Dragon Quest turns 35 - article

Dragon Quest turns 35 - article

35 years have passed since the first Dragon Quest and adventures between lost kingdoms and valleys have accumulated to no end: from the trilogies of the main saga to the success of the eleventh chapter, passing through the numerous spin-offs ranging from pure dungeon crawlers ( Mystery Dungeon) to the Pokémon model (Dragon Quest Monsters).

When you are faced with a great video game, one of the epochal ones, you understand it from the simplicity that hides behind the apparently more complex mechanisms, such as those of a turn-based role-playing game. To find your way around the world of Dragon Quest, however boundless, it only takes a few moments.

What is Dragon Quest, after all? It is the drawings of Akira Toriyama, a world-famous mangaka: his menacing dinosaurs with big eyes immediately bring to mind the famous scenes of Dragon Ball. Those in which Gohan, still a child, hunts them or makes them friends, riding them. Then there is the classical symphony soundtrack, according to the lesson of Koichi Sugiyama, with fanfare of trombones, strings and orchestras. Over time, a whole bestiary of monsters, spells and recurring terms has also been added, with consolidated translations (even a little comic, like Kaboom and Puff Puff).

The first Dragon Quest, in the recent remake for Nintendo Switch. The setting is that of a bright fantasy, full of humor and dragons, but also demonic shadows ready to destroy the apparent calm. There is a combat system, usually turn-based and in the first person, among the most immediate and imitated: a list of abilities that are impossible to misunderstand. Finally there are the slimes, funny endless slimes, of all colors and all sizes. After all, there is no Jrpg that does not start with slimes and goblins, typical creatures filtered by the imagination of Dungeons & Dragons.

It was 1985 when Yuji Horii gave birth to the epic of the knights of the dragon: the first Dragon Quest (then Dragon Warrior) reached the market in May of the following year. Who knows if Horii could have imagined that his production company, Armor Project, would still have joined Square Enix today in the management of an IP that is now more than thirty years old. At the time, after all, he was just following in the footsteps of two other RPG giants: Ultima and Wizardry. The latter is a saga that has had extraordinary success in Japan, so much so that it has become orientalized and disseminated influences up to Hidetaka Miyazaki.

Part of the charm of Dragon Quest is contained in the cheerful and serene atmosphere it recreates , even when darkness and legions of demons and bats conquer the night. There is something friendly about the threats the game hides, be it rotten zombies or mindless golems. The character design, in fact, never dares to become disturbing. Yet, at the same time, the opponents are among the most menacing seen in RPGs, with alien gazes and muscular bodies, bristling with fangs and horns, as were some of the Saiyans' historical enemies.

The King is one of the funniest and most dangerous Slime variations of the entire saga. The sense of adventure in Dragon Quest is given by the variety and frequency with which underground labyrinths, fairy-tale landscapes and constructions with unthinkable mechanisms alternate, whether they are magical or dreamlike. Random encounters, side missions and mini-games are just part of a world that reveals itself to the player through fun dynamics, such as switching between two dimensions (Dragon Quest VI: Into the Realm of Dreams) or flying aboard a golden train. among the skies of a world map full of secrets (the ninth chapter).

In one of the early stages of Dragon Quest VIII: Odyssey of the Cursed King, originally released on PlayStation 2, the protagonists are puzzled by in front of a mysterious door that would grant access to a tower still to be explored. Everything is closed. There is no key, it is not possible to enter the entrance, to open it in any way. There is no Abracadabra that holds. Until, after various adventures, it is realized that the door opens from below, like a shutter. A slight twist (indeed very light), of which the adventures of Dragon Quest are full.

This sense of simple and immediate distortion of expectations is present in almost all the titles of the franchise. It is the effect you feel when you open a chest and discover a Mimic, a monster that has taken the form of it. Also in Dragon Quest VIII, we find creatures hit by unthinkable metamorphosis or deserted canyons that in the moonlight reveal lakes that have disappeared for centuries. In the eleventh chapter (Echoes of a Lost Era), the coastal town of Puerto Valor is dazzling white and surrounded by sunflowers, only because yellow and killer carnivorous plants roam these valleys trying to blend in.

Dragon Quest Builders 2, between Minecraft and hack'n'slash. The intuitiveness that characterizes the series should not suggest that Dragon Quest is a trivial succession of clashes between humans and monsters. Each chapter has something special and unique. A good example is Dragon Quest IV: Chronicles of the Chosen, with its multiple points of view. Here you can play Torneko Taloon, before having him in the party: a good-natured arms dealer with a gameplay focused on trade. The way in which all the characters, however different from each other, gradually build a coherent group, is the basis of contemporary revivals such as Octopath Traveler.

Dragon Quest V: The Bride of Destiny introduces the choice of the better half of the protagonist, a moment that profoundly influences, in the remaining phases of the game, the strategies adopted by the player. Also noteworthy is the day-night cycle of Dragon Quest VIII, no longer tied to the character's steps, or the character creation system in Dragon Quest IX: The Sentinels of the Sky, one of the most stunning games on the Nintendo DS, which opens the door to an endless post-game, with procedural dungeons and hundreds of side missions.

Lately the series has been trying to transfer its legacy to mobile. Among the recent and most solid spin-offs, however, Dragon Quest Builders stands out, released in 2016 and from 2018 in its second chapter. The characteristics of the Dragon Quest world are transposed into a sandbox, open world, with graphics and crafting influenced by Minecraft. An experiment not to be underestimated, because the plot is an alternative sequel to the first Dragon Quest.

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A real success.

Square-Enix intends to transpose the adventures of Dai, the protagonist of the Dragon Quest anime, to console and mobile. And speaking of the celebrated, the first piece of Erdrick's trilogy (in the original Loto), we can only underline how he anticipated the first Final Fantasy by a year and how it offers one of the first examples of an open role-playing game, with objectives to be undertaken according to the your priorities.

Let's not talk about the first JRPG ever: Koei, in turn, anticipated Dragon Quest by five years, with Underground Exploration and The Dragon and the Princess. But these are rudimentary titles that have not had great luck, as well as imitating Western forerunners much more than Dragon Quest.

Dragon Quest has the merit of giving a strong, innovative Japanese interpretation to the role-playing phenomenon western. As in the case of the first chapters of Final Fantasy, the similarities with Dungeons & Dragons are evident (like the aforementioned Mimic). But in front of the lucky Dragon Quest mascot, this blue and drop-shaped slime, there would never, ever be an immediate confrontation with the slimy slimes described by Gary Gygax, now very distant relatives.

The series continues to be a staple in the turn-based JRPG landscape. In Japan, Dragon Quest is a national phenomenon. Viscerally loved by players of all ages. Today, thanks to the success of Dragon Quest XI, the series is also growing in the West. In fact, the ground had already been prepared by the numerous remakes and localizations of the early 2000s. One thing is certain: the twelfth main chapter will be a new adventure for JRPG lovers. A new simple, classic, epochal odyssey.

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