Dragon Quest was released on May 27, 1986 for the original Famicom. In two years the series will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Japan. In America, however, there is a huge gap between launches. Dragon Quest was released in 1989 with the August issue of Nintendo Power as part of a promotional deal. The name was also changed to Dragon Warrior due to legal reasons. Needless to say this writer will do a proper celebration when DQ does turn 30, but let's reflect on Dragon Warrior's 25 years of influence in the west for now.
It needs to be noted that RPG games were not that popular in the west other than to niche PC crowds at this point. Nintendo was nervous about bringing over DQ, which is why they struck a deal with Enix to include the game with their magazine. It reached a mass audience and introduced many gamers to the concept of RPGs. Getting demo discs with magazines like OPM, or EGM was cool enough, but imagine getting a full game.
However, even with this initial start, the series never hit the same note Final Fantasy did in the west. So why has Final Fantasy struck hearts stronger in the west and why is DQ more niche? Based off of this writer's opinions, there are various reasons to look at.
For starters story isn’t the selling point of the series. Progressively it’s gotten better, but they’re mostly simple adventures with cliché plotlines. Another hiccup conjoined with this is that most of the games localized in the west were translated into Middle English making them harder to decipher.
For an example, let’s look at the Dragon Quest IV remake on the DS, which was this writer’s first DQ game. Again, not a great story, but the gameplay, while a bit archaic, was still good. This is the key that holds the series together: gameplay. The peak of which is DQIX, one of this guy’s favorite games of all time.
So do westerners crave story over gameplay and is that why Final Fantasy is more popular in the west? Regardless of its popularity, Dragon Quest, or Warrior, is a timeless treasure. It paved the way for what RPGs would become and is an important part of video game history.