If I had a mastermind subject, it would probably be Dragon Quest. Or more specifically, Dragon Quest in the West, in particular localised versions of the game released in Europe. I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours exploring various iterations of the world of Erdrea, collecting Yggdrasil leaves, and grinding liquid metal slimes for XP and gold golems for, well, the gold. And what can I say about the iconic blue slimes you encounter at the start of every game? Slurp, they’re goo-reat.
Like many of us in the UK, my first encounter with Dragon Quest was embarking on an adventure with a nameless, silent hero in Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King. The video game was released on PS2 without any series number attached, because even though it was technically the eighth game in the series, it was the first game in the series to be localized in the UK.
That wasn’t the case for North America, which leads me onto the first fact…
1. It is also known as Dragon Warrior
Unlike the UK, North America has had localised games as far back as the original, simply titled Dragon Quest. However, many Americans will recognize it by another name: Dragon Warrior. When the publisher of Dragon Quest in Japan, then known as Enix, decided to localize the first game in North America in 1989, three years after its initial release in Japan, they hit a significant roadblock. A wargame publisher called Simulations Publications had a popular pen-and-paper RPG with the same name. To avoid infringing the trademark Simulations had for “Dragon Quest”, the game was released in North America as Dragon Warrior. It was only around the time Enix merged with Square Co to become Square Enix that they registered their own trademark for Dragon Quest, which was almost twenty years after Dragon Quest’s was first released in North America.
2. Not every game is available in the UK
As a fan, it delights me to no end when a localisation is announced, like the recent release of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, which I’ve completed twice. Out of the eleven main series games, only ten are available in the UK, with the first three games only being made available on mobile or iOs devices a few years ago. Notably, the missing main-series game is Dragon Quest X, a massively multiplayer online game that will potentially never be localised because it requires local servers. The last time Square Enix released a game in the UK that required servers, Dragon Quest IX, it subsequently shut them down. The multiplayer element was only part of that game, but it’s a good indication that we won’t be getting an MMO anytime soon. It was recently announced that an offline version of the game will be released, but only in Japan. Time will tell if the offline version makes it to the West, along with localsations of other games not available in the UK, like Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3.
3. There are two Jessica’s
One of the Dragon Quest games with two different UK versions is my first love, Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King, which was re-released on 3DS in 2017 as Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. A playable main-party character in the game is Jessica Albert, a feisty redheaded spellcaster whose increasingly offensive spells help the party out of many tight spots. Voiced impeccably by voice actress Emma Ferguson in the PS2 version, many fans expected her to reprise her role in the 3DS adaptation 15 years later. Taking many fans by surprise, she did not return to the role in the re-release or any subsequent spin-offs including the character. Instead, Jaimi Barbakoff replaced her. There’s speculation Ferguson quit acting altogether to raise a family with her husband, Take That singer Mark Owens, which is evidenced by her lack of acting credits since 2006. The PS2 version of Jessica remains the only version voiced by Ferguson, with all subsequent voice acting done by Barbakoff.
In the UK, the Dragon Quest franchise is nowhere near as popular as Square Enix’ other franchise, Final Fantasy. But in Japan, the Dragon Quest franchise can be found almost everywhere. In Akihabara, Japan, there’s a convenience store called Lawson, which collaborated with Dragon Quest in 2015 to be fully branded with the iconic logo and blue slimes across its shop front. Inside, there’s a dragon quest ATM, amulet making machine, and loads of merchandise including t-shirts, sweets, caps, umbrellas and more. The décor is fully Dragon Quest themed too. A Dragon Quest-themed bar and cafe called Luida’s Bar in Tokyo serves themed drinks and food, décor and memorabilia to blow the socks off any fan. It couldn’t have been clearer just how popular it is when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics included Dragon Quest Roto’s theme in its opening ceremony. For fans like me, it’s a dream.
5. There’s even a Dragon Quest statue
Dragon Quest celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016, by putting on one hell of a show in Japan, which included concerts and a museum, while we in the UK got the Dragon Quest Builders localisation. Most notably, an entire statue was erected in homage to the series. Featuring the legendary Roto’s sword and shield, as well as the recognisable blue slime that greets you at the start of every adventure. If you don’t recognise the name Roto, there’s a good reason. When the games were localised, the legendary hero was renamed Erdrick, so you might better recognise the sword and shield as belonging to Erdrick, whose name pops up in almost every game at some point. The statue is found in Sumoto, Japan, where the creator of Dragon Quest, Yuji Horii, was born. It’s become a highly visited spot by fans from across the world.
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