Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest,[a] published as Dragon Warrior in North America until 2005,[b] is a series of Japanese role-playing video games created by Yuji Horii and his studio Armor Project. The games are published by Square Enix (formerly Enix), with localized versions of later installments for the Nintendo DS and 3DS being published by Nintendo outside of Japan. With its first title published in 1986, there are eleven main-series titles, along with numerous spin-off games. In addition, there have been numerous mangas, animes and novels published under the franchise, with nearly every game in the main series having a related adaptation.

The series has had a significant impact on the development of console role-playing games, and introduced a number of features to the genre. Installments of the series have appeared on various computers, consoles, handheld devices, and mobile phones. Early in the series, the Dragon Quest games were released under the title Dragon Warrior in North America to avoid trademark conflict with the unrelated tabletop role-playing game DragonQuest. Square Enix did not register the Dragon Quest trademark for use in the United States until 2002.

The basic premise of most Dragon Quest titles is to play a hero who is out to save the land from peril at the hands of a powerful evil enemy, with the hero usually accompanied by a group of party members. Common elements persist throughout the series and its spinoff titles: turn-based combat; recurring monsters, including the Slime, which became the series' mascot until the English version of Dragon Quest VIII; a text-based menu system;[c] and random encounters in most of the main series.

Dragon Quest has had the same general lead development team since its inception in the 1980s, as scenario writer and game designer Yuji Horii, character designer Akira Toriyama, and music composer Koichi Sugiyama have handled their respective roles on every major game in the series. The original concepts, used since the first game, took elements from the Western role-playing games Wizardry and Ultima. A great deal of care was taken to make the gameplay intuitive so that players could easily start to play the game. The series features a number of religious overtones which were heavily censored in the NES versions.

Games

Main series

Timeline of release years
1986 Dragon Quest
1987 Dragon Quest II
1988 Dragon Quest III
1989
1990 Dragon Quest IV
1991
1992 Dragon Quest V
1993
1994
1995 Dragon Quest VI
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000 Dragon Quest VII
2001
2002
2003
2004 Dragon Quest VIII
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009 Dragon Quest IX
2010
2011
2012 Dragon Quest X
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017 Dragon Quest XI

The first four Dragon Quest installments were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan and North America. The first two installments were released in Japan on NES and ported that same year to the MSX; all four games have been remade for newer systems. Dragon Quest was first released in Japan on May 27, 1986, and in North America as Dragon Warrior in August 1989.[1][2] Dragon Quest II Akuryō no Kamigami was released in Japan in 1987 and in North America in 1990 as Dragon Warrior II. Dragon Quest III Soshite Densetsu e... was released in Japan in 1989 and North America as Dragon Warrior III in 1992. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen was released in Japan in 1990 and in North America in 1992 as Dragon Warrior IV. A 2001 Japanese PlayStation remake of Dragon Warrior IV scheduled for the North American market was never released.[1][3] The Nintendo DS remake of Dragon Quest IV was released in North America, Europe, and Australia under its original translated title; the European release removed the number from the title.[1]

Two games were released for the Super Famicom: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride in 1992 and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation in 1995; both have been re-released on newer systems.[1] Dragon Quest V was originally scheduled for release in North America but was canceled amid rumors that Enix had given up on the American market. No official reason was ever given.[1][4] The Nintendo DS remakes were released in North America with Dragon Quest V also being released in Europe and Australia, the latter without the numbering.[5][6] One game was released for the PS1: Dragon Quest VII: Eden no Senshi-tachi in 2000 in Japan and 2001 in North America under the title Dragon Warrior VII.[1] Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 in Japan,[1] 2005 in North America, and 2006 in Europe and Australia,[7] again without the number in the title for Europe. Dragon Quest VIII was the first Dragon Quest title to be released in North America under the Dragon Quest title, and the first European release of a main-series Dragon Quest game.[8][9] Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, the only game in the series initially released on the Nintendo DS, was originally released in 2009 in Japan, and in 2010 in North America, Europe, and Australia.[10] Dragon Quest X was announced for the Wii in December 2008.[11] In September 2011, Square Enix announced that Dragon Quest X would also be released on the Wii U, with Nintendo 3DS connectivity.[12] It is the first MMORPG in the series, and the only numbered Dragon Quest title not released outside Japan.[13] Dragon Quest XI was released in Japan on July 29, 2017, and released internationally on September 4, 2018.[14]

