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Of Princesses and Dragons February 9, 2010

Posted by emeraldsuzaku in Commentary, Video Games.
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Yeah, it’s been a while. Sorry about that.

At any rate, I recently bought a Super Famicom and a bunch of games for it. I thought it fitting that I christen my new system with the first Dragon Quest game. I fired up the Dragon Quest I + II cart and realized that I hadn’t thought of a name for my hero yet. Looking around my eyes settled on my beer bottle. Inspiration struck and Ansel, descendant of the legendary hero Loto began his journey to glory.

I chatted with the king, looted the chests, and set out exploring the castle. There really wasn’t much to do, but I made sure to find the old guy who restores MP. He’ll come in handy later when I learn Hoimi. I bought some equipment at the town of Radatoom and proceeded to slay each and every slime I ran across for several levels. I made some money, bought some more equipment, moved up to Drackies and Ghosts, leveled up more, bought more equipment, then hit the cave with Loto’s grave. I had forgotten that there were no enemies there. Oh, well. It was less levels that I had to get later.

This being Dragon Quest, that was pretty much the entire game. I did manage to get through the entire thing without dying, which was cool. Exploring the world was fun, even having done it all before. There was a bit more exposition from the NPCs this time around, too. I’m not sure if that was new to the SFC version, or if there was just a ton lost in translation in the versions we got in English. Either way, the world felt more alive than in any of the other versions.

Three things struck me after I finished the game. First, the original DQ is in no way difficult by today’s standards. Yes, there’s grinding to be done, but as long as you have the best equipment at any given time, you don’t really have to worry too much. This is helped by thing number 2: all of the spells are useful. I used every spell in the game, and can safely say that, with the possible exception of Begira, I would not want to be without any of them. Sure, it’s a small spell list, but it’s a really useful one.

Third, and most interestingly, there are only three bosses in the entire game, and one of them is optional. You have the Dragon guarding the princess, which does show up as a normal enemy later on but gives boss-level XP and gold upon defeating it. Then there’s the Golem, but he’s actually entirely optional as you never actually have to go to Merkido for anything. And there’s the Dragonlord. Yes, there is that required battle with a Demon Knight if you want to get Loto’s Armor, but it’s a regular enemy with normal stats and normal rewards, so it doesn’t count. The game is really more about exploring the world than going from boss to boss. You go through the tunnel to get to the other side, not to defeat some big nasty. It’s an interesting concept, and not something that you really see too often anymore. I would wager that Dragon Quest has less bosses than any other game even remotely resembling an RPG.

I’ve had a general like for the Dragon Quest series for quite a while now, but going back through Dragon Quest I has kindled an appreciation for the games that I had previously not had. It’s short and sweet, but the ride is really, really fun.