dragon quest 3 sfc box front cover

Dragon Quest III/ドラゴンクエストIIIそして伝説へ

dragon quest 3 start screen

Dragon Quest III is the 3rd and final game in the “Loto Trilogy” (Erdrick if you’re playing the western versions of Dragon Quest), originally released for the Famicom/NES. In the same vein as Dragon Quest I and Dragon Quest II, Dragon Quest III was remade exclusively for the Super Famicom in Japan. Unlike the first two games, however, the Dragon Quest III remake adds quite a lot of new content to the game, on top of the already upgraded visuals and audio!

 

Arriving on the SFC just ONE MONTH BEFORE 1997 (for reference, that’s HALF A YEAR AFTER Star Ocean/スターオーシャン, or even more of a shock, TWO MONTHS BEFORE the original version of Final Fantasy VII, Dragon Quest III is one of the last RPG efforts to grace the SFC. Does this mean Dragon Quest III is a mind-blowing game that squeezed the SFC to the absolute limit?

 

Well, if we judge it as a Dragon Quest game, then i’d say it definitely did!

Score – 34/40

Story – 8/10
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Graphics – 9/10
Music – 8.5/10

Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Turn-based)
Platform: Super Famicom
Release Date: JP: December 6th, 1996
Developer: Chunsoft
Publisher: Enix
Length: 25~40 Hours

Dragon Quest 3 SFC/SNES Review

dragon quest 3 box back cover

The back of the original Japanese Super Famicom version box

The Dragon Quest III remake (technically Dragon Quest III: And Then Towards A Legend, if you add the original Japanese subtitle) follows in the footsteps of the Dragon Quest I & II (Dragon Quest 2)/ドラゴンクエストI・II (ドラゴンクエスト2) remake by expanding on the gameplay of the previous entry even further. While the Dragon Quest II remake added a much larger world, naval exploration, teammates, and multiple-enemy encounters, the Dragon Quest III remake takes all of these things and adds even more to the existing systems. The overall increased size of the game aside, this time around they added things such as multi-hit weapons, a boardgame-like mini-game that offers fairly useful prizes, a maximum party-size of 4, enemy attack animations, and last but not least, the brand-new Class System!

dragon quest 3 sfc instruction manual

The game’s instruction manual

Anyone who’s played a Dragon Quest game before knows that Dragon Quest games are basically “JRPG comfort food”. While not particularly a bad thing, players basically know what to expect when playing a Dragon Quest game before they even play it, even all the way up to the current Dragon Quest XI (the same can’t be said for Final Fantasy anymore, that’s just a roll of the dice at this point). As a general rule, Dragon Quest games after II basically all keep the same fundamental systems, while usually adding one really big change gameplay-wise.

dragon quest 3 sfc cartridge

The original SFC cartridge!

In Dragon Quest III’s case, this big gameplay change is the Class System that I mentioned above. I’ll delve into the details a bit more further down in the “Gameplay” section of the review, but to summarize it briefly – you can pick and choose from multiple different classes like Mages, Priests, Fighters, and Thieves, and assign them to up to 3 custom party members. Each class has its own special abilities it can learn, class-specific equipment, and some classes even have passive traits such as Fighters having a higher crit chance that increases per level! This system breaks away from the pre-determined character types introduced back in the second game.

Now that i’ve briefly went over the unique points of Dragon Quest III and what changes to expect when you play it, let’s get onto the actual review!

If you want to see what I thought about the first two Dragon Quest remakes for the SFC, you can find my reviews for them below!

Dragon Quest I & II (Dragon Quest 1)/ドラゴンクエストI・II (ドラゴンクエスト1)
Dragon Quest I & II (Dragon Quest 2)/ドラゴンクエストI・II (ドラゴンクエスト2)

Story

Dragon Quest III’s story arguably plays the most important part in the Loto Trilogy. I can’t go right out and explain why without basically spoiling the entire trilogy, so i’ll have to be vague about a lot of details. Luckily, while the premise of the story is important, the story itself isn’t too involved, to be honest. Like Dragon Quest II, Dragon Quest III’s journey mostly involves going to different towns and solving that particular town’s problem, which means that instead of a long continuous story, you have a start point and an end goal, with a lot of little “side-stories” along the way.

dragon quest 3 town

The party setting out on their adventure!

