Dragon Quest Discussion Post

I’ve been meaning to make one of these for a while, but I have SO MANY THOUGHTS after finishing DQ11 that this seemed like a good time.


  1. David says:
    I really dislike how isekai story authors feel the need to write stories with explicit RPG mechanics. It almost always leads to a dry story filled with useless minutiae about skills.
    1. illhousen says:

      I’m mostly baffled over why it’s so prevalent. Like, sure, power fantasies, I get it, but there is a lot of ways to turn your SI into god when you’re the author, so why this particular gimmick?

      Was there some genre-defining story that everyone now copies or something?

      1. Nerem says:
        That story was called Dragon Quest.
        1. Act says:

          Off-topic, but Dragon Quest 5 was very good.

          1. Nerem says:
            Have you been playing DQ5 remake or DQ5 original? You’d probably understand more why America went for FF over DQ if you played the originals of both. The early games of DQ were SUPER ROUGH and had a lot of incredibly unfun design decisions. And then DQ6 and 7 were incredibly poorly made and even Japan ran screaming from the series for a while.
            1. Actislazyandwontlogin says:
              Original of the first trilogy, remakes of the second. I’m enjoying 6 :×
            2. Roarke says:

              I want royalties on this gag.

            3. Nerem says:
              I hear people liked 6’s remake. It probably helped that it didn’t cost over 130 dollars to buy.

              DQ7’s big issue is that it’s super slow and tedious to actually travel around and there’s a TON of travelling around and the plot is very slow and not all that interesting.

            4. Act says:

              All I know about 7 is that it has a playtime of over 100 hours and I’m morbidly curious as to whether I can get through it or not. I have seen a decent amount of people say it was long but engaging enough to get through, so we’ll see.

            5. Nerem says:
              Get the remake if you value your sanity. My frirnd who loves DQ had to play the remake version. It fixes a lot of those issues I mentioned.
            6. Methinks it is perhaps time for you to take this to a discussion post.

            7. Act says:

              Eh, the notifications are only going to me and I don’t really care. I’ll probs do a DQ overview post eventually.

        2. illhousen says:

          I’ve heard that Dragon Quest was weirdly influential on certain kind of Japanese media, but I would like details.

          Though I’d say it still doesn’t explain the love for mechanics. Like, D&D was influential in fantasy circles as well, codifying the portrayal of various character races and archetypes, but it’s not like many authors outright used Vancian magic or talked about stats and levels in the narrative.

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            “Dragon Quest” is sort of like the Tolkien of JRPGs: not the first videogame RPG ever (the “Ultima” series, for instance, came first), but it basically created the JRPG genre.

            1. Act says:

              At risk of sending this thread careening toward a completely unrelated discussion, I wonder why FF got bigger in the west than DQ. Every DQ game I’ve played is better than every FF game I’ve played. I’ve been working my way through the DQ catalogue from the beginning on the advice of smallestbrother (I’m on 6 now), and even the first few were quite cute and entertaining, while FF always has left me feeling like I wasted my time.

            2. Roarke says:

              Could have been a localization issue. Early localization and marketing was hit-and-miss enough that even a better game wouldn’t necessarily become popular or even well-known outside Japan. It took Fire Emblem until like 2003 to cross the ocean, for instance, and that series is goddamn spectacular.

            3. Y says:
              Yeah this is exactly right, the first game was released in Japan in 1986 but not in the US until 89; wikipedia doesnt say if it was ever even released in Europe/Australia. The fourth one, a NES game, was released inthe US two years after the SNES was on the market, and I know for a fact that one was never released in Europe/Australia until the DS remake. Probably most other games have stories like that.
            4. Nerem says:
              I never really liked DQ. It’s the gameplay.


              Well, not completely true. I adore DQ Monsters. The main series is largely just kind of mehly generic gameplay-wise. It does have some good story, but eh I just don’t feel it a lot of the time.


            5. Roarke says:

              Yeah, there it is. A three-year gap is way too long, especially in that time period. Heck, maybe Final Fantasy came out in the States earlier, despite having been made later.

              By 1989, a lot of RPGs like Wasteland, Bard’s Tale 1-3, and NetHack had already shaped Western perceptions of what an RPG should be like. It wouldn’t surprise me that DQ was too little, too late.