Spinoffs

The franchise includes several spin-off games, including the Dragon Quest Monsters RPG. The series has also inspired arcade games such as the Japanese Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road, where players compete for real-life cards with monster data that the arcade game issues to the players through a slot on its front. The latter is the only spin-off series to have none of its titles released outside Japan.[15][16][17][18][19][20] The Mystery Dungeon and Fortune Street series use characters and other elements from Dragon Quest games, and the Mystery Dungeon series has gone on to spawn its own franchise.[21]

In 1993 Chunsoft developed a SNES game that included Torneko (a.k.a. Torneko Taloon), a character that first appeared in Dragon Quest IV.[22] The roguelike game Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon continues Torneko's story from Dragon Quest IV as he attempts to make his store famous, venturing into mysterious dungeons to retrieve items to stock his store with. The game was successful in Japan.[23] In 2000 the direct sequel Torneko: The Last Hope was released in Japan and the United States. The gameplay is similar to the first game, though Torneko: The Last Hope is considered easier to play.[24] The game sold enough copies in Japan to allow development of the second direct sequel on the PlayStation 2, titled Fushigi no Dungeon 3 Torneko no Daibouken.[25] The second and third Torneko games have had remakes for the Game Boy Advance (GBA).[26] A later game featured Yangus, a character who first appeared in Dragon Quest VIII; Dragon Quest: Shōnen Yangus to Fushigi no Dungeon follows Yangus on his adventures before he meets up with Hero in afore mentioned game.[27] The success of Torneko no Daibōken spawned the Mystery Dungeon series that has grown to include franchises beyond Dragon Quest, as well as other clones.[28][29]

When Enix took over the Monopoly-inspired video game Itadaki Street, the Dragon Quest franchise became an integral part of the game in its second version, Itadaki Street 2: Neon Sain wa Bara Iro ni.[30][31] The first Itadaki Street, released by ASCII, did not contain elements from the Dragon Quest franchise.[32] The fourth game in the series, Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special, included characters from the Final Fantasy franchise, and later versions would include characters from Mario.[33][34]

Like the main series, Dragon Quest Monsters was originally released under the Dragon Warrior name in the US.[35] The next game, Dragon Warrior Monsters 2, is the only game to be split into two versions, Cobi's Journey (Ruka's Journey in Japan) and Tara's Adventure (Iru's Adventure in Japan), named after the main player characters.[36] Each version has slight differences, such as the monster that appear in them.[37] Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart is a prequel to Dragon Warrior VII, following Keifer who is pulled into Torland and must find the six Orbs of Loto in order to return.[38] The release of Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is the first spin-off title to be released in English using the Dragon Quest name;[39] its sequel Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 was released in North America in September 19, 2011.[40][41] There is also an Android title, Dragon Quest Monsters: Wanted!.[42]

Dragon Quest has also produced a number of smaller spin-off titles. In two of them players use their special controllers as a sword, swinging it to slash enemies and objects. Kenshin Dragon Quest: Yomigaerishi Densetsu no Ken is a stand-alone game in which the controller is shaped like a sword, and a toy shield contains the game's hardware.[43] Dragon Quest Swords for the Wii uses the motion sensing Wii Remote as a sword.[44][45] Another spin-off title, Slime MoriMori Dragon Quest, uses the game's popular slime monster as the protagonist,[46] and its sequel, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, has been translated into English.[47] There is also a downloadable DSiWare turn-based strategy game, Dragon Quest Wars[48] and other titles have been released in Japan for cellphones.[49][50] Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below, a PlayStation 3 and 4 game featuring the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors series by Koei Tecmo, was released in Japan on February 26, 2015, and was released in North America and Europe in October 2015 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive.[51][52] Dragon Quest Builders for the PS4 was released in 2016. Theatrhythm Dragon Quest is a rhythm game developed for the Nintendo 3DS. Like the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games before it, the game allows players to play alongside various songs from the Dragon Quest franchise.[53]

Other media

Novels

Beginning in 1988 with three series, the media franchise expanded into other media. There are now a number of anime and book adaptations, including manga, based on the Dragon Quest games.

