Game-related ramblings.

Tag: Dragon Quest

History Lessons: Dragon Quest III

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. This post makes many references to the entries for Dragon Quest II, Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

If you’re just tuning in, I’ve been (slowly) playing through the early Japanese-style role-playing games. I started with Final Fantasy, since that’s the one I played most as a kid, but then realized that I needed to back up and play Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II, both of which appeared first. These two games set the conventions of the Japanese-style role-playing genre, but competitors soon appeared. Final Fantasy, which also ran on Nintendo’s Famicom (rebranded as the Nintendo Entertainment System in the United States), was the first on the scene, letting players make their own party of adventurers and offering a linear path through the game that was easier to follow than Dragon Quest II’s open structure. But a mere two days later, Sega released Phantasy Star for their Master System console. I went into that one without really knowing what to expect, and it was a revelation. Not only is it far more technically impressive than anything on Nintendo’s Famicom, it was way ahead of both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy in terms of how the genre would evolve in the years to come. Phantasy Star features a colorful cast of characters with their own personalities and motivations, a well realized setting, and the seeds of a stronger story to drive events, all of which would become staples of the genre (including the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series). Even the science fiction elements that would become popular in the Final Fantasy series (the minimal hints in the first Final Fantasy notwithstanding) were in Phantasy Star first.

After Phantasy Star, the early Dragon Quest games already seem outdated. So now that developers Chunsoft had a chance to see how other designers interpreted the genre they started, how would they respond in their next Dragon Quest game? Well, it turns out they didn’t have too much time to adapt. Dragon Quest III released in February 1988, less than two months after Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star, so it was nearly finished by the time the team could see what other studios were up to. I should note that I’m playing the North American version known as Dragon Warrior III, which didn’t appear until 1992 and — unlike earlier entries in the series — actually had some significant changes from the original Japanese release, most notably a large increase in experience rewards from fighting monsters, which makes character leveling faster. Structurally, however, it remains similar. When doing research for this post, I learned that lead designer Yuji Horii had a policy of removing any features that had been used in other games, so it’s unlikely he would have wanted to copy anything from Final Fantasy or Phatasy Star even if there had been time to do so. But the team must have arrived at some of the same ideas independently, because Dragon Quest III has clear similarities to one (and only one) of its rivals. It’s not Phantasy Star.

History Lessons: Dragon Quest II

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. For some context, you may wish to read the post about Dragon Quest and the post about Final Fantasy first. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

My very slow quest to play through the early Japanese-style role-playing games continues. I semi-accidentally started out of order with the first Final Fantasy game, before realizing that it was predated by not one, but two of the Dragon Quest games. Deciding it was foolish to limit myself to the Final Fantasy series only, I then played the first Dragon Quest, and have now moved on to the second. As with the first game, Dragon Quest II appeared in Japan first, released in January 1987 for the Japanese Famicom, before being localized for the Nintendo Entertainment System (a rebranded Famicom) in North America in 1990, under the name Dragon Warrior II to avoid trademark troubles. This English-language version is the one that I played, and while there are some minor changes, it’s largely the same game as the Japanese original.

History Lessons: Dragon Quest

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. For some context, you may wish to read the post about Final Fantasy first. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Well, this is getting ridiculous. When I wrote my History Lessons post about Final Fantasy, I outlined an ambitious plan to give the same treatment to the rest of that series (or at least the older entries). Now, nearly two years later, instead of finally tackling the second Final Fantasy game, I decided I really should go through the Dragon Quest series (known as Dragon Warrior in the United States until 2005) too. Maybe I’ll be finished with all of these in a decade or two.

But there is some method to my madness. Dragon Quest was released before Final Fantasy (1986 to Final Fantasy’s 1987, although the games didn’t come to the United States until 1989 and 1990, respectively), and is widely regarded as the game that set the mold for the entire genre of Japanese-style role-playing games. It could be cited as a direct inspiration for Final Fantasy, and it spawned its own long-running series (eleven main games plus a bunch of spin-offs) to rival the behemoth that is the Final Fantasy franchise. While I played some of the original Dragon Quest — which had to change its name to Dragon Warrior in the United States to avoid infringing on the trademark of the tabletop game DragonQuest — I never got far, and I’m less familiar with the series as a whole than I am with Final Fantasy. Playing Final Fantasy for its History Lessons post sparked my interest in the evolution of the Dragon Quest series as well.

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