Dragon Quest 1: The Legend Begins Here

Welcome back to the generally positive, but always honest reviews from your favorite Bard. Well, at least around these parts. Work and home-seeking has distracted me a tad, but rest assured, I haven’t forgotten my promises. Let’s talk Dragon Quest 1, shall we?

First thing. Yes, this game has been remade a few times. Besides the iconic NES release, the game also got a release on the MSX hardware like many of the early third-party console games. Like Metal Gear, you kids likes your Metal Gears, mostly Solid. But, it all started somewhere.  It’s just like this series. Later, we got ports on the SNES, Game Boy Color, and most recently Android and iOS. We’ll talk about the ports a bit later.

The first thing you notice about this game is it’s very Western influenced. How? It’s a Lone Knight saving a Princess from a Dragon. Also, you’re beating up the guy who controls the dragon. He’s the hero because his ancestor saved this kingdom in generations past. It’s got lots of good familiar stuff. The themes: Family Destiny and Beautiful Royalty needing rescuing from big fire-breathing scaly thing.

Unlike many RPGs that came after though, the hero is it for playable characters. It’s a one-person show. For modern gamers, this is going to be a bit of a balance. Even you MMO players that create one hero at a time you got your guilds and parties of other players. This is not that game. It’s all YOU. As such, the game introduces what would become a staple of the franchise: The Hero is a hybrid class. You play a strong fighter with a mix of offensive and defensive magic. This holds true in later games, by the way. This always applies no matter how big your party of PCs grows. Also, the Hero having a sense of destiny, in this first game is hereditary. In later games, it is a prophecy.

What other things carried over? The best armor and weapon is one-of-a-kind and linked to the plot having a legend of it’s own among the people. First, we had Erdrick’s Sword and Armor. Later, we had Zenithian Equipment. Almost all of the monsters are retained in later games. Names got tweaked, yet the art remains. This includes the Dragons. No matter how many games come along, though… Outside of bosses, the Dragon Family of different specific species is pound-for-pound the strongest critters. Yet, The Slime and it’s kin rule the roost in popularity though. Slime, Red Slime, and Metal Slime were joined by Liquid Slimes, Slime Kings, Slime Knights and more. We all love the Slime.

Now, let’s get to the Cons, the bad things in this game. Frankly, the grind sucks. The later remakes adjusted this, but it’s still there folks. You always need gold for new armor and weapons, healing items for when your magic runs out for the healing spells. More important than gold, is those pesky Experience Points you need to level up. In the classic NES game, the simple fact is more than half the game’s playtime is spent grinding and farming that EXP and Gold. It’s part of why I never finished the original game until the remakes. That grind drags the story to a halt more than once and ruins the flow, that hectic pace of “Gotta Save The Girl, Gotta Save The World”.

The plot and the where to go is very vague. There are hints, if you talk to every single NPC in the game, but you have to interpret those clues and explore at random. This was a game made to sell guidebooks, and that wasn’t even a thing back then. Hell, the NES version actually comes with a mini guide that gets you through the first 1/5 of the game just to help you out. Also, a great world map with monster stats on one side because this first game had no map screen.

So, is it worth it? Given the remakes, which is odds on how you will play it… Unless you got big money to buy an NES cartridge from the interwebz, reduce that horrid grind and tweak the graphics because yes I’ll admit 8-bit can hurt the eyes at times… Yeah, go for it. But, play this game first. For the love of all things God, Allah, and Xenu: Play it before 2 or 3 as the story carries over, and so you can appreciate those tweaks made from the first to the rest of the Trilogy. You can also appreciate the dirty, discolored, chipped but damnit still a gem game. The later, greater games don’t set the bar so high.

Oh, also the music. It’s MIDI format because of hardware limitations at the time, but hey for game music at the time, it is excellent. For your pleasure, though I’m giving you the Symphonic Suite. Yes, real people with real instruments instead of MIDI. Because I love my readers. Also to highlight the popularity of this game, the music was redone by a professional orchestra.

See you next time, ladies and gentlemen.

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