On December 23, 1988, the first light novel series began publication, starting with a two volume set for Dragon Quest III. After the success of these titles, Enix expanded the books into a series and began publishing volumes starting from the first game in sequential order. Enix published titles from every main series game previously released by March 23, 1995, as well as the first Torenko's Mystery Dungeon game.[54] The titles are written from a second-person perspective; the reader determines the next course of action and the stories have multiple endings.[55]

Other printed titles released in 1989 include: Dragon Quest Monsters Story; Dragon Quest Item Story; the Dragon Quest Perfect Collection series starting with Dragon Quest Perfect Collection 1990; and the first two Dragon Quest novels by Takayashiki Hideo. All of these works have had additional titles published for different games by different authors: Hideo wrote the first four volumes spanning the first three games; Kumi Saori authored ten volumes comprising the next three games; and Hiroyuki Domon wrote three volumes for Dragon Quest VII. Starting with Shinsho Shousetsu Dragon Quest I in 2000, a new series by all three authors began publication. The authors wrote new stories for their respective series, three stories for Hideo, nine for Saori, and three for Domon; with the latter's works featuring illustrations by Daisuke Torii. Several standalone titles and audiobook titles have also been released.[54]

Manga

Dragon Quest manga began publication in Weekly Shōnen Jump in 1989.[56] Based on the world of Dragon Quest, Riku Sanjo's Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken was created as a two-chapter short-story entitled Derupa! Iruiru!. Its success led to the three-chapter sequel, Dai Bakuhatsu!!!, which set the framework for a later serialization spanning 37 volumes.[56][57][58]

Several manga based on the games have been published. The longest-running of these, Emblem of Roto, Warriors of Eden, and Maboroshi no Daichi, were published in Monthly Shōnen Gangan. Emblem of Roto, by Chiaki Kawamata and Junji Koyanagi, with art by Kamui Fujiwara, consists of twenty-one volumes published between 1991 and 1997. In 2004 Young Gangan ran a mini-series called Emblem of Roto Returns. It takes place between the timeframe of Dragon Quest III and Dragon Quest I.[59] Warriors of Eden consists of eleven volumes, with art by Fujiwara. The series is a retelling of Dragon Quest VII with some minor changes.[60] Maboroshi no Daichi consists of ten volumes. The series is a retelling of Dragon Quest VI with some minor changes.[61] Other shorter manga series have been released including several based on other games, some official 4koma strips, and a manga about the making of the original Dragon Quest game.[62][63]

The Road to Dragon Quest is a manga about the creators of Dragon Quest, published by Enix. The single-volume manga was released in 1990 and produced by Ishimori Productions. It focuses on the creation of the series and features series creator Yujii Hori, programmer Koichi Nakamura, composer Koichi Sugiyama, artist Akira Toriyama, and producer Yukinobu Chida.[64]

Anime

There are two major television series that were adapted from the games. Dragon Quest began airing in December 1989, and ran for 43 episodes. It was supervised by Horii, with a story loosely based on Dragon Quest III. The first 13 episodes of the series were translated into English by Saban Entertainment under the title Dragon Warrior. Due to its early time slot, and a lawsuit filed by Toriyama for not being credited for his work on character designs, it was not renewed.[65] A second anime series, Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken, based on the manga of the same name, was produced by Toei Animation. It ran for 46 episodes from October 17, 1991 to September 24, 1992.[66] On April 20, 1996, a film titled Dragon Quest Saga – The Crest of Roto was released.[67]

Common elements

Gameplay

A black screen with two moth-like creatures in the center and three white-bordered boxes around it. The box above the moth-like creatures has "Hero", "Brin", "Math", and "Viro" on the top, each with an H and an M under each of them, with Hr under "Hero", Sr under "Brin", Wz under "Math", and Pr under "Viro". A number is next to the letters on the right. The bottom left box displays "Hero" on the top and the options "Fight", "Run", "Parry", and "Item". The bottom right box contains the text "Masked Moth 2".
Combat image from Dragon Quest III that depicts the typical battle layout and menu types that is seen in most Dragon Quest games

In most Dragon Quest games, players control a character or party of characters that can walk into towns and buy weapons, armor, and items to defeat monsters outside of the towns: on the world map or in a dungeon. However, in the original Dragon Quest, there was only one character walking on the map. In most of the games, battles occur through random monster attacks and improving the characters' levels requires players to grind.[68] The series uses cursed items, difficult dungeons where players need to use their resources wisely to complete them, and difficult boss battles.[69] When the party encounters monsters the view switches perspective and players are presented with several options on a menu; these turn-based menu-driven battles have become a staple of the series.[70] Players use the menus to select weapons, magic, and other items used to attack and defeat the monsters, or can attempt to flee the fight; though characters cannot flee during a boss battle. Once the party defeats the monsters by winning the battle, each party member gains experience points in order to reach new levels. When a character gains a new level, the statistics (stats) of the character are upgraded.[71] Winning battles also rewards players with gold which can be used to purchase items. In addition to the experience points and gold awarded for successfully defeating monsters, occasionally, items will be dropped as well that are added to the player's inventory.

