There is no denying the phenomenal impact Dragon Quest has had. It was the beginning of a prolific series and the first in an entirely new genre. Even so, the first time I played Dragon Warrior I just wasn’t very impressed. I suppose I wanted another Final Fantasy or expected something as epic as Tolkien, but whatever the reason I just wasn’t all that interested. Several years ago I played the NES version again and, well, I still don’t love DQI, but I do have a greater respect for it.
DQI is simple. There’s just not a lot to it. You’re the hero. You’re tasked with saving the world. You talk to people in town, buy equipment, rest at the inn. You fight monsters. You fight a lot of monsters! You level up. You travel to a new town or explore a dungeon. And you just repeat this until you crush the Dragonlord.
It’s the narrative that sucks you into the gameplay. You’re given the plot in bits and pieces as you journey along. Yes, it’s a simple and cliché plot, but games at that time just didn’t have a story. Or at least what little story they did have were relegated to a small blurb at the start of the game or a few pages in the manual. And none of that was crucial to actually playing the game. By today’s standards DQI certainly shows its age. The story is predictable and most of your time will be spent grinding in one-on-one battles that are more-or-less interchangeable.
However, I find the simplicity itself to be charming. Plus, it’s a rather short game and takes a fraction of the time the average JRPG requires to complete. And I really enjoyed the SFC remake I played. The game is fundamentally the same, faults and all, but the improved system allows for a much better representation of both Akira Toriyama’s character designs and Koichi Sugiyama’s score. It was just an all around pleasant experience.
I don’t think of this as a must-play game. It’s fun enough, but I don’t know if it’s interesting enough for a casual player or someone wanting to try out JRPGs for the first time. Obviously any DQ fan should play this, though, chances are they already have. Retro game enthusiasts and JRPG fans might want to give it a go just to experience the history.