Master Malstrom –
I know you’re not too high on the Dragon Quest games. I’m an old hat with JRPGs (played every Final Fantasy game except XIII, and I’m holding off on that one until I beat a bunch of other stuff first), and I’ve developed an appreciation for them recently. I’ll grant you that the NES ones aren’t that great. I’ve never finished any of them because I get thrown for a loop by esoteric game mechanics or just plain get sick of grinding, which is not optional. JRPGs in general, but the really old ones in particular, are full of gameplay elements that do nothing but waste your time, and time is not something I have a lot of these days.
However, I do feel obligated to defend Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI. I can’t speak for the original versions, but I greatly enjoyed my time with the DS remakes. They all use the same engine, so graphically they aren’t super impressive. They look a bit like Super NES RPGs with polygonal environments. The best thing about them is that the grinding is massively toned down from the originals. I think I was forced to grind maybe once across all three games. As a result, they are much shorter to play through. IV and V took maybe 20-30 hours each, and I sank 70 hours into VI because I enjoyed it so much (I have a long commute). You could conceivably wrap it up in 30 though.
The localization team also gave each region and town a different “accent” through the text. If you’ve played Chrono Cross, you’ll know what I mean as it’s the exact same thing. A lot of hardcore folks online hate that, but I find it charming. The other thing that the hardcore hate is the remakes’ removal of the “grimdarkness” that Americanization forced on the original games, in favor of a cheerful and often downright silly at times script. I once again find this refreshing. If I want grimdarkness, there are probably 10 movies in theaters at any given time to get it from.
You can tell that DQIV started as an NES game, because the characters are paper-thin and the story is nothing more than an M&M shell around the gameplay. That’s a common complaint with the series as a whole though, so if you’re not a fan of how the games play, there’s no point trying to win you over. This one’s subtitle is Chapters of the Chosen, and that’s because, for the first five parts, you play as one character or set of characters, each with pretty different gameplay and goals (one is a tank, the next is a balanced team, one is a merchant who sucks at fighting but wants to buy his own shop, two girls are out to avenge the death of their father, etc.) In chapter 5, all of the teams reunite with the “legendary hero” and you can use whatever characters you want. I’m not going to discuss the gameplay in any of these except to point out major differences. If you’ve played one Dragon Quest game, you’ve played them all, and this one plays exactly the same as NES Dragon Warrior. The chapters system is fun though, aside from the fact that you kick off each new chapter at level 1.
DQV’s story is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a JRPG. It starts with your character being born, and you follow him for the entire game, experiencing his triumphs, tragedies, and his entire family’s eventual victory over the forces of evil. I don’t really want to talk about it too much because spoilers would ruin it, but let’s just say that it features several of the most tragic and heartbreaking moments that I’ve ever experienced in a video game. It makes finally beating up the jackass who caused you so much suffering IMMENSELY satisfying. The main gameplay difference is that, since you’re on your own for most of the game, you’re able to recruit monsters to fight for you. Bear in mind, DQV came out a good four or five years before Pokemon made an entire game out of that concept.
DQVI…wow. If this game had come out around the same time as Chrono Trigger like it was supposed to, I think it would be compared very favorably with it. First off, DQVI is EPIC. You are given access to two world maps from the beginning, and it only gets bigger from there. There are no less than five modes of transportation, and some of them are completely insane (a flying bed for example, which has an unbelievably sad backstory associated with it). The game sports a fully fledged job system, with the top jobs requiring lots of grinding to get. The story has a bunch of twists and turns that keep it interesting throughout. Finally, the game doesn’t hold your hand, and expects you to figure things out on your own. It took me back to my days playing Final Fantasy I, and that’s always a good thing.
The bottom line is, if you could only pick one to play, do V. If you have to skip one, skip IV. The three that I’ve talked about are worthwhile and fun, though.
I like the Dragon Quest games and have no problem with them.
My issue is with the original Nintendo cartridge collectors. The reason to buy original NES cartridges is so you can play on the original NES hardware. This means you are playing the software on the hardware it was designed for. Everything feels perfect on it. Games become much more fun!
NES Era is unique because games are extremely arcade-like. You need precision accuracy with the controls. It matters.
Dragon Quest is a turn based game series. The control accuracy doesn’t matter in the NES Dragon Quest games. What is the difference between playing Dragon Quest on an emulator instead of an original NES? You don’t need the original hardware to have an optimum experience. You do, however, with Super Mario Brothers 3 and other NES action classics. So why in the world is anyone paying $90 for Dragon Quest III for the NES cartridge (outside the collectors)?
Shadowgate is another example of a game that doesn’t need to be bought for the original cartridge to have its experience.