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Dragon Quest Megathread
Old 02-15-2021, 12:01 PM   #1
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Default Dragon Quest Megathread

After having played through the Final Fantasy series last year I felt a hankerin' to make my through the Dragon Quest series this year. Its been a while since I've played through all the games. I've had it in the back of my mind to go through the series again since playing through DQXI a couple of years ago and getting the Switch releases of the first three games, but now I'm getting to it.

Dragon Quest is, probably, my preferred RPG series although it seems I've talked a heck of a lot more about Final Fantasy on this site. Probably the best FF games are better than the best DQ games, but there are no DQ games that are as bad as the worst FF games.

I first got into the series with the Dragon Warrior I&II collection on the GBC back in the day. That was right about when I really started to getting into video games as more than just toys (and just a few months before I joined Nintendose!). Even though these were of course remakes, I was excited for III on the GBC just like it was a new game.

Dragon Warrior IV was my first taste of the uncertainty of this series. I had planned to get a PlayStation solely to play that release (advertised in the back of the GBC III manual), but that release was ultimately cancelled and it was years before I could continue the series.

I did try to play Dragon Warrior VII, but it was too different from what I knew and I didn't have the bridging games to ease that transition. I was able to get into Dragon Quest VIII though on the PS2 and that really brought me back into the series along with the DS releases of DQ IV and V and then IX. Of course, we faced a lot of uncertainty with the DS release of VI, X on the Wii (etc.) never made it, and it was unclear whether we'd see the 3DS release of VII (ultimately did) and we never did get the 3DS version of XI.

****

Regarding DQI, I did play through it last week on the Switch. What I really appreciate about it is honestly how simple it is. It is like if you defined the absolute core elements of a jRPG and put just those in a game you'd have Dragon Quest I. You have one character who fights one enemy at a time. There are no skill trees or classes. There is a linear progression of equipment. The world is small enough that you can kind of brute force your way through it. There's not much chance at getting lost. You can beat it in less than a dozen hours (maybe just a handful?).

It actually works really way as a handheld/mobile game. I've tried a couple of RPGs on my phone, but I can never get very far because I don't want to spend a ton of time playing a game on my phone. With Dragon Quest, though, most of the playtime is grinding so even if boot the game up for just a few minutes and fight a couple of battles you've made some kind of progress in regards to the experience or gold you've gained. Just a few sessions of a few battles each and you can move on to the next town or buy the next piece of equipment.
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Re: Dragon Quest Megathread
Old 02-20-2021, 03:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dragon Quest Megathread

I just beat Dragon Quest II.

To be honest, I don't feel quite as fondly towards DQII as I do to I even though I have to admit in most ways II is the better game. Honestly not sure why. It might be due to my experience the first time I played the game on the GBC with the Dragon Warrior I&II collection. I remember playing I and being really excited to move beyond it and play II, but felt a little disappointed. I got stuck at one point and paused for a long time until I finally came back and beat it. That feeling of disappointment and not being able to move forward has just stuck with me I guess.

But the game is really a big leap forward from I in a lot of respects although I wouldn't quite call it fully formed Dragon Quest yet. You have a party this time - three playable characters instead of just the one. You start off with just the Prince of Midenhall - the seeming main character. Unlike the Hero from I (and all future main characters), II's hero only has physical attacks. No magic. You later gain the Prince of Cannock who can kind of do both physical and magical attacks (but lags behind Midenhall regarding physical attacks) and the Princess of MoonBrooke who is primarily focused on magical (but of course she can swing a stick if she needs to).

You also face more than one enemy at a time. This plus the expanded magic spell list adds a lot more strategy to how you approach battles. Physical attacks of course only hit one enemy. Some spells hit a set of like enemies and other spells can hit all enemies. Choosing which enemies or sets of enemies to prioritize in your battles is the main brunt of strategy.

The negative aspect of the game, at least in my opinion, is that once you get the ship the game just becomes a massive easter egg hunt across the entire world. Unlike I which was small enough to remain focused (or the pre-ship parts of II which provide pretty decent direction), there is no clear direction to go once you get the ship. You just explore and collect the random hints in random towns to try to find the macguffins (or even what the macguffins are) or maybe you just find macguffins randomly as you explore. It reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy I after you get the airship. Just a lot of back and forth and aimless wandering.

Overall, though, I would say it is a decent RPG, especially the recent Switch and mobile versions which cut down on some of the frustrating difficulty (like they removed the final boss's ability to cast FullHeal on himself) and reduces the amount of time needed to grind. I would still say that in the end I prefer DQI for being a much more focused, nostalgic experience. II is just a weird bridge between the simplicity of I and the full features of III and beyond.
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Re: Dragon Quest Megathread
Old 03-10-2021, 10:28 AM   #3
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Default Re: Dragon Quest Megathread

Dragon Quest III was originally released in North America as Dragon Warrior III on the NES in 1991. I first played it on the GBC with the DWIII remake released on that console in NA in 2001. Last Friday, I beat it again on the Switch port that was released in 2019.