In most Dragon Quest games, players must visit a church (known as a House of Healing in the NES translations) and talk to a priest or nun to save the games' progress;[72] in Dragon Warrior, players had to talk to a king to save their progress,[71] though the first two Dragon Quest titles for Famicom use a password save system. If the party dies in battle the group loses half of its gold and warps to the nearest save location where the hero is revived;[1] players must then pay a priest or nun to revive their party members.

Dragon Quest features "puff puff" – a Japanese onomatopoeia for a girl rubbing her breasts in someone's face, which can also be used for the general term of a girl juggling her own breasts – massage girls that the player can hire with text describing their actions in some of the games;[1] in later games gags were used since breasts could not be displayed. The text descriptions were removed from some North American translations.[d][1][73]

In Dragon Warrior III, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, Dragon Warrior VII, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, several character classes can be chosen for the party members.[1] Each game has its particular set of classes with typical options, including the Cleric, Fighter, Jester, Thief, Warrior, and Mage.[e] All the aforementioned games also include advanced classes such as the Sage. In addition, Dragon Quest VI and VII include monster classes.[74]

In Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, a new collectible item known as mini medals, resembling small gold coins with a five-pointed star in the middle, was introduced; they have nothing to do with winning the game, but they can be traded with a certain character for items. Players collect them throughout the game, primarily by opening chests, breaking pots and barrels, and searching in sacks and drawers. Horii introduced them as he wanted to have something players collected that were similar to the crests and orbs in the previous Dragon Quest games, but did not want to repeat the necessity for players having to collect a certain number of them before they could complete the game.[75]

Monsters

A blue, tear-drop shaped creature with large round black eyes, a wide mouth and a red tongue.
An example of a slime.

The Dragon Quest series features several recurring monsters, including Slimes, Drackies, Skeletons, Shadows, Mummies, Bags o' Laughs, and Dragons.[76][77][78] Many monsters in the series were designed by Akira Toriyama.

Several Dragon Quest games allow the player to recruit monsters to fight alongside them. In Dragon Quest IV, a Healer monster called "Healie" can be recruited for the first chapter. Dragon Quest V and VI monsters can be selected by the player to join the player's party and fight in battles.[1] In Dragon Quest VIII players can defeat and recruit monsters to fight in an arena.[79]

The Slime, designed by Toriyama for use in Dragon Quest, has become the official mascot of the Dragon Quest series. Series designer Yuji Horii cited the monster as an example of Toriyama's skills, claiming it took "[artistic] power to take something like a pool of slime and use his imagination to make it a great character."[80] A Slime is a small blue blob, shaped like a water droplet, with a face. It has appeared in every Dragon Quest game and it is usually one of the first monsters the players encounter.[f] The Slime's popularity has netted it the Slime spin-off series on handheld consoles.[81][82]

Erdrick

Erdrick, known as Loto (ロト, Roto) in Japanese and in the North American remakes of the Game Boy Color versions of the first three games,[1] is the legendary hero from the Dragon Quest series. The first three Dragon Quest games, all connected to the legend of Erdrick, comprise the Erdrick or Loto trilogy. He is known in the game as the hero who freed the Kingdom of Alefgard from darkness.[83][84][85][86] The chronological order of the first three Dragon Quest games is: Dragon Quest III, Dragon Quest, and Dragon Quest II.[86]

In the first Dragon Quest game, the hero, the player-character, is a descendant of Erdrick[71] who follows in his footsteps to reach the Dragonlord's Castle and confront him. In Dragon Quest II the heroes are also descendants of Erdrick,[84][85] exploring the expanded world of Torland that includes the continent of Alefgard. Erdrick's legend in the Dragon Quest series was completed in Dragon Quest III when the King of Alefgard bestows the "Order of Erdrick", the country's highest honor, upon the hero at the end of the game. Two of the player-character's three highest-level armaments are named "Erdrick's Sword" and "Erdrick's Armor" in Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II. Playing Dragon Quest III with the name "Erdrick" is impossible in the original release, as the game prompts the player to choose a different name for the hero. The reason for this is that the status of III in the chronological order as a prequel of the first two titles is presented as a plot twist. The Game Boy Color remakes prevent the use of the name "Loto" for the same reason.

