I actually finished this game around the end of June, but haven’t really had a chance to write about it until now. I’m currently sitting out by the lake at the cottage and figured it was about time :P
The last time I played through Dragon Quest was likely in the late 80’s. I’m pretty sure I either heard about it, or got a copy of it through Nintendo Power, and like most kids in North America at the time, this would have been my first introduction to what would become known as JRPGs.
I decided to go with the SNES re-release of this title for my playthrough as I wanted some updated graphics and music. Although the SNES version was never officially localized for North America, there is an excellent fan translation available.
It threw me off a bit when they refer to the legendary hero as Roto (as opposed to Erdrick), but I’m assuming this is a better translation than what we got in the 80’s so that’s probably what the name should have been in the first place.
Dragon Quest was essentially the first JRPG. As a result, there are a lot of concepts introduced here that would be adapted and refined by other titles and series over the years. This means that some parts of this game feel a bit rough or unbalanced.
I originally played the NES version of this title, and have fond memories of just how brutally hard it was. This game introduced me to what I would come to know as “grinding”, as you couldn’t progress through the game unless your character was sufficiently leveled up in order to tackle the monsters in the areas you were exploring.
This meant walking back and forth and fighting random monsters.
Enemy encounter rates are high. Very high. I think the SNES version actually optimized this a bit, but the rates are still high. This is useful for grinding, but gets tedious when you want to explore, or really need to get back to a town to heal.
The story is pretty simple.
You’re the descendant of the legendary hero, and have been tasked with rescuing the princess and defeating the Dragon Lord.
To defeat the Dragon Lord, you need to get three pieces of equipment of the legendary hero which are scattered across the world.
Beat the dragon. Save the princess. Beat the Dragon Lord. Done.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. You start off in the castle, where the king explains your quest. You can talk to people in the castle, or leave and move on to the nearest town.
Here you’ll get a bit more info, or can buy supplies.
I think it’s kind of cool that the first time you leave the castle you can see the Dragon Lord’s castle on the world map. This gives you your target right away and you know what you’re working towards.
You interact with NPCs and the world via a command menu. One of the nice additions to the SNES version is that you no longer have to use a STAIRS command to go up and down stairs; just walk over them.
As you roam around the overworld and dungeouns, you’ll get into random encounters. You interact with these using a command menu as well, where you can select to either attack, use magic, use an item, or run.
Dragon Quest is a pretty short game. Being one of the first of this genre it introduced a lot of gameplay elements that would shape the genre, but when you look at it as a standalone title, there’s not all that much there.
This isn’t meant to be a knock at the game. I had a great time playing through it, but that playthrough was only a few hours.
I used an emulator to do this, so most of my level grinding was done in fast-forward, so it felt even faster to get through this title.
If you’re playing the “classics”, I’d definitely recommend this title. Playing these early games gives you more of an appreciation for the later RPGs, as well as giving you a feel for how it all started.
Have you had a chance to play this title? How do you think it holds up nowadays, especially with the release of the mobile ports? Have any DQ memories you want to share? Let me know in the comments.