When you think of classic Square Enix JRPGs, what do you think about? Some might think of Final Fantasy — it seems to be a favourite — others might think of Chrono Trigger — honestly, it’s amazing — but what about Dragon Quest?
I’ve always been familiar with the Dragon Quest series, but it never held the same weight as other games in North America. This is probably due to the popularity of Final Fantasy, as it often overshadows other JRPGs
Last year I lived in Japan for quite some time, and I was shocked to see the amount of advertising for the Dragon Quest series. They have Dragon Quest convenience stores, Dragon Quest cafés, and even Dragon Quest food items. It’s also really easy to find classic Dragon Quest games in second hand stores.
I actually felt like I was denied a nostalgic experience because I never had the same exposure to the series that I did for other JRPGs, such as Pokemon or Final Fantasy. But that’s all changing in 2017, as Square Enix is breathing new life into the series by giving it the Final Fantasy treatment: remakes, ports, and spinoffs.
New content, new audience
Dragon Quest is often referred to as Japan’s national game. It’s often been a means of inspiration for other titles — some even say Dragon Quest VI acted as inspiration for Final Fantasy X.
But in 2016, Square Enix decided to tackle a new market: North America’s youth. To do this, Square Enix took the classic elements of Dragon Quest and infused them with Minecraft. The result was Dragon Quest Builders, an action RPG with sandbox elements.
Dragon Quest Builders was a critical success for the series in North America, but it wasn’t the only content being released. Right before its October release, Square Enix also localized Dragon Quest VII for the 3DS and around that time they also announced Dragon Quest VIII for the 3DS.
As Polygon’s Allegra Frank writes, the result is a series that is fully embracing younger audiences. In a 2016 interview, producer Yu Miyake told Polygon that older audiences look at the art style and think it’s a kid’s game.
“When you actually play the game, it’s a little complicated for children to play, but it’s kind of been a hurdle for grown ups to get into it,” he said in the interview. That’s why it makes sense to port games to the 3DS, as it gets kids interested in the series and mobile consoles are often more popular with children.
Fighting the good fight
Square Enix’s plan is clearly working. Dragon Quest Builders might not hold the same weight as Final Fantasy XV, but it has sold more than 1.1 million copies worldwide, with a good chunk of them being sold outside of Japan.
With Dragon Quest XI just around the corner, and the series finishing its 30th anniversary celebration, it’s a perfect time for the series to gain new exposure in North America.
This past month, Square Enix released Dragon Quest VIII to American audiences on the 3DS, and I managed to grab the last copy of the game from Best Buy when I went to pick it up. While it’s tough to say how many copies the game had sold already, I’m taking it as good news that the series has finally found a home in North America. Let’s hope the numbers back me up.
Square Enix Saturdays is a weekly column exploring the many worlds created by Square Enix over Square and Enix’s 42-year history. If you’d like to see us cover any specific Square Enix topics, please leave us a comment below or connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.