Dragon Quest © 1986 Enix, Limited.
Dragon Quest is a single-player role-playing video game. The player controls a young hero who sets out to defeat a being known as the Dragonlord. The player starts with a menu to begin a new quest, continue a previous quest, or change the speed in which messages appear on the screen. Continuing a quest requires a password.
GAME ID: EFC-DQ
CART SIZE: 64 Kb.
Released on May 27, 1986 in Japan.
The original idea for what became Dragon Quest came during the development of the 1985 Famicom port of Portopia. Horii and Nakamura discovered the RPG Wizardry at a Macworld Conference & Expo. It had some influence on the Famicom Portopia's dungeon crawl segments, and Horii liked its depth and visuals. He wanted to create a game similar to Wizardry, to expose Japan to the mainly Western-dominated RPG genre, and to expand the genre beyond computer enthusiasts. Horii also cited Ultima as an inspiration for Dragon Quest's gameplay, specifically the first-person random battles in Wizardry and the overhead perspective of Ultima. Though the RPG genre was predominantly Western and limited to PCs, Japanese gamers enjoyed home-grown games such as The Black Onyx and the Dragon Slayer series alongside Western RPG ports. However, while Horii and Nakamura enjoyed the dungeon crawling and statistical nature of Wizardry, they realized most people would not. This had not originally been a concern, but the success of Super Mario Bros. greatly increased the potential audience of any new Famicom game. To create Dragon Quest, the gameplay needed to be simplified. According to Horii: "There was no keyboard, and the system was much simpler, using just a game controller. But I still thought that it would be really exciting for the player to play as their alter ego in the game. I personally was playing Wizardry and Ultima at the time, and I really enjoyed seeing my own self in the game."
In order to create an RPG that would appeal to a wide audience unfamiliar with the genre, and video games in general, Horii wanted to create a new kind of RPG that did not rely on previous experience with the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, did not require hundreds of hours of rote fighting, and could appeal to any kind of gamer. To accomplish this he needed to simplify the system and have players associate themselves with the hero. Thus as the game progressed, the hero would become stronger, in contrast to action games like Super Mario Bros. where Mario does not become continuously more powerful throughout the entire game. He wanted to build on Portopia and place a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement. He developed a coming-of-age tale that audiences could relate to and made use of RPG level-building gameplay as a way to represent this.
Yuji Horii and his team at Chunsoft began developing Dragon Quest in 1985. He wanted to include multiple player characters but was forced to use only one due to memory constraints. Horii knew that RPGs had a steeper learning curve than other video games, and to compensate for this he implemented quick level-ups at the start of the game with a clear final goal that is visible from the world map's starting point: the Dragonlord's castle. He provided a series of smaller scenarios in order to build up the player's strength to achieve the final objective. He created an open world which is not blocked physically in any way except by monsters that can easily kill unprepared players. Horii used bridges to signify changes in difficulty and implemented a level progression with a high starting growth rate that decelerates over time, which contrasts with the random initial stats and constant growth rates of the early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. To appeal to a larger audience, manga artist and creator of Dragon Ball, Akira Toriyama, was hired.
Koichi Sugiyama, the game's music composer, solicited Enix via a PC game's feedback questionnaire. He was already a well-known television composer, and, upon seeing his feedback, Fukushima contacted him to confirm that "he was the Sugiyama from television". Fukushima asked Sugiyama to compose a score for Dragon Quest. The game's classical score is Sugiyama's second video game composition after Wingman 2. He said it took him five minutes to compose the original opening theme, and noted the difficulty in adding a personal touch to the short jingles, but that his past experience with creating music for television commercials helped. According to Sugiyama, a composer has between three and five seconds to catch the audience's attention through music. The theme and his other jingles for Dragon Quest have remained relatively intact in its sequels. More than 1 million of those copies were sold within the first six months.
Initial sales of the game were so low that Enix was going to lose money, but several Shonen Jump articles by Horii helped increase its sales substantially. People liked Toriyama's artwork and Sugiyama's music, which the book Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life said "was richer and more exciting than any game music had ever sounded". In Japan, 1.5 million copies of the original version were sold. It was very successful there and launched a popular series with several spin-off series and stand-alone games.
In the first Famitsu Best Hit Game Awards (published February 1987, for 1986 releases), Dragon Quest won the awards for Game of the Year, Best Scenario/Story, Best Character Design, Best Programmer (for Koichi Nakamura), and Best RPG.
The release of Dragon Quest prompted a turning point in video game history. The game has been listed as a genre builder for RPGs. Its popularity in Japan is synonymous with RPGs. Though bearing elements of previous RPGs, Dragon Quest set a comprehensively new template from gameplay to narrative, as the foundation for nearly every subsequent RPG. According to Shigeru Miyamoto, the success of Dragon Quest changed the nature of video game development by making scenario writers far more important.
Many of the development techniques were intended to compensate for Famicom hardware limitations, but contemporary RPG developers continue to use these techniques regardless of technological advances. Dragon Quest introduced the damsel-in-distress storyline that many RPGs follow, and a fresh plot twist to the "saving the princess" formula, where the game's true objective is not revealed until the princess is rescued. The game introduced an element of romance, where the player character is given a dialogue choice to respond to the princess's question of whether he loves her; romance has since become a commonplace feature in the genre. The game's 2D graphic style was used by most RPGs until the advent of 3D graphics. Dragon Quest's top-down perspective has become "a dead giveaway to an RPG". The game featured elements still found in most RPGs, such as the ability to obtain better equipment, major quests that intertwine with minor subquests, an incremental spell system, use of hit points and experience points, and a medieval theme. Reviewers said that, though Final Fantasy has been considered more important due to its popularity, Dragon Quest laid the fundamentals on which Final Fantasy was based.
Dragon Quest became a national phenomenon in Japan, inspiring spinoff media and figurines. The video game industry has called it Japan's national game. Horii, who was linked through his Shonen Jump articles, increased in celebrity status, and become a household name in Japan, as well known in Japan as Steven Spielberg is in the US.
7 towns, 6 dungeons.
40 monsters (15 different sprites).
[US] "Dragon Warrior [Model NES-DQ-USA]"
1. Dragon Quest [Model EFC-DQ] (1986, FC)
2. Dragon Quest II - Akuryou no Kamigami [Model EFC-D2] (1987, FC)
3. Dragon Quest III - Soshite Densetsu e... [Model EFC-D3] (1988, FC)
4. Dragon Quest IV - Michibikareshi Mono-tachi [Model EFC-D4] (1990, FC)
5. Dragon Quest V - Tenkuu no Hanayome [Model SHVC-D5] (1992, SFC)
6. Dragon Quest VI - Maboroshi no Daichi [Model SHVC-AQ6J-JPN] (1995, SFC)
Scenario Writer: Yuji Horii
Character Designer: Akira Toriyama
Music Composer: Koichi Sugiyama
Programmer: Koichi Nakamura, Koji Yoshida, Takenori Yamamori
CG Design: Takashi Yasuno
Scenario Assistant: Hiroshi Miyaoka
Assisted by: Rika Suzuki, Tadashi Fukuzawa
Title designed by: Kazuo Enomoto
Manual illustrated by: Takayuki Doi
Special Thanks: Kazuhiko Torishima
Director: Koichi Nakamura
Producer: Yukinobu Chida