In Dragon Quest XI, the player-character is a warrior chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save the world of Erdrea from a being of pure evil known as "Calasmos". After Calasmos is defeated at end of the game, Yggdrasil bestows him the title of Erdrick.

Zenithia

Zenithia, also called Zenith Castle, Zenith, or Tenkū-jō (天空城, "Heaven Castle") in Japanese, is a floating castle that first appears in Dragon Quest IV; it is used as a descriptor for several elements in Dragon Quest IV, V and VI. Its appearance in all three games has led to the games being described as the Zenithia or Tenkū trilogy, despite different geographical layouts in each of the three games' worlds.[87][88] Horii explained that a trilogy was never the intention: "Each Dragon Quest title represents a fresh start and a new story, so it seems too much of a connection between the games in the series. It could be said that the imagination of players has brought the titles together in a certain fashion."[89]

In Dragon Quest IV Zenithia can be accessed by climbing the tower above the entrance to the world of darkness. In Dragon Quest V Zenithia has fallen into a lake south of Lofty Peak (Elheaven in the original release), until the Golden Orb is returned leaving the castle able to move freely in the sky. In Dragon Quest VI Zenithia is sealed by Demon Lord Dhuran, and a large hole is left in its place in the "Dream World". When the Dream World returns to its natural state in Dragon Quest VI, Zenithia is the only part that remains, floating above the "real" world. In addition to the trilogy, a castle in the Dragon Quest III remakes is also called Zenith, although the layout differs from the castle in the Tenkū series.[90]

Development

The series' monsters, characters, and box art were designed by Toriyama.[8] The music for the Dragon Quest series was composed by Koichi Sugiyama.[91] In the past, Dragon Quest games have been developed by Chunsoft, Heartbeat, ArtePiazza and, starting with Dragon Quest VIII, Level-5.[92] Horii's company, Armor Project, is in charge of the Dragon Quest games that were published by Enix and Square Enix.

History

Yuji Horii, the creator of Dragon Quest series

In 1982 Enix sponsored a video game programming contest in Japan which brought much of the Dragon Quest team together, including creator Yuji Horii.[91] The prize was a trip to the United States and a visit to AppleFest '83 in San Francisco, where Horii discovered the Wizardry video game series.[1] The contest winners Koichi Nakamura and Yukinobu Chida, together with Horii, released the Enix NES game The Portopia Serial Murder Case. Music composer Sugiyama, known for composing jingles and pop songs, was impressed with the group's work and sent a postcard to Enix praising the software.[93] Enix asked him to compose music for some of its games. The group then decided to make a role-playing video game that combined elements from the western RPGs Wizardry and Ultima.[g][94] Horii wanted to introduce the concept of RPGs to the wider Japanese video game audience. He chose the Famicom because, unlike arcade games, players would not have to worry about spending more money if they got a "game over", and could continue playing from a save point.[95] Horii used the full-screen map of Ultima and the battle and statistics-oriented Wizardry screens to create the gameplay of Dragon Quest.[1] Dragon Ball creator and manga artist Akira Toriyama, who knew of Horii through the manga magazine Weekly Shōnen Jump, was commissioned to illustrate the characters and monsters to separate the game from other role-playing games of the time.[94] The primary game designs were conceived by Horii before being handed to Toriyama to re-draw under Horii's supervision.[96] When Horii first created Dragon Quest many people doubted that a fantasy series with swords and dungeons, instead of science fiction elements, would become popular in Japan; however, the series has become very popular there.[9] Since then Horii has been the games' scenario director. Dragon Quest was Sugiyama's second video game he had composed for, Wingman 2 being his first. He says it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme. His musical motifs from the first game have remained relatively intact.[97]

The first six Dragon Quest stories are divided into two trilogies. The first three games of the series tell the story of the legendary hero known as Roto (Erdrick or Loto in some versions). Dragon Quest IV-VI are based around a castle in the sky called Zenithia, referred to as the Tenku in Japan, meaning "heaven". Games in the main series from Dragon Quest VII onwards are stand-alone games.[98]

The early Dragon Quest games were released under the title Dragon Warrior in North America to avoid trademark conflict with the pen-and-paper role-playing game Dragon Quest, which was published by Simulations Publications in the 1980s until the company's 1982 bankruptcy and acquisition by TSR, Inc.. TSR continued publishing the line as an alternative to Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) until 1987.[99] On July 23, 2002, Square Enix registered the Dragon Quest trademark in the United States for use with manuals, video cassette tapes, and other video game software.[100][101] On October 8, 2003, Square Enix filed for a more comprehensive Dragon Quest trademark.[102] Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King became the first Dragon Quest game released outside Japan, all previous games having used the Dragon Warrior title.[8]

