Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

In 1988, Enix and Chunsoft had a hit on their hands in the form of Dragon Quest III. Naturally because of this, the public wanted a sequel, and the creators obliged, releasing Dragon Quest IV: The Guided Ones in 1990. Enix, having learned their lesson from last time, wisely decided to release it on a Sunday. There was an urban legend that the Japanese government intervened by forbidding the creators from ever releasing any future Dragon Quest installments on a school day, but in reality, Enix themselves made the choice.

To place Dragon Quest IV in context, Nintendo was working on a successor to the Famicom, the platform on which the previous installments saw their initial release. NEC Home Electronics had launched the PC Engine to compete with them a few years prior while Sega followed suit with the Mega Drive a year later, a console boasting more processing power than their competitors at the time. When the Super Famicom was released later in 1990, it marked the end of an era. Does Dragon Quest IV manage stand as one of the Famicom’s final hurrahs before a new wave of consoles ushered in a new generation?

Continue reading

Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation


In the mid-1980s, unbeknownst to Western hobbyists, the Eastern scene was quickly developing an interest in RPGs thanks to the Dragon Quest series created by Yuji Horii and Koichi Nakamura. The first two installments were tremendous successes, selling around two million copies apiece, so when Enix announced a sequel, the anticipation was higher than ever. Dubbed Dragon Quest III: And thus into Legend…, it was released in February of 1988 – a little over a year after its predecessor’s debut.

It is almost impossible to overstate exactly how ecstatic the Japanese fans were for this new chapter. So great was its popularity that over one-million units were sold on the very first day. As its release fell on a weekday, the police ended up arresting nearly 300 students who skipped school to purchase a copy. Some of them, mostly high-school students, even dispensed with the whole notion of purchasing it legally by mugging small children on the way home from the local game store.

As was the case with the game that came before, Enix made efforts to publish Dragon Quest III in the West in 1992, hoping it would match or surpass the staggering 3.8 million copies sold in its native homeland. Called Dragon Warrior III in the official NES localization, it met with the same tepid reception of its predecessors. Western gaming fans had no idea of the sheer impact this game, which would eventually be known as Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation, left on their counterparts across the Pacific Ocean.

Continue reading

Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line


Yuji Horii’s 1986 effort, Dragon Quest, would go on to sell more than two-million copies. In doing so, it introduced the role-playing game to a whole new audience. Naturally, it didn’t take long for fans to start asking for a sequel, and this time, the creator was one step ahead; plans for Dragon Quest II began one month before the release of its predecessor. Despite the warm reception Dragon Quest enjoyed, the development team was confident they could create a game to surpass it in every way. Much of the personnel who worked on Dragon Quest remained for the sequel’s creation as well; Akira Toriyama handled the concept art while Koichi Nakamura, the president of Chunsoft, would serve as its director and lead programmer.

The team was divided into two groups: one handled the programming and the other focused on story development as well as the monster designs. When asked by the producer for a deadline, Mr. Nakamura set it for early November of that year, but the project was hit with a brief delay. During playtesting, the team determined that their product was excessively difficult, necessitating them to make minor adjustments to the game’s balance. Luckily, this hurdle was easily overcome, and the mid-December marked the completion of the final version. After rushing to Nintendo to create physical copies, Dragon Quest II was released in January of 1987, and it too successfully moved over two-million units. Undeterred by the relative failure of Dragon Quest in North America, Enix themselves published the game overseas in 1990. Initially, it was localized as Dragon Warrior II, but as time went on, the series reverted to its original name, and the game eventually received the title, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line.

Continue reading

Dragon Quest


The Eidansha Boshu Service Center was a company founded in Japan by Yasuhiro Fukushima in 1975. They mainly published tabloid magazines with real estate advertisements. When the service center failed to establish a retail chain, Mr. Fukushima transformed his business into a software development company dedicated to gaming in 1982, renaming it Enix. To search for talented programmers, they held a contest, styling it after manga competitions. It was advertised in various manga and computer publications, and winners would be awarded one million yen. One of the winning entrants was Yuji Horii, who managed to place with his sports game, Love Match Tennis.

Mr. Horii had purchased his first computer one year earlier, learning to program with it through the process of modifying other games. Around this time, he read a PC magazine and discovered a budding genre from the United States known as adventure games – a movement largely spearheaded by Ken and Roberta Williams, the founders of On-Line Systems. Their 1980 debut title, Mystery House, was groundbreaking in that it was the first such game to feature graphics, depicting objects and actions onscreen as opposed to describing it in text. Mr. Horii then noticed that the Japanese gaming scene lacked such games and decided to create one of his own.  Developed using BASIC programming language, the result of this effort was The Portopia Serial Murder Incident. The goal of this game was to solve a locked-room mystery involving the death of a successful bank’s president, and the story develops through the players’ commands. Owing to its novel concept, Mr. Horii’s game was met with a warm reception, selling nearly 700,000 copies. Its impact was such that it defined a completely new genre of first-person adventure games known as the visual novel and even inspired other people, such as Hideo Kojima, to enter the industry.

While developing Portopia, Mr. Horii, alongside another contest winner, a programming prodigy who gained fame while still in high school named Koichi Nakamura, discovered Wizardry, a series of pioneering computer role-playing games (RPGs), at a Macworld Conference & Expo. As Mr. Horii enjoyed the game’s depth and visuals, elements of the dungeon crawling mechanics present in Wizardry made their way into Portopia, but once he finished that project, he had a new goal in mind: to expose the Japanese gaming scene to what was, at the time, an purely Western genre. To this end, he sought to have his game released on Nintendo’s Famicom console, believing it to be the ideal platform because players could start each session from where they last left off. To ensure that Mr. Horii’s game would reach a large audience, Akira Toriyama, best known as the artist of the highly popular manga, Dragon Ball, was hired to produce concept art. Its name was Dragon Quest, and it would go on spawn sequels, eventually becoming one of the most beloved series of RPGs in its native homeland.

Continue reading