The game begins with your character inside his or her home within the Kingdom of Aliahan, who’s preparing to go out and find their father, the brave warrior named Ortega. Ortega’s whereabouts are unknown, and the only information you’re given is that Ortega left Aliahan many years ago on a quest to destroy the Demon King Baramos, who resides in his castle in a far away land.

There’s an unfortunate rumor going around that Ortega fell into a volcano while being attacked by monsters. Armed with nothing but knowledge of your father’s goal and a rumor of his death, you and up to 3 other characters of your choice set out and begin your journey!

dragon quest 3 flaming room

A throne room in flames…

That’s basically the main idea of the story in Dragon Quest III. I know the summary was only about 2 short paragraphs long, but that’s how most of the Dragon Quest games are until you hit about 7 or 8. The “each town has its own story” narrative from Dragon Quest II became a main stay in the franchise for around 10-20 years. To confirm that the story itself is rather compact, the Japanese Wikipedia page‘s “Story” section is 4 paragraphs long, and that includes a plot-twist and an explanation of the game’s ending

dragon quest 3 story

The party receiving an ominous message…

The main meat of the game story-wise is the focus on the short stories that happen when you visit a new town. You have things like needing to find an item that transforms you into a monster in order to talk to fairies inside the fairy village, finding a way to wake up sleeping residents inside of a town that’s stuck in eternal night, and finding a shopkeeper’s kidnapped daughter in order to receive an item requested by a king. These are usually fairly short segments which usually take no longer than half an hour or so to complete, so nowadays these would be seen as “side-quests”.

In Dragon Quest, however, these side quests are necessary to continue on with the story, so while they don’t actually have any direct impact on the “main story”, they are technically part of the main story…

The strong point of Dragon Quest III’s story is how it connects to the previous 2 games. If you’ve played Dragon Quest I & II before and payed close attention to the story, you’ll know that the main characters in Dragon Quest II were the descendants of the hero in Dragon Quest I. Dragon Quest III also plays a part within the lineage and timeline of the other two games, and when you start to piece stuff together towards the end of the game, everything from the 3 games all suddenly clicks! It’s definitely a cool reveal, especially when you realize that the original version of the game was released all the way back at the beginning of 1988!

dragon quest 3 castle

Townspeople gathering in front of one of the castles in the game

Overall, the standalone story of Dragon Quest III isn’t really anything to get excited over. To be brutally honest, there’s not a whole lot of story to actually be had if we look specifically at the “main story”. Of course, with the side stories and all that there’s enough going on to FEEL like the game has an over-encompassing story. That’s just how Dragon Quest games tell their stories. You’re a lot more likely to beat the game and think back on a certain town or side story event instead of caring about Ortega’s whereabouts!

Rather than going in and expecting a great standalone story, I absolutely recommend going in looking forward to how the game ties into the previous two games. The connection between the three games is way cooler, and it’s definitely something a fan of any of the first two games should play through til the end and experience!

I know this section ended up being more about me talking ABOUT the story rather than me actually explaining the story…sorry about that. Next, we’ll look at how much the graphics have improved since the Dragon Quest II remake!

Graphics

dragon quest 3 clouds

Dragon Quest III’s graphics look much better than the I and II remakes’. The layer effects are one of the biggest improvements!

While Dragon Quest III definitely looks better than the I and II remake, for the most part the graphic engine feels the same. Even though the game was released at the end of 1996, there’s a lot of similarities compared to the other Dragon Quest games on the SFC (I and II remake, V, and VI). The game does have its own tilesets and sprites, so everything does look and feel original, but in terms of “presentation”, Dragon Quest III shares that classic Dragon Quest feel.

While the overworld and towns might not seem particularly different, Dragon Quest III absolutely has some unique points when it comes to graphics. The biggest thing that will stand out to any old-school Dragon Quest player is the addition of not only spell animations but also enemy attack animations! No longer do you have to deal with reading combat text to figure out what just happened – you can finally see if a monster hit you with a regular attack or if your AoE spell hit certain enemies!

dragon quest 3 battle

A typical battle in the Dragon Quest III remake

You can tell the developers really put a lot of time and effort into the attack and spell animations! I’m not talking about your normal “monster moves forward and moves back” attack animations – wolves will bite you, ogres will swing their clubs around, bats will fly upwards and charge at you. Every monster type has their own unique attack animation, which was basically unheard of back in the 16-bit era as a JRPG!

