Cheats and Walkthroughs
The past few weeks have been littered with stories about the incredible business that Square Enix’s Dragon Quest IX: Protectors of the Sky for the Nintendo DS is doing over in Japan (i.e. pre-order figures, first week sales, passing the 3 million units sold mark). And while I was vaguely aware that the Dragon Quest series was one of, if not the, most popular gaming franchises in Japan, it wasn’t until these past few weeks that I realized just how popular.
As with anything that receives massive amounts of attention, the first question that comes to mind is always, “Why?” Thankfully, Gamasutra has taken up the task of answering this very question as it relates to Dragon Quest. It’s quite the informative read for anyone interested in gaming history, so I recommend checking it out in full. Here are just a few highlights to get you started.
The article begins by looking into the cultural factors that helped get the DQ ball rolling, chief among them being the fact that Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s artwork and composer Koichi Sugiyama’s music have both been a part of the series since it began. Yet, the cultural aspect is pushed aside fairly quickly to make way for the more likely reason for the series’ success: the games themselves.
There is quite a healthy amount of explanation as to why the games are so beloved and popular, illustrated by several brief summations from a number of gaming critics. However in the end, two of the main reasons for the franchise's success are that the games are, for the most part, “tough but, ultimately, fair” and “simple in every way.” Gamasutra elaborates:
“The art, provided by Toriyama's Bird Studio, is bright and iconic. The turn-based battles give players time to think, and reverse mistakes through canceling acts before committing to them (i.e. push B to cancel before you finish making all of your choices). They also allow for strategic comebacks in later rounds of combat. The game's structure -- town, field map, dungeon -- is quickly comprehensible, and compartmentalizes danger.”
The other major factor is the idea that the games have always featured worlds “made of people,” which is a rather creepy way of saying that the series has been able to consistently populate its settings with believable and engaging characters. For me, this is something that I look for in every game I play (where it makes sense, of course. I don’t expect to form meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the AI-controlled golfers in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, for instance.), and it’s something that not enough games take seriously, which is a shame.
Like I said, the article is a fascinating read, and it’s full of interesting tidbits about the DQ franchise and its history, both in Japan and here in the United States. Education + games = good times.
What do Dragon Quest fans here find most appealing about the franchise? Why do you think it hasn’t been as popular in the U.S. as Final Fantasy ?