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Friday, August 28, 2015

Dragon Quest (ドラゴンクエスト)

Starting all these classic RPG series from the first entry, I was beginning to wonder if they seemed bleh merely because I'm not hip and old-school enough to appreciate it. Perhaps I would have really enjoyed them if I had played them as a kid? But playing Dragon Quest made me feel a bit better because I've actually been having a lot of fun with it. Sure, I'm playing the Super Famicon version with vastly improved graphics and sound but then again, I played FF1 on the PSP and Mother on the GBA and those versions came out many years later than this version of DQ. You can see the differences in the various versions at hardcoregaming.

SFC? Pfft! I don't even care about the graphics.
In fact, I'm so hip, I refuse to play anything unless it's ported to a TI-81
Anyway, I don't know if the SFC version was re-balanced or what but boy is it the good ol' classic RPG fun I was hoping for. On paper, this game should be just as mediocre as the others. It has a fairly high encounter rate and battles consist of repeatedly pressing Attack as usual.

The menu system is the usual DQ clunky mess, but like Mother on GBA, the SFC version has the 便利 (convenient) L button that pretty much does exactly what you want whether it's opening doors or talking to people. Of course, FF fans will then ask, why even have the menu at all and I totally agree. At least it's also nice for one-handed playing and yes, this is yet another multitask game.

It's also kind of crazy that the ONLY place you can save is at the very first castle but the maps and dungeons were manageable and small enough to make exploration fun even with the random encounters unlike some other games (*cough* Mother *cough*). You also learn a spell that will instantly teleport you back to the castle just when you get tired of trudging back there. Perfect! And unlike that sorry excuse of a teleport in Mother, it works instantly without having to find a mile of clear runway (which BTW was practically impossible to do so fuck that lame PSI ability).

Even if the battle system is primitive, the level progression and the economy are so well balanced, I always felt like I wanted to play just a bit more as a bit more grinding would net me enough experience and gold to gain the appropriate levels and equipment to progress with the game. Playing DQ1 after Mother really made me appreciate the motivation factor of a good economy that wasn't broken (ie NOT instantly buy all the best equipment and accrue tens of thousands of useless dollars for the rest of the game).

It's a game I wanted to play because I wanted to beat it, not because I wanted to be done with it, if that makes sense. And just when I got tired of fighting slimes, it seemed like the game read my mind and the hero learns a spell to avoid random encounter from weak enemies at level 15. Perfect!!

While the story is also as primitive as they come, it has those nice Aikra Toriyama moments that I really enjoyed. Yeah, most of you kids know about Dragon Ball, but my first encounter with Toriyama was Dr. Slump and man, that comic is so pervy and full of toilet humor, no wonder all the prepubescent boys loved it. Anyways, personally, when I think Toriyama, this is what I see in my mind:

This fan translator sure has a sense of humor. That or he loves pu...

So it brings a smile to my face when you (literally) carry Princess Lola to the inn and the next morning, the innkeeper says, "you guys sure seemed to have fun last night".

Not sure what's so embarrassing about a fun night of scrabble and pillow fights.
Wait, what were YOU thinking?
Because that wasn't enough fan service, in the SFC version, a girl in the first town will follow you to the inn as well basically getting you laid within the first ten minutes of gameplay. These retro games don't have the resource to waste time teasing LOL. As a nice bonus, the game doesn't stop you from taking BOTH girls to the inn at the same time. Obviously, I'm not the first to discover this as a let's play on youtube went straight for the threesome. Haters don't hate, it's just the perks of being the hot, sexy, irresistible hero

Every boy in Japan probably did this in the 90s. I know I did right away.
Anyways, as a Jhipster, of course I have to point out that all of this was censored for Dragon Warrior because THINK OF THE POOR CHILDREN!! In fact, pafu pafu I guess was censored all the way up to DQ7? I am really curious to know if it was finally included in the Android and iOS releases of DQ1. Is the world finally ready to handle the sheer delights of the *censored* pafu pafu  (only 20 gold!) action in 2014? Unfortunately, I have an extremely rare condition that makes me barf at the very thought of playing an RPG with no physical buttons so only time will tell, I suppose.

Was DQ finally released uncensored for the phone 28 years later?
Or did the social justice warriors win again?

Score: 2.5 yes I'm retro hip too! wannabe out of 5

In the end, DQ1 is a very, very simple and short RPG. It has barely any story, only one party member, no airship, and the tiny world map is centered around the first castle, also the only place you can save in the entire dang game.

However, the game's perfect balance just makes it FUN, which despite everything is the most important part of a game. Despite other games that seem to know just how to be the most frustrating (*cough* Mother *cough*), DQ1 introduces the right spell at the right time to make the whole experience a smooth and enjoyable ride. I can definitely see why those Japanese kids went so crazy over this when it came out. The music in the SFC version is also pretty good. A real orchestra would have been even better but still very relaxing. Maybe in the next remake?

Scale
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

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