Spells are done in a similar fashion. Each spell “type” has its own unique spell animation, no recolors going on here! Based on the level of the spell, the animations will change in intensity. Late-game AoE spells will fill the screen with different types of fire, ice, and lightning.

dragon quest 3 magic spell

A high level Ice spell called “Mahyado”. A still screenshot doesn’t do it justice!

For me personally, seeing how intense a spell is is essential to feeling like a magic spell is truly strong. Older Dragon Quest games always just had the damage pop up in the combat log, so for me even if a spell did like 300 or 400 damage, it never “felt right” without some awesome 400 damage worthy spell animation to accompany it. For players out there who feel the same as I do, the Dragon Quest III remake FINALLY fixes this problem!

Animations aside, there’s another thing in Dragon Quest III that will pop out at you right away. There’s a huge variety of battle backgrounds this time around, mostly due to a new game mechanic that was introduced in this version, the Day/Night system. We’ll get into the system a bit more in the “Gameplay” section, but essentially you have Morning/Day/Evening/Night and each timeframe has its own battle background for whatever environment you’re in (field, mountains, forests, sea). This means there’s a whopping 4 different backgrounds for each separate environment type – this is a huge increase from the Dragon Quest II remake!

While the details in the background usually don’t change with time, the color palates always do. For example, when you’re fighting at sea during the day you’ll get a regular ocean background with blue waves and a blue sky. During the evening, however, you’ll see an orange sunset with orange tinted water. At night, you’ll see a purple/blue/black nightsky filled with stars and purple/blue tinted waves. I personally think they did a really great job with these time-based backgrounds way back on the SFC!

Towns and the overworld are mostly unchanged. If you’ve played the first Dragon Quest I & II remake or Dragon Quest V (haven’t played VI yet to compare…), you’ll already know what to expect. This time though, dungeons got a bit of an upgrade compared to the previous remake. Dungeons have a lot more “layers” to them, graphically. Things such as fog and mist are used quite a bit in dungeons, giving them that murky underground feeling, which is always a plus!

dragon quest 3 zoma castle

That trademark 16-bit era Dragon Quest overworld!

This is really noticeable in certain dungeons like the cave next to Zipangu, which looks and feels like the inside of a volcano. With rivers of lava surrounding the rocky passages, you also have a thick red/orange/white “mist” above your characters which I assume is meant to simulate heat. It really adds to the “dungeon experience”, and not only that it really helps certain dungeons stick out from the rest, rather than everything just being a rocky corridor.

Next up, we’ll go over the sheer amount of party sprites this time around. In Dragon Quest I you were limited to just the hero, and in Dragon Quest II you gained 2 additional party members. This time, Dragon Quest III allows you to have a party of 4, which is then made up of custom characters who’s classes you can pick. This means you have your main hero’s sprite, plus a Male and Female sprite for each of the 8 classes in the game, totaling 16 possible party sprites! The only games on the SFC that come close to this are Final Fantasy V/ファイナルファンタジーV, Seiken Densetsu 3/聖剣伝説3, and the Romancing SaGa series!

Building on top of that, Dragon Quest III includes certain items that change how your sprite looks! Some armors such as the Stuffed Animal Suit and Sacred Bikini change your sprite into a stuffed tiger or change your clothes into a bikini (only female characters can use this, of course…). I was definitely surprised to see a primitive version of “actually getting to see your equipment equipped” back on the SFC, and in a DRAGON QUEST game at that!

Overall, the graphical quality really jumped up from the Dragon Quest I and II remake. I’m even getting ahead of myself here in terms of the site by saying this, but it even looks better than Dragon Quest V for the SFC (V is further along in the series, but it was actually made before this remake, so I guess that explains why…). While I haven’t played Dragon Quest VI for the SFC yet, i’m willing the bet that this is the best looking Dragon Quest game available for the SFC!

Now that we covered the game’s graphics, let’s jump into the Gameplay section and go over even more things that the Dragon Quest III remake improves upon!

