Casting Hoimi on my enthusiasm

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing a fair amount about Dragon Quest IX at work lately. I’m doing this ostensibly because it’s a huge game… but really because it’s the first game that’s truly hooked me since, hmm… the Dragon Quest V remake half a year ago, I guess. Certainly I’ve enjoyed a handful of releases since then, but so far these have been the only two I’ve been unable to put down all year. So, my previews and blogs aren’t really so much an effort to drive traffic, because Americans just can’t seem to bring themselves to give a slap about the series no matter what. No, really I’m just trying to perform an exorcism of sorts and put to the page precisely what it is that I find so gripping about the games.

It’s particularly bedeviling given that a few years ago, my feelings toward the series were more along the lines of muted disinterest. And before that, I’d say it could best be characterized as outright antagonism. (Amusingly, I’ve found there are still a few fans of the series who sulk whenever my name comes up. It’s always so fascinating to see just how long people can nurse an Internet grudge over opinions about videogames.) It wasn’t really that the series changed (because it doesn’t) or that I changed (because I still hold innovation in game design in high esteem); rather, the difference is that my understanding of the series matured. I’m still trying to pin that down, and as a result just about everything I’ve written about the series over the past year has teetered between evangelical and confessional. Sorry, that’s probably getting annoying. And I’m sure this post isn’t helping matters any.

If you’d told me 20 years ago that the NES game I got for Christmas, the one in the bright yellow box, the RPG (which stood for “role-playing game” and not “rocket-powered grenade” like my G.I. Joe comics had always taught me), would be inspiring me to embark on a journey of professional soul-searching, I’d have… well, actually, I suspect I’d probably have thought it was pretty awesome. Beats accounting for a living, in any case.

16 thoughts on “Casting Hoimi on my enthusiasm

  1. I enjoy watching you struggle with this understanding because I’ve been going through the exact same thing. If you told me even 5 years ago that I would be excited about a DQ release, I would have laughed in your face…and like oyu said, I don’t think the games or I have changed all that much. Saying that “my understanding of the series matured” is probably right on the money.

    Kind of makes me wonder how many people in Japan have this understanding (as opposed to those who buy it out of blind faith/nostalgia/whatever).

  2. I’m both early and late to the DQ party, having plowed through DW (for free! Thanks, Howard!) and then promptly ignoring the series for eighteen years. I can’t put my finger on it, but whenever I boot up any DQ game nowadays I’m immediately soothed into a state of blissful relaxation. When I leave the first town, I know I’m going to run across Slimes, and they’re going to be smiling at me even as I skewer them by the dozens. When I die, the RPG-standard feeling of time wasted is replaced with a more comforting realization that all I’ve lost is a little gold, and I probably didn’t need it anyway, as DQ gives you most of what you need if you just know where to look.

    And all of this serendipity is counterbalanced with the rabid jealousy that millions of people are enjoying the newest entry right now, the anger that I should have stuck with that Japanese class, and the rage that will manifest itself as me choking a bitch at Square-Enix for not fast-tracking the localization.

    Perhaps there’s something subliminal causing all of this. Have you tried playing the main theme backwards at 45RPM?

  3. I can’t bring myself to play DQ games, it’s monotonous and almost torturous. Growing up in a Southern Baptist home, I wasn’t allowed to play “evil D&D games”, so I never had the opportunity to grow up with RPGs. When I was finally out on my own, I tried to rectify that, but my free time and tastes have evolved. Unless there’s something that specifically piques my interest, I have a hard time getting into a genre or even old games for a particular system I wasn’t exposed to. There’s no nostalgic feeling for me to fall back on. I want to like Dragon Quest, it seems like something I would play, but I just don’t have fun playing it. The reason why people find DQ fun hasn’t clicked with me yet, but I hope you can convince me otherwise with these posts. Seeing what someone else gets out of a game might inspire me to give it another chance.

  4. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy a game, there’s no need to force yourself to try to play it. No one will think less of you for it… well, no one whose opinion is worth a damn, anyway.

