Chronicle of a Quarter Century

November 28, 2011 - 6:29 pm No Comments

While I can’t say that I’ve overly enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Japan, I can say there have been moments when I was overjoyed to be here. The Tokyo Game Show. The Akihabara (aka. Electric City). School girl outfits… eh, sorry, off topic there.

I recently took a trip back to Rapongi. I hadn’t been there since 2007 when I first arrived here in Japan. We came across the Mori Art Museum advertisement and I saw the poster for “The Dragon Quest Chronicle of a Quarter Century” and I immediately said out loud, “Oh, I’ve GOT to see this.” Something like ¥6000 later for my family of four, we were looking at gaming history. Hit the jump to read about my journey through 25 years of Dragon Quest history.

Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary:

Chronicle of a Quarter Century

 

The Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary exhibit is on the 52nd floor of the Rapongi Hills Mori Tower in the Mori Art Museum, inside Tokyo. This is the place many people go to get a breathtaking city view of Tokyo and, specifically, the famous Tokyo Tower, as well as the art exhibits. At the base of the tower is a mall with some of the most expensive shopping this side of Rodeo Drive.

The Dragon Quest exhibit is a retrospective look at the last 25 years of Dragon Quest history. In Japan, it is one of the most adored franchises ever, rivaling even the mighty Pokémon. It is arguably the most popular RPG in Japan; it is easily the most fanatic. In the past, Dragon Quest release days have become nearly a national day of holiday, with millions of units sold in the first days of release. Dragon Quest IX sold near 3 million copies in the first two days of release in Japan! The exhibition was an homage to the fact that Dragon Quest has become a Japanese cultural icon.

Dragon Warrior, As It Were

Old timers may remember a game called Dragon Warrior. It was one of the first RPGs on the Nintendo released in the USA. That was actually Dragon Quest; it was renamed in the US to avoid copyright infringements. By 2002, Square Enix had trademarked Dragon Quest and all future (and previously unreleased) games held the title.

I remember playing Dragon Warrior as a small child. It was my first experience with a JRPG, before even Final Fantasy. The Blue Slime will forever be a symbol of my childhood; the exhibition brought the Blue Slime and his ilk to my young children who are still not quite old enough to play RPGs (at 5 years old, reading becomes the roadblock). But these slimes, lovingly referred to as “Drippy,” will now take up a part of their childhood memories even before they see their first Dragon Quest, which will undoubtedly be Dragon Quest X.

On To the Exhibition

Okay, so enough of memory lane. The exhibition was a no-photography zone for the most part. At strategic points through the chronological journey, life-size displays of classic Dragon Warrior enemies were set up for photos. You can view these in the gallery below. As expected, the Slimes are predominant in the exhibition, given they are the most recognizable figure of the Dragon Quest series, much like the Chocobo to the Final Fantasy games.

As you travel through the exhibition, the walls are adorned with screenshots, concept art, and post-rendered images of the Dragon Quest series, from I to IX. As you travel through the displays, there are screens showing the games being played by “computer-controlled” phantoms. It truly throws you back to the days of top-down 8-bit dungeon crawling. As you venture through, the newer games bring with them higher quality images, even more detailed concept artwork, and even real lithographs of Dragon Quest scenes. To say the game has eclipsed just being a game is an understatement.

After passing the latest Dragon Quest, number IX, you enter a small room with a man dressed as a wizard. Volunteers are selected (since this was all in Japanese, unfortunately I could only watch the show). These four people were each given a weapon, and suddenly they were attacked by a random monster! After the four warriors stood victorious over the corpses of many dead monsters, a giant dragon attacked. While the previous enemies were merely figments on a gigantic projected display, the dragon was fully animatronic complete with sound effects and fire breath (the fire wasn’t real, sadly. Safety first)! The show ended with a victory over the dragon.

With the dragon slain, we entered into a media center, with hand-drawn examples of concept art compared directly to what made it into the game. It was great to see how close the latest Dragon Quest games so closely resembled exactly what the artist had created. After the art was music, with the title screen music playing gallantly while actual records containing the music from the games were on display.

The next room was where history really came to terms with reality. Famicoms lined a wall. Yes, Famicom – that dinosaur that pre-dates the North American NES! I finally played Dragon Quest I – not Dragon Warrior – for the first time ever. On the original hardware. Glorious! Each game in the series was there to be played on its original Japanese hardware. My kids showed me you don’t need to know how to read to beat down the Blue Slime. “Just press this button [the A button] a lot and you win,” one of them said to me, clearly an instant expert on the game.

Dragon Quest X: the Future is Online

Finally, the final room of the exhibition was a giant display with an official Japanese trailer of the next Dragon Quest, number X. If any information about the next Dragon Quest was given, it was in Japanese. The only information released so far is that Dragon Quest X will cross multiple platforms (the Wii and the WiiU) and it will be an online game. Online. Sweet mother.

 

To say the experience was euphoric would be fair – while I didn’t play most of the Dragon Quest games, just getting to reminisce on the game that was single-handedly responsible for me becoming a RPG junkie was exciting, and to share it with my family over 5,000 miles away from home was incredible. The cost was well worth it; if you happen to be visiting or living in Japan, do not miss the opportunity to view the exhibit.

Oh, bring gold to the gift shop… everything sells in gold! 2,000 gold for the Teeny Sanguine in my photo! (They do exchange Yen for gold, if you forget to bring any – an even 1-for-1 swap, what a deal!)

Now… enjoy the gallery!

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