Way back in 1986, Enix released what is, in many ways, the most influential role-playing game of all time. The game was Dragon Quest, or as it is known in the US, Dragon Warrior. Before Dragon Quest, many RPGs were overly complex, so with this game the developers aimed to create a game that would be enjoyed by young and old alike. Enix probably never knew how influential its game would be.
Although Dragon Warrior did not find a US release until 1989 on the NES, the game has left many marks that can still be seen on nearly every RPG released today. The simple bitmapped and tiled 2D graphics of Dragon Warrior have been used in countless RPGs to this day. It was not until consoles began dabbling in 3D that RPGs moved away from this graphical approach. The classic top-down perspective is nearly always a dead giveaway of an RPG.
While graphics may be an important part of any game, the story told in an RPG is arguably the most important element. Dragon Warrior introduced the classic story of the damsel in distress and of the hero who is sent to save her and of the villain who stands in his way. In fact, a great number of RPGs offer a very similar story, with only a couple of minor twists and turns. The thought of connecting a story through multiple installments of a series, while making each game its own playable chapter, was also an untapped idea when Dragon Warrior was first released. Finally, the genre introduced us to the turn-based battle system, which is similar to many pen-and-paper role-playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons.
All of these elements have had such an effect on the genre that nearly all Japanese RPGs to date have drawn from the original Dragon Warrior in some shape or form. While series like Final Fantasy garner much more attention, the groundwork was undoubtedly laid by Enix's initial effort.
The Dragon Warrior series has had a huge effect not only on Japanese RPGs but also on Japanese culture in general. Even today, the release of a new chapter in the series is a major event. Fans of the series will line up for days in advance, forsaking school and work just to be one of the first to get their hands on the game.
While a new Dragon Quest game may be a huge cultural event in Japan, it simply isn't the same in the United States. To date, only the first four games in the series have been released in the US, and all of them have been for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Chances are slim that these games will ever be released stateside either. Even so, with every new RPG that is released here, a small part of the original Dragon Warrior is brought along with it.
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