The original Dragon Quest is the pioneer of JRPG games, originally releasing on the NES in 1986. The land of Alefgard has been overrun by evil monsters and filled with poisonous marches. Traveling to other towns is a dangerous affair and not even royalty are safe from attacks. The only one who has a chance to return the world to peace is one of the descendants of the legendary hero Erdrick, who goes on a quest to find the items necessary to stop the source of all the evil, the Dragonlord.
This review covers the mobile version of the game.
Developer: Square Enix
Price: $2.99 – $4.99
Released: 27th May 1986
Unlike modern JRPG games, Dragon Quest is an open-ended game with barely any side quests – your sole mission is to obtain the three items Erdrick used to open a bridge to the Dragonlord’s island, and then stop him. The only obstacles stopping you from fulfilling your goal right off the bat are the enemies. As a result, most of the game is about grinding for experience and gold coins.
Dragon Quest never tries to hold your hand. You start at Tantegel Castle, with no information on how to go about your quest and only the weakest set of equipment. To get anywhere and gather information, you’d have to talk to all the townsfolk you run into. While some talk about random gossip, others provide useful clues leading you to new items or giving you an idea of what to do next. Some folks also provide services, like the bank for depositing money and freeing up items from your inventory. While the “hints” can be hard to execute sometimes, I found them clear enough despite the old “thou and thee” English and did not need to consult an online guide.
You can fight enemies across the overworld and within all but one dungeon, although the fighting is primitive. You can only face one enemy at a time, and most of the time you’ll be attacking with your sword or healing any damage you took. Some enemies go as far as attempting to cast a sleeping spell on you, causing you to lose some of your turns and possibly die – thankfully dying brings you back to Tantegel Castle instead of losing all progress, at the cost of half of the gold you were carrying. Though you get a plethora of spells when you gain some levels, the only ones I seriously used were Heal, and later the spells allowing you to teleport out of dungeons or back to the castle.
Artstyle and Audio
The mobile version of Dragon Quest sports an upgraded pixel artstyle that pays homage to its roots whilst adding a lot of detail. Overall, the game follows a fantasy theme with castles, chests, and hostile creatures. It is worth noting that all dungeons are dark and must be illuminated via torches or the Glow spell if you want to see farther than one tile ahead. While the music is also upgraded, there aren’t many musical tracks to hear in-game, as you’ll most often listen to the overworld and battle themes, but overall, they’re great tracks to listen to.
While the game is archaic, especially because of the one-on-one battles, minimal story, and its philosophy of leaving you to figure out how to carry out your task and obtaining all sorts of information from scattered villagers, Dragon Quest still makes for a great JRPG. It’s not too terribly long as well, as you could finish it in one day if you choose to.
Besides, the addition of features in the mobile version such as Quick Save allows you to easily pick up and put down the game in small doses, whereas in prior versions you had to go talk to the King of Tantegel Castle to save. This one change alone has a colossal positive effect on making an otherwise difficult game more accessible and recommendable to commuters and busy bees.