One of my first experiences with the Dragon Quest series was back when the games were called Dragon Warrior on the GameBoy Color. Dragon Warrior I-II and Dragon Warrior III came out in the early 2000's and they were somehow localized in America. I remember playing the games during long car rides when I was young, being enraptured by the fantasy worlds that these games let me play in. I finished the first Dragon Warrior, it's not too difficult, but I did have to look up a few things, like how to find the mark of Loto, but I had a good time with it so I obviously went on to Dragon Warrior II.
Here is where the theme for this month's Band of Bloggers, Unfinished Business, comes into play. Despite Dragon Quest being among my favorite video game series, I've never finished the Erdrick Trilogy. I did finish the first, but the second and third games remained unfinished for years. Then the games got releases on Switch.
The original Dragon Quest trilogy is a bit of an odd case for video games. The games basically have three different localizations. The NES versions had a strange Old English style. The series was new and many things that are considered series staples today were translated completely differently. When they were brought to the GBC, they had to shorten most of the names (Erdrick becoming Loto for example) and simplify the translation to make the game work on a tiny screen. Then when it came to mobile (and subsequently the Switch) they redid the localization completely. They kept the Old English from the NES for the most part, touching it up in some places, but the biggest localization changes were spell and monster names. The monsters and spells have become uniform across the series, but they were all different in the NES and GBC versions of these games, but the Switch version makes everything consistent across the series. They also redid most of the town names, giving them a more consistent feel.
This is really great, but caused a few issues. The biggest one for me is trying to find a guide for these games. You can use a guide for the NES or GBC games when playing the Switch versions, but all the spells, towns, equipment, and monsters will have different names. It took me a while to find what I was looking for when I got lost in these games, something that can happen pretty often, as these games are still at their core NES JRPGs. Things can be a little obtuse.
When I first played Dragon Warrior II on the GBC, I had a great time. The first game in the series can be a little bland compared to games and JRPGs today. You only had one character, and very little information or goals to guide you. Dragon Warrior II fixes all that by giving you three characters and a much more compelling story. Instead of just telling the player that they are Erdrick's decendants, so go save us, the sequel sets the stage with an attack on a nearby kingdom, with a lone survivor coming to you for help. You are then tasked with finding your cousins, as the three of you are all decendants of Erdrick, and then you must find the evil Hargon and stop him from causing more destruction.
The game was a lot of fun for me back then, so why didn't I finish it? The first few hours of the game are pretty linear. You are blocked off from proceeding until you do certain things, like finding your cousins, or finding a certain key in a dungeon. After those first few hours, however, you are given a boat, and told to sail the world to find Hargon, and wow this was intimidating for younger me. There were a few issues. One is that sailing on the GameBoy screen was especially daunting, as there wasn't enough screen to show much of the map while sailing. I felt completely lost after just a short time out on the water.
The second problem was that there was very little direction. I sailed until I found someplace to land and then got immediately killed by overpowered monsters that I wasn't ready to fight yet. I tried to use a guide, but the only one I could find was an all text guide, and what I really needed was a picture of the world map. I couldn't figure the game out, so unfortunately, I gave up.
I was very excited to tackle this game again when it came to Switch. The zoomed in feel of the GBC screen was completely solved for one. I never felt like I was lost out on the open sea, helped by a button dedicated to pulling up the world map. In the GBC, you had to find the map, in the Switch version you always have it. The sceond problem of no direction wasn't actually a problem, I was just a dumb kid. Also I found a better guide, with pictures. It used the names from both the NES and GBC versions, and it looked like it was slowly being edited to include Switch names as well, so I could turn to it when I got stuck and basically figure out what I needed to do.
Dragon Quest II is a lot bigger than I thought it was. The world map is has a lot of places to explore and even some secrets to find, something that surprised me for what was oringally an NES game. Now that I didn't have to worry about getting lost and killed, I had a lot of fun exploring the map and solving the mystery of how to find and defeat Hargon. I had to resort to using a guide for a lot of the experience, but the portability of the Switch made that fine, I could just pick the game up and play it at my computer. One particularly great moment after getting the boat was finding the land that the original Dragon Quest took place in. After leaving the boat, the normal overworld theme doesn't play, instead, the overworld theme from the first game begins to play, and I was shook. It was awesome to hear it again, even though I played the second directly after playing the first. I used to tell people that Dragon Quest II was the worst game in the series because of my early experiences with it, but now I think I can fully recommend the game to people interested in the series, though I wouldn't recommend it for someone's first Dragon Quest game. I can say that about Dragon Quest III though.
After giving up on Dragon Warrior II back in the day I thought I would try Dragon Warrior III. I had heard that it was the best game in the series after all, and I was excited to try it out. I quickly learned why it was so highly regarded. Dragon Warrior III starts out with a personality quiz. Your personality determines, in part at least, your stat growth. After starting up the game and being told to take after your fathers footsteps and try to stop the dreaded Baramos, you are then told you should find some companions. Your companions aren't predetermined by the story, but instead you pick their classes and give them some stats to affect their initial personality and then add them to your four person party.