            6. Nerem says:
              And then Final Fantasy 1 came out less than a year later in America and way a lot more impressive gameplay and story-wise.
          2. Nerem says:
            A lot of early parodies of DQ in Japanese media directly used the mechanics, and it stuck. It just became the idea of going to a fantasy RPG-eque world ALSO means the mechanics existing too. A really famous show actually was just straight up Dragon Quest but as a really funny parody.
            1. CrazyEd says:

              A comedy or parody can get away with a lot of stuff that wouldn’t fly in a serious story, though.

  2. Act says:

    First of all SPOILERS SPOILERS seriously you NEED to go play DQ11, including clearing the postgame/Act 3, before reading this, because unlike past DQ games this one is super story-driven at the end.


    ANYWAY. So a lot of people seemed confused by the specifics of the True Ending, but I think it makes perfect sense in conjunction with Word of God saying that the timelines devour each other.

    When you go back the first time and create a ‘better’ timeline, the old doomed timeline is absorbed into it — hence all the people experiencing a weird de ja vu as you play through the good timeline. However, sending Serenica back doesn’t create a new timeline — it fixes time paradoxes in the good one. We know that a) the Luminary is a descendant of Erdwin and Serenica and b) Veronica and Serena are reincarnations of Serenica, but in a timeline where Erdwin dies and Serenica becomes immortal, neither of those things are possible. We also already know that Erdwin & Co. cannot defeat Calasmos. When Serenica goes back, she saves Erdwin, but they still seal Calasmos instead of defeating him, meaning Mordecant is still corrupted. But this also means she and Erdwin can live out their lives, fixing the problem of how the Luminary is their descendant as well as the problem of Serenica not dying. That timeline is then absorbed into the past of the good timeline, completing it.

    Meeting the Yggdragon and becoming the first Erdrick is thus only possible when the three timelines converge.

    The Erdrick of DQ3 is the descendant of the Luminary, who has become legend by the time of DQ3 — as evidenced by his mother reading the two books (which, I think, are the tales of Erdwin and the Luminary respectively) (They’re also red and green, implying one was written by Veronica and one by Serena.) The protag of DQ1 picking up the sword of light during the Yggdragon’s story where she talks about herself maybe falling into darkness implies the Dragonlord’s dragon from the first game is a corrupted Yggdragon… which makes sense, considering you have to cross a rainbow bridge after collecting relics to reach him.

    So 11 is actually a prequel to the Erdrick trilogy, setting the events and creating that world.

    1. Act says:


      The one thing that I thought WAS up in the air, that I kind of liked being up in the air, was whether the Luminary remembered the doomed timeline or not. I think you could argue either way. Personally, I like to believe that he did — seeing all that destruction and, more importantly, making the decision not to tell anyone in the good timeline, makes him a lot more complex. A conscious choice to keep it to himself is just really interesting to me. It makes me like him more.

    2. Act says:

      MORE SPOILERS YE BE WARNED also for DQ8 here

      I think DQ11 did a lot of things really really well. For one, and this was also true of DQ8, I think the writing team did a spectacular job of wrapping up the main plot while leaving some niggling questions for the postgame that left the main game still very complete. In DQ8 it was the question of where the Hero came from, why he was immune to curses, and what was up with Munchie — in DQ11, it’s Erdwin’s Lantern, the little spirit dudes, and where Mordegon came from. In both cases, the game was able to lean hard on the ‘who cares, we have to save the world’ nature of things as a way to make you forget there were some underlying things that hadn’t been explained. In both cases, the game was still complete without totally wrapping up — we’ve talked a bit here about the difference between sequel hooks and shipping something incomplete, and DQ8 and 11 are both stellar examples of that difference.

      The other writing thing I really liked about 11 was how subtle it was about the real horror of the doomed timeline. I think it relied on the meta to push you through the time reset — you want to see the postgame after all — because I personally really really was anti-time-reset when it happened, and looking around the fandom I wasn’t the only one was seriously considered just not doing the postgame. But as you play through Act 3 you kind of start to get a sense of how total the destruction in Act 2 was that you didn’t get playing through Act 2.

      For me, it hit home when you get back to the Havens and see this huge, sprawling society of Watchers that was completely obliterated in Act 2. In Act 2, when you get to the Havens, you have no point of comparison, so that there was only one Watcher left, and it was a relatively young one, doesn’t mean much. Then you get there in Act 3 and realize this whole people were just gone in the bad timeline… it was really effective.

