Sunday, July 4, 2010

The glorious return of Dragon Warrior

Yeah yeah... it's called Dragon "Quest" in America now, I know... but does everyone know that?

Meh... regardless, I am very very excited to have my Dragon (whatever) back where it belongs, on a Nintendo console again, after 18 years.

Sure... we get Dragon Quest Monsters, Slime Mori-Mori, and even Dragon Quest Swords on Nintendo consoles, but come on: That's like saying "You have Final Fantasy!" because we get the shitty Crystal Chronicles abortions every few years. No. I'm talking about the honest-to-goodness, main numbered series of the game. You know, the ones that Squeenix actually cares about and puts some effort into? Yeah, those.

The seeds from which my Dragon Warrior/Quest love grew
I have a long history with Dragon Quest. I'll never forget the TV commercials for the original Dragon Warrior on NES. For an 8 year old, it was empowering. magical, and completely enthralling. At this point, I had already played The Legend of Zelda, Ultima: Exodus, and other simple RPGs-- creating maps and charts, painstakingly detailing my quests and my next goals moving forward, recording strategies for certain bosses/enemies, and  being thoroughly delighted with the whole process of doing so. That wasn't something that I would've necessarily undertaken on my own without any prompting as an ADHD-riddled child-brain, but I was fortunate to have the guidance of my Father (Dad) and my Grandmother (Granny) to help keep me excited and focused. I begged and pleaded to get Dragon Warrior for Christmas, and they obliged happily.

The first thing that comes to mind in the love-story saga between DQ and I is always the music. I remember getting a feeling from the music of Dragon Warrior that no other game at that time delivered. Along with the setting, language, and content of the game's universe, it was a truly epic experience that really set me on the path of wanting to read fantasy books, learn to play guitar, and draw dragons and shit on my homework instead of doing the problems. For better or worse :)

Dragon Warrior 2, 3, and 4, would all come out each year for the following 3 years, and the routine was the same (and even more delightful with each new iteration). Any combination of the 3 of us: Myself, my Gran, and my Dad, would gather around the TV with our mechanical pencils and graph paper, and make maps, charts, and strategies to use for the next 100 times we played the games together. Good times. These were not multiplayer games, but were totally multiplayer games for us. We were the heroes/heroines, and we would even name the characters accordingly when given the option.

Back to 2010
Dragon Quest IX is a multiplayer game, and is designed specifically for this purpose. I find it amazing that its taken this long, frankly, but then again, I guess it took "moving to a portable" to really make this a reality anyway. I'll be picking up a copy each for both myself and my Dad on launch day, and I absolutely cannot wait to start our adventure together. It's heartbreakingly unfortunate that Gran passed away years back, and won't be able to join in the adventure with us, as I know that this would've absolutely been the light of her simple life in the year 2010 if she were here.

Marketing to the expanded audience
Square-Enix and Nintendo have made it abundantly clear that they, with Dragon Quest IX, really want to make this game resonate with the American audience in the same way that it does with the Japanese audience. The Dragon Quest series is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon in Japan, and has been for decades. Obviously this is something they would like to replicate in other markets-- the Dragon Quest "slime" is like "Micky Mouse", as far as character recognition goes, in Japan. That's a big deal.

So they want it to become a phenomenon here. Well, they've got a few things right in my humble opinion: Multiplayer and other social aspects in regard to DS connectivity, seemingly tons of content with tons of free DLC content too, highly customizable characters and scenarios, and the classic simple-to-learn formula of the battle-system and gameplay. Demonstrating these to the expanded audience shouldn't be too difficult with print ads and TV/internet video commercials, but I believe that something else is needed.

New Ultimate Plumbing Bros. Wii
With the recent rumor/news that New Super Mario Bros Wii has exceeded 15 million copies sold in just 7 months on the market, it is abundantly clear that the expanded audience is interested in returning to the old-school style and values that gaming once presented many years ago. For Nintendo, it was easy to create the name for this new Mario game-- Naturally, the name "New Super Mario Bros Wii" was very clearly an indication to the expanded audience (and the old-school) that this was a return to classic Super Mario Bros gameplay... so a question about naming the new Dragon Quest comes to mind for me: Does the expanded audience and old-school (like my Dad, for example) even know that Dragon Quest == Dragon Warrior? I'm not sure that they do. Luckily for my Dad, he has me to keep him up to date on this sort of thing, but I'm sure there are a few million people who thoroughly enjoyed at least DW3 and DW4 that have no idea that this is the same series of games.

I believe that if Nintendo wants to successfully market Dragon Quest to the expanded audience, that one of the things they should do is try a TV commercial that clearly demonstrates the connection between Dragon Quest and Dragon Warrior. Many many companies have had to liken new products or services to old ones after going through a name change ("formerly known as... is the new...") and I think it has been successful for a lot of them. I really hope that the marketing firm in charge of producing marketing materials for DQ9 figures this one out, and can create some sort of montage-style commercial that shows the evolution of Dragon Warrior for NES all the way through Dragon Quest for DS, and I hope they're smart enough to use not only the visuals but also the music and sound effects (such as "Casts a Spell!" and "Excellent/Critical Hit!") because these have always been an absolutely vital part of the Dragon Warrior/Quest experience. With the right marketing, I believe that they could reach sales of over 5 million by bringing people from ages 25-65 back into the fold by striking some nostalgia nerves.

Welcome back
I bought a PS1 for Dragon Warrior 7 (which broke and stopped playing games about 6 months after my second-in-a-row playthrough of it), and bought a second-hand PS2 for Dragon Quest 8 (which broke and started getting DREs coincidentally right after I finished DQ8 and was just about to start a second playthrough), and I am thankful that I don't have to buy a whole damn system just to play Dragon Quest 9. I remember at the very start of this console generation, after becoming aware of PS3's "Five-hundred Ninety-Nine US Dollars!" price point being dreadfully frightened that I'd be forced to buy (or hopefully borrow) one for the next true Dragon Quest game. Thanks, Square-Enix-- you made me happy for once :P The decision to bring it to DS, however, was a completely obvious and inevitable one, thanks to, primarily, its runaway success in Japan. Sony can't be happy about that though...

One final note
At least on this one, I won't have to deal with the agonizing pain and suffering that comes along with "dinner being ready" and not being able to get to a save point before my Mom clicked in the power button. Being an adult does have some benefits after all, I guess :)


  1. Love the blog Son...memories...even teared up a bit...

  2. never played the series on my childhood (the 1st DQ I played is IV on DS) but I your blog makes me feel your emotion about those game. The story about your dad and grandmother playing along with you making maps and stuff is awesome and bring back same sort of memories.

    Hope DQ9 will have a great marketing, like you said people have to be aware about the name change.

    Good blog, a pleasure to read.

  3. I wish my family was like yours, because it's great to have such close persons playing and sharing a pleasure called video game.

    Anyway, i think alike you in this article and Nintendo should do, at least, a special place on the very same official DQ IX site to explain that each chapter after the 6th is like a Final Fantasy, they do not have any connection at all, wich means that you do not have to be worried 'bout this part.

    We DQ players know everything, but if Nintendo wants to reach the Japan sales, then they clearly have to follow the steps presented by you too.

    I'm expecting this 9th game so much, can't wait to play it!

    Thanks for sharing your history with us! It was a nice read. :)