Gameplay

Similar to how the Dragon Quest III remake built upon the foundation of the previous remake, gameplay is another section with lots of great additions thrown in. The first thing you’ll notice right away is the Class System, which is definitely the biggest change and the main focus of the game in terms of gameplay this time around.

Dragon Quest III’s Class System allows you to pick from various pre-made classes to assign to your own custom characters. Unlike certain other games with class/job systems, classes in Dragon Quest III aren’t gender-locked, which means you don’t have to worry about being forced to create a male or female character in order to be able to make your dream party composition. Dragon Quest III doesn’t have any classes that are traditionally gender-locked (like Dancer, etc), so regardless of what classes you choose, nothing feels out of place.

Since the Class System is the game’s bread and butter, let’s go over the list of classes you can choose from!

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Classes

dragon quest 3 hero illustration

The main heroes!

勇者 (Yuusha, Hero) – The Hero class is the pre-determined class for your main character. This character is pretty much balanced all around – they can equip the widest variety of gear, have fairly balanced stat-growth on level-ups, and can learn both priest and mage spells, while also learning their own special high-level spells that mages and priests can’t get.

dragon quest 3 mage illustration

The mages. Quite a difference in age, for some odd reason?

魔法使い (Mahoutsukai, Mage) – As you’d guess, Mages specialize in spellcasting, which means they can’t equip too much gear (they’re restricted to light armor such as robes, and weapons such as staves). They make up for this with their fairly powerful magic, which can do some serious damage to groups of enemies. Eventually they get spells that can hit every single enemy for almost all of their HP.

dragon quest 3 priest illustration

The priest with the diddler mustache…

僧侶 (Souryo, Priest) – Priests are the main healing/support class in Dragon Quest III. Priests can equip more gear than Mages can, but even then they’re still best used as a spellcaster to heal and buff your team with spells that can essentially double your attack, defense, and speed. Pretty much a necessity (I learned this the hard way after trying to do a no-healer team. I learned my lesson about 80% the way through the game…).

dragon quest 3 goof off illustration

The slacker/goof-offs. I did see that one of the Western translations called this class “Jesters”, so the guy makes sense. Does the Bunny Girl count as a Jester too?

遊び人 (Asobinin, Slacker/Goof off?) – As the 50/50 English translation I did there suggests, this class is known for “playing/messing around” and not doing what they’re told. This class basically plays like a character who’s “Confused” in an RPG usually does – they do random things while being controlled by AI. Sometimes they’ll be normal and attack enemies, other times they’ll attack themselves, or sit around and guard. They have high luck which allows them to crit fairly often, which can either be a blessing or a curse…

dragon quest 3 fighter illustration

The fighters. Basically Dragon Ball characters as you can see, both in design and in-game power!

武闘家 (Butouka, Martial Artist) – Martial Artists are strong melee fighters. They end up with the highest agility and strength in the game, which almost always allows them to hit first and hit hard – sometimes even one-shotting a monster on the first round. Being Martial Artists, they’re only allowed to equip Claw-type weapons, and to allow them to maneuver around the battlefield they’re restricted to using light armor. Responsible for some of the highest damage hits you’ll see in the game.

dragon quest 3 warrior illustration

The Warriors/Soldiers. They have a pretty cool viking/valkyrie aesthetic going on!

戦士 (Senshi, Soldier/Warrior) – While in most games a “Warrior” would sound like a damage dealer, in Dragon Quest III Warriors actually fit the role of a “Tank”. With a good amount of Strength, Defense, and HP growth coupled with the ability to equip pretty much everything in the game, a Warrior will be one of the overall strongest characters during battle. Their main drawback is that they have low agility and can’t use spells, so they’ll usually end up attacking last.

dragon quest 3 merchant

The merchants/traders/dealers. Marle from Chrono Trigger accidentally found her way into the instruction manual

商人 (Shounin, Merchant) – Merchants are a bit of a “different” class, mostly because their main usefulness is being able to do things outside of battle like appraise items and summon shopkeepers on demand. They do have one unique ability in battle though, which is an ability that causes monsters to drop an extra N% gold. Every player will eventually have to create a single merchant due to story-related reasons.

dragon quest 3 sage illustration

The Sages. They just look like they could destroy the entire planet with a single tap of their staves

賢者 (Kenja, Sage) – Sages are a special class that can only be chosen after finding a certain rare item and using that item on a character who has reached at least level 20. Sages are essentially a Mage and Priest combined, which means they can learn Attack, Debuff, Healing, and Buff spells! Sages are the ultimate support character, and depending on what team composition you were previously using, turning a Mage or Priest into a Sage basically opens up an empty spot for a new character in your party. Sages get decent stat increases, and they can actually equip a decent amount of gear, so you’ll almost always want at least one in your party.

