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Backlog Twosome | Dragon Quest 1 & 2

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It was only a matter of time, but we finally found the technology to combine the opinions of two backloggers about two games in one single review. We talk about Dragon Quest I & II on the Super Famicom in our first ever Backlog Twosome critique!

There’s nothing better than experiencing new things together with someone else. For some people that means traveling to new places, or trying new food, or learning a skill, but to us gamers, getting to share a new, much anticipated game experience is the ultimate high. Playing a new game, new to you game, or even a new to them game is one of those situations that makes gaming so darn great. 

Here at the Backlog Odyssey household playing games together is just what we do! So, why on earth has it taken us so long to come up with the idea to review a game together as well? Who knows, but here we are! 

Dragon Quest 1&2 for the Super Famicom was a Christmas present from just a short year ago. While it’s taken us up until now to play it, we think it was the perfect game to start off this awesome twosome review-some idea of ours!

Dragon Quest is one of those RPG franchises that everyone seems to talk about and praise, but up until we ended up playing this compilation on the Super Famicom, I never actually touched any of them. I was intrigued of course considering the series was developed by Enix (before and after they merged with Squaresoft) and I have always been a fan of Akira Toryama’s artwork, but I just never made the time for them. It could have been their lighter and more cartoonish art style compared to the likes of Final Fantasy, but even then it was probably mostly due to being late to the JRPG party. I mean, I didn’t jump on board until later in the SNES lifecycle, which at that point, Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior) in North America hadn’t seen a new entry for many years. The last being Dragon Quest IV on the NES.

I honestly have very little history in general with retro games of this caliber. My family never owned an NES and so growing up I didn’t really get to experience these types of games in their hayday. My first ever RPG was A Link to the Past on SNES and comparing any game to that would just be plain unfair. That being said, I really enjoyed my time with these SNES/ Super Famicom remakes of Dragon Quest I & II. I didn’t have much of a frame of reference going in, so for me it was really interesting to see where RPGs started out. Plus it was an extra added bonus to see artwork by Akira Toriyama outside of the Dragon Ball franchise.

Being one of the forefathers of RPG games, I think it’s impressive what Dragon Quest I & II were able to achieve without much to use for guidance. While it certainly can’t hold a candle to the bells and whistles of many games these days, I think a game like Dragon Quest holds a certain appeal all on its own. Keeping in mind that these are both remakes of the NES titles I think even the few changes made a huge difference in their playability while still keeping the original simplicity and charm intact. I honestly didn’t encounter many aspects that I would voice complaints over, but it made the small improvements from one game to the next seem all the more impressive, which in turn makes me even more excited to see how each game improves upon its predecessors.

Taking into account that both Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest II were originally developed for the NES/Famicom, I think they hold up incredibly well! The refinements that Enix made to their remakes, which included updated graphics and enhancements to the user experience like the reduced need to grind for levels, were more than welcome! That being said, it still suffers from antiquated development philosophies like obtuse objectives, ridiculous random encounter rates and an overall lack of direction. Also, I can’t tell if Enix improved upon it in the second one or if they made it worse by making it more complicated! Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed playing them and there’s something to be said about how chill and short they are. You can honestly see why an entire generation of gamers adore the series and that its charm hasn’t faded even to this day.

Truly, thinking back I wouldn’t change much about them. They may be simple compared to modern standards but I think that is a part of what makes them great. I mean after playing Dragon Quest II, you could see that as complexity was added so was more frustration. It was still cool to be able to explore a bigger world and gain additional party members, but I ended up missing the simplicity. If I were to change one thing, it would probably be the inventory system. Of all the frustrations in the game, that in and of itself made managing your items more work than it should have been. That being said, I would want to keep how short the first two games were. They never overstayed their welcome and it made it easy to appreciate the game as a whole without all of the slog sometimes attributed to classic RPGs.

This is a tough question mostly because it’s such an old game and there are so many sequels that have more than likely dealt with any issues one might have encountered in the past iterations. Even the remakes addressed a lot of glaring issues. But just using what I know of Dragon Quest I & II as a base I would say being able to save in places other than the main castle in the first game would have been nice. Having to trek all the way back each time was a major pain in the butt. What I would want to stay the same for now is the simplicity. Not every RPG needs an overwhelming array stat management and skill trees. Dragon Quest II left me a bit disappointed with the fact that the main character didn’t receive any magic abilities, but then having a team really evened the odds in that department.

The SNES/SFC remakes of Dragon Quest I & II are games I would highly recommend to anyone who has a love of retro RPGs. They are both relatively short games so the time investment involved in giving them a shot wouldn’t be too great. The fact that they are so short, yet simple and charming really just leaves you eager for more and curious about the next game in line. While I would warn anyone who wants to play these games that they need to prepare themselves for a fair bit of grinding, the way the game flows naturally will have you leveling up fairly quickly. If you are like us though and opt to use a guide then you’ll find yourself milling around the last area trying to achieve even the minimal level required to face up against the final boss.

This is actually a tough one! I think if you’re a fan of classic RPGs and you’re curious to see the roots of the Dragon Quest series, then I think you should definitely play this compilation! That goes doubly if you played the original Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior games on the NES or Famicom. The improvements to the games would be more than worth seeing! If however, you can’t stand grinding and absolutely need direction then you may want to just check out one of the newer entries in the series.

There you have it! Thoughts fresh from the minds of two backloggers on a game that was old to many but new to us. I think the overall consensus was that we both very much enjoyed our time with the SNES/SFC remakes of Dragon Quest I & II. We found that it greatly sparked our interest in the series and we are both looking forward to seeing what the franchise holds as we progress further and further through it. Although it’s obvious there were some issues that needed improvement, it’s plain to see that we both found the game’s many charms more than made up for them. So, with high recommendations coming from the both of us do you think you’d give it a try?