      I thought Act 2 did a spectacular job of keeping you really tied into the first person and invested in the individual relationships and what was going on around you. It essentially created a horrible dystopia and then focused you so hard on your individual task that you don’t notice, and beating Mordegon feels like a victory. But what it shows you in Act 3 was that while it may have been a victory for you personally, it wasn’t for basically everyone else; an untold number of people were dead, and whole societies had collapsed. Trying to make that right was necessary, because while you felt victorious and accomplished for finally taking down the Big Bad, you’d actually lost terribly, and everyone was still suffering. What was framed as being for Veronica — true to Act 2’s focus on the personal — turns out to be for everyone. Breaking the time sphere in Act 2 was something I really didn’t want to do, but by halfway through Act 3 I was thinking ‘holy shit, thank god the Luminary broke the time sphere’ and it was so subtle done and mad props to the game.

  3. So, I could never really get into this series. When I was a teen I was recommended DQIII as a starting point, but I got tired of it before I even got to the class-changing mechanic, which I’m told is its core feature.

    I guess a lot of it is that I just don’t have the patience for old-fashioned jRPGs anymore. The battles are slow and repetitive and the amount of grinding required just feels like a waste of my time. Say what you will about Final Fantasy, but they are generally much better at keeping an engaging pace and respecting the player’s time.

    (Also I hate hate hate having a zillion randomized factors at character creation that have a crucial impact on the gameplay but which the game refuses to explain to you. If I have to look up a guide before I even start the game, you have failed as a designer. It would be one thing if the personalities/stat layouts were all roughly equal and it was mostly just for flavor, but no, there are objectively better and worse layouts and if you try to proceed with the wrong one you will be permanently gimped without even realizing why. That is terrible, terrible design.)

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is, do you have any recommendations for which ones I should try to get back into the series? Is there a particular one you really like or would recommend for beginners?

    1. Act says:

      3 as a starting point is a bit cruel, lol, especially since the story relies entirely on familiarity with the first two. The first three are really only good as cultural markers — you kind of see the jRPG being developed in real time. But the originals are almost unplayable now and even the mobile ports require a certain affinity for that style of outdated RPG to enjoy.

      Of the retro ones, I think 4 is my favorite, and I think where the series really nailed what it wanted to be.

      DQ is at its best when you have a small, fixed cast where the strategy comes from using the pieces you’re given to win the chess game, so to speak (in all DQ games stats are allocated automatically; class tends to just dictate what kind of items and skills you can/should use, and for the better games you don’t swap classes; I’ve never felt the need to look up a skill or item guide for a DQ game). This setup also allows for the kind of character development that DQ really shines in. For those two reasons, I think IX was the worst of the modern games and possibly my least favorite overall.

      To actually answer your question, though, Dragon Quest VIII (8) is the one you should play, specifically the DS port, which has some really stellar voice acting. I really think 8 is the series not just at its best, but maybe at the best it can be. (I would look up who are the party members exclusive to the remake and ignore them, though, because the game is much more interesting with no party switching.) If you liked 8 I’d then move to 4 (on DS or mobile) to kind of see how that era got started and then to 11. 11 was so good, but it does lean a bit on knowing the series’ ethos, so I’d play 4 first.

      I can’t say enough good stuff about 8. It’s phenomenal character development, it’s incredibly well-constructed story, its actually relevant and meaningful postgame, its difficult but actually well-balanced boss fights… I genuinely think it stands on its own as just a game.

      V and VI also are both solid games. People in general seem to prefer V, but I thought VI was more compelling, personally.

      I have not played 7, because I made the mistake of starting it while on chemo and to this day just looking at the cartridge makes me feel sick. Maybe one day this will all be far enough in the past that I can circle back to it, but until then, it is my shame. :P

      Also 10 is an MMO that was only released in Japan, so not a contender.

      My caveat is, for all of these games including, sadly, 11: be ready for anime sexism. Fortunately the women still get good plotlines and development, but the costuming ranges from ‘meh’ to ‘wtaf’ and some of the NPC dialogue is, uh… edit: Also, SO much Evil Is Sexy

      Power Rankings:



      4 (mobile/DS port)







      Unlisted: 7 (unplayed), 10 (MMO)

      1. Indiscretion says:
        I just conveniently finished DQ8 on ps2 so some random tips:

        There’s a mechanic where you can talk to your party members, and they all have dialogue that is commentary on whatever you’re doing at the moment. There are a lot of really hilarious lines that are easily missed if you don’t talk to your party soon after whatever triggered them happens.

