A couple weeks ago the first three Dragon Quest games, colloquially referred to as the Erdrick trilogy, were released on Switch. To get the most out of the collection it’s best to experience all three games, whether you’re an older gamer seeking a nostalgia fix or a younger player who was introduced to the series from a more recent entry and is curious about how Dragon Quest started. Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest II and Dragon Quest III each have their own charms to them and are worthy of any RPG fan’s attention, but if you don’t want to dive into all three games and only want to check out one that one is Dragon Quest III.
All three games deal with the legendary hero Erdrick in some capacity but each game’s story is self contained. There’s overarching lore across the three titles and moments that will be more greatly appreciated by people who played them in their proper order. Dragon Quest III is actually a prequel so chronologically it makes sense as a starting point, though playing the games in chronological story order will give the appearance of a huge regression in gameplay mechanics between the third and first game. Also, by virtue of it being developed after a couple years of tech advances and success of the first two games, the story is the most elaborate and fleshed out in the third game.
Replaying all three games for their reviews was enjoyable but there are doubts about how engaging someone would find the first two games if they played them for the first time today, especially if they were already familiar with RPGs. The importance and influence they had in the Dragon Quest franchise and RPGs in general is undeniable, but playing the games in order and examining them in their historical context creates a sense that Dragon Quest III is the end point of what the first game was going for as far as the feeling of exploring a vast fantasy world. The first two games were the necessary evolutionary steps in reaching this.
Each game is given a different price point which is unusual for retro re-releases but the differences between them make sense in this case. Dragon Quest III costs more than the total cost of the first two but you’ll spend more time completing it than the first two combined and get more enjoyment from it. The amount of monsters, towns, areas to explore and conquer and boss battles are vastly greater in the third entry. It’s a 31-year-old game and shows signs of its antiquity but the flow of the game’s progressive and effort into creating a detailed story and living world is more inline with what players would expect of modern JRPGs. The job system of building your ideal party, the day and night cycle, searching the world for mini medals, discovering locations patterned after real world cultures and going on an epic archfiend slaying quest makes for a great gameplay experience.
The main appeal with these type of re-releases is to tap into the nostalgia market, and if that’s the reason all these games are worth playing. They’re also worth checking out for new fans for the history, with some franchises getting into multiple decades in age it can be interesting to go back and check out how a favorite series began if you didn’t get into until later on. Zelda, Castlevania, Mario, Final Fantasy, Contra, Ys, Metal Gear and so on were all very different games twenty to thirty years ago than they are now but some of them hold up surprisingly well. But with so many games it can be an unrealistic goal to go back to play every single entry in a series, regardless of how historically interesting it may be. For Dragon Quest fans who didn’t begin with the NES titles, this trilogy is worth your time but if you only feel like playing through one Dragon Quest, start with the third one.