If you grew up playing video games, it’s almost inevitable that there are a few that hold a special place in your heart. Maybe you remember spending hours with a particular action game trying to perfect that one crushingly difficult jump. Maybe the first game you played for a particular console was especially astounding. Maybe you remember playing with a parent and spending some bonding time together. That’s the case with me and the original Dragon Quest, which I remember playing with my Dad as a kid. It’s possible to relive those days yet again now thanks to the original three Dragon Quest titles showing up on Switch.
These appear to be ports of the mobile versions of these games, which would them ports of ports. Each runs well enough despite this, though the graphical style is going to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing for retro fanatics. Each game plays a little differently and holds its own appeal, so it’s worth talking about them all in turn.
The original Dragon Quest is, well…it’s about as barebones as you can get these days. It’s an RPG from the days when RPGs were weird and unusual things, as opposed to today where they’re only weird and unusual to games writers who dock them review score points for being RPGs. Me? Bitter? Never. Anyway, in the case of Dragon Quest, that means you’ve got one party member, you fight one enemy at a time and there’s no craziness like job systems or Materia to shake things up. It’s a very straightforward tale of swords and sorcery where you’re defeating a demon lord and saving a princess. Frankly, I don’t know how well it holds up today when there’s so many other options, but it’s also just about the most nostalgic RPG you can get. If you’re after something very, very old-school, well, here you have it.
Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, took some cues from the contemporary Final Fantasy games and introduced a party system. You’ll recruit characters with differing specialties, including a mage and a healer, as you proceed through the game. That’s a good thing, since you’re now up against entire parties of monsters. This is a big step in playability for the series and I’d argue that II is when Dragon Quest starts to feel like the classic franchise it is today. Indeed, if you’re entirely new to Dragon Quest (somehow) I’d suggest starting here.
Finally, Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation is probably my favorite of the bunch since it offers a little more flexibility than the others. Rather than the solo hero of I or the premade party of II, in III you create and customize your own group of heroes. This makes for plenty of exploration and discovery as you try to work out which characters work well together – or which characters can pose the biggest challenge, as we see with the Gadabout jesters that don’t do much other than mess around in combat. There’s even some replay value when it comes to trying out different parties. The ability to try so many different things makes Dragon Quest III feel modern and enjoyable even by contemporary standards.
As mentioned, all three games are essentially ports of the mobile versions, so you’re going to have to deal with some…interesting graphics. This doesn’t look bad, per se, but if you were hoping for something more directly related to the original games then you’re going to be disappointed. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that these games all run nicely as well.
Each game sells for approximately a song, though they increase in price as they increase in number: Dragon Quest I is a mere five bucks, while Dragon Quest III is going to part you with Mr. Hamilton and a little more besides. It’s a bit of an odd pricing strategy choice, though I suppose it makes sense given their increasing complexity and runtimes. Regardless, you can pick and choose whichever titles you’d like, and if you’re new to the series it’s hard to go wrong with either II or III. Hardcore nostalgia fans, of course, should check them all out to get their JRPG fix.