Possibly the best thing I’ve stumbled across in the course of my unpacking process has been this set of Dragon Quest figurines.
It’s not that the figures themselves are particularly amazing… I mean, yeah, they’re neat enough. They each have rounded bases, so they kind of rock any time they’re disturbed, but they’re properly weighted so they quickly return to their upright position. But really, nothing special in and of themselves.
Rather, what makes them unique and meaningful is that they were given to me by Dragon Quest co-creator and creative lead Yuji Horii during his Dragon Quest VI media tour back in… geez, 2010? 2011? There have been a handful of times during my time in the games press at which I’ve paused, taken stock of the situation, and said, “I can’t believe this is happening right now.” Most recently, I had that feeling as I interviewed Famicom/NES designer Masayuki Uemura
—oh, wait, did I post about the fact that I interviewed Masayuki Uemura? Geez. That resulted in the best NES retrospective I’ve ever put together (and I’ve put together a lot of them over the years). You should really go read it, because I’m really proud of it—
where was I? Oh, yeah. Being slightly overawed when work-related episodes transcend business as usual. It doesn’t happen often, but ever once in a while, I’m a little thunderstruck. These figurines are a memento of one of those occasions: I was invited to have dinner with Horii during his press tour. The group ended up being Horii’s small retinue of Dragon Quest team members, some Nintendo PR folks, and me. The entire time, I was quietly reeling at the surreality of sharing a casual, friendly dinner with the man behind one of the most influential games of all time.
So, yeah, these little guys are a great reminder that sometimes, this line of work can be pretty incredible, and that I should be grateful for those rare flashes of good fortune and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
I made a conscious effort not to turn that dinner into a secret interview for publication—tempting as it was. I’m sure Horii fields questions about the games all the time and didn’t want to be annoying. Still, I did pick up two little tidbits of information, which I’ll share here. These may well have been published elsewhere by others, but I don’t care!
1. The Jailcat, the weird feline depicted in the figurine on the right, is Horii’s favorite Dragon Quest creature. He doodles all the creatures himself and passes them along for Akira Toriyama to create, and for whatever reason (the name, I think; its name is a pun in Japanese as well) he said he’s always been especially fond of that one. The Jailcat I ended up with was actually a blind-box figure, so it was a nice bit of serendipity that it turned out that way.
2. Horii didn’t bring along his DS to Street Pass with his copy of Dragon Quest IX, much to my disappointment. But I did learn his preferred protagonist name is… George. So if you ever Street Pass a dude named George from Japan, you just might have connected with Horii.