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This article is about the first game in the series.
For other works in the Dragon Quest universe, see Dragon Quest series.

A new legend is about to be born.
Japanese TV spot
Dragon Warrior... the epic beginning of a new era in video games.
NES version blurb

Dragon Quest (originally localised as Dragon Warrior) is the first title in the Dragon Quest series. It was developed by Chunsoft and published by Enix.  Dragon Warrior originally released in 1986 in Japan for the MSX and the Famicom. The game was localised for North American release in 1987, but the title was changed to Dragon Warrior to avoid infringing on the trademark of the pen and paper game DragonQuest. The North American version of the game was greatly improved graphically over the Japanese original, and added a battery-backed save feature, whereas the Japanese version used a password system. Nintendo was impressed with the Japanese sales of the title and massively overproduced the cartridge; the end result was that Nintendo gave away copies of Dragon Warrior as an incentive for subscribing to Nintendo Power, the company's in-house promotional magazine.

Dragon Quest was one of the first Japanese turn-based role-playing games to have widespread success and is considered a pioneer in the development of the genre. Along with Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest would spawn a successful franchise that would become the de facto standard for role-playing video games.

Gameplay

The authors of Dragon Quest took inspiration from two earlier American computer role-playing games: Wizardry I: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981) and Ultima III: Exodus (1983). In particular, the latter inspired the top-down open world structure, while the former inspired the combat system.

Dragon Quest is one of the first console role-playing games. The player controls a single character who is able to travel from town to town exploring on his quest. He can equip various weapons and armor and battles enemy monsters in one-on-one combat. As more enemies are defeated, the hero becomes stronger and able to explore greater distances as he completes his quest. Ultimately, the hero must defeat an evil boss marking the end of his adventure. This game formula was replicated in most, if not all, console RPGs.

As the first game in the series, Dragon Quest heavily differs from its successors in several aspects.

  • All battles are one-on-one; there is only one player character, and enemies never appear in groups.
  • There are no vehicles. The overworld can only be traveled on foot, and the Chimera wing and Zoom spell only return the player to Tantegel Castle.
  • Tantegel Castle is the only save point in the game.
  • Acquired weapons, armor and shields will automatically replace the previous item, which is then discarded or sold to the store. This is changed in the remakes.
  • There is no helmet slot.
  • Keys are consumed when used; new ones can be purchased at one of the "key houses" in Tantegel, Rimuldar, or Cantlin. The first key in any quest must be purchased in Rimuldar, since the others are behind doors that require a key to open.
  • There are separate shops for buying holy water, unlike later games where it is sold in item shops.
  • Caves are dark, and must be lit up with a torch or the Radiant spell. These have limited range, which diminishes as the spell or torch wears out. The range is effectively reduced in the remakes, since the scale of the caves is larger, but the range is not increased to compensate.
  • There are special menu commands to climb stairs and open chests, which are done automatically in later games. In the Japanese version, certain commands require choosing a direction, since characters only face forward.

Characters

  • Hero: A descendant of the legendary hero Erdrick. He arrives from an unknown location to help the land of Alefgard.
  • Erdrick: A hero who rescued Alefgard years earlier. Left a message for his descendant, in the cave which bears his name. (In the North American localisation, he is known as Erdrick, with similar changes to locations and items: Erdrick's Cave, Erdrick's Sword, and so on.)
  • Lorik: The King of Tantegel, and ruler of Alefgard.
  • Princess Gwaelin: Daughter of King Lorik. Imprisoned in the Swamp Cave south of Kol, by the servants of the Dragonlord.
  • Dragonlord: The villain of the story, he has stolen the Ball of Light in order to lock Alefgard in perpetual darkness.

Name changes

The English localisation for the NES significantly altered the original names of characters and locations. Later, the Game Boy port restored some of those to better match the original version. The newer versions honour the NES localization by returning to various of the original conceived names.

Character names
Japanese English (NES) English (GBC) English (new versions)
ロト (Loto) Erdrick Loto Erdrick
ラルス16世 (Lars XVI) Lorik The King The King
ローラ (Laura/Lora) Gwaelin Lora Gwaelin
竜王 (Dragon Lord) Dragonlord DracoLord Dragonlord
みやおう (Miyaou) (nameless)
ゆうてい (Yuutei) Howard
キムこう (Lord Kim) Nester
Location names
Japanese English (NES) English (GBC) English (new versions)
ラダトーム (Ladatorm) Brecconary Tantegel Tantegel
ガライの町 (Garai's Town) Garinham Galenholm Galenholm
マイラ (Maira) Kol Kol Kol
リムルダール (Rimuldar) Rimuldar Rimuldar Rimuldar
ドムドーラ (Domdora) Hauksness Domdora Damdara
メルキド (Mercado) Cantlin Mercado Cantlin
竜王の城 (Dragonlord's castle) Charlock castle DracoLord's castle Dragonlord's castle

Plot

A spoiler draws near! Click 'show' to display, otherwise run away!

