Above: The first Dragon Quest box art
Unlike other RPG series, Dragon Quest has actual continuity between some of their titles, at least for the first six games, which comprised two trilogies. Thanks to multiple translations, the first trilogy of Dragon Quest games goes by several names, but Roto is probably the most technically correct. The tale of the first game focuses on the ancestor of the ancient hero Roto/Erdrick as he searches for the Dragon Lord to save the kidnapped princess. Once the noble guy takes the Dragon down and saves the land of Alefgard, he chooses to marry the girl and leaves to start his own kingdom.
Above: The heroes and villains of Dragon Quest II
Dragon Quest II picks up one hundred years later, and you start the game as the progeny of the first game’s hero in the new kingdom he started. Eventually you travel the world with your two cousins, as DQII is one of the first JRPGs to have a party system. And as you cover the globe you see that the land of the first DQ is just a small island nation in the huge new world you’re exploring. Once the evil wizard is defeated, peace reigns again.
Above: From the box art of the GBC version of Dragon Quest III
At first Dragon Quest III doesn’t seem to be part of the same series of games. The new, even bigger world looks nothing like the previous games’ world, and no one talks of Roto/Erdrick. But once you’ve and your party have mastered the game’s inventive class system, traversed the even bigger world and defeated seemingly the final boss, the truth is revealed. The true villain, an immortal dragon, pulls you to the land below the Earth’s crust, and wouldn’t you know it, it looks just like Alefgard. In a genuinely surprising turn, once you defeat the dragon, the people of that world give you the title of Erdrick/Roto and proclaim you their savior, making III a prequel to the first two games. Sorry for the 20 year-old spoilers.
When Enix decided to work with Nintendo to bring the first Dragon Quest to the USA, they really would’ve liked to have kept the name, but someone beat them to it. Table-top role-playing company TSR, publishers of Dungeon & Dragons, had another RPG line by the same name. To avoid any possible hassles, Enix decided to change the American name to Dragon Warrior, which would remain the label for the series until 2003.
Above: You be the judge on you got the better box art
Honestly, neither title is better than the other, and we’d be happy to still call it Dragon Warrior today, but it was not to be. Once Enix merged with its rival Squaresoft, they took an approach similar to what Square did with Final Fantasy VII: they reverted to the Japanese title and never looked back. Sure, this made Japan-o-philes who love correcting other gamers on titles happy, but there must be some older fans out there that didn’t catch the name change and wonder what happened to the Dragon Warrior games.
Here’s an urban myth that will not die: there’s a Japanese law that prohibits any new Dragon Quest game from coming out on a weekday. As the legend goes, Dragon Quest III was such an anticipated game that upon its weekday release, thousands of kids and adults played hooky to line-up for the game. The Japanese legislator was so concerned by this, they quickly drafted a law saying all future Dragon Quests must be released on weekends or holidays. It’s an interesting story and we all liked to believe that the series is so popular that there needs to be a law, but seriously, this rumor needs to die.
Above: A fraction of the people who lined up for Dragon Quest IX
What really happened isn’t that far off though. It is true that the demand for DQIII led to many kids skipping school to get the game, and perhaps there was growing public concern about it. But before any laws needed to be written, Enix themselves decided that all future DQs would be released on weekends and holidays, which has been the case ever since. Now that that’s cleared up, don’t go repeating that myth on message boards, please.
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