The Dragon Quest franchise has made quite a resurgence over the past few years and now, you can revisit the origins of the series.
Before getting to the individual games, allow me to say that I’m an old-school Dragon Quest fan. I played the heck out of the original 4 NES games back in the day then I got VII for Christmas 2001 yet it didn’t quite click with me in the same way that the first games did. I consider Dragon Quest IV to be one of the greatest RPGs ever made but these Switch releases are from even before that. However, you won’t find the original NES games here as these are graphically updated and their gameplay is streamlined so you don’t have to fumble around menus as much. I’m fairly certain that they’re merely adaptations of their respective mobile releases (they’ve been ported so many times that it’s hard to keep track) yet they feel right at home on Switch. Anyway, enough with the intro; let’s get to the games!
Dragon Quest Switch ★★★☆☆
The original Dragon Quest paved the way for many games with what we recognize as a truly classic RPG formula. It’s difficult not to appreciate it as a monument in gaming history and it even predates Final Fantasy. With all of that being said, it’s definitely a tough game to thoroughly enjoy nowadays without an appreciative mindset for what it accomplished. For starters, you only control 1 character and levelling up while earning better equipment is tedious stuff yet you’ll have to do that almost constantly if you want to single-handedly take on the powerful foes that are scattered across the land of Alefgard. There are memorable moments such as when you rescue Princess Gwaelin and finally defeat Dragonlord but overall, it’s a fairly short and one-note game that requires a lot of patience.
There’s no denying that Dragon Quest is a massively important RPG yet enjoying it without nostalgia in mind is tricky in this day and age.
Dragon Quest gameplay video →
Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line Switch ★★★★☆
Debuting a year later, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line improved drastically over the original. Fun fact: it also acted as my introduction to the series back when I was 5. Anyway, it features a huge world map complete with warp points, handy buff and debuff spells, and you get to control a party of 3 cousins. It’s satisfying to obtain all 3 keys and gain access to all of the world’s nooks and crannies and the enemy variety is far less stock and includes many imaginative foes that are fun to beat on. Getting your cousins to join you early in the game only to explore the world and eventually defeat the evil Hargon makes for an exceptionally satisfying journey that’s surprisingly still a ton of fun to experience. Admittedly, it feels quite dated but certainly not as much as the original does.
Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line was a huge step forward for the franchise and RPGs in general and it’s still great fun.
Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line gameplay video →
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation Switch ★★★★☆
Finally, we have Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation. Aside from choosing your character’s gender, you actually recruit your party from a tavern and each member has their own class. One of my fondest memories of the NES version was exploiting the character recruitment system by selling everyone’s gear and making a ton of money right at the start of the game but unfortunately, you can’t do that in this release. One aspect that I love is the amount of spells that you can learn and it’s rewarding to exploit enemy weaknesses with them. Plus, setting up your party order and issuing strategies in battle is super-satisfying stuff and I thoroughly enjoyed playing this classic again albeit with redone visuals and music as well as tweaked gameplay. Highlights of the journey include soaring over the world with the help of Ramia, watching the cool day-night cycle, battling monsters in arenas, and finally defeating both Baramos and Zoma. Plus, the ending brings the whole Erdrick trilogy full-circle but I surely don’t want to spoil more than that. What a fantastic game!
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation wraps up the Erdrick trilogy beautifully and it’s simply a must-play for any retro RPG fan.
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation gameplay video →
The Erdrick Trilogy of Dragon Quest games marks the origins of console RPGs in a truly epic way. Although not every game has held up perfectly over the years, what’s here should definitely be in a museum somewhere.
- + Playing the 3 classic Dragon Quest games on the go and on the big screen is great
- + Redone presentation is well executed
- + Gameplay is streamlined for modern gamers
- – Doesn’t include the NES / Famicom versions
- – The original may be too old-school for some
7.4 out of 10