Backstory

Long before the game's events, the legendary hero Erdrick used the Ball of Light to drive darkness away from the kingdom of Alefgard. Erdrick handed the Ball of Light to King Lorik, bringing Alefgard into an age of prosperity and keeping winters short in the kingdom.

However, one man hid from the Ball of Light's radiance in a mountain cave. While exploring the cave's underground tunnels, he awoke a sleeping dragon who knelt before him instead of attacking. The mountain man learned dark magic and became known as the Dragonlord.

One day, the Dragonlord summoned a fleet of dragons to raze the town of Brecconary and stole the Ball of Light from Tantegel Castle. Monsters appeared across the entire continent; much of the land turned into poisonous marshes; several towns were permanently destroyed; and The Dragonlord's Castle rose from the earth.

Erdrick returned to offer his help to King Lorik and found the Dragonlord on an island only accessed through a Rainbow Drop. He then traveled to the island, but disappeared. Throughout the next decades, the prophet Mahetta foretold the coming of a descendant of Erdrick to defeat the Dragonlord.

During the reign of King Lorik XVI, the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle again, kidnapped Princess Gwaelin and began terrorizing Alefgard's citizens. By this time, Erdrick's story had been nearly forgotten; many would-be heroes had been killed trying to rescue Gwaelin; and Mahetta's prophecy had been dismissed as a fairy tale.

Main story

A young hero offers to retrieve the Ball of Light for King Lorik XVI. After traveling the land of Alefgard and becoming more and more powerful, the Hero rescues Princess Gwaelin from the clutches of a Green Dragon, who is hiding her in a cave.

Finally, after strengthening himself through all the battles he has fought and the mystical items he has uncovered, including the immensely powerful Erdrick's Sword, the Hero enters Charlock Castle, the Dragonlord's domain, and kills him, temporarily freeing Alefgard from the terror of evil.

Gwaelin proposes to him and King Lorik offers him the throne; he accepts the former offer but declines the latter, opting instead to venture to lands unknown and found his own kingdom.

Thou hast defeated the spoiler.

Legacy

Remakes

In the Game Boy Color remake Dragonlord's name was changed to Dracolord, and Erdrick is now known as Loto. Several conveniences were added, such as a vault for storing gold and items, and a streamlined menu system. Monsters yield more experience and gold after being defeated to reduce the amount of time needed to raise levels and save up for purchases.

The Super Famicom remake was marketed exclusively in Japan due to the absence of Enix America Corporation, but it was unofficially translated into English and Spanish through emulation by online fan translation group RPG-One in 2002. The Game Boy Color and mobile phone versions are based on the Super Famicom version.

Sequels

Dragon Quest was followed by Dragon Quest II, which met with similar success. Dragon Quest II featured the same timeline and setting as the original, a concept which was further extended into Dragon Quest III. Together, these first three games comprise what is known as the Erdrick trilogy.

Spinoffs

As the first game in the series, Dragon Quest has served as a significant influence in almost every spinoff game. In particular, many of the enemies developed for Dragon Quest (Slime, Dracky, Chimaera, etc.) are featured in almost every other game in the main series and otherwise.

Trivia

  • The bonuses awarded for leveling up depend on the name chosen for the hero.
  • The NES and mobile versions attempt to tell the game's story using Early Modern English. The NES version limits this somewhat even as it persists in battle, while the mobile version uses a fuller range of the language in its dialogue, but not in battle.
  • The original Japanese Famicom and MSX versions of this game (and Dragon Quest II) have a "Spell of Restoration" (password system), in place of the "Imperial Scrolls of Honor" (battery save system). The password does not save current HP and MP, or the contents of the chests. So all of these will be reset on a reload.
  • In fact, the contents of chests aren't saved in the North American NES version either.
  • A myth persists that the Japanese name of the Heal spell, Hoimi (ホイミ), became the official term for "healing" in Japan. In truth, Enix held a public ceremony to "induct" the word into the Japanese language, but this was a promotional stunt for the release of Dragon Quest IV.
  • Erdrick's Sword makes an appearance in Final Fantasy XII as the Wyrmhero Blade (Tolo's Sword), the strongest greatsword in the game. The blade will only appear in the Rabanastre bazaar once three specific items are sold to it.
  • It is possible to complete the game without saving Princess Gwaelin, as it is not necessary to fight the Dragon within the cave to receive the three sage's items. The Ending will not have her included as a result.

Soundtrack

As with every Dragon Quest, Koichi Sugiyama composed the music and directed all the associated spinoffs. Dragon Quest I's symphonic suite was bundled with Dragon Quest II's symphonic suite and a disc of original compositions as Dragon Quest in Concert. Here is the track listing for the Dragon Quest I portion of that release:

  1. Overture March (3:59)
  2. Château Ladutorm (3:25)
  3. People (3:36)
  4. Unknown World (2:07)
  5. Fight (2:12)
  6. Dungeons (3:40)
  7. King Dragon (3:08)
  8. Finale (2:40)

Gallery

Packaging artwork

Videos

References

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