While Final Fantasy
can grab a lot of the limelight, the Dragon Quest/Warrior
games make up one of the most important RPG franchises of all time - Gamasutra goes in-depth
to chart the series' more than 20-year design evolution.
Role-playing games are among the oldest and best-known genres since the advent of gaming, and ardent gaming veteran and writer Kurt Kalata explains that Enix's Dragon Quest
is one of the most important franchises in history. But how did this fairly simplistic, straightforward title stand out among other fantasy RPGs, earning admiration all across Japan?
One big factor was the artwork by celebrated manga artist Akira Toriyama, famed for the Dragonball series, among others. And in addition, Kalata explains how what seems simplistic to us now was rather complex for its time:
"It was also one of the most in-depth games seen on the Famicom at the time. Back in 1986, if you wanted a complicated game, you needed an expensive PC. But while Dragon Quest isn't as remotely in-depth as any of those games, it offered significantly more exploration and play time than most other titles, which concentrated on arcade-style action. The soundtrack was also supplied by classically trained musician Koichi Sugiyama, who had previously carved out a living for himself writing background music for commercials. Although the synth of the 8-bit Famicom was simplistic, it supplied a rousing backdrop to the adventure, with a memorable main theme that may as well be Japan's national anthem.
Despite its universal Japanese success and several sequels, the Dragon Quest
series never achieved the same level of fame in America, who overlooked its relatively primitive elements in favor of Square's much more picturesque Final Fantasy
added new elements with every installment in the franchise; by contrast, Dragon Quest
prioritized keeping to traditions. And fans of the long-standing series actually find innovation in that format, as Kalata explains:
"But Dragon Quest's strength relies more on its episodic storytelling than the overall plot. Rather than concentrating on your party members, Dragon Quest focuses on the little stories of the NPCs you meet and the towns you explore. As heroes, you might reunite star crossed lovers, or amend the heart of distraught widowers, or even trade goods across kingdoms. The plus side is that none of the games feature characters like Final Fantasy's Squall or Tidus, whose personalities tend to put off certain players. It also tends to stay away from silly melodrama, or overly long cutscenes, so gamers sick of these overwrought tendencies may find plenty of solace in Dragon Quest.
You can now read the full feature
, an in-depth on the quintessential lessons from this franchise classic's unshakable Japanese success, and plenty of detail on what unaware American audiences may have overlooked (no reg. required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).