Everything you need to know about Dragon Quest

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.

Humble beginnings

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.

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • awsomemaster - July 11, 2010 3:29 p.m.

    ahh nothing quite as awesome as a slime!
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - July 11, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    well.. two slimes
  • NeoKef - July 11, 2010 6:17 p.m.

    Is it me or did the same artist who did the Dragon Ball series did the early art for Dragon Quest games?
  • NeoKef - July 11, 2010 6:23 p.m.

    Wait, let me rephrase: Did the same person who did the character designs for Dragon Ball work on the early Dragon Quest as well? The blue dragon on the first box art was in the DB series and the main character in III looks a lot like a teenage version of Goku.
  • CaseInPoint - July 11, 2010 6:48 p.m.

    @NeoKef: I think Akira Toriyama has been with Dragon Quest from the start of the series. And he also does the Dragon Ball series' art, so yes, the art styles are pretty much the same. I used to hate his art style, after watching Dragon Ball Z and hating it, but then DQ came along and I learned to love it. Recaptcha: "Vizier 70th". Sounds like a DQ boss. The chancellors to the throne are always bad!
  • Gobblemeister - July 11, 2010 7:26 p.m.

    I know little of Dragon Quest as a series. This being said when I bought DQVIII without really knowing what to expect I can say I was very pleasantly surprised. It reaffirmed my love of the turn based system and is, in my honest opinion, the greatest JRPG I have played second only to FFIX. MY interest has also been piqued by the review of DQV. If I can find the money to put into it I might try it. However, I've already put a lot of money into FF, buying XIII, III, IV and IX all in this year alone. But I'm always game for a great RPG.
  • chrisat928 - July 11, 2010 8:45 p.m.

    Goddamn it Square, put Dragon Quest VII on PSN.
  • Cleanser247 - July 11, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    The biggest slime on the railcar looks like he's got his mouth full of something... Good stuff Henry!
  • CH3BURASHKA - July 11, 2010 8:55 p.m.

    I love these history articles. Can you guys make it a monthly feature, a retrospective of sorts?
  • 2dboy - July 11, 2010 9:10 p.m.

    Nice reading, should get me ready to play DQ9.
  • EDfromRED - July 11, 2010 10:19 p.m.

    I didn't realize the wealth of RPGs on the Nintendo DS untill I looked up info on Dragon Quest V & IX. I might have to pick one up--might as well wait till 3DS arrives to get it or a Price cut DS. Any suggestions of other DS RPG's of note?
  • Chardan - July 11, 2010 10:28 p.m.

    I am definatley getting the new one now. I always stayed away from turn based RPG's due to the random encounter system, and favoured ones like Mario and Luigi where Enemies can be seen in the overworld, which makes all the difference for me, Cant wait.
  • Batman - July 12, 2010 1:37 a.m.

    Dragon Quest VIII was/is pure win.It was the last epic RPG IMO all rpgs since have been average at best.
  • Giinjii - July 12, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    Although Dragon Quest 8 was my first intro to the series, I loved the slimes right away and was jealous of my cousin that somehow obtained a PS2 slime controller. Also Mr. Gilbert, when will you be back on TalkRadar?
  • Vagrant - July 12, 2010 2:11 a.m.

    That was a pretty interesting article, I wish it included some screenshots though. Just to see the evolution of the series' graphics.
  • HotCyder - July 12, 2010 2:18 a.m.

    Don't forget! Akira Toriyama also did the artwork for another popular RPG from SquareEnix: Chrono Trigger! His artwork was even turned into fully animated cutscenes for the playstation reissue.
  • 8bitBaby - July 12, 2010 2:23 a.m.

    PAFU PAFU! @ U @ ~yeeeeeeeeee hee heeeee this is a good run through of the history. awesome. i came in at DQ3, it was the tv show that got me interested. i still play DQ games (tho i never finished 7) and i still go back and watch the episodes of the show.
  • 510BrotherPanda - July 12, 2010 2:53 a.m.

    I thought the Monster combining in Monsters Joker was fun. Thanks on the history lesson, Hen!
  • JayBeat - July 12, 2010 6:46 a.m.

    Never played a DQ game, but thats a interesting history.
  • Ravenbom - July 12, 2010 11:50 a.m.

    Puff puff! I just got DQ9 and I'm excited!