Posts by Tag / SERIES: Dragon Quest (2)


The Quest for Dragon Quest

Every once in a while, I like to pretend I’m going to catch up on Dragon Quest.

I played a lot of DQ 3 on the NES when I was a kid, but never really got into the other mainline games. Builders 1+2 made me wish I had a better grasp of their stories/worlds, and Heroes II made me want to better know their characters (especially from DQ 4).

These are widely-beloved culturally-significant games, and as such they’ve received a number of ports over the years. But when I look at the options for playing these games today, I’m flummoxed. I know I should no longer be surprised by basically any decision made by Square Enix, but their treatment of their notable back catalog really comes across like they hate money.

The first six mainline DQ titles all have relatively definitive ports… on mobile. (One can quibble over the graphics, but my understanding is that it’s not nearly as bad as the ports of classic Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger, and unlike with those games, the DQ ports are otherwise generally considered the best versions of the games due to fixes and quality-of-life improvements.) None of these are available on PC. The only mainline DQ game on Steam is DQ XI. And for consoles - the first three of the ports were also ported to Nintendo Switch… but only those three.

I don’t understand this. Is the paying audience for classic JRPGs really bigger on mobile than PC or console? I find that hard to believe (especially because, like with all Square Enix games, they are quite highly priced for the mobile stores.) I know I don’t want to play a classic JRPG on a touchscreen, and I expect people who want to play old games to care more about preservation and prefer platforms that aren’t actively hostile to it.

And as the developer/publisher, once you’ve paid the overhead cost of getting the engine and translation in place and released the older, less-well-regarded games (3 is well-liked, but 1 and 2 are generally not as recommended as 4, 5, and 6), why not release the later games too?

Dragon Quest isn’t even the only series that Square Enix has treated this way. The first Star Ocean has a nice port on Switch and PS4… that is not available on PC. (At least this one isn’t mobile-only, I guess.) And the second Star Ocean, which uses the same engine and is already translated, has not received such a port and isn’t on any modern platform (at least in the US). Steam only has the fourth mainline Star Ocean game at this time (though thankfully the upcoming sixth game is supposed to come to it too).

I was so sure once the DQ 1-3 ports and SO 1 port came to Switch, they’d be followed by the next games and also make it to Steam, but it’s been quite a while now without so much as a whisper of that. Instead we’re getting… a new remake of DQ 3. What?

I don’t know what to do with all of this. I guess if I want to play DQ 1-3 my best bet is Switch. But 4 and 5 are the ones I’m most curious about and I don’t seem to have great (legal) options there, despite it really seeming like it wouldn’t be hard for Square Enix to provide them.


I think Dragon Quest has held on to its core...

I think Dragon Quest has held on to its core identity in a way that Final Fantasy hasn’t.

Dragon Quest has evolved, but there’s a clear through-line from the original game to now. As the series and its fans both grow up the games lean a bit more on nostalgia - and a huge part of why that’s effective is because the series has maintained a consistent tone across its installments. Playing Dragon Quest XI today feels a lot like how it felt to play Dragon Quest III on the NES.

Final Fantasy, meanwhile, has reinvented itself a few times. Multiple mainline games feel like the sort of experiment you normally see as a spin-off title, taking the series in bold new directions that sometimes stick and sometimes don’t. Final Fantasy XV is all-but unrecognizable as a descendant of, say, Final Fantasy IV. There’s still nostalgia, but it feels more detached - like bits of intertextual homage rather than bringing tradition forward.

For example: Final Fantasy XV feels the need to justify/contextualize the inclusion of the classic victory theme by having one of its characters sing it. Meanwhile, Dragon Quest XI just straight-up uses the classic sound effects.

Modern Final Fantasy is nostalgic for classic Final Fantasy. Modern Dragon Quest still is classic Dragon Quest.

I think this is why, despite having played more Final Fantasy as a child, it’s Dragon Quest that I’m still drawn to today. It’s Dragon Quest that I want to wrap myself in like a blanket.