The Quest for Dragon Quest

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Dragon Quest XI was one of the first titles announced for the Nintendo Switch but still seems a fair way from appearing on store shelves. It was released on the PS4 and 3DS in July 2017 in Japan and with a PC and PS4 release only hitting overseas this September it remains to be seen how long a Switch port will take to materialise. Whether you’re waiting for the PC, PS4 or Switch version XI looks like an impressive evolution of the franchise. If you’re new to the series or are looking to dive into an older entry, here are some recommendations to keep you occupied and introduce you to the world of Dragon Quest. Many of the older games received ports on the original DS, but these are not always readily available and often with a hefty price-tag to match: the ones listed here may not be as revered in the fandom, but they should all be easy  enough to get hold of. Oh, and each game in the series is self-contained, so don’t expect to unearth any lore or history that will give you a head-start in XI!

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Sentinels of the Starry Skies is the natural entry point in the series. Its the ‘latest’ Dragon Quest game chronologically (the tenth game was never released in the West) but it was also the title that exploded the series’ popularity. In many ways it feels a lot more like an online RPG, with character creation replacing rich, individual characters. The pay-off for this was some of the best multiplayer functionality seen on the original DS. Don’t worry though, the game is far from online only and boasts a rich story-line of its own. Die hard fans may sometimes take issue with it, but Sentinels of the Starry Skies is an accessible game that really showcases the series’ unique style and approach.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

The first game in the series to reach European shores was this PS2 classic. From a time when a lot of roleplaying games were moving away from traditional JRPG mechanics, the series retained both turn-based combat and random battles. The first game in the series to be fully 3D, it featured gorgeous cel-shading that has aged very well, making this still a very playable title if you’re looking for a PS2 RPG. The upgrade to PS2 hardware also meant exploration feel much more exciting, creating a world as immersive as the plot. The game did receive a 3DS port, which is another perfectly acceptable way of trying this gem out.

Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

This is a huge game – for better or worse. It features an interesting rotating cast of characters and an intriguing, complex story-line – but making it to the conclusion might become a real test of stamina. It feels unfair to join in the habit of mostly discussing this game in terms of its length, but if you’re new to the series this can make it a bumpy start. Besides that it’s very much a definitive experience, being a classic JRPG in every way imaginable.

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Matt Crofts
Matt is the SFFN's Retro Editor, focusing on all things old but interesting, including (but not limited to!) books, movies and video games. As a researcher in Gothic literature Matt also has an affinity for black cats, Hammer horror, and all things Dracula.