Dragon Quest shows how wonderful simplicity can really be.

Sometimes it’s good to go back and experience where it all began. The original Dragon Quest is an absolute classic, the grandfather of all JRPGs. While there has been a lot of positive developments in the genre over the last 34 years, I can’t help but pine for the simplicity that is found in Alefgard. 

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: 27/9/19

The tale of a brave hero who has been tasked with saving the lovely princess from the clutches of an evil Dragon Lord, then banish the darkness from a once peaceful land. By exploring, and being sociable while in towns, you will discover more about the land of Alefgard, its past heroes, and its troubles. Doing this is also how you’ll find out how to progress in your epic quest, although the clues can be a bit obtuse at times. We are in the age of figure it out here, not the age of waypoints, so some may find a guide is required – there are plenty of good ones out there.

Combat is turn-based, as you’d expect. Attack with your weapon, cast magic or use an item. It is just as fun now as it was back then, and with no complicated systems to master, you’ll be a natural in no time. With the encounter rate being as high as it is, the combat being fun is crucial. Spells and items that repel weaker foes are a must, or you could find yourself becoming frustrated at the bombardment of low-level enemies fired your way, while trying to get from Point A to Point B, luckily they’re available early on.

While playing, a feeling of awe often washed over me, finding it hard to believe just how many of the fundamentals of an entire genre were here, right at the beginning. The redone sprite work does spoil the party a wee bit, though. The redesigned monsters in the battle screens aren’t so bad, but while in the actual overworld the characters look kind of weird alongside the pixel art backgrounds – the two don’t meld together, and the characters look out of place. It would be nice if there were an option to switch between the remastered sprites and the originals. It seems an odd choice to leave so much untouched, but not allow the player to view the game as it was.

If you want to experience where a franchise, and entire genre, began, the Switch version of Dragon Quest is a good place to start.

JRPGs these days are usually colossally long, and while I love the nuts-and-bolts of the genre, I often don’t play the longer ones due to time constraints. It was nice to feel the satisfaction that comes along with completing a game, especially one in my favourite genre, without having to put in days worth of time. The 8-10 hour run-time lets you appreciate what is there, without giving you the chance to get frustrated with some of its more archaic qualities. It was a real pleasure going back and playing a genre-defining game, and in my eyes, it’s short length is refreshing – I’d love to see more JRPGs that don’t hang around forever.

If you want to experience where a franchise, and entire genre, began, the Switch version of Dragon Quest is an excellent place to start. While I found the remastered character models a bit weird, they don’t ruin the experience. There are no unexpected twists or turns here, but the gameplay is fun, and the game doesn’t overstay its welcome. While it has aged well, some of the clues about how to progress can be a little obtuse – you may need a guide, and there is nothing wrong with that. I think that it is worth going back and experiencing Dragon Quest if you haven’t played it before, it is a piece of history, and to this day remains damn good fun. It is a classic for a reason.

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