I just finished playing Dragon Quest V on my Nintendo DS. It was my first Dragon Quest game. What a great plot and nice graphics. I like how the visuals are the throwback 2D style, with a bit of 3D flair.
This got me thinking about Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, the two most famous video game franchises in Japan (beside the Nintendo characters). I've played Final Fantasy I, IV, VI, and VII.
Both series are RPGs with a long history. Dragon Quest IX and Final Fantasy XIII will probably be released in the US next year. Dragon Quest sticks with a medieval setting for all its games (according to Wikipedia) whereas Final Fantasy has moved towards a more sci-fi/modern setting. I also get the feeling that Dragon Quest tries to be charming and funny whereas Final Fantasy attempts to be dramatic. The Dragon Quest mascot, the slime, is really cute and I find the slime knight hilarious. I loved the Monkey Island series, so funny works well with me.
Dragon Quest games have a reputation for being similar just like the Zelda games. I once asked my friend, a huge Zelda fan, "Don't you get bored of the same hero and villain in every game?" He said no. I appreciate the fact that the Final Fantasy designers try to make each game different.
Dragon Quest has been slow to adopt 3D graphics. In fact, Dragon Quest VIII (2004) was the first 3D game in the series whereas Final Fantasy VII already conquered that medium in 1997. People think Final Fantasy's cutting-edge graphics make it more marketable to the North American audience and explain why Dragon Quest is much less popular in American compared to Final Fantasy.
The Dragon Quest designers seem to realize that they can't compete with Final Fantasy, so they need to differentiate themselves. That appears to be the motivation behind moving the next Dragon Quest games to the Nintendo DS and Wii platforms -- which are graphically less powerful but more popular with the mainstream, non-gamer audience.
So far, I like both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. If only I had more time to go on these 50 hour virtual adventures!