Reviewing a Dragon Quest game from an American standpoint is an interesting prospect. The long-running RPG series is a cultural phenomenon in its native Japan. Those in the Japanese gaming industry consider it Japan’s national game, with new Dragon Quest games selling up to four million copies. The series has received live-action ballet adaptations, and its music has been performed annually in concert halls since 1987. There’s even a bar in Tokyo modeled after Liuda’s Bar from the games, where fans can go to swap stories and collect treasure maps.
Why, then, has this series never caught on in the States? Sadly, there were barriers from the start. The first game in the series had to be released under the title Dragon Warrior for copyright reasons, but Nintendo still thought it could rustle up the same excitement as it did in Japan, promoting the game heavily in its magazine Nintendo Power. Dragon Warrior garnered generally good reviews, but sold so poorly — half a million copies, only a third of the number sold in its homeland — that Nintendo had to resort to giving copies away. Nintendo then decided to let U.S. publishing duties fall to Enix, the studio that created the games. The next three games, also released under the Dragon Warrior moniker, sold less copies combined than the original. Following this, Enix opted not to release any of the Super Famicom DQ’s in the States, eventually shutting down its U.S. operations completely.