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Dragon Quest Your Story Review
The Dragon Quest franchise likely needs no introduction. It is one of the most popular and iconic gaming franchises ever. It is such a big deal in its home country of Japan that every mainline release of Dragon Quest is treated as a national holiday. These games make bank with a whopping estimate 70 million copies being sold worldwide with a large chunk of that number being solely from Japan. Yet, here in the west, the Dragon Quest series never caught on compared to other Japanese Role Playing Game franchises such as “Final Fantasy” or the “Persona” games. However, in more recent years Square Enix has been heavily pushing Dragon Quest to the west to make it a bigger deal than it has been in the past. The Playstation 4 release of “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age” sold well enough here that Square Enix allowed a localized version of Dragon Quest XI S for the Switch, which also sold modestly. Not only that but multiple Dragon Quest shows and movies are currently in the works or are out. We had the surprise announcement at Jump Festa of a new adaptation of the “Dragon Quest: Adventure of Dai” manga which will be a full adaptation of the series and “Dragon Quest: Your Story” which recently dropped on Netflix. A sort of loose adaptation of “Dragon Quest V Hand of the Heavenly Bride”, it is the first time that a Dragon Quest anime has ever hit the states legally, but the bigger question is, is it any good?
The story follows Luca, a young boy who was told he’d be the hero destined to stop the evil Ladja from taking over the world. Along the way, he meets a colorful cast of characters such as love interest Bianca, a Saber, Gootrude a slime companion, and a whole lot more. Obviously, on paper the movie story-wise is pretty standard, heroes journey to become better, form a party and stop the bad guy, fall in love and in execution it is fine. The Dragon Quest games are a comfort food. All of the most familiar tropes that gamers associate with JRPG’s all came from Dragon Quest. Yet, to those unfamiliar to the Dragon Quest franchise while there are a few twists that may catch audiences off-guard, the story is nothing to write home about, except for the ending. Without spoiling anything, the end of the movie goes into a very strange direction commentating on escapism and the idea of no matter how old you get, you can still enjoy childish things. Which is fine, but the way the film handles it feels like a tonal whiplash. A lot of Dragon Quest Your Story is very light-hearted with a lot of puns and jokes. It never takes itself too seriously, but by the time the third act ends it just gets weird and it feels out of place.
Of course, even if a story isn’t strong it can make up with the characters and they are enjoyable. Granted a lot of it is because they based it off of Dragon Quest V which had a lot of great characters in it, but the way they translated it to film is commendable, especially with the hero character Luca. All Dragon Quest games have a silent protagonist for role-playing reasons. The games were heavily inspired by western games like Dungeons and Dragons, Ultima, and Wizardry. Those games let players become the heroes mostly leaving it up to them to make their own story. Obviously, that’s where the hero in the Dragon Quest franchise fits, he is supposed to be a self insert for the player rather than a character himself. The player could have some input in what they say, but it’s very limited. In a way, it is very commendable that the team making Dragon Quest Your Story were able to make the silent protagonist a character. While not a fantastic character, Luca is still likable and since a large majority of the film follows him, it is amazing that he is not annoying. He can be kind of whiney in the beginning but he does get better as the movie progresses. While the characters are good, they are not amazing. They still follow familiar tropes and while they are not bland, they do not stick out compared to other movies.
As for the animation and art, it is great. It is a little off-putting at first, what made the Dragon Quest games so charming to many players were the character and monster designs done by the legendary manga artist Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball, Dr.Slump). His iconic simple cartoonish designs brought a lot of personality to the games, so it would be a challenge to see this being converted over to film. I guess the art team decided to make it their own and even though it did not feel right at first, somehow the spirit and charm of Dragon Quest were still there. They nailed the creature design which is very in line with the games meanwhile the main human characters look completely different. However, there is a charm to that design and personally, the games will always look better. Of course, the personal gripes with character design aside the movie looks good. Dragon Quest Your Story does a good job with its texture and detail. They look good alongside the beautiful lighting, and the computer graphics are pretty good. If anything, it just meets expectations but does not exceed them. That obviously does not make it bad, it just not anything amazing either, but it is a solid effort and that effort did make a good final product.
As for the music, well it is iconic Dragon Quest music. Beautifully orchestrated tunes composed by famed composer Koichi Sugiyama. There is not much to say, the music is really good and iconic for a reason. Although, there isn’t a lot of new music to the movie, instead the movie is using old Dragon Quest tunes. Which is not bad, but more new tracks should be in the movie rather than reusing existing compositions.
The Dragon Quest series is iconic for a good reason. It popularized and basically created the home console RPG. Without it there would be no Final Fantasy or Persona. It is an incredibly important series that deserves more success outside of Japan and while Dragon Quest Your Story is nothing great, it is an enjoyable watch that is charming enough that everyone can enjoy it and that is what this film has going for it, charm. The movie does a good job of providing fans with fanservice. It makes references to the games and even, in the beginning, has gameplay of Dragon Quest V. The movie may lack a compelling story or really deep characters, but makes up for it by just being a fun movie and compared to the other video game based adaptations that exist, that says a lot and it is definitely worth a watch.
Dragon Quest Your Story: 6/10
Dragon Quest Your Story is streaming exclusively on Netflix