I had some false starts with the classic franchise. When a remake of Dragon Quest IV was released on Nintendo DS in 2008, I took it back. It was just when I was walking into Final Fantasy, playing the first 10 games in the franchise in 6 months. After so many Final Fantasy games, I thought I would like to explore the other great JRPG institution. But I barely arrived with Dragon Quest IV. I have no good reason; the game just didn’t grab me. If there was a big thing, I just couldn’t get into first person fights. Not seeing my group members on the battlefield was just shocking.
Shortly after, Dragon Quest IX was released for the DS in 2010. This time, Square Enix made a Dragon Quest for the DS from scratch. And I played this one for a few hours. This time, I could see my characters in combat, swing their little swords and cast their spells. But Dragon Quest IX was a more open and less narrative RPG. It was a big leap for me, especially after playing all of these story and character-filled Final Fantasy games.
Fast forward to 10 years later, and my JRPG experience has exceeded the limits of Final Fantasy. I have now played games like Suikoden 2, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky and Phantasy Star IV. My appreciation for the genre exceeds comparisons with Final Fantasy.
So when everyone started raving about Dragon Quest XI, I got curious. But it still took me a while to get started. After my past experience with the franchise, I convinced myself that I was just not a “Dragon Quest guy”. But when Dragon Quest XI came to Switch, and I finally had some free time after the rushed vacation and game reviews earlier this year, I decided to finally give it a try.
In quest of glory
I’m so glad I did it. About 75 hours later, Dragon Quest XI is now one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It was everything people said: charming, beautiful and delightfully old-school with a modern approach. But Dragon Quest XI was also a lot of things that I didn’t expect. It has the best voice game I have ever heard in a JRPG, avoiding the heinous anime tropes that so many other games of this genre are looking for. And while Dragon Quest XI uses a simple turn-based combat system, it still has a lot of depth. Each fight is significant. You can make your way through many JRPGs by simply breaking a single button, telling each member of the group to use a basic attack each turn. Dragon Quest XI made me use a much wider set of abilities and spells than a normal JRPG.
Now, I’m not here to review Dragon Quest XI (editor Jason Wilson has already done so, and you should read it). Suffice it to say that it is a fantastic JRPG and you should play it if you have an affinity for the genre.
But aside from the great experience of playing this game, I finally feel ready to delve into the rest of this franchise. I’m already looking at the recent Dragon Quest III Switch port, which many people think is the best of the NES era games in the series. I’m also excited to try some of the games that I think are some of the best in the franchise, such as Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VIII.
I feel like a whole new JRPG world opens up to me. I’m not sure I’ll go back and play all of the Dragon Quest games, like I did for Final Fantasy. But after beating Dragon Quest XI, all I want to do is deepen the franchise.
I am now a Dragon Quest guy.
The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks into the past of the game, diving into the classics, the new retro titles, or the old favorites – and their design techniques – inspiring the market and experiences today. If you have projects or scoops on the retro theme that you want to send my way, please contact me.