Square Enix is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dragon Quest at the upscale Roppongi Hills shopping center. The Mori Art Museum, situated 52 stories in the sky, has an exhibition of Dragon Quest art.
Posters for the Dragon Quest Chronicle of a Quarter Century gallery and Metabolism, an architectural exhibit also at the museum, guided adventurers to the front door.
The first thing I saw when I stepped inside was a giant Slime Tower!
The entrance awaits!
An attendee let me choose a flyer either warrior, martial artist, mage or priest when I stepped inside. Giant tiles with screenshots of Dragon Quest I – IX greeted me inside along with artwork of each game’s main characters. There were statues of classic monsters like Slime Knights, Hammerhoods, Golems, and a hidden Metal Slime.
I stood in line to wait for a live event and was ushered into a stage with a group of Dragon Quest fans. A host dressed like a jester led the show and started by opening a huge treasure chest on stage – surprise it was a mimic! He opened a door revealing weapons for the warrior, martial artist, mage, and priest.
He asked the audience to raise their flyer if they were a warrior and selected someone to play that role. A martial artist, mage, and priest were picked too. Each "player" was handed one of the weapons before the huge screen showed the Dragonlord with a Dragon Quest 1 interface. The host asked the warrior to thrust his sword (the guy did this with gusto) and the Dragonlord took damage. While the show appeared interactive, it was really a video with flashing lights for spell effects when the mage timidly raised her wand. After the Dragonlord was defeated the screen raised revealing a giant purple dragon to fight. The four heroes from the audience "fought" it, but it required everyone in the audience to deal the final blow by making a spirit bomb motion.
Right after the show, I moved into another gallery that opened with an ’80s tube TV running Dragon Quest. The room was decorated with an old heater, tape player, and cassettes spilling out of the TV stand. Dragon Quest tip guides and old manga were scattered on the floor. Famicom Dragon Quest carts were scattered on a table that barely stood off the ground. A notebook with childlike sketches of slimes and chimera sealed the atmosphere. This was a nostalgic portrait of a Dragon Quest fan. Dragon Quest creator Yujii Hori’s works were right behind. Boxes of PC games like Love Match Tennis and The Case of the Portopia Serial Murders were on display.
The best part of the exhibit was plastered in no photography signs (sorry!), so I’ll try to describe it. After the line up of games, there was a gallery of monster concept art with colored drawings of creatures from Dragon Quest I to VI. Many of the main monsters – golems, chimera, hydra, molemen, and so on were there. The pictures were organized in chronological order with monsters from later games appearing at the end. There was a break in the drawings to show off the music of Dragon Quest. Chiptunes played in the background and sheet music was on display. Next to it was a collection of Dragon Quest CDs, cassettes, vinyl records from the late 80s and a lone Symphonic Suite mini-disc. Seeing Enix put Dragon Quest music on a MD was news to me.
The next loop gave attendees a look at the development of Dragon Quest. There were even earlier sketches of monsters like the iconic slime who didn’t always have a giant grin. Or eyes. The initial design was a glop of mud. Actually, many monsters from Dragon Quest initially had a realistic style. A chimera sketch felt more like a dragon with a snake tail, the skeleton was armor-less, and ghosts appeared more menacing as a shadow with fangs. The heroes from Dragon Quest II didn’t always have a cutesy art style either. Instead of being super deformed, an early version of the characters were proportionally drawn humans.
Another display gave us a look at programming a rebalancing. There was a huge chart of various monsters and the amount of gold and experience they rewarded players with. For Dragon Quest, it appears the team wanted to make it harder to level up. At one time, slimes were supposed to give out three gold pieces. This was crossed out and a 2 was written in. Trolls gave more experience too 15 instead of 10. Moving through the exhibit there were binders supposedly full of Dragon Quest design docs, which we couldn’t open those.
Another display showed "rare" Dragon Quest collectables like Dragon Quest party fun books, a membership card to the official Dragon Quest fan club (imagine a gold colored credit card, but Dragon Quest branded), a birthday card Enix sent to fans with a goodybag on it, the Guinness Book of World records certificate for Dragon Quest IX’s record for the most chance encounters, and sealed copies of all the NES Dragon Warrior games.
The next room was loaded with merchandise and playable Dragon Quest games. At least when I went, fans were more interested in the classic Dragon Quest games. On person said "Ooh Famicom!" and rushed over to play Dragon Quest II.
This is the Dragon Quest X section. Nah, there wasn’t anything playable. Square Enix showed the same trailer, which was surrounded by cardboard cutouts.
Ludia’s Bar was right outside the exhibit. Well, a makeshift version. The official Ludia’s Bar is a ten minute walk away from the exhibit.
A slime meat bun approaches! They had oteher Dragon Quest themed food like mini-medal pizzas and Gigantes leg (chicken legs) plus spirits too. Nothing recovers HP like alcohol!
The Dragon Quest museum is really high up!