Before there was Final Fantasy… There was Dragon Quest. Taking inspiration from western developed RPGs such as Wizardry and Ultima, designer Yuji Horii’s original Dragon Quest game established many foundations of the console RPG genre. Collaborating with manga artist Akira Toriyama and composer Koichi Sugiyama, Dragon Quest has stayed fiercely loyal to it’s traditions resulting in 10 mainline games and a plethora of spin-off titles. Dragon Quest is so popular in Japan that most titles are released on a weekend or public holiday so not to effect school children and people going to work!
Published by Enix the first four Dragon Quest games were released on the original Nintendo Entertainment System and localised in North American under the name Dragon Warrior due to copyright. The Dragon Warrior name was kept all the way up to Dragon Quest VII outside of Japan. The NES instalments featured a fully explorable overworld, dungeons, a simple yet satisfying narrative and a turn-based battle system. Different to Square’s Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest utilises a first-person view for combat which allowed focus on the detailed enemy designs. Dragon Quest I-IV were initially developed in collaboration with Chunsoft. Yuji Horii’s own studio Armor Project co-develops all the mainline instalments.
Moving onto the Super Nintendo, Enix released Dragon Quest V and VI in Japan only. Both titles wouldn’t make their appearance in English speaking countries until years later in remakes for the Nintendo DS. Again Chunsoft developed Dragon Quest V, but from Dragon Quest VI onwards, which was made by Heartbeat the series had a rotation of developers. Heatbeat would also go on to co-develop Dragon Quest VII on the original PlayStation with ArtePiazza (who themselves would develop many remakes of earlier titles in the series). The massive Dragon Quest VII was released in North America and the next few games would follow suit.
In 2003, Enix merged with former rival Square and Square Enix partnered with Dark Cloud developer Level-5 to release one of the most critically acclaimed and successful instalment in the series. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King released on the monumental PlayStation 2 and propelled Dragon Quest into a beautiful 3D cel-shaded world. The exploration was vast, the voice acting engaging and everything else great from the series was carried over and improved to make it one of the PS2’s best RPGs. Dragon Quest VIII also overhauled the dialogue in the English releases which has been carried over into the remakes of earlier games and new releases over the past few years.
Having found success with Level-5, Square Enix worked with them again to develop Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the impressive Nintendo DS. Originally planned to be an action-RPG, loyal fans disliked this direction so much that the idea was scrapped and a turn-based battle system was restored. Implementing an interesting take on multiplayer in what is predominantly a single player experience, Dragon Quest IX took the series to new heights and arguably it’s most popular era in English countries.
Unfortunately in the years since, remakes of DQ IV, V and VI were released on the Nintendo DS by Nintendo themselves to a less popular response in North America and the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) Dragon Quest X, as well as spin offs such as Dragon Quest Monsters have stayed in Japan only. With such a rich history of quality RPGs it would be a shame to not have any more Dragon Quest games translated into English. There is still hope as the action/ adventure spin off Dragon Quest Heroes is in development for 2015 on The PlayStation 3 and 4 and the next mainline instalment Dragon Quest XI has been confirmed to be returning to a traditional RPG on consoles. So if you are a fan of the series or love a great classic turn-based RPG, the history of Dragon Quest is worth a look into.