If you were wondering why a class like the Slacker/Goof Off even exists, the reason is that you can change a Slacker/Goof Off into a Sage just by reaching level 20 (you won’t need to spend that rare item to do the class change). If you have the patience to do it, it definitely pays off…

dragon quest 3 thief illustration

The Thieves. More Dragon Ball characters, that’s Trunks and some Android that got scrapped before release

盗賊 (Touzoku, Thief) – Thieves are a Super Famicom remake-exclusive class (meaning they aren’t in the original Famicom version or Game Boy Color remake). Thieves have high agility but overall average combat capabilities. Thieves have one distinct advantage in combat – they can equip boomerangs (which attack all enemies, but each consecutive enemy hit lowers the damage of the next hit) and whips (same as boomerangs but can only hit monsters within the same “group”).

So while they don’t have particularly high damage, they can almost always hit all monsters right at the start of battle, which means you can sometimes finish easy battles on the very first hit! If you’re like me and had 2 Thieves, the second Thief will almost always clean up whatever’s remaining after the first Thief’s attack!

Thieves have a few special abilities. Their biggest one is the chance to “Steal” items from the last monster killed in battle (basically just gives a chance for an item to drop). At the end of the game, there are a few spots where monster will drop “seeds” that are a one-time use item that increases a given stat 1-3 points. If you want to do the end-game stuff you’ll definitely have to farm seeds eventually, so have one or two Thieves in your group to farm seeds is definitely a good idea.

Outside of battle, Thieves have some useful abilities like being able to sense where an unopened treasure chest is within a dungeon, and an activated ability that lets you walk around dungeons without encountering monsters. I personally never used these, but they’re definitely icing on the cake.

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These are all of the classes you can choose in Dragon Quest III. Aside from the Sage, all the other classes can be chosen right at the start of the game! I definitely recommend getting a healer early on – I was wanting to wait until I learned all of the Mage spells before I turned my Mage into a Sage, but there’s a boss fight later in the game where the AoE damage is just way too high for the Hero to be able to heal it by himself. If I originally started with a Hero/Thief/Thief/Priest instead of Hero/Thief/Thief/Mage, I probably would have breezed through the game no problem with the additional heals and buffs rather than the additional AoE damage!

Now that we’ve gone over the classes, let’s go ahead and talk about the other big changes in Dragon Quest III! There are a couple more changes you’ll see right away when you begin the game, most noticeably is your party’s run speed! The run speed on the overworld doesn’t feel any different than previous games, but in towns and dungeons your characters zip across the map way faster than you did in the previous remakes! This makes exploring dungeons and towns an absolute breeze. Definitely a great addition to the game!

The next change you’ll notice as soon as you go outside and walk around for a little bit – the Night/Day System that I talked about in the “Graphics” section. While this system’s purpose is mostly just to change up the scenery and battle backgrounds (shops and stuff are closed in towns at night, though), there actually are a few points in the story where you need to enter certain towns during the day and during the night. According to Japanese websites, you also encounter monsters more often at night and the monsters you encounter are stronger than normal, but I personally never really noticed this.

Anyone who’s played the previous remakes will notice that since the overall monster limit in battles has been increased, there can now be multiple “groups” of monsters in battle – up to 4 groups I believe. The implementation of this mechanic goes hand in hand with the addition of Boomerangs and Whips, allowing you to hit all monsters in the battle, or all monsters within a certain group, respectively. This adds a bit of strategy to fights, forcing you to decide which group of enemies you want to cast debuffs on, or which group you want to take out first with a high damage AoE spell.