Dragon Quest was not as successful outside Japan, as it was eclipsed by another RPG series, Final Fantasy.[99][103] Because of Enix's closure in the mid-1990s, Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VI were not officially released in North America. No games were released in Europe prior to the spin-off Dragon Quest Monsters. With the merger of Square and Enix in 2003, Dragon Quest games were released in numerous markets.[9] In May 2008 Square Enix announced localizations of the Nintendo DS remakes of Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI for North America and the PAL region, commonly referred to as the "Zenithia" or "Tenku trilogy".[87][104] With this announcement, all the main Dragon Quest games have been released outside Japan. The ninth installment was released in Japan for Nintendo DS on July 11, 2009. The North American version was released on July 11, 2010, while the European version came out on July 23, 2010. The tenth installment of the main series was released for the Wii.[105] Nintendo has been a major publisher outside Japan for the main Dragon Quest games, publishing the first Dragon Quest game in North America, and published Dragon Quest IX worldwide outside Japan; the NDS version of Dragon Quest VI is published by Nintendo in North America.[6]

Creation and design

When designing Dragon Quest, Horii play-tests the games to make certain the controls feel right. This includes going into meticulous details such as how fast a page opens or the way a door opens. According to Horii, "... little things like here and there the controls not feeling right and such can really grate the players' nerves if the tempo isn't right." He believes players should be able to control the game unconsciously, which is not easy to accomplish.[106] Horii tries to design the games in such a way that players never need to read a manual nor play through a tutorial in order to figure out how to play the game,[107] and tries to create good storylines with short dialogues.[108] Ryutaro Ichimura, who has worked on Dragon Quest titles with Horii since Dragon Quest VIII, has implemented Horii's suggestions even when it is not obvious why his ideas will work. "[A] lot of the time when he [Horii] points these things out, we cannot see them at first, but eventually you get it."[106]

Akira Toriyama, the character designer.

Dragon Quest games have an overall upbeat feeling.[69] The typical Dragon Quest plot involves the player controlling a party of heroes to defeat an ultimate evil villain, who usually threatens the world in some way. The plot-line often consists of smaller stories that involve encounters with other characters.[1] This linear plot-line is intentional, to help ease the generally high learning curve RPGs have for those unaccustomed to them.[95] The gameplay is designed to allow players to decide when, and whether, to pursue certain storyline paths.[109] To ensure players continue to enjoy playing the game, no storyline path is made without some kind of reward and, to help ease players who may be apprehensive about whether they are on the right path, the distance the character has to travel to get rewarded is reduced at the beginning of the game. While the player never starts the game in a wholly non-linear way,[106][110] they usually allow players to explore an open world in a non-linear manner following an early linear section of the game.[110] Early character levels start players off with more hit points and a substantially increasing growth at later levels, although the effective bonuses of every additional level decreases.[110]

While Toriyama would later become more widely known with the success of Dragon Ball Z in North America, when Dragon Quest was released he was an unknown outside Japan. While the Dragon Quest's hero was drawn in a super deformed manga style, the Dragon Warrior localization had him drawn in the "West's template of a medieval hero".[111] The trend continued through the first four games, although the artwork for weapons and armor began using more of Toriyama's original artwork for Dragon Warrior III and IV. However, while the booklets' artwork was altered, the setting and poses remained virtually identical.[111]

The games always feature a number of religious overtones; after the first Dragon Warrior game saving, and reviving characters who have died, is performed by clergy in churches.[112] Bishops wander around the over-world of Dragon Quest Monsters and can heal wounded characters. The final enemy in some of the Dragon Quest games is called the Demon Lord; for instance in Dragon Quest VII, the Demon Lord (known as Orgodemir in that particular game) is the final boss, and there is a sidequest to battle against God. The first four Dragon Quest titles were subjected to censorship in their North American localizations, largely in keeping with Nintendo of America's content guidelines at the time that placed severe restrictions on religious iconography and mature content. When these games were remade for the Game Boy Color, most censorship was removed.[112] The translated versions of the games have largely followed the originals since Dragon Quest VII.[113]

