Dragon Quest IX is finally out, and, as expected, is already stampeding all over the competition in Japan. As a lot of you might know, while Dragon Quest has never been as big as Final Fantasy in the West, it’s in a league entirely of its own in Japan.
Part of the reason for this is that Dragon Quest isn’t just popular with the kiddies and “young adults,” it’s also popular with the oldies…of which there is a significant amount in Japan. Dragon Quest transcends age, profession and gaming habits. It’s bigger than Wii Sports and Wii Fit.
Let’s take a look at the general reaction on the streets to DQIX. Ninety nine people from a broad spectrum of age groups were asked to take a brief questionnaire regarding the series at various stores that were selling the game in the Akihabara, Yurakucho, Shinjuku and Ikebukuro districts. These were the questions:
1. What are your feelings about purchasing DQIX?
2. Out of DQs I-VIII, which is your favourite?
3. What other games are you playing at present?
Below are some of the answers. Age and profession are included to help give you an idea of the kind of people that are buying the game.
Female, 24 years (Part-time worker):
A1: I’m happy I was able to get the new DQ, which I’ve been waiting and waiting for. I’m going to play it as soon as I get home.
A2: I liked Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride the best.
A3: I’m playing old games on the Wii Virtual Console.
Male, 26 years (Model):
A1. I’ve been playing DQIX whenever I go to my friend’s house, so I’ve seen it as an example, and so I just kind of lined up to buy it. As such, I think my anticipation level’s a bit different from the people around me (laughs).
A2. I haven’t played any other ones before.
A3. Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G on PSP
Male, 30 years (Office worker):
A1. I thought it would be sold out, so I’m happy I managed to buy one. I’m going to play it asap once I get home.
A2. I’ve played the whole series, but I especially like Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride.
A3. I’m playing Ace Attorney Investigations on the DS.
Female, 63 years (Author):
A1. I’ve been playing the DQ series since the first installment, so i’m looking forward to this release, too.
A2. I like Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen.
A3. Ace Attorney Investigations, 3D Picross and Shin Sangoku Musou.
Female, 31 years (Civil servant):
A1. I want to go home quickly to play this.
A2. My favourite is Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride.
A3. I haven’t been playing any games lately.
Female, 41 years (Housewife):
A1. I came to buy it for my son.
A2. I played it recently and so it’s still fresh in my mind, so my favorite right now is Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.
A3. I’m playing various games on the DS and Wii.
Male, 18 years (Highschool student):
A1. I’m happy to have bought it. I look forward to battling with monsters.
A2. Dragon Quest III and Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride.
A3. I’m not playing anything else at the moment.
Female, 36 years (Housewife)
A1. I’m buying it as a gift.
A2. I’ve played every game in the series, but I like Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride best.
A3. I’m not playing anything.
Male, 37 years (Office worker)
A1. I’ve played the whole series, so I thought I’d continue with the newest addition, too.
A2. The first one, Dragon Quest.
A3. Other than the DQ series, nothing really.
Female, 25 years (Apparel store employee)
A1. I want to enjoy it during break with everyone at work. As a side note, my coworkers are all getting DQIX, too.
A2. I like Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.
A3. I’m in the middle of playing Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G on the PSP.
Male, 51 years (Office worker)
A1. I didn’t think I’d be able to buy it, so I’m happy I was able to.
A2. I love Dragon Quest III.
3. Currently, nothing.
Male, 23 Years (Office worker)
A1. After thinking about it, I’ve decided. It’s a “YATTA!!” kind of feeling.
A2. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie.
A3. The Winning Eleven series.
Female, 30 years (Actress)
A1. I got up early to line up, so I’m tired.
A2. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen.
A3. The Final Fantasy series.
Female, 32 years (Part-time worker)
A1. I want to play it with my boyfriend.
A2. I haven’t played any before.
A3. I’m not playing anything right now.
Lots of older women on that list. As you’ve probably guessed, yes, Dragon Quest is something even non-gamers in Japan seem to play. Compared to games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit, it looks like Dragon Quest is every bit as capable of bringing back lapsed gamers. It would also seem that it was wise of Square to include a co-op multiplayer feature, as that seems to be the draw for certain people.
Point of interest: if you think back to the DQX announcement, you’ll remember Satoru Iwata was at the event and has, on numerous occasions, pledged marketing support from Nintendo to help spread awareness of the game once it releases, both in Japan and in the West. That’s likely not only because of how big the series is, but also because it’s exactly the kind of game that easily straddles the core/casual line in Japan, while satisfying both audiences.
It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens when Dragon Quest X releases on the Wii, given the nature of the system’s audience. What direction will the series take? Will it do better than Dragon Quest IX?
Notes: 1. Big thanks to Laura for her help with translating and bearing with me while I wrote this up.
2. We tried to pay attention to and accurately represent the tone of people’s answers in English. Also, any time you see “DQ” instead of “Dragon Quest,” the person said “Dorakue,” which is how the Japanese shorten the series title. We’ve also used the English titles for all games mentioned.
3. As Laura pointed out to me earlier, Dragon Quest V seems to be the FFVII of the series. Since DQV just got a remake on the DS, it might be a good jump in point for people new to the series.
4. What you see here is just a few responses. Head over to Gpara for more if you’re interested. Google Translate should help you understand the majority of the responses.