Like most Dragon Quest games nowadays, there are a ton of Small Medals to collect in Dragon Quest III. This time around, the rewards you receive from turning in the medals are actually really good most of the time, especially for where you’re currently at if you take time to actually collect them along the way. The good thing though, is that collecting them isn’t a requirement, so if you decide that looking for them is too much of a hassle, you can skip them entirely!

dragon quest 3 sugoroku area

You’ll find most Sugoroku areas on the overworld, all of which look like a typical Shrine

Early on in the game, chances are you’ll stumble into an area that houses Dragon Quest III’s main mini-game, Sugoroku! Sugoroku is a board game where dice are used to determine how many spaces you move across the board (it’s a real Japanese game, think of something like Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land, but with random “events” on each tile!). There are different Sugoroku areas spread throughout the game, with various different board lengths and difficulties, but also with better and better prizes!

dragon quest 3 sugoroku board

Moving around a Sugoroku board

In order to participate in a round of Sugoroku, you’ll need a Sugoroku Ticket which drops at a decent rate from monsters after battle. Most Sugoroku boards have “holes” or something similar on them that kick you out of the board entirely when stepped on. This means you’ll usually have to try a few times before you actually complete a board, so make sure to hoard those tickets if you plan on trying it out. Sugoroku isn’t mandatory at all, so just like Small Medals, if you don’t feel the need to grab any of the rewards you can skip this entirely!

dragon quest 3 sugoroku battle

Bad things can also happen during a round of Sugoroku, such as permanent stat loss or monster encounters

I recorded a video of me trying out one of the early Sugoroku boards you’ll come across. I somehow did a “one-shot” and got to the goal without overshooting it the first time (if you don’t land exactly on the “Goal” tile, you’ll have to keep re-rolling until you do and hope you don’t run out of dice before then)! Check it out below!

While playing the game, you’ll eventually stumble upon some items that can change a character’s “Personality”. Along with the Class System, Dragon Quest III also introduces “Personalities”, which influence each character’s stat gains on level-up. There are quite a lot of personalities to choose from – both Male and Female characters can have the “Stubborn” or “Cry-baby” personalities, while only Males can have one such as “Pervert” and only Females can have ones like “Princess” or “Sexy Girl” (yeah, Japanese versions of Dragon Quest actually have lots of “sexual” stuff thrown in for fun, it’s just hidden behind cute slimes and stuff!).

I honestly never paid one bit of attention to the Personality System during my playthrough. The game doesn’t explain any of the personalities and doesn’t say anything about how a specific personality affects stat-gains, so I basically ignored every personality-changing item I came across. Without looking up guides beforehand there’s no way to know if a certain personality will be better for, say, a Warrior than the personality they already have. If you’re dead-set on Min/Maxing your team and don’t mind checking guides for the stat-tables, personalities are definitely something to keep an eye out for, but if you’re willing to just go through the game “normally”, then you really don’t have to worry about them at all.

Going back to the Class System for a second, there is one other thing you can do around maybe the 30% mark of the game – Class Changing! I mentioned it a bit when I talked about using an item/turning a Slacker into a Sage. When you reach the Temple of Dharma, you have the option of turning any character other than the Hero into any class you choose (except Hero…). I personally didn’t do this for anything except for turning my Mage into a Sage, but if you’re willing to spend a ton of time re-leveling characters, you can make some crazy stuff.

It seems like you can do stuff like turning Mages into Warriors to allow the Warrior to use magic spells, then level up Warrior up high to get them really good Strength and HP, then change them into a Thief and reap the benefits of having the highest damage spells + huge HP + high damage from your Strength stat + having the highest agility which allows you to go first in battle. A character like this would most likely smoke any random encounter within the first turn! You’d just have to basically level a character to around 35-40 3 or 4 times…especially if you want them to be able to heal too. Only downside is, a character loses I think half of their stats when you change them, so you will have to think about which order to change in so that the last class still has the desired stats.

dragon quest 3 flying

Flying around with some awesome Mode-7 effects!