Music

Koichi Sugiyama, the composer of Dragon Quest series

The Dragon Quest soundtracks are primarily composed by Koichi Sugiyama. Sugiyama, already a well-known television composer, sent a feedback questionnaire from an Enix game to the company, and, upon seeing Sugiyama's feedback, Fukushima contacted him to confirm that "he was the Sugiyama from television." Upon confirmation, Fukushima asked Sugiyama to compose a score for Dragon Quest.[114] Sugiyama had previously composed a video game score for Wingman 2.[115] Sugiyama has said it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme, and noted the difficulty in adding a personal touch to the short jingles, but that his past experience with creating music for television commercials helped. According to Sugiyama, the composer has between three and five seconds to catch the audience's attention through music. The theme and his other jingles for Dragon Quest have remained relatively intact in its sequels.[115]

The first album of music from the series was released in 1986 and was based on music from the first game,[116] followed by a Symphonic Suite album for each game in the main series. The original soundtrack's "eight melodies" approach set the template for most RPG soundtracks released since then, hundreds of which have been organized in a similar manner.[117] The original game's classical score was considered revolutionary for video game music.[118]

Other compilations of Dragon Quest music have been released, including Dragon Quest Game Music Super Collection Vol. 1.[119] The London Philharmonic performed many of the soundtracks, including a compilation entitled Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest Complete CD-Box.[120] Some of the soundtracks include a second disc with the original game music, as with the Dragon Quest VI soundtrack.[121] In 2003 SME Visual Works released Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest Complete CD-Box, featuring music from the first seven Dragon Quest games.[120]

Reception

As of 2018, the Dragon Quest series had sold over 76 million copies combined worldwide.[122] As of 2007, all games in the main series, and its three spin-offs, had sold over a million copies in Japan and one had sold over four million copies.[123] The remake of Dragon Quest VI sold 0.91 million copies in Japan in the first four days after its release, an exceptional sales figure for a remake.[124] In 2006 readers of the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu voted on the hundred best video games of all time. Dragon Quest III was third, Dragon Quest VIII fourth, Dragon Quest VII ninth, Dragon Quest V eleventh, Dragon Quest IV fourteenth, Dragon Quest II seventeenth, Dragon Quest thirtieth, and Dragon Quest VI thirty-fourth.[125] In 2009 Horii received a special award at the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association Developers Conference for his work on the Dragon Quest franchise.[126]

According to Satoru Iwata, former President of Nintendo, Dragon Quest's widespread appeal is that it is "made so that anyone can play it...and anyone can enjoy it depending on their different levels and interests." According to him, Dragon Quest is designed for anyone to pick up without needing to read the manual in order to understand it. Ryutaro Ichimura, producer at Square Enix, who has played the game since he was a child, says the Dragon Quest storylines allow players to experience a moving sense of achievement where they take the role of a hero saving the world.[109] Horii believes the ability to appeal to larger audiences of casual gamers, while not alienating the more hardcore gamers, is due to being able to lower the initial hurdle without making it too easy. Iwata and Ichimura believe it is because the games are created in a way that allows both groups to pursue their own goals; casual gamers can enjoy the storyline and battles, but for those who want more there is still content for them to pursue.[106]

Although the series is extremely popular in Japan, the success in Japan was not transferred to North America until the 2005 release of Dragon Quest VIII.[99] Despite the first four games to be released in America generally receiving good reviews,[1] Nintendo had to give away copies of Dragon Warrior. However, those four games have been among the most sought-after titles for the NES, especially Dragon Warrior III and IV.[1][103] It was not until Dragon Warrior VII was released that Dragon Quest became critically acclaimed in North America,[99] although reception was still mixed.[103] The series gained more universal praise with Dragon Quest VIII, and began to sell better outside Japan and Dragon Quest IX sold over 1 million copies outside Japan.[103][127]

One of the main aspects of the series that critics point out, either positively or negatively, is that the series "never strays from its classic roots."[128] Unlike other modern, complex RPGs, Dragon Quest on the DS retains the simple gameplay from the first game that many critics find refreshing and nostalgic.[128][129] Points of contention are its battle system, comparatively simplistic storylines, general lack of character development, simplistic primitive-looking graphics (in earlier titles), and the overall difficulty of the game. These arguments are countered by noting its strength in episodic storytelling with the various non-player characters the party meets. The stories avoid melodrama and feature relatively more simplistic characters than Final Fantasy's Squall Leonhart or Tidus, a source of contention. There are exceptions, however, such as Dragon Quest V, which has been praised for its unique, emotional storytelling. Battles are also simple and finish quickly. As for difficulty, Yuji Horii is noted as a gambler. The lack of save points and the general difficulty of the battles were included with the intention of adding a sense of tension. Because of this added difficulty, the punishment for the party's death was toned down compared to other games by simply going back to where you had last saved, with half of your gold on hand.[1] When asked about criticism of Dragon Quest games, Horii says he does not mind, it means the critics played the game and he would rather know their concerns than remain ignorant.[107]

