As shown above, I recently made the decision to revisit the Dragon Quest series after quite some time away from it. My recent obsession has been with games made by Falcom, primarily the Ys series and the Legend of Heroes series. But in my own personal life recently, I’ve been going through somewhat of a difficult time. It made me want to go back to something simpler, something I’ve been meaning to get back into but just haven’t done so.
Enter Dragon Quest. A game that had so much of an impact that it even managed to make its way into the Yakuza series. I’ve been in the middle of playing three Dragon Quest games at a time: 3, 8, and 11, though I’ve been very on and off about playing them. But last night, when I was deciding what to stream, I decided I wanted to play something that didn’t require too much thought or investment into the story. The first Dragon Quest was the first game to come to mind, and I’m honestly so happy I came back to this incredible game.
By modern RPG standards, it can certainly be seen as a bit of a slog to get through. Hell, I’m surprised I managed to make a three-hour stream out of it, to tell the truth. But something about the stresses of life bogging me down brought me back to what I love about this series most, and it’s the fact that things are tough to get through.
When I started playing again, I decided to challenge myself by getting the hero to the maximum level capacity, which I believe is level 30 in the version I’m playing. It’ll be a long road, but the longer I played last night, the more comfort I found in the idea of spending so much time getting stronger. I spent a fair amount of time fighting against weaker enemies and slowly gaining levels, but it reminded me of a quote from Yakuza: Like a Dragon that really stood out to me. “If you fight enough slimes, you eventually level up.” In context, this quote referred to the two main characters up to that point, about how they were both middle-aged men with a bit of a history and unsure how they could move forward in life given that they were both homeless, but they decided to try moving forward anyway against all odds. That got me thinking about the game and how willing I was to endure the fights, knowing that each and every battle I fought brought me another step closer to the level I wanted to be at. Then that got me thinking about how much these RPGs really reflect life.
Life is a series of struggles. We’re constantly faced with problems and adversity in general. Oftentimes, it feels like we’re never truly making progress because we’re so quick to judge ourselves that we forget progress isn’t seen. Not immediately, anyway. But every battle we face, even the smallest of battles like getting out of bed in the morning during a time when our depression is just too strong, we’re gaining experience, just like the hero gaining his own experience fighting the smallest monsters and overcoming the challenge. In such an RPG, patience is required to enjoy the game to its fullest. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like life as well? There’s no use rushing everything, because before you know it, the game will be over. Your life will come to a close and you’ll realize that you missed so much of what happened because you were in so much of a hurry to get to some destination or another. Life happens day by day, not event by event. We’re here for the long run, just like if you decide to settle in with an RPG, so why not enjoy the journey?
Playing Dragon Quest last night brought about an entirely new appreciation for the game as well. The more I played and took my time to admire the artwork, the simplistic gameplay, the music, and the writing, the more good I saw in it all. People often talk crap about the Switch ports of the Erdrick trilogy because they’re just ports of the mobile versions of the game, but when I was playing last night, I saw so much love put into the game. Every second I played, it felt like I was playing something big, despite the game being decades old. It made me feel the same magic and wonder I used to feel when playing video games as a kid. It also made me learn something new.
The original Dragon Quest features a single playable character: you, the hero. As such, it can be believed that the story is about this sole hero saving the princess and striking down the Dragonlord (or joining him if you choose to get the bad ending). But as I played, it made me think of something. You encounter so many people on this rather short journey, so many others who may not be fighting directly beside you, but are helping you nonetheless. Townsfolk with gossip that proves to be a helpful hint, shopkeepers willing to give you better equipment to keep you alive on the battlefield, the sages who wish to ascertain your skill so they can assist you in your quest to defeat the Dragonlord, and the king of Alefgard, a man beset by grief from the loss of his wife and the kidnapping of his daughter, but he still remains strong because he knows you need him to be; he knows that his kingdom needs him to be. For how simplistic the original Dragon Quest is in its story, it has so much humanity and heart to it that I feel I’m seeing for the first time every time I play the game again, and it’s beautiful.
This realization of our hero’s journey made me think of life once more. How often do we feel isolated and alone in our aimless wanderings through life? Probably pretty often for a good majority of us. Social media doesn’t help that feeling all that much. Despite the word social being in the name, I feel it’s anything but that. It drives people apart and makes us feel even more isolated or inadequate. But in truth, we always have people in our corner. People who make the ingredients for the food we eat and keep us sustained, friends and family who may not always clearly have our backs but are watching out for us, people we don’t even know sending their wishes into the ether that those who feel alone may understand that there are people who care about them. We aren’t as alone as we often feel. Whether we’re aware of it or not, there’s someone there for us, hoping and wishing the best for us.
All that being said, you can probably tell that the original Dragon Quest is already proving to have a massive effect on me despite only being three hours into the journey. I’m more than okay with this, and I’m happy to continue this journey tonight. I hope you were able to get something of value from reading this, and if you wish to catch future streams live, I stream as frequently as I can on my Twitch channel.