The Dragon Quest series was and is one of my favorite video game series of all-time. I could do into quite a bit of detail about why and what it is that I continue to love about the franchise. Today, however, I’m just going to take a look at some of the moments in games, or things that occur around them that are some of my favorite things. Some of them will be direct moments that happened, some will be based on the mechanics of the series. All of them were good in their own way, even if the actual event that occurred caused feelings of sadness in me.
Here are six of my favorite moments in the history of the Dragon Quest franchise, in no particular order. (As I’m writing this the overworld music for the first game is rolling through my brain.)
Dragon Quest I Ending – Dragon Lord Question
The first Dragon Quest game, known as Dragon Warrior here in the United States, was a game that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s the first RPG I ever played and kindled a love for the genre that lasts to this day. The first game also did something I’d never seen before and couldn’t believe when it happened.
Near the end of the game you are standing face to face with the biggest bad guy in all of Alefgard, the Dragon Lord. At one point you’re given a choice. You can join him and rule the land together (a scenario that the upcoming Dragon Quest Builders explores) or you can fight him. If you choose to join him the game ends there and if you’re in North America deletes your save. It would later be changes to waking up from a bad dream in the Game Boy Color remake of the game. I’m glad when I first played this game I chose to fight him, as any Hero should, because I would have been upset to have my save file deleted unexpectedly. I have since gone back and done so, but I knew it was coming and was prepared for it. Still, it’s a great moment and a really interesting way to make your choice really matter.
Dragon Quest IX – Enemies on Screen
There are probably a number of things I could choose from Dragon Quest IX to be on this list, but the one I chose is one that was sort of a revolution for this franchise. For the first time ever in the main Dragon Quest series enemies would appear on screen in the overworld. Up until this point every game previous to it used random encounters to get you into combat and you never knew when or if you’d get into combat. If you wanted to grind experience to raise your level you had to randomly wander around hoping you stumbled into some strong enemies to give you quick experience boosts. Now, for the first time in the series you could pick and choose when you wanted to fight. If you were in a hurry to get through a section with little damage you could simply avoid enemies and combat altogether. The enemies on screen didn’t tell you exactly who you would be fighting when you entered combat, but it showed you where fights could happen and gave you an idea of at least one of the enemies you’d be facing should you choose to fight.
Dragon Quest VIII – Puff Puff
How do you talk about this and keep it clean? Well, you can’t. The puff-puff joke is a running gag throughout the Dragon Quest series. In Japan there is an onomatopoeia “pafupafu” which refers to a woman rubbing her breasts against a man’s face. This joke is a running bit in a lot of Akira Toriyama’s work. It has appeared in nearly every game since the first one back on the NES. However, it’s always been censored out of the game in North America.
The first time gamers in the US got to experience a puff-puff was in Dragon Quest VIII. In the game you go into a puff-puff parlor and everything is not so subtly hinted at. The double entendre and intimation is everywhere. It’s implied that your player character is in for a very special treat from a lady. You walk into the room, a woman sits you in a chair, blindfolds you and the screen goes black. Some sultry sounds happen, some spicy dialogue takes place and you assume that’s what happens. However, when the screen comes back on you see that she’s rubbing two slimes against your face. The joke is once again revisited in Dragon Quest IX, but this time someone is having two sheep rub up against you. Who knows how this joke will be revisited when Dragon Quest XI hits shelves.
Dragon Quest V – Pankraz’s Death
Not every moment in a game can be a good one. Sometimes they’re sad and they bring a lot of emotion with them. One of those for me was in a recent play through of Dragon Quest V. In that game, for the first few hours you play as a young version of the game’s main hero. In many points throughout that opening section of the game you are accompanied by your father Pankraz. He’ll escort you from town to town, he’ll occasionally enter a dungeon with you. At one point you, as a child, are escaping a dungeon. You are just about to escape when one of the game’s villains, Ladja, captures you. He’s holding a weapon to your throat and your father appears on the scene. Ladja warns him that if he attempts to move that you will be killed. You are then forced to watch as Ladja’s lackeys Rook and Bishop assault your father and he never moves. He accepts his fate, but right before he is blasted by a fireball tells you about your mother.
It’s an incredibly sad moment that makes you feel sad for this kid you’ve been playing as.
Dragon Quest Heroes – Tutorial
Say what you will about Musou games, but I absolutely love them. I was incredibly excited when I heard about Dragon Quest Heroes coming to the United States. I adore this game. It’s a great entry into the series for people who might be unsure about Dragon Quest games. It’s got just enough of the familiar elements to feel like a traditional RPG but then you have this crazy combat system built on top of it.
I will never forget that moment when I first started up the game. All of the characters (and the ones you traditionally think of as enemies) are enjoying a carnival. A couple wyverns do a flyby and a portal opens up in the sky. Then all the monsters go crazy.
Seeing all of those very familiar enemies rendered in beautiful 3D brings them to life in ways the games hadn’t really been able to do before. Then you get control of the character and you learn how to fight in this world. It’s one thing to fight these characters in 2D, where even more recent games tried to make battles more cinematic. It’s another all-together to see hordes of them on screen at once. Going from battles where you would fight two or three skeletons to seeing fifty or more on screen brought a completely new dimension to this series and makes the game feel like a more western action RPG rather than a traditional JRPG.
Dragon Quest III – Get a Job
The idea of a class or a job system for RPG characters has been around for a long time. The first time it happens in the Dragon Quest series was the release of Dragon Quest III. In that game your Hero couldn’t change their class, but upon reaching Rudia’s Tavern you could add up to three party members and pick both their gender and their class. The idea of a party was introduced in the previous game, but this was the first time that you got to have some choice over how your party was created. At different points throughout the game you could mix and match different party members and even change their class.
Since then the ability to customize your party has become more or less a staple of the series, but this was the first game where you really got to experience the freedom of making the party the way you wanted it.
Now that I’ve told you some of my favorite moments or things that have happened in the series it’s your turn to talk to me. What things in the history of Dragon Quest, no matter if they’re from the main series of games or not, are your favorites?