Legacy

The original Dragon Quest game is often cited as the first console RPG. GameSpot called the original Dragon Quest one of the fifteen most influential games of all time and the "most influential role-playing games of all time", stating that nearly all Japanese RPGs since then have drawn from its gameplay "in some shape or form."[130] Next Generation said it was "probably the first ever 'Japanese style' RPG", and listed the series collectively as number 56 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time". They commented, "While never as ambitious as Square's Final Fantasy series, later installments of Dragon Warrior[h] can't be beaten for sheer size (if you only had enough cash to buy you one game that had to last you a month, you bought a Dragon Warrior title)."[131] In response to a survey, Gamasutra cites Quinton Klabon of Dartmouth College as stating Dragon Warrior translated the D&D experience to video games and set the genre standards.[132] Games such as Mother, Breath of Fire and Lufia & the Fortress of Doom were inspired by various Dragon Quest titles.[133] Dragon Quest III's class-changing system would shape other RPGs, especially the Final Fantasy series.[103] Dragon Quest IV's "Tactics" system, where the player can set the AI routines for NPCs, is seen as a precursor to Final Fantasy XII's "Gambits" system.[134] Dragon Quest V is cited as having monster recruiting and training mechanics that inspired monster-collecting RPGs such as Pokémon, Digimon, and Dokapon.[1][135] Dragon Quest V also introduced the concept of a playable pregnancy.[136] The real world and dream world setting of Dragon Quest VI is considered an influence on the later Square RPGs Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy X.[1] The Dragon Quest series was recognized by Guinness World Records, with six world records in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. These records include "Best Selling Role Playing Game on the Super Famicom", "Fastest Selling Game in Japan", and "First Video Game Series to Inspire a Ballet".[137]

Cultural impact

A photo of the exterior of Luida's Bar at Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo, Japan

Dragon Quest has become a cultural phenomenon in Japan.[138] According to Ryutaro Ichimura and Yuji Horii, Dragon Quest has become popular enough that it is used as a common topic for conversation in Japan,[139] and is considered by the Japanese gaming industry as Japan's national game.[107] William Cassidy of GameSpy claims that "the common wisdom is that if you ask someone from Japan to draw 'Slime,' he'll draw the onion-like shape of the weak enemies from the game."[99][140] With the Japanese release of Dragon Quest IX in January 2009, a new eatery inspired by the series called Luida's Bar was opened in Roppongi, a well-known nightlife hotspot in Minato, Tokyo. This was notable due to the usual center of Tokyo's gaming culture being Akihabara rather than Roppongi. The venue provides a meeting location for fans of the series: styled in the fashion of a Medieval public house like its virtual counterpart, its food is directly inspired by both items and monsters found in the games. It was described by a Western journalist as a cross between a Disneyland resort and a maid café[141][142] Dragon Quest also served as the inspiration for a live-action television drama. Yūsha Yoshihiko initially aired in July 2011, with a sequel series being produced and released the following year.[143] For its 2012 April Fool's Hoax, Google announced a "NES version" of its Google Maps service, which uses graphics and music licensed from Dragon Quest.[144]

There is an urban myth that the release of Dragon Quest III caused a law to be passed in Japan banning the sale of Dragon Quest games or video games in general except on certain days such as weekends or national holidays.[8][145][146] When III was released in Japan, over 300 schoolchildren were arrested for truancy while waiting in stores for the game to be released.[147] The rumor claims there was a measurable dip in productivity when a Dragon Quest game was released and although muggings of Dragon Quest titles became so widespread there were hearings in the Japanese Diet, no law was ever passed. However, the Japanese release of every Dragon Quest title continued to be on a Saturday until the release of Dragon Quest X, which was released on Thursday, August 2, 2012.[8][145][146]

Dragon Quest's music has been influential on various sectors of the performing arts. It was the first video game series to receive live-action ballet adaptations,[148] and musical concerts and audio CDs were produced based on the Dragon Quest universe.[93] Since 1987, the series' music has been performed annually in concert halls throughout Japan.[8] Early Dragon Quest concerts inspired Nobuo Uematsu's compositions for the Final Fantasy series.[149]

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