You can recruit all the staples of JRPG classes, like Warriors and Mages, but there are a few interesting classes as well. You can recruit a merchant, who can sometimes net you more gold after a battle and who can appraise all your items and warn you if they are cursed. They aren't very good in a fight, but they also aren't that bad either. The other interesting job is the Jester/Goof Off, depending on the localization. They are the worst. They sometimes just don't do anything in battle, they can't equip most weapons or armor, and they have a pretty terrible stat spread in everything but luck. Why would someone choose a jester? Because they are the only characters that can class change into a Sage without extra help.
That's right, this game had class changes. That might be standard nowadays, but it certainly wasn't in 1988 when the game originally came out. At level 20 a character can change their class, reverting them to level 1, but with half of all their stat growth from their previous class, and all learned spells. You can make your characters completely overpowered if you want to take the time to do that.
I loved this game when I was playing it on the GBC. I couldn't find a guide for it, but I felt that I didn't need one for a majority of the game. It does a lot better pointing you in the right direction, and allowing you to explore a lot of the world and find the map long before you get a boat. Once I got a boat, the world was a lot more dense so I didn't get lost as easily. You eventually even get an airship of sorts, and exploring the world after that became a lot easier as there were no longer random battles in the sky.
So what happened? Why did I never finish this game? Well, to get into that, I have to go into spoilers for Dragon Quest III. If you want to try this game out, I recommend playing it, it's a great JRPG and you should experience if for yourself. The story is great and the places that it goes really took me by surprise, both when I played it all those years ago on the GBC and today playing it on the Switch and finally finishing it. To make it simple and spoiler free, I basically eventually ran into the same problems in Dragon Quest II. Only, they were perceived problems. If I had just stuck with the game, I could have easily finished. I stopped playing mere hours from the final boss. If you want a more indepth explanation and don't mind spoilers, keep reading, if not go play this game, its great.
*Spoilers for Dragon Quest III beyond this point*
So what happened? Well, this is the third game of the Erdrick trilogy, but the game doesn't mention Erdrick at all. In fact, the game world is completely different from the one seen in Dragon Quest I and II. I thought, back when I originally played this game, that it wasn't related to the first two games. I was very wrong. While playing on the GBC, I got to what I thought was the final dungeon and beat Baramos. I thought I had beat the game, as all the usual stuff that happens when you beat the first two started happening. I returned to my hometown, to the fanfare of everyone. The king started congratulating me and the game started wrapping up when an earthquake happened. The real big bad, Zoma, taunts you for thinking everything is fine. He says that the world will never be safe so long as he is around, and he lives in the underworld, so good luck finding and killing him. This can't stand, so you do the impossible and jump into the underworld to kill Zoma. You land in the world of Dragon Quest I and II.
This blew my mind as a youngster and I appreciated it even more now. It's a great twist that has been kind of ruined for new players since it's pretty well known and talked about that you are playing as Erdrick in this game. Either way, this was an amazing twist. The world of the first two Dragon Quest games is the underworld of the third game, ruled by Zoma. You are the hero who saved the underworld and brought light to it. That was so cool, I was so excited to finish the quest. The music also changed to the music from the first game, giving me that same rush that it did when it happened in the second game.
So why didn't I finish after getting all excited. After realizing that I was in the same world I suddenly thought that I would have to explore the same world that had confused me so much before in Dragon Warrior II. It was very discouraging to think that I would have to try and explore a world that had caused me so many problems in the last game. I didn't want to deal with that, so I stopped playing AND I CAN'T BELIEVE HOW STUPID I WAS!
I was wrong. Dragon Quest III doesn't not have the same world as II when you drop down into the underworld. It only has the world of Dragon Quest I, a little different to show how time will change it by the first game happens. The land is sealed away, so you can't explore the rest of the world here. If I had explored just a little back in the day, I would have been able to finish the game no problem. After all, I had no problem beating the first game, so going through a faster version of it shouldn't have been a problem. I was mere hours away from finishing the game. I had two more dungeons, a tower holding the goddess imprisoned, and then the final dungeon. There were a few towns that expanded on the lore from the first two game, but for the most part I was in the home stretch. I was so close.
*The Spoilers are finished*
I'm so glad that I finally beat it on the Switch, but I'm also frustrated at younger me for giving up so easily. I can understand not finshing the second game, it's legitimately difficult to finish, but if I had just stuck with the third game for a little bit longer, I could have finished this game ages ago.
I highly recommend playing Dragon Quest III, especially if you like JRPGs with team building mechanics. I had a lot of fun planning out my team, figuring out who to start with and what they would class change into. The game is a great way to get into the series if you don't mind random battles. I can see why it's so highly regarded and why the Hero from this game is one of the Hero's in Smash Ultimate. The game was groundbreaking and I am glad to finally finish this unfinished business.