  5. On the other other hand, I think it’s worthwhile sometimes to keep trying something even if you don’t like it – up to a point of course. Some tastes are acquired; they require some learning to appreciate.

    From my personal experience, this was true with both wine and beer. I didn’t like both the first few times I had them, but I figured there’s got to be some reason most cultures enjoy it. And, hey, there is!

  6. Echoing some of the other sentiments, I used to think that Dragon Quest was just a really awesome game for really boring people. DQV was the game that redeemed the series and convinced me that, yeah, there’s actually a lot worthwhile beneath the surface of janky movement and irritating menus. (Although no amount of understanding will ever convice me that DQVII isn’t trash.) I still find the battling is still too tedious, though, but everything I’ve read about DQIX has me hopeful.

    The real question is, though, will this be the DQ that gets non-Japanese to notice the series on a bigger scale? I don’t think that’ll ever happen, for way too many reasons to note, but that doesn’t seem to stop the more hardcore fans from dreaming.

  7. I’ve be absolutely deprived of the Nintendo DS, and been contemplating purchasing one for a couple months now. I’ve just been making sure that there are games that I think I’d enjoy on the system. Dragon Quest IX seemed like a good start, since I love Square’s games and Akira Toriyama. But now you’ve gone and switched my desire into overdrive, leaving me jealously drooling over write-ups, videos and screenshots. I noticed on the videos, how the hell are you understanding Japanese? Are you even?

    On the whole subject of acquired taste: I remember specifically having a strong dislike towards Final Fantasy VIII (the first one I played). My favourite video game show on TV, Cybernet, continued to air the game and it always featured in the top 10 countdown. There was just this constant praise. The snippets of footage displayed flamboyant creatures, resplendent spell effects, it was an aesthetic that was completely alien to me. One day, when I had exhausted all my options at the video store, the only game left on the shelf that was decent by reputation, was Final Fantasy VIII. I took it against my character, ignoring my indisposition towards it. I always knew what I wanted, what was good and worth my time, but Final Fantasy VIII was mystery. At first I thought the graphics were poor (when roaming the world map), and then, oh man… after about an hour of play, it was all over. I’ve never been addicted to a game as much as I was addicted to Final Fantasy VIII. Needless to say I bought it. I can’t believe I HIRED it to start with!

    Also, nice work on the illustrations for the posts, I think they work super well ;)

  8. i like dragon quest games but really they are as standard as they get… why i should be excited for a game that does everything as RPG books dictates? i want a narrative,plot twist,weird gameplay elements… just leveling up and finding treasure isn’t going to elevate the game to more than a “good” grade

  9. I have what might be generously called a rudimentary understanding of Japanese — enough that I can read the alphabets, know a limited amount of basic kanji, and understand the gist of what I’m supposed to be doing. Once I get deeper into the questing aspect of the game I’ll either make a serious effort to translate the text (and learn a lot in the process) or, more likely, call it a day until the U.S. version arrives.

  10. I haven’t finished a DQ game since I played III back on the NES. I’m within 5 hours or so of finishing IV and V but there’s something about the endgame sections that just turn me off. Maybe the job system will be enough to keep me going in DQ IX.

  11. That was my first assumption, but I kinda felt it hard to believe. Cool to know though. Dude, what would you recommend, DS Lite, or DSi? The Gameboy compatibility, although unlikely to be used, seems better than a fractionally bigger screen and camera to me.

    Yeah, that Penny Arcade endorsement was very cool.

  12. Random question: How come no one at 1UP has touched (or at least reviewed) Knights in a Nightmare. It seems like the sort of game your crew usually weighs in on, and perhaps likes?

    Not sure why this seemed like the appropriate post to ask (perhaps this post is the answer), but what the hey.

  13. “Amusingly, I’ve found there are still a few fans of the series who sulk whenever my name comes up. It’s always so fascinating to see just how long people can nurse an Internet grudge over opinions about videogames.” The Internet and Video Games are SERIOUS BUSINESS! Haven’t you learned that by now?

    “From my personal experience, this was true with both wine and beer. I didn’t like both the first few times I had them, but I figured there’s got to be some reason most cultures enjoy it.” Because they get your drunk?

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