Dragon Quest IX just hit store shelves in America, and you may be interested in the game, but at the same time finding such a huge series daunting. Maybe you’ve only played some of the previous games or have always kept the titles at a distance, fearing the nearly 25 year-old franchise’s deep history. We feel for you, but it need not be scary. Allow us the pleasure of guiding you through the series’ many intricacies, as we demystify some of the most popular games of all time that you’ve never played.
A slime draws near!
We’ll start with how nearly every Dragon Quest starts, with the Slime. Originally designed as a simple enemy, one quickly defeated on your road to glory, the Slime eventually became the mascot for the series, kind of like the Chocobo for Final Fantasy, only you don’t happily kill hundreds of those yellow birds when you play FF. But almost every DQ starts off with the joyful sacrifice of Slime as you learn the battle system.
How did people come to love these blue Hershey’s Kisses? Yes, they are adorable, but my personal theory is that the first Dragon Quest was so difficult and required so much grinding, you end up spending hours and hours with the little buggers, so you grow to love the cute things once you’re finally a high enough level to get anywhere. Though no modern DQ demands that much grinding, it would be wrong if you didn’t spend the first few hours murdering Slimes anyway.
Above: The Slimes in their human-free world
As the years have gone on, the diversity of Slimes have grown. On top of the Metal Slime, the rare beast that, if you manage to kill it before it escapes, nets you mad XP, there have been Liquid Slimes, King Slimes, Slime Stacks and more. Hell, the Slimes have even starred in their own spin-off games and have a separate merchandise line, Smile Slime. Despite DQ’s bestiary being filled with tons of memorable monsters, this pile of goop stands the test of time, despite how very killable they are.
Just like the heroes of Dragon Quest, DQ didn’t start off all powerful, instead it started as a dream of former manga journalist/ game designer Yuji Horii and his staff at Enix, a game publisher. In the mid-‘80s Horii was a big fan of American PC games like Wizardry and King’s Quest, and he wanted to bring a similar, though simpler, type of game to the Japanese NES, the Famicom. Once his team was assembled and he secured high profile names like composer Koichi Sugiyama and artist Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, they were ready to bring a whole new experience called “role playing games” to the Famicom audience.
Above: Horii in a recent interview
Such a new type of game wasn’t an easy sell at first, but once Horii used his old connections with Shonen Jump, the weekly manga magazine he once wrote game columns for, the mag covered the game and familiarized the readers with the title and its new concepts. Soon enough, it caught on with the public and became one of the bestselling titles on the Famicom, only to be bested by its sequel the next year. Enix soon had its marquee title.