History of Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest VII for 3DS

History of Dragon Quest

5 Facts About Dragon Quest

  • While Final Fantasy tends to be the more popular JRPG in the West, Dragon Quest is just as popular as Final Fantasy in Japan.
  • The Switch versions of Dragon Quest games were the first iteration of Dragon Quest games brought to European consoles.
  • The first Dragon Quest game was a free gift in Nintendo Power.
  • There is a Dragon Quest reference in the first Final Fantasy game.
  • Dragon Quest creator Yuji Hori has been present on the team for every Dragon Quest game to date.

Few series in the world have the same history and impact as the Dragon Quest series. Originally released as Dragon Warrior, the Dragon Quest series has had a prolific effect on the trajectory of modern game design. So let’s take a quick look at this series and how it has shaped video games as we know them.

What is Dragon Quest: Explained

Dragon Quest is a series of games in the Japanese Roleplaying Game, or JRPG, genre. It was created by Yuji Horii, Akira Toriyama, and Koichi Sugiyama under the names Armor Project, Bird Studio, and Sugiyama Kobo. The games are published by Japanese gaming giant Square Enix and have been the subject of many spinoff works, including full-fledged spinoff games, manga, anime, and novels. Nearly every game in the series has at least one spinoff work related to it.

Dragon Quest (released as Dragon Warrior in the West) was a commercial flop at first. Square Enix was projected to lose money on the game. However, Yuji Horii released several articles to bolster the game’s sales. The game was popular in Japan, selling 1.5 million copies, with 1 million sales occurring in the first six months of release.

Still, the games did not reach the universal acclaim seen in titles such as Final Fantasy. Thus, when Square Soft and Enix merged, Dragon Quest took a backseat to the more popular Final Fantasy series.

How to Use Dragon Quest

The exact mechanics of using a Dragon Quest game will rely mainly on which Dragon Quest game you’re playing. Each iteration in the series included and introduced new mechanics, monsters, and concepts to the series. However, each main-series title uses the turn-based JRPG mechanic for its battle system, changing the possible attacks you and your enemies can access.

JRPGs use a turn-based mechanic where the players and monsters act on their turn according to their speed stats. The fastest creatures on the battlefield move first, but only after the player has selected all their moves for this turn.

Unlike Pokemon, which limits your move pool to a specific pre-selected set of moves, Dragon Quest does not typically limit how many moves a particular character can learn. Instead, the actions are selected based on the character’s class and the weapon they are holding.

The mechanics of older Dragon Quest games are somewhat primitive and “spartan” compared to modern games, including modern Dragon Quest games. However, even if they do not stand the test of time, they were a driving force behind many advances in game design.

How to Learn Dragon Quest

The most crucial factor in Dragon Quest games is learning and memorizing the different moves and movesets. Because Dragon Quest is a turn-based game, you don’t have to worry about dodging or positioning. The whole game is based on the moves you use and what stats you increase.

Defeating monsters is the first step to powering up your characters. Doing so levels up your character and makes them more powerful. Level-ups also come with skill points you can dip into your stats. So, you’ll want to know which stats are most valuable to your character. Some games have skill trees that grant moves, stats, and other boons that make your characters more powerful.

Next, you’ll want to examine the moves your character can learn. Actions tend to scale off your stats, so you must see what stats you’ll need to increase to make your moves more powerful. Actions fall into two categories, normal attacks (a regular weapon attack) and skills (magic, weapon skills, etc.) Regular attacks scale with your stats and equipped weapon, while skills typically scale with your stats unless you have a weapon that states otherwise in its data.

Finally, you’ll need to examine the monster’s abilities. This will be especially important for boss monsters. Look at their stats and skills to formulate a plan for attack. Enemies with exceptionally high-speed stats may, for instance, attack twice in one turn–once before your fastest characters and then again before your slowest. So, you’ll want to ensure you have a good handle on defensive and offensive maneuvers to bring home that win.

The Difference Between Dragon Quest vs Final Fantasy

At its most basic, the most significant difference between Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy is the design manifesto behind the games’ development teams. Final Fantasy has consistently and continuously reinvented itself with each new addition to the series. Final Fantasy’s constant reinvention of self has been a point of contention, with fans purporting they sometimes feel sidelined by Square Enix’s creative vision for each iteration, having to learn all new mechanics. Conversely, some find that Dragon Quest’s consistent mechanical design, down to the details, makes them feel like they’ve come home to a place they know, even when picking up an all-new Dragon Quest game.

Compared to newer Final Fantasy games, such as Final Fantasy XV, the game’s mechanics no longer translate between the two comparably. However, because Final Fantasy has long been the most comparable game series, the comparison will continue to stand, even if the mechanics continue to change in the direction of XV.

Dragon Quest Release History

Dragon Quest I/Dragon Warrior

The first Dragon Quest game launched as Dragon Warrior in the US. It featured the most rudimentary form of the game’s mechanics: turn-based combat, weapons, and skills. Unfortunately, this game hasn’t held up well in the test of time. The implementation of the mechanics is now regarded as feeling dated and old, especially compared to other games which aged much better, such as Age of Empires 2 or Half-Life.

Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line/Dragon Warrior II

Dragon Quest II is a direct sequel to Dragon Quest I, taking place years after the end of the first game. Planning for the game began just one month after the first game’s release. Unfortunately, the game suffered a slight delay in departure, initially intended to release in November 1986. The game was complete by the release date, but tests showed it was too challenging to complete. Thus, the game was delayed for a month to adjust its balancing.

dragon quest 2 gameplay
Dragon Quest 2 has a nice balance of RPG elements and building.

Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation/Dragon Warrior III 

Set many years before the beginning of Dragon Quest I, Dragon Quest III is not a direct prequel, as the events occur in a different world from the first two games. This game introduced many mechanical advancements for the game including a bag to store items in (rather than keeping them in a bank), menu upgrades, a quick sort feature for items, and a “Full HP” command that would automatically cast healing magic to bring your party up to full health.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen/Dragon Warrior IV

Dragon Quest IV’s original story was split into five chapters. The first four chapters cover the characters’ back stories, while the last chapter delves into their meeting with the Hero and their adventures. This is the first game where the Hero character can be removed from the party. Once the wagon feature becomes available, the Hero can be released from the party and stored there. However, this is ill-advised unless you’re doing a challenge run, as the Hero possesses the most potent healing and attack spells.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

This is the first game released under the Dragon Quest name in the West. It received two remakes, one for the PlayStation 2 and one for the Nintendo DS. One new feature in Dragon Quest V is the ability to tame monsters and add them to your party. Some monsters will request to join the party after the battle if the party’s level is high enough. In addition, this was the first Dragon Quest game to feature a bonus dungeon.

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation/Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation was titled Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie in Europe. This game was the first game to feature monster animations when they attack. The game also added two new mini-games, The Slime Arena and Best Dresser Contest; the casino games from previous iterations were included as mini-games.

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past/Dragon Warrior VII

Returning to its roots, Dragon Quest VII was initially released in North America as Dragon Warrior VII. The game is best known for its massive size; completing all the content, including side quests, can quickly rack up over one hundred hours of gameplay. In addition, this was the first game where players could talk to party members inside and outside of battle.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Dragon Quest VIII was the first Dragon Quest game to be released under the title “Dragon Quest” rather than “Dragon Warrior” in the West. It is also the first game in the series to have fully 3D environments and models, using cel-shading, a rendering technique often hailed for its artistry. This game introduced a “Psyche Up” command to the battle system. This command causes the character to pass their turn and build “Tension,” strengthening their next attack.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Dragon Quest IX was the first iteration of the game to feature customizable playable characters. Unlike previous iterations with standalone characters and prewritten backstories, Dragon Quest IX used creatable characters that the player unlocked after completing the tutorial stories. It was also the first iteration in the series to include a multiplayer game mode.

Dragon Quest X: Awakening of the Five Walkers Online

Dragon Quest X differs from other games as it is a Massively Multiplayer Online game or MMO. In this game, the player uses a customized character and traverses the world of Astoltia. This game was only released in Japan and remains moderately popular there. The player starts as a human character whose soul will later be transferred to a more “powerful” race that they will play for the rest of the game.

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Dragon Quest XI is undoubtedly among the best iterations in the Dragon Quest series. One of the defining traits of Dragon Quest XI was its 2D and 3D modes. The game includes complete maps and sprite sheets for the entire game in 2D mode and fully comprehensive 3D environments and models. 

Final Thoughts

Because of the critical acclaim achieved by Dragon Quest XI, few game series can stand up to Dragon Quest. It’s one of the oldest and most popular game series worldwide, with a history dating back to the 1980s. We hope you enjoyed our little tour through this masterpiece’s life, and we hope you’re looking forward to Dragon Quest XII, which has been announced but has no release date as of the writing of this article!

Facts Box

First ReleaseMay 27, 1986,
CreatorYuji Horii
PublisherSquare Enix (Formerly Enix)
Most Recent ReleaseDragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Most Recent Release DateJuly 29, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Dragon Quest come out?

Dragon Quest’s first release was on May 27, 1986. However, the most recent title in the series was released on July 29, 2017.

How much did Dragon Quest originally cost?

We were unable to find a correct reading on the original release price of Dragon Quest I. However, Dragon Quest XI launched at a price of $59.99 USD.

Who created Dragon Quest?

Dragon Quest was created by Yuji Horii and developed in conjunction with Akira Toriyama, who does the art, and Koichi Sugiyama who does the music.

In which Dragon Quest game can you recruit monsters to your party?

Dragon Quest V allows you to tame and recruit monsters to your party. The mechanic was so popular that it spawned its own spinoff, Dragon Quest Monsters.

Which Dragon Quest game introduced the "Tension" mechanic?

Tension was first introduced in Dragon Quest VIII.

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