Since my family did not own a Famicom when we first moved to Japan, I would find any excuse to go over to a friend’s place to hijack their system(s) for a few hours.
Some games were easy enough to figure out (like Super Mario Bros. or Elevator Action), while others remained a mystery in my mind. Since my friends often had different games in their collections, I would work my way through their entire collection just to see what each game was like.
More than likely, that’s when I first came across Dragon Quest III. I could read a bit of Japanese, but not enough to figure out how the game worked. I was persistent in plugging the game into the console just to see what it was about, but it just didn’t appeal to me.
It wasn’t until I had spent several years in the culture and I was bored enough to take Dragon Quest V (for the Super Famicom) on a test run that I finally understood the allure of Japanese RGPs. Doubtless, I’ve talked about that on this blog already.
Eventually, it would lead me to go back and play earlier games in the series, including Dragon Quest III. That’s when I got hooked.
One of the cool things about Dragon Quest III is the ability to customize and register a variety of different characters with varying skills and attributes based on their class. While your party was mostly pre-determined in other games in the series, Dragon Quest III allowed you to construct your own team how you saw fit.
The game also allowed you to change classes later on. For example: a Mage could change over to a Priest, thereby gaining the magic abilities of both classes. The requirements for changing classes were first getting to the Temple of Dharma, and secondly gaining enough experience to reach level 20. Any character that changed classes would start over at level 1, though as I pointed out, they would carry some of their abilities and attributes with them.
Storyline & GameplayAs is the case with many early RPGs, plot points in DQIII would sometimes be ambiguous and the player would have to determine their next logical destination and course of action, either based on information that was hinted at by an NPC, process of elimination, gut instinct or pure luck.
Dragon Quest III is already a classic of sorts, but if there was one thing that would have made it better, it would be giving it a much richer, deeper storyline and engrossing world.
But, as I already pointed out, it’s an early RPG and the developers were still playing with the format, so you have to be somewhat forgiving.
The Addiction Factor
The fact that you could determine your own team was cool enough. It was even cooler that you could register more characters so if you found that having three Goof-offs in your party (only 4 members including the Hero could be active at any time) was not terribly advantageous, you could go back and register a Warrior, Martial Artist, Priest or whatever you saw fit.
Although there certainly is a logical progression to the game, it did have a bit of an open-ended feel. You could spend as much time as you wanted leveling up your various registered characters, earn gold, buy new gear and explore new areas (you could also call it grinding, I guess, but it feels more open-ended here).
Old vs. New
Dragon Quest III was initially released for the Famicom, but Enix did a remake for the Super Famicom as well. Unquestionably, the better release – at least in my humble opinion – was the remake.
While exploring the world map and various dungeons in the original felt slow and clunky, they made it fast and responsive in the remake. Random encounter battles could also be handled more efficiently.
Obviously there are improvements to the graphics and sound quality as well, though that’s to be expected. Additionally, they introduced a new class, the Thief, to this rendition.
Having developed such a smooth and sleek rendition of DQIII, why they went back to a slow, repetitive and clunky system in Dragon Quest VII for the PlayStation is still beyond me. I suppose it had something to do with the 100 hours of gameplay, but I always felt it would never take that long if the game allowed you to move around the maps rapidly and get through random encounters speedily.
Dragon Quest III can be found for the Game Boy Color, though it is a little rare.