Dragon Quest III is functionally the A Link to the Past of the Dragon Quest series. What I mean by this is that DQIII is where the series can be considered fully formed. While I and II are obviously important building blocks for the series (in the same way the original LoZ and AoL are important building blocks for the Zelda series), they feel more like prototypes when compared to more modern entries in the Dragon Quest series. III is the first game that really feels like it belongs alongside the later releases.

What DQIII really adds are customization and options. I has a very linear system of progression that the player really has no control over. II offers a few more options in regards to equipment, but your party and their skills are on tracks. III adds a "vocation system" (basically a job or class system) that allows you to fully customize your team outside of the main hero. There is also a personality system added to all re-releases after the original NES release that adds another layer of customizability to it. And the beauty of these systems is that for the most part you can dive in deep or nearly ignore them however you choose.

At the beginning of the game you start out only with the main Hero character. Before leaving town you're directed to Patty's Party Planning Place to recruit party members to take on your quest. While there are some default character pre-created, you can also make your own characters including naming them, assigning them a vocation, and feeding them stat boosting seeds to determine their starting stats. You can recruit up to 3 characters giving you a full party of 4 including your Hero. Of course, this is up to 3, meaning you can roll through the game with just the Hero or with only 1 or 2 party members if you choose. And that's not all! You aren't stuck with your party once chosen like you are in, say, the original Final Fantasy. You can drop off your party members and create new ones as desired, allowing you to experiment to your heart's desire. The only caveat is that any new party members are starting fresh at level 1.

And STILL that's not all! About a third of the way through the game you reach Alltrades Abbey which allows any non-Hero character at level 20 or high to reassign their vocation. They can switch jobs! While this resets the character back to level 1, the stats are only cut in half rather than rolling all the way back. You also get to keep any spells the character had learned from magic based vocations. This results in a character much stronger than a brand new level 1 character and allows you to essentially create your own custom classes. A warrior who can heal or a mage who can actually inflict some physical damage.

The personality system is a little more vague as it doesn't really describe itself in game and you has less direct control over some of its mechanics. Basically, at the start of the game you take a personality quiz that determines what personality is assigned to your main character. This personality adjust stat growth meaning your Hero could be a stronger physical character or a stronger magical character. He/she could be fast or slower based on what you choose. The other party characters are also assigned a personality based on what seeds you give them at character creation. You can also alter personalities later on utilizing accessories that change it while equipped or books that permanently change their personality. Most players probably won't even mess with this at first, but advanced players can use to min/max their party.

The downside to all of this is that none of the characters really have any personality as it relates to the story. They are all mostly voiceless templates similar to the prior two games. The story itself does have a fantastic twist though. DQ I and II refer to a legendary hero named Erdrick (or maybe Loto or Roto depending on who has translated the game). III initially appears completely separate from those two games, but 2/3s of the way through you find yourself in the world fo the first game hundreds of years prior. The end of game reveals that you've been playing the Legendary hero Erdrick all along. Good stuff.

Overall, I really enjoy III. Like I mentioned before, when I was first playing the series on the GBA I was as excited for the re-release of III just as if it were a new, modern game. It is a dramatic improvement on what you see in I and II and often shows up on fans' favorite DQ games list.

****

I'm currently playing through IV and its interesting playing III and IV back to back now how much IV kind of aims to be the opposite of III (but not in a bad way!). More on that later.
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Re: Dragon Quest Megathread
Old 03-17-2021, 10:30 AM   #4
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Dragon Quest IV was originally released in North America as Dragon Warrior IV on the NES in 1992. A remake was released in Japan for the PSX in 2001; this was slated to hit our shores as well, but the closure of the development studio of the remake meant this localization was cancelled. We finally received a remake of the game in 2008 as Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS - a port of the prior PSX remake. It has since been released on iOS and Android devices, but I played the DS version here.

In contrast to the prior DQ games, IV placed a large focus on having a diverse cast of characters in the player's party. I didn't have a party at all. II added two more characters to the group, but collectively they all sort of represent the "hero" and they don't really get an opportunity for any personality to shine through. III introduced a full party of 4 total characters in the party (including the main character) plus however many left in reserve, but they were player created and had no backstories or personalities. IV, conversely, goes all in on having defined characters with backstories and personalities and defined gameplay traits.

It goes so all in, in fact, that (except for a brief prologue in the remakes) the game starts with the party members rather than the main hero. The subtitle for the remakes is Chapters of the Chosen due to the core mechanic behind Dragon Quest IV. The main part of the game is split into five chapters. The first four chapters introduce an eventual party member or set of party members. You play as these characters in episodic adventures establishing who they are, why they're out adventuring, and what their individual goals are.

First we have Ragnar who is seemingly a random solider from the kingdom of Burland. He initially goes out with the rest of the soldiers to investigate a bunch of missing kids, but this leads to him then being sent out to find the Hero to make sure the monsters don't kill him before he fulfill his destiny.

Alena is a tomboy princess who keeps breaking out of the castle to go have fun adventures and become stronger. She is accompanied by Kiryl and Borya (a priest and her tutor) for protection. In her adventures she ends up jumping into the larger troubles of the world.