I don’t consider this a spoiler since most games on the system, and pretty much every big name RPG from the PS1 on up has this, but Dragon Quest III introduces flying on the overworld for the first time. The Dragon Quest II remake introduced boats which felt like a huge leap in exploration, and this time we not only have boats but we can also take to the skies which allows us to travel to areas that are surrounded by mountains and other impassable terrain.

dragon quest 3 flying at dusk

More flying around, but this time at Dusk

This really should have been in the “Graphics” section, but Dragon Quest III’s flying has maybe the coolest Mode-7 effects i’ve seen so far on the SFC. While flying, you can hold a directional button to make the camera sort of zoom/move close to the middle of the screen. I know this doesn’t sound interesting, but most games like Secret of Mana / Seiken Densetsu 2 聖剣伝説2 or Final Fantasy IV/ファイナルファンタジーIV have one standard “flying” mode and a transition when taking off or landing. Even something as simple as altering the camera height and zooming in on-demand is an extremely technical feat for its time!

Since just talking about the main gameplay points doesn’t do much, I recorded a 10 minute or so video that shows off the typical gameplay loop in Dragon Quest III, so that means hitting towns, dungeons, shops, showing off some battles, and other simple things such as sailing and flying. If you have a few minutes to spare, definitely take a quick look! You’re even lucky enough to watch my #1 and #3 save files get nuked when I booted up the game (that’s what the scary music is at the beginning of the video)…ALWAYS SAVE IN EVERY SLOT WHEN YOU PLAY CARTRIDGE-BASED RPGS!

For the last gameplay addition, we’ll talk about the “end-game” content that Dragon Quest III has to offer! As far as I know, Dragon Quest I and II didn’t have anything to do after you finished them (even the remakes). In Dragon Quest III, after completing the story, you can reload your save and access a bonus dungeon, which is way more difficult than the end of the original game. This is completely optional, but a great way to test some party-comps and level up really high.

This kind of end-game is pretty cool – after you defeat the boss, you are actually granted the ability to make a wish. This wish adds some minor but interesting things to the game. I won’t go over what the wishes are and what they do for obvious reasons, but one thing to note is that you can go back and kill the final boss multiple times, which allows you to actually receive all possible wishes if you’re willing to go back and beat the dungeon a few times. People who enjoyed the story of the game might want to try to get at least 1 wish though (you’ll know which one it is when you see the list), just because it’ll give you a kinda warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Other than that, i’ll briefly go over the difficulty in Dragon Quest III. By design, your party setup is a huge factor in determining if the game will be difficult or not. I personally ran without a dedicated healer until around level 32 or so. Guys at my company were teasing me for not beating a certain boss by the mid 20s, and the reason I couldn’t do that is because I didn’t have a character who could outheal the boss’ constant AoE damage.

In the first two Dragon Quest games, and especially in Dragon Quest II, random encounter mobs were way scarier than any of the bosses in the game, especially during the last “gauntlet” from the final save point to the final boss. In Dragon Quest III however, there weren’t any random encounters or dungeons I was really afraid of. This time it was basically the complete opposite – random encounters didn’t pose any threat except for 2 or 3 enemy types in a certain dungeon. The bosses were the main threats this time, as I feel they should be!

Out of all the Dragon Quest games i’ve played so far, 3 is definitely the easiest, even with my gimped party comp that I used for nearly 80% of the game! If you’re afraid of the “old-school hard” typical Dragon Quest difficulty, you might be surprised about how much easier this one is than the others!

That about covers the new things you’ll run into while playing the Dragon Quest III remake. I know it adds a lot compared to the previous remake – this probably has to do with them having experience from making Dragon Quest V and VI already, so this game was their last effort before releasing Dragon Quest VII for the PlayStation a few years later. If you’re a fan of old-school Dragon Quest, or just old-school JRPGs in general, I definitely have to recommend picking up the Dragon Quest III remake!

Next we’ll go ahead and check out some of the music you’ll hear through-out the game!

Music

As with most things when it comes to Dragon Quest, Music is also another area where things mostly stay the same throughout the series. Once again, if you’ve played a Dragon Quest game before, you pretty much know what to expect. One good thing though, is that Dragon Quest III is almost universally considered to have one of the best, if not the best, soundtrack in the series!

While Dragon Quest III doesn’t stray too much from the fundamentals, there are a lot of catchy songs within the game’s OST, which is about a time and a half longer than the Dragon Quest I and II remakes’ OSTs combined! So catchy in fact, that even nowadays when Japanese TV shows use Dragon Quest songs, they almost always pick songs from Dragon Quest III! Let’s see what all the fuss is about!

