3 Reasons Dragon Quest is Better than Final Fantasy
I've played many, many different JRPGs in my time. Some well known, others not so much. In the West, I believe one series that deserves more attention from more gamers is the Dragon Quest series.
Both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy helped define the JRPG genre. Providing gamers with magical fantasy worlds and turn-based combat that suck you in for hours. So, here are a few reasons I think Dragon Quest is the better of the two, and why it deserves more notoriety.
This is one of the places I believe Dragon Quest shines. Unlike the majority of Final Fantasy titles which have no involvement with one another. The majority of the Dragon Quest series is based on continuing tales. Characters can be descendants of others from previous games, or have items from previous games play important roles in another. This gives a nice feeling of familiarity between each one. That isn't to say every title in the series is interlinked. It's just that in opposition of Final Fantasy's design of creating a new world and expanding upon popular ones. Dragon Quest tries to keep a timeline for the series and has a few games that aren't related to others.
Each iteration of the game feels like it's expanding on an already vast world. Playing through them in order is like having a humongous story unfold. However, the stories that aren't directly related to any others are still very solid.
I'll use Dragon Quest VIII for this because it's one of my favorites. The quest you embark on starts simple enough. There's a hideous looking green creature, a horse and their guard. There is a king and the horse is his daughter. The two of them have been afflicted by a terrible curse cast upon his kingdom by Dhoulmagus.
You play as the guard, whose mission is freeing the king and his daughter from the curse. By doing so you traverse across vast plains and mountains meeting your additional party members -- each of whom have been, or eventually are, wronged by Dhoulmagus themselves. This all hits an apparent climax when you return to the kingdom that it all started at. Here you have your final battle with Dhoulmagus, but not everything is as it seems.
There have been a lot of wonderful characters in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy 15 is a nice return to that too. However, over the recent releases the series has been marred by boring, shallow or completely unlikable characters. Each new one getting progressively worse too. Here's looking at you XIII and all it's successors.
This is why Dragon Quest and it's "play it safe," characters are just a bit better to me. Excluding the main character who is often a voiceless insert for the player, which itself works in the favor of Dragon Quest making it a more immersive experience. The supporting cast is where it shines though.
I'll continue to use VIII for this section as well. The additional members to the party are some of the best in my opinion. Yangus, the former bandit who forms a bond that runs as deep as blood with the main character whom he calls "Guv" (short for governor). Despite not being the smartest of fellows, he does everything he can to help the hero and his friends. Jessica, who despite being from a wealthy family and trained to act like a proper lady decides that just isn't for her. Instead she chooses to be a tough as nails go-getter adept in using whips and sorcery. Lastly we have Angelo, one of the churches templar knights. Despite being a holy knight, he has a lust for gambling and women and although he can be condescending or indifferent at times he proves to be a dependable ally. Dragon Quest opts for a smaller cast of more fleshed out and diversified characters and it's a nice change of pace from Final Fantasy's eight-person party.
This one may seem like a small reason. I think it's definitely important to note though. A combat system can make or break a JRPG. Dragon Quest pretty much created the idea of turn-based combat in RPGs that we know and love. In fact many other things that Final Fantasy has had in its games came from Dragon Quest. Classes, jobs, beast mastery and others were things introduced in Dragon Quest and later Final Fantasy. While Final Fantasy has tried to shake things up recently. Final Fantasy XII and XIII were probably the biggest offenders of this. XII created an almost MMO like battle system that many thought was too slow and cumbersome. XIII tried to fix that with a "fast," battle system that required minimal thought. Both of them failed to different halves of Final Fantasy's audience.
Dragon Quest meanwhile has played it safe and benefited. Taking the system it created all those years ago and refining it. Maybe trying something new here or there, but largely staying the same. Why fix what ain't broken? Basically.
Honestly though, both of these series are amazing for their own unique reasons. It's like the cliche expression "apples to oranges." Yeah you can compare the two, but the experience you have with either is going to be extremely different and enjoyable. With either series you're going to get a magical world to explore, enemies to defeat and characters to grow attached to. Not every game in either series is going to be everyone's cup of tea. But I can guarantee each series has at least one or two entries that you'll fall in love with.
Have you played Dragon Quest more than Final Fantasy? Which do you think is the better series? Let me know in the comments below!