Torneko is a merchant in probably the most unique chapter. As Torneko, at first you just go to your day job and sell weapons to adventurers, but at night you can venture out to fulfill Torneko's dream of owning his own shop and, after, expanding his merchant empire.

Maya and Meena are sisters who are out for revenge on the person who murdered their father. Their father's murder of course ties into the larger story and pulls the sisters into a larger quest to save the world.

In Chapter 5 we finally control our main character and go out into the world to meet and collect the various other character we just spent a dozen hours or so getting to know. Its a fun structure and helps ensure they each characters feels important. One thing I struggle with some other RPGs is not feeling as attached or using characters that join the party late in the game. Here, I don't have that problem.

One problem that does exist in the original game and in the localized DS remake is that once you gather the party members that's about it for their personality. There's not a lot of interaction in between characters and so not a lot of opportunity for any personality to shine. In the Japanese version, the DQIV remake featured a party chat where the different characters could interact with each other. When they brought the game over to NA, doubts about the games profitability led to them not bother translating the party chat (as it comprises a large portion of the overall text in the game) in lieu of just nixing the feature entirely. Fortunately, they brought it back for the iOS and Android releases and the feature is present in later releases as well - just not this one.

Another issue I have is the constant restart feeling you have moving from chapter to chapter. At the beginning of RPGs, particularly older RPGs, particularly Dragon Quest, you start out weak and underequipped and you have to spend some time just fighting battles in order to gain experience and money to get better equipment. This is fine, I find it relaxing overall, but this process repeats at the beginning of each and every chapter in this game. It makes the game drag a lot in the beginning as you constantly feel like you're starting over again and again. I admit this game was a bit of an albatross for me back in the day. I was excited to go from III on the GBC to IV and was planning to get a PSX just for that remake. When that was cancelled, though, it was years before I had an opportunity to play this game (and those years felt a lot longer back then than they do now). When I finally got it I was excited, but I ultimately had a false start as I got worn out by the constant restarts and stopped playing at Chapter 4. I later went on to beat and and have done so a few times since, but it is a bit of a slog and probably holds this game back for me a little.

That said, I do feel more attached to these characters than I do some other DQ characters (particularly in the next couple of games) primarily because I get to spend quality time with each one building that stronger connection despite the lack of overall character interaction in the story.
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Re: Dragon Quest Megathread
Old 04-12-2021, 01:40 PM   #5
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Default Re: Dragon Quest Megathread

It sure took me a while to get through V...

Dragon Quest V was originally released in Japan on the Super Famicom in 1992 and then remade for the PS2 2004. North America did not receive a localized release of DQV until 2009 when it was remade again for the Nintendo DS.

Dragon Quest V borrows the chapter format from DQIV, but rather than switching perspectives between different character, V instead splits the game up between different points in a single character's life. We begin the game with our main character as a small child travelling with his father and end the game grown up with children of his own. This perspective really takes the core gameplay defined by DQs I-IV and really elevates the story to levels it hadn't been before. The overall threat is very similar to prior games - some dark lord is working to take over the world. But sticking with this main character through so much his life allows DQV to take this formula and inject it with twists, turns, consequences, and personal emotion in a way that no other DQ game has.

I don't want to spoil the story, but I will say if you're going to play just one Dragon Quest in your life make it Dragon Quest XI. BUT, if you then wanted to play a second Dragon Quest game, consider Dragon Quest V for the emotional resonance is provides.

From a gameplay perspective, the game mostly relies on tried and true formula developed in the prior games, but it does add a monster recruiting mechanic. Every once in a while after a battle a monster might get up and offer to join your party. So long as you accept (and there's not much reason not to, typically) that monster is a full fledged member of your party. Not every monster can be recruited, but the ones that can learn spells or skills and wear equipment just like anyone else. There are human characters that will join your party as part of the story, but for a large portion of the game you'll be relying on monsters to fill out the party and by the end you might be more comfortable using them than some of the human characters.

If I have a criticism of the monster recruiting aspect of the game is how random it all is. There's nothing to do to recruit monsters other than fight them and hope they ask to join. There is a book in the game that identifies which monsters are recruitable, but that's it. Its a random chance that a recruitable monster will ask to join up and some of the odds for some of the monsters are very low. Fortunately, you can and will get some decent monsters naturally. You don't need the rare ones to beat the game (or even beat it easily), but it just makes it all feel like its out of your hands. There is also no real input into how these monsters grow or develop, same as the human characters. Of course, this monster recruiting was in its early days. It did influence Pokémon who took that idea and ran with it and was also spun off into its own series - Dragon Quest Monsters (or Dragon Warrior Monsters originally here).

*********

I don't really have a lot to say about V overall. Growing up after playing I-III on the GBC I was so focused on playing IV that I never any really thought ahead to V. I'm not sure when it was I learned that it didn't even originally see a North American release. When it came out on the DS after IV I was excited to play and enjoyed it, but it didn't have that sense of "finally" like IV did. It also felt more like catching up rather than playing a fresh sequel like III did back in the day because by that point I had played VII and VIII and was looking forward to IX.
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