond gaming, Dragon Quest has been featured in novels and anime, with two anime seasons being aired on TV in the ’80s and ’90s. Dragon Quest was also the first video game to be adapted into a ballet.
Having sold more than 60 million units across the globe, there’s no doubt that Dragon Quest – an original RPG – is one of the most popular games available. Fans continue to eagerly await the release of future game installments and push for the expansion of the Dragon Quest universe into various aspects of reality.