It’s hard to articulate how much the Dragon Warrior / Dragon Quest series means to me. At the same time, I can’t recall when I first played the original Dragon Warrior for the NES. If you were to hold a gun to my head, I’d say “1991.” Then my brains would end up on the floor, because I honestly can’t remember.
I don’t even remember how I ultimately wound up spending hours bashing slimes with a copper sword for 1 GP apiece. I think my brother borrowed Dragon Warrior from a friend and brought it home. See, though Nintendo sowed Dragon Warrior cartridges across the land in hopes of getting the United States to fall in love with the game as hard as Japan (spoiler: didn’t happen), I never received one. I didn’t have a Nintendo Power subscription, and I don’t even remember if Canada received that gracious rain of cartridges.
Regardless, here we are in [checks calendar] 2015, and my love for Dragon Quest still burns like the Dragonlord’s breath. Obviously, being an English-speaking Dragon Quester is not always easy; we’re subject to gluts of content tapered by long, long stretches of nothing.
Right now we’re in a weird place wherein Dragon Quest games are being put on iOS and Android. Some of those games are ports of previously-localized titles like Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS. And some are completely new to us, like remakes of Dragon Quest I, II, and III that once existed on Japanese feature flip-phones.
I’m going to take on those flip-phone games in a series of Let’s Plays. I’m starting with Dragon Quest I, because ah-doy. Before I start in earnest, I’d like to tip my imaginary hat to Brickroad, who does some of the most engaging and informative text-based LP’s I’ve ever read. His LP for Final Fantasy II / IV is still one of my all-time favourites.
I will try to be every bit as informative and engaging, but recommend against putting any bets on my success.
Let’s drag on, warrior!
Part I: The Outset
Hey, there’s a soldier dying in this flower garden. Anyone…? All right.
See, it says Dragon Quest. And there’s a picture of a dragon. There’s something so satisfyingly simple about that. “There’s a dragon that needs to be slain. Go on a quest to slay it. A Dragon Quest.”
Can you hear the classic theme playing in your head? I’ll help. Dragon Quest I for iOS remixes the game’s soundtrack yet again and I couldn’t find a playlist, so here’s the chippy NES / Famicom theme.
Fun fact: My NES had a particularly bad case of the blinking plague, and a lot of games would start for a second and then blink off and on. As a consequence, I associate the first three notes of the Dragon Quest theme with rage and the dizziness that came with blowing into cartridges again and again.
By the way, unlike Dragon Quest IV iOS, Dragon Quest I iOS doesn’t have a previous localization it can jack. Far as I know, it was translated from scratch. Get ready: That “Venture Forth” option indicates what we’re getting into, and we’re not just talking about killing monsters.
Welcome to Dragon Quest, stupid. Hope you have your Masters in Medieval Dialect.
Here’s the thing. Dragon Warrior on the NES featured a localization that utilized a lot of olde English. I’ve come to appreciate it over time, and am still fascinated at how thoroughly those early “Thees” and “Thous” influenced the early games’ tones in North America (I swear to Divinegon it wasn’t until I saw the Underpants Dance in Dragon Quest VIII that I realized these games aren’t meant to be taken nearly as seriously as the Final Fantasy titles).
Whomever did the translation for Dragon Quest I – and I’m guessing it’s Plus Alpha Translations, same as it’s been since Dragon Quest VIII hit the PS2 in 2005 – obviously wanted to pay tribute to the very first Dragon Quest translation. And that’s awesome, except the new translation jacks things up from “English with a twist of Richard III” to a bunch of words that belong in a drugstore erotica novel about forbidden love in the king’s stables (but without the amazing metaphors comparing erect male phalluses to rearing stallions).
By the way, Loto’s dead in this localization. Erdrick lives again.
The king’s not making any sense, so I start rummaging through his shit. There’s some money, which I pocket, and a torch. But most intriguing is the magic key, which you need to use to open the locked door right in front of you.
I get why Kingsy needs extra security in this awful time of marauding Dragonlords, and I get why he ain’t gonna press no maglock button to let me out. I don’t even think these dudes have flushing toilets. But being forced to waste a key still galls me. Locked doors are everywhere in the world of Dragon Quest, and you don’t get a chance to buy keys for quite some time.
Not that first-timers will realize they even get a chance to buy keys. All they know is that half the world is locked behind mysterious doors, and they had no choice but to waste their single key on some idiot king’s badly-engineered chamber.
Sleep at an Inn to recover from any health problems up to and including monster bites, dragon bruises, ghost cancer, wyvernpox, and slime syphilis.
Note: Sleeping at Holiday Inn is not an effective method of medical treatment in the real world. See your actual doctor for treatment of slime syphilis.
Talking to one of the king’s hangers-on reveals a potential sidequest: The option to rescue Princess Gwaelin. I say “optional,” but in the larger Dragon Quest continuity, it’s pretty much established that you rescue the princess and make ten million babies with her. You play through Dragon Quest II as some of your descendants. Daenerys Targaryen is the Mother of Dragons. Gwaelin is the Mother of Dragon Warriors.
Also, I like to believe the chancellor delivered his last line with the gusto of WWE’s Real Americans. “WE! Her PEOPLE!”
Let’s go downstairs. Chk-chk-chk (that’s the “going downstairs” sound effect).
Yeah, actually, in the “days of yore” the fair city of Tantegel was darker than the inside of Zoma’s bum. Whoops, Dragon Quest III spoilers.
Not much else goes on in Tantegel beyond townspeople doing the whole “Hee-hee fiddle-dee-dee [fife music]” routine (the dude literally lying down on the job off to the right is mourning for the loss of Princess Gwaelin), so I visit its neighbouring castle town.
There’s lots to be found in the village. Information, weapons, items, wounded soldiers staggering blindly in search of a place to die…
[Plays Taps on a kazoo]
So here’s our first clue that wherever Princess Gwaelin is now, she’s being guarded by something with a lot of claws and teeth.
I mistook this wench for Princess Gwaelin because I’m evidently stupid. Yon maiden is titillated at the comparison.
I need an adult.
Time to buy junk. Herein is the first of the Dragon Quest series’ many conundrums: Bamboo pole and leather armour, or club and plain clothes? King Cheapskate didn’t see fit to give us more than 120 gold to save his clown kingdom, so we need to decide if we’re going to focus on offence or defence while we murder slimes for their lunch money.
I usually go for the bamboo pole and leather armour combo. Taking the defensive route in Dragon Quest games is never a bad idea. As a whole, the series is less forgiving than Final Fantasy. You’ll see what I mean soon enough.
Oh, when you play this game as a ten-year-old, you get to giggle over the prospect of buying clothes. Hee hee hee, you were naked this whole time! You can still giggle as a 34-year-old like I do, though. It’s totally legal.
We’re off on our amazing journey! Oh, when you exit the town, your new fan automatically goes back inside. She doesn’t love you enough to risk getting her legs bitten off by a Dracky. No one loves you that much. Not even your mom.
See that castle across the way? That belongs to the Dragonlord. Thank God he evidently 1) Can’t build a boat 2) Can’t fly due to a genetic wing defect known as “stubbiness” 3) Can’t be bothered.
Either way, you get a clear picture of your eventual destination and goal. I like that.
Anticipate part two of this Let’s Play, wherein we visit some random grave. It probably belongs to a real jerk.