Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age has just released in Japan, and in the same day we got official word via Square Enix that we’re also getting an official English release in the West. It’s a great day for Dragon Quest fans, but an even better one for players who have never experienced a Dragon Quest game before. It’s a great time to get into the series before the latest installment drops in 2018. If you’re looking for a quick taste of where you can start, here are three excellent Dragon Quest adventures that you can’t miss out on. No matter what console you plan on playing on, whether you’re interested in handheld affairs or console updates, these should scratch that hardcore JRPG itch.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
This plot-heavy adventure followed the plight of a race of angelic beings known as the Celestrians, and players take up a brand new guardian of a village named Angel Falls. Throughout the course of the game you eventually lose your powers as a Celestrian, and are instead forced to help out humans and others in need to return to their own world and possibly regain your powers as an ex-Celestrian. It’s an intriguing and surreal adventure that’s quite unlike the rest of the Dragon Quest adventures, and one with plenty of twists and turns to keep you busy. It combined both first and third-person perspectives for its turn-based battles with satisfying combos and the tension system originally introduced in Dragon Quest VIII as well. If you’re tired of the same amnesiac/“chosen one” tropes in so many other RPGs, you’d do well to check this entry out.
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
This Dragon Quest spans multiple generations, which makes it one of the most engaging stories out of the series, at least to me. Starting off as a six-year-old boy who grows up forced to become a slave after his father dies, the adventure kicks off with an austere premise. There are several intertwining stories to keep track of as beloved characters pass away (without spoiling too much of the game) and plenty of interesting side quests to undertake that all weave into the main narrative. This entry was also important as it introduced the monster recruitment system, where you could convince monsters to join your party after defeating them in battle, something that later games would eventually adopt. It’s a thrilling story, to be sure, and you should take the time to experience it.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
If you’ve heard of the Dragon Quest series in passing, chances are you’ve heard about this one, as it released on PlayStation 2 back in 2005 to critical acclaim. It was later ported to mobile devices and 3DS, and it’s one of the most accessible entries you can pick up and play. As the hero of the game you’ll be tasked with breaking the spell that a kingdom’s nefarious court jester has placed on the castle, which has transformed the king and princess into a troll and a horse, respectively. Along the way you meet several party members like mage Jessica and bandit Yangus, colorful characters that make traversing the enormous game world a delight. Like the rest of the Dragon Quest games, Akira Toriyama’s character designs really make the rest of the game shine, but the updated cel-shaded graphics make them even more noticeable with this title. If you’re looking for a classic Dragon Quest to start with, this is a great one to choose.