Dragon Quest V at 30
It's one of the good ones, folks.
Marc Normandin writing for Paste:
Why it was never localized for the SNES was shrouded in some secrecy for a time, but over the years, hints and evidence have emerged. In a 2014 interview at Gaming Moe with Robert Jerauld, a producer for Enix of America in the early ‘90s, he recalled that it was deemed “ too expensive” by Enix of Japan to localize Dragon Quest V—in fact, they were so sure it was never happening that the planned Dragon Warrior V in North America would have actually been Dragon Quest VI in Japan, but the closure of Enix of America kept that from occurring, despite it, per Jerauld, actually being localized and ready to go. What made Dragon Quest V more expensive to localize than the four preceding NES titles, and the other SNES one that did get the localization treatment? Apparently, it was something in the game’s programming itself that was causing problems.
Those of you who listen to Into the Aether have heard Stephen and I evangelize for Dragon Quest as a franchise, specifically for Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. In the process of playing over 150 Nintendo DS games in the year-long lead-up to our episode about the handheld it became clear that Dragon Quest V was not only one of the best games on the system, but might also be one of the greatest games of all time — at the very least in the realm of RPGs. Normandin's piece for Paste about the game's 30th anniversary¹ specifically shines a fascinating light on why it received such a limited release outside of Japan and is absolutely worth a read.
While Dragon Quest V was eventually released globally for the Nintendo DS, that specific port has also been ported to, and is currently available for, iOS and Android. As of right now the mobile ports are the only legal and reasonably-priced ways of playing the game, for better or for worse. I'm obviously thrilled to be able to share a game I love this dearly with others I love just as dearly on the devices they already own, but it would be nice to see Square Enix revitalize their classics in ways that don't always end up as HD-2D ground-up remakes. I was hopeful we might see some kind of collection come to Switch after the release of Dragon Quest I, II, and III launched in 2019, but it appears that subsequent entries will remain in limbo for retro resellers to price at frighting rates for the foreseeable future, effectively locking many out of experiencing some of the series' best until Square Enix makes a move.
I did enjoy the Live A Live remake and I'm sure the upcoming Dragon Quest III remake will be spectacular, but I just want to play these games at all more than I want to play them as new and shiny mid-budget rereleases. To quote Normandin again:
Could Dragon Quest V be far behind with its own HD-2D remake? Will it finally get the moment it deserves in the spotlight? It won’t — can’t — because the moment where it could have been the game that helped make Dragon Quest hugely popular in North America, too, is now three decades past.
For now Dragon Quest V will continue on as a relic for those who seek it out, and when they do they'll be rewarded with one of the most earnest and moving stories the medium has ever told. In the meantime, I wonder how well that fan translation for the PlayStation 2 version runs on the Steam Deck...
¹ I also turned 30 this year. Coincidence??? Follow the money, dear reader.