First off, we have the town theme, which I hope you end up liking because you’ll be hearing it in most of the towns in the game! Definitely feels like Dragon Quest, you know what I mean!

Next up is the “Adventure” theme, which is what you’ll be hearing as you run all around the overworld. Definitely pumps you up and gets you ready for the nearly 30 hour journey to come!

Here’s another town theme that usually plays when the one listed above doesn’t. This is a nice song that helps you feel relieved after just coming out of some long dungeon with barely any HP left (happens a lot)!

Last but not least, we have the “flying” theme. The flying speed in Dragon Quest III is actually quite slower than it is in most SFC games, so the tempo of the song suits it really nicely. You’ll be hearing this fairly often towards the end of the game!

That should give you a rough idea of what the game’s OST is like. Compared to the previous two remakes, I definitely prefer this game’s OST. I just found that I liked more songs this time around, but that’s helped by the OST being about 3x as long as the Dragon Quest I or II OST by themselves. There are still some songs that I didn’t care about at all, so while I didn’t find the OST to be perfect, it’s definitely worth a listen! Even more so if you love Dragon Quest music – you probably won’t find a better OST in the series!

East vs. West

Since Dragon Quest III for the SFC was another game that was locked away in Japan, there’s not really much I can write about in this section. Westerners did get a Game Boy Color version of Dragon Quest III, but that wasn’t a direct port of the SFC remake (much closer to the NES version), so we can’t really compare the two…

Should you play it?

I definitely recommend playing the Dragon Quest III remake if you enjoy old-school JRPGs. I know Dragon Quest has a certain “feel” to it that actually turns a lot of people off (Dragon Quest was never big in the West, only grabbing a bit of momentum back with Dragon Quest VIII thanks to the Final Fantasy XII demo packaged with it, and only finally getting some recognition with Dragon Quest XI), but Dragon Quest III doesn’t have that “oh, more Dragon Quest” feel to it.

I did mention above that Dragon Quest III doesn’t stray too far from the fundamentals, and if you’ve played a Dragon Quest game you’ve essentially played them all, but Dragon Quest III does a lot of things right. The pacing is really good – you’re never loitering around an area for more than half and hour or so. The customization, along with the speed of combat and character progression feels great. The OST is really nice to listen to in-game, and while the game is about 30 hours or so, it’s not so long that it starts to feel like a slog.

Any fan of Dragon Quest definitely needs to play III, but even if you’re more of an old-school Squaresoft fan, there’s plenty to enjoy in Dragon Quest III. If you’ve never even played a Dragon Quest game before, i’d be willing to say that III is a great starting point!

Which version should you play?

As always, i’m going to recommend the original SFC version of the Dragon Quest III remake. Mostly do to the usual elitism, but this time there’s actually another legitimate reason. While Dragon Quest III has been ported numerous times, they’ve never really ported it “as-is”. Each port has slightly different art styles, frame-rates, things like that. While the overall mechanics stay the same, you’ll never 100% get that original feeling without playing the SFC version of the game. If you can, definitely try to grab the original SFC version, you won’t be disappointed!

Other than the Game Boy Color port which isn’t really the same, the only way to play the game outside of Japan is to grab the Dragon Quest I II and III compilation that was released just last year for the Nintendo Switch. I always advocate for grabbing original releases for original hardware, but anything is better than playing fan-translations, so if you absolutely can’t hang with the Japanese SFC version of the game, the Switch version is the only other option!

Just be warned, the Switch port looks like an extremely shoddy job (gameplay is probably intact, though), as you can see in this video by HappyConsoleGamer here! If you’re still on the fence after this review, HappyConsoleGamer’s review will make a great second opinion (even he recommends the SFC version at the end)!

Now, onto the final score!

Final Score – 34/40

Story – 8/10
Gameplay – 8.5/10
Graphics – 9/10
Music – 8.5/10

dragon quest 3 end screen

If you still have some free time, please check out my reviews for the Dragon Quest I Remake and Dragon Quest 2 Remake!

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Dragon Quest III
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Dragon Quest III
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