Everything you need to know about Dragon Quest

The Zenithia Trilogy

Above: The huge cast of Dragon Quest IV

By the time the fourth and final Dragon Quest for the Famicom/NES came out, Enix was ready for a fresh start with the series and began what would be known as the Zenithia trilogy, as all three games starting with IV incorporated the floating island of Zenith into the plot. DQIV featured the biggest cast yet, as each party member had their own personality and story, a stark contrast to DQIII. Though it eventually lead to a very similar ending, one of where destined hero killing the big bad, it was only after getting the antique armor with the help the ancient dragon that lived in the floating world of Zenith. For once the dragon of the title was your friend, not your enemy.

Above: V follows that turban-wearer's voyage to maturity

Dragon Quest V took storytelling in the series to new heights, as it followed one character’s hard journey from child to man, all the way to fatherhood. Not only did it use the new graphical abilities of the SNES/Super Famicom to make it the best looking DQ yet, but it was really ahead of its time with monster collecting, as any monster you fight can join your party in battle. Once you restore the fallen Zenith and its dragon to power, you are finally able to avenge your father’s death in probably the best told story in DQ history.

Dragon Quest VI, the only main line DQ game yet to see an American release (though the DS remake has a planned release for some time in 2010), wrapped up the Zenith saga and also the series commitment to Nintendo home consoles. Just as before, the hero must free the lost land of Zenith if he hopes to take down the villain, and he must collect the same mythic armor used in IV and V. Once done, the hero, who looks pretty similar to Chrono of Chrono Trigger, saves the day as is expected, ending the trilogy in grand fashion.

The spin-offs

Above: One of the Torneko sequels

Though the main games all sell in the millions, the series’ many spin-offs have almost all been met with similar success. The most influential and oldest of the lot is Torneko’s Mysterious Dungeon, one of the very few direct continuations of a main character’s story within the DQ universe. Mysterious Dungeon and its sequels followed the adventure of Torneko, the bumbling merchant for Dragon Quest IV, as he hunted for more treasure and fame for his shop. It was the beginning of the Japanese roguelike genre, which remains popular to a hardcore collection of players who like their RPGs as punishing as possible.

Above: Itadaki Street for the DS

Other spin-off hits include Dragon Quest Monsters, a series that did a newer version of DQV’s monster battle system, updated for the post-Pokemon world. Another, Itadaki Street, has never been released outside Japan and it expanded on the Pachisi board game in previous Dragon Quest, turning it into a Mario Party-esque escapade; in fact when the series came to the DS, Mario joined in on the fun. Lastly, there are the easier and incredibly pun-filled Rocket Slime adventure games, which I found very enjoyable on the DS, but with the main characters being Slime, it did make me feel a little bad about the mass murder I’ve done to that species over the years.

Dragon Quest VII – a thing unto itself

Dragon Quest VII was a whole new start for the series, as they followed their rivals Square and Final Fantasy to Sony’s PlayStation, which was a loss that hurt Nintendo nearly as much as Square’s exit. Though the title was in development a long time, when it finally came out in sold nearly four million copies, which was an all-time high for the series. The mammoth game was also the longest DQ yet, with a campaign that lasted over 100 hours.

Despite all those plusses, when it arrived as Dragon Warrior VII in the US, it was met with low sales and basically zero reaction. Why? Well it could have something to do with it being released in 2001, when all the hardcore players had left their PlayStation for the PS2. And it didn’t help that VII, which had poor graphics when compared to Final Fantasy VII, came out within days of Final Fantasy X, which made it look ancient. Additionally, most reviews pointed out that it took the game 30 hours to get really good. Despite being a great game, it got looked over by the masses like all previous Dragon Warriors, and the franchises’ future looked dim again.


  • 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!

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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