by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
When Dragon Quest I-III was announced, initially it was a Japan-only announcement. This reveal took me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I was disappointed, but then a physical edition was revealed with English menus! Joy replaced that despair, but then I realized I’d have to import. A new low bottomed out my emotions, but then the North American announcement came! That’s right, Dragon Quest I-III were on the way to the Nintendo Switch, and sooner than I thought! Now I won’t lie to you, friends. I was expecting and hoping for the Super Famicom remakes of DQ I-III because those were gorgeous. I perhaps assumed this because DQXI also getting a 16-bit/2D mode. While I was initially let down that they were, in fact, mobile ports, I got over that quickly enough.
Most of you probably know by now that Dragon Quest, as far as actual franchises go, is my favorite. It takes the cake over Final Fantasy by a country mile. I love EarthBound as my favorite single game, but you never forget your first: Dragon Warrior 1. It made my blood boil with anger, as it does to this day, but the quality of the games is second to none. Unfortunately, I will not beat all of these by the time I review them, and that’s okay. I already know what to expect. Most of my time has been focused on Dragon Quest I and III because those are the ones I love the most. But I have put in time with all three of the games.
These are the mobile ports of the games, for all the good and bad that comes with that. That means visually, you may not be a fan of these. Personally, it feels the worst on DQ1, because the Hero sprite is so damn huge. It makes things look clunky and awkward. The party sprites for DQ2 and DQ3 are smaller but still bigger than normal. They feel less frustrating to look at in Dragon Quest 3. I do miss the smaller enemy portraits from the original trilogy; they’re much larger in these releases, perhaps distractingly so. Most of my complaints about the trilogy are simply “I miss the way it was”. But at least unlike some of the other Square-Enix mobile ports, I like these. The Final Fantasy VI sprites looked like pure rubbish, let’s be honest. The art looks good, but still looks very much like a mobile port, so be advised.
Perhaps the biggest improvement from the NES release is the ability to basically Save State. At any time, you can set a save state and either keep playing or close and come back to it. In the traditional Dragon Quest games (at least these), you could only save when talking to a King in the world. This made the games incredibly frustrating. You had to walk a million miles if you didn’t have a “Wing of Wyvern/Chimera’s Wing” to teleport you back. At least Dragon Quest III had a teleport spell. Being able to save state lets you take more risks, and more importantly, it makes the money grind in Dragon Quest III exceptionally better. When you get to the monster battle gambling, you can save state, place your bet, and if it fails?
Reset and start where you were! Another important change is that your allies will act on their own, but you can change their tactics to decide what they do at least. This was probably done to speed up gameplay on your mobile device, but thankfully the NPC AI tends to lean on the smarter side. Spellcasters are a bit greedy with their casting and don’t appear to use items, but other than that, they’re pretty great. If you need multiple people to use items or fighting major bosses, I’d control them manually. When you’re grinding and exploring, there’s no real harm in it.
Worth the Buy? 3.5/5:
I love these games, and the visual style, while not what I wanted, is what I expected. It’s still good, the music still sounds fantastic, and all of the intensity and difficulty you remember is here. If you missed out on the original, and want to know what the fuss is about, I highly recommend them. Since they are sold separately, my personal recommendation is Dragon Quest III, but if you can get them all, they’re still worth it. DQI gives you one hero, DQII has a trio, and DQIII lets you have the hero and three customizable allies (with more that can wait in the wings to replace them). Dragon Quest III has the longest playtime, the most secrets to find, and just has so much depth for an NES RPG. There are secrets, from the Sage to evolving Goof-Offs, hidden items, and so much more. I cannot possibly say enough good things about Dragon Quest, and while I was initially put off by the visual style, ultimately, the gameplay was still great. It didn’t re-use a hideous mobile overlay, and that’s important too.