Here’s a very quick history lesson for those that don’t know. Back on the NES Enix released Dragon Warrior I, II, III, and IV in August 1989, December ’90, June ’91, and October ’92 respectively. Keep in mind the Super NES was released on August 23rd, 1991 in North America. That means by the time DW IV was released most people didn’t care. DW III and particularly IV were exceedingly hard to find back when the NES was the king of the hill, and today fetch ridiculous amounts of money on eBay.
After Dragon Warrior IV‘s release Enix left the North American market, even though Enix USA were busy translating Dragon Quest V for the North American SNES. Enix USA would eventually reopen seven years later and start working on several remastered versions of the classic Dragon Warrior games for the Game Boy Color. They released the following.
Dragon Warrior Monsters GBC (December 31, 1999)
Torneko: The Last Hope PS1 (November 15, 2000)
Dragon Warrior I & II GBC
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 GBC (September 15, 2001)
Dragon Warrior III GBC (July 7, 2001)
Dragon Warrior VII PS1 (November 1, 2001)
Once again, keep in mind the PlayStation 2 was released on October 26th, 2000 in North America. The game had little to no chance of success in this region, and as such as a colossal sales flop. That was the last people would hear of Enix USA, as Enix and Square would eventually merge, becoming Square-Enix.
Most Dragon Quest fans refer to the period between 1992 to 1997 as the series’ dark age. It was during these years where Final Fantasy went from being somewhat obscure, to becoming the king of the RPG genre. Square also became a household name thanks to Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan), Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and mostly thanks to the PS1’s Final Fantasy VII. By not giving up and sticking it out through the tough times, Square became the major RPG player, simply because there was no one else competing. I stand by what I said all those years ago, that had Enix stuck through the SNES era, Dragon Quest would be ten times more popular today than it is.
After Dragon Warrior VII, Square-Enix would switch the series’ name back to its original Japanese name, Dragon Quest, with the release of Dragon Quest VIII. For the majority of players out there, this would be their introduction to the series. It was released on November 15th, 2005 for the PlayStation 2, and was vastly superior to the Japanese version in almost every way imaginable. It remains not only one of the very best games in the series, but one of the very best RPGs ever made. It’s a modern classic that really shouldn’t be missed. Steven wrote a review for it that shouldn’t be missed either.
After 2005 the series saw a resurgence in North America, thanks to a publishing partnership between Nintendo and Square-Enix. Here’s a quick list of all the games that were released after 2005.
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime DS (September 19, 2006)
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker DS (November 6, 2007)
Dragon Quest Swords Wii (February 19, 2008)
Dragon Quest IV DS (September 16, 2008)
Dragon Quest V DS (February 17, 2009)
Dragon Quest Wars DSi (September 28, 2009)
Dragon Quest IX DS (July 11, 2010)
Dragon Quest VI DS (February 14, 2011)
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 DS (September 19, 2011)
If you weren’t into the series from 2005 to 2011, you really missed out. I personally thought these years were the absolute best for DQ fans in North America. After all, we were getting one new entry every single year, including spin-offs. While it wasn’t all rosy, we missed Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko’s Great Adventure 3: Mystery Dungeon on the PS2 in 2006, Dragon Quest: Monster Battle Road Victory on the Wii in 2010, Rocket Slime 3 on the 3DS in 2011, Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Collection on the Wii in 2011, Dragon Quest X on the Wii in 2012, and most recently the remake of Dragon Quest VII on the 3DS, which was released this past February. I suppose one could add the Dragon Quest X port on the Wii U to the list as well, which was released in March.
One needs to understand that these games do indeed take a long time to translate, and therefore require a substantial amount of capital to localize. Square-Enix won’t bring over a game they’re sure will bomb, but I must admit I’m very surprised a game like Rocket Slime 3 wasn’t announced for the 3DS. It’s not an RPG, and wouldn’t require as many funds to localize. Dragon Quest X, I fully understand not making it outside of Japan, which I’ll get to in another article. It’s an MMO, and one that was designed from the ground up to introduce Japanese gamers to the wonderful world of MMOs. The core mechanics wouldn’t work outside Japan as they currently are. Couple that with the fact the Wii was already dead in North America by 2012 and that’s just not a good mix. I was personally disappointed when I found out about the Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Collection because I knew no one would bother releasing it outside of Japan, even though the translation work was already done by Enix USA when they released the GBC remakes of the first three parts. The one I’m most worried about now is DQ VII.
At this year’s E3 Nintendo didn’t mention anything about localizing the latest DQ remake, and we’ve since found out that the publishing partnership between Nintendo and Square-Enix has ended, meaning what the future holds for the series outside of Japan is no longer clear. It has already been two years without a new Dragon Quest game, even though there have been five new releases in Japan if we include titles released in 2011, which I do because those would have been announced for 2012 in North America given the translation time.
Square-Enix is now moving Dragon Quest X to Japanese PCs this September, and yet again, no word on a global release. While I suppose it’s possible, in its current state it would be a financial disaster to do so. The game needs to be completely reworked from the ground up if it hopes to achieve global success. Think A Realm Reborn type of alterations. So where does this leave the series outside Japan? Do you think we’ll hear of a DQ VII release sometime in the next year? Do you think DQ X will see a global release? Where do you think DQ XI will find its home? I have no answer to these questions, but I do hope we don’t have to wait another five years before we see a new Dragon Quest in North America.