Maybe This Is Why Dragon Quest Never Took Off In The West

Maybe This Is Why Dragon Quest Never Took Off In The West

I’ve always had a soft spot for Dragon Quest, a turn-based RPG series full of silly names and adorable slime monsters. In Japan, the series is a cultural phenomenon. But for some reason it has never found the same popularity in other countries.

Here’s a theory: It’s too obsessed with tradition. For three decades, Dragon Quest games have followed the same rituals and routines, many of which are vestiges from the NES era. It always has the same monsters, the same items and the same annoying quirks. Japanese gamers don’t seem to mind these rituals, but they can get tedious to those of us who are used to more streamlined design.

Let me give you an example, which has been bugging me as I play through the Dragon Quest VII remake on 3DS. Dragon Quest turns something as basic as saving the game — an essential procedure that most modern games try to make painless and invisible — into a chore. To save in Dragon Quest VII, you have to find a priest, then mash the A button through eight (!) menu boxes:

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It's a minor inconvenience, but minor inconveniences add up. You'll want to save the game several hundred times over the course of Dragon Quest VII (which is many dozens of hours long). If you don't, you'll lose stuff when you die.

All of those choices -- asking if you're sure, asking you to select a file, asking you if you'd like to keep playing -- are traditions that have been in Dragon Quest for decades. But there comes a point when adhering to tradition can hurt a game's widespread appeal. Gamers outside of Japan might enjoy the series more if it didn't feel like it was wasting our time. Dragon Quest could shorten its save flow without abandoning its roots.

I'm enjoying Dragon Quest VII so far -- even though it might have the worst opening hour in modern RPG history -- and I hope to play through the whole thing. But for some reason, I always seem to give up on Dragon Quest games after 10 or 15 hours. Maybe that's because it takes half a minute to save.


      • Suspend does not replace Save, you can still do both. I’m suggesting more along the line of Suspend to eat, Save before you tackle a Dungeon. Save before you go to bed for the night.

    • Was going to say this lol. Too many a time have I just closed my 3DS whilst playing Monster Hunter and such in the middle of battles only to be able to pick up right where I left off.

    • As a person who plays a lot of JRPGs on handhelds, the suspend function of the 3DS and Vita has been an absolute godsend.

  • For three decades, Dragon Quest games have followed the same rituals and routines Replace Dragon Quest games with Pokemon games. But for some reason Pokemon is crazy popular here, if we follow the same mentality on why the Dragon Quest games arent a popular western release. Realistically the reason on why is unknown.

    • I’d say lack of promotion. Most of SEs titles get hyped To Infinity And Beyond, but don’t really hear much about the DQ games.

      • Most of DQ on the 3DS has been promoted by Nintendo. They did little promotion for Dragon Quest Heroes, though it seemed to pick up quite a bit (maybe because it was an awesome game??).

  • Well I noticed many people in Japan have cherished memories surrounding DQ
    It was always about how they spent hours playing the game with their siblings/parents/friends as apposed to just saying they like the series.

  • If by “start again” you actually mean warp back to the nearest town losing nothing but a bit of gold, then sure.

  • I enjoy the DQ games, even though the grind is real and unforgiving. What really annoys me far worse than it should is the STUPID FRIGGEN spell names. Kazap? Kafuzzle? Woosh? These childish names just irritate the living shit out of me for some reason and I just want normal spell names like Haste, Fire, Lightning and so on.

    • In spanish the names of the spells are much better. They are more like the “normal names” you talk about

  • The reason Dragon Quest never took off was that Final Fantasy got to kids in the west first, and by the time DQ got here it was decried as a ripoff.

    Even though DQ is way more fun. Yeah, it’s a grind. Nobody isn’t gonna say that. But with DQ, I can actually have fun since it doesn’t take itself seriously as a heart attack.

  • Before anybody gets defensive, I’d like to say that the text in the article is absolutely right. There’s no need to have to pay attention for a 40 second conversation just to save and not turn off your game.
    The naked thesis of the article is a bit terrifying (that Dragon Quest’s slavish obedience to tradition is what keeps it back). I was floored when Level 5 announced that Dragon Quest IX was going to be an action RPG (which it ended up changing back to the traditional turn-based battle).
    Dragon Quest has two great strengths – charming characters/enemies, and keeping things the way they always have been.
    Stats that automatically go up as you level, turn-based combat, a classic class system, buying and equipping the basic item groups – those are things I do not want Dragon Quest to lose, ever.
    But 40 second long conversations to save are a reasonable example of things that could change in Dragon Quest.

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