        Fights can get pretty tedious… after a while I turned tactics/autobattle on because there were so many random battles and you can’t run away easily from things your level. I think this is better in 3ds where you can run around and avoid the monsters that appear on the map.

        I think it’s also kind of easy to have no idea what to do next because the world is huge, but I can’t think of any specific instances.



        [My caveat is, for all of these games including, sadly, 11: be ready for anime sexism.]

        Like one of the things is the main heroes got a fifth skill tree based on their personalities (Hero: Courage, Yangus: Humanity, Angelo: Charisma) and Jessica gets Sex Appeal, which has skills that have nothing to do with her personality and so she gets stuck with it because she’s a woman i guess.

        1. Act says:

          Interesting, I did not realize the PS version of 8 had random encounters! neither 9 nor 11 had them so I assumed the original 8 didn’t have them either. Well, more reason to play the DS version.

      2. I have started playing VIII! I just unlocked the alchemy pot, and… is there supposed to be anything preventing me from buying tons of Medicinal Herbs, fusing them into Rose-herbs in front of the shopkeeper, and then selling it right back to them to make infinite money?

        (And the first female party member’s special skill is “Sex Appeal”, really? Eugh.)

      3. I just finished 8 except for the postgame, and… sorry, but I don’t get the hype. The plot is a wholesale rip-off of A Link to the Past, right down to getting hijacked by a far less interesting villain midway through. (My post about Final Fantasy Tactics applies here, I believe.) I genuinely cannot understand what you mean by “phenomenal character development”; Marcello and maybe Medea are the only characters who get any development at all, and Angelo and Marcello are the only characters I didn’t find paper-thin. Everyone else is a one-note stock character distinguished by a funny quirk.

        Also very much not a fan of the Good Noble Evil Commoner thing going on with Angelo and Marcello. Am I… not supposed to agree with his speech denouncing the useless aristocracy? Why does the scumbag Rolo get inexplicably rewarded for his half-baked five-minute redemption, but Marcello just disappears?

        The gameplay ran afoul of every single problem I have with standard jRPGs. I hate hate hate hate hate the mechanic of “Select all your actions at once, when will they happen? Nobody knows!” The fact that you can’t even reliably predict the turn order in advance due to the ridiculous random variance makes battles run on complete random chance. Your healer can act before the boss on one turn, ending with you getting injured, then when you try to heal again, suddenly the boss acts first and wipes you. What is the point of this? How does this add any tactical depth? I am also genuinely shocked that some things got through QC — you can see the names of your skills through the menu but not what they do? You’re forced to commit limited resources to skill trees without having any idea what the skills do aside from a vague category-wide description that’s often outright wrong? Who approved this? Who thought any of that was acceptable in a game made in 2004?

        The tension mechanic was somewhat interesting in the early game, but became pointless after bosses got the “I can dispel everything whenever I feel like it” attack. If the only way to balance a mechanic is by completely invalidating it, you’re doing game balance wrong.

        I’m also really shocked you were willing to tolerate the absolutely disgusting and unrelenting objectification of a main character who can’t be older than 18 here, but a single thoughtless joke from an NPC about Edgar being a lecher is what stuck with you? She literally gets a skill tree entirely about being sexy. (Which I completely ignored purely out of spite.) FF has sexist crap, but nothing at the level of baked into the mechanics.

        I liked the alchemy pot and getting to turn into a bird instead of using an airship, but otherwise, I have trouble rating DQ8 as better than FF4. It’s definitely not as good as FF10, which came out 3 years earlier.

        It did make me reflect on the role of battles in jRPG gameplay and how to keep them compelling, I suppose. I would often run into the exact same encounter multiple times throughout a level, which of course went about the same way, and… what is the point of that? What does it add to the game to force the player to go through the same challenge they’ve already beaten 10 times? (Especially when it’s simple enough to beat with autobattle, which I never turned off outside of boss fights and metal slimes.) I can’t say for certain there’s a platformer out there that doesn’t force the player to go through the exact same platforming challenge multiple times, but surely you’d agree that would be ridiculous?

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