Dragon Quest is one of the most important games ever for me. It created the genre I love the most: JRPG. It also kickstarted one of the greatest video game series of all time, and one of my personal favorites.
The inspiration from Ultima and Wizardry is palpable, but Enix crafted something truly unique thanks to its Japanese sensibilities that make JRPG's so special like the artstyle, soundtrack and fundamentally different game design. RPG mechanics are made simpler compared to WRPG's of the time due to the game being released on a home console instead of a PC, but it's not dumbed down. The game is quite challenging, in fact a bit too unfair at times. It's satisfying to watch your character grow stronger and being able to defeat those monsters that kicked your ass earlier on.
The world of the game is quite open, but also quite small. There's only a handful of towns and places of interest like dungeons, and by today's standards that might seem too simplistic to most people - because it is. There's really not much to this game, you can complete it relatively quickly if you're fully committed to it. That doesn't make the game bad, just not as interesting as one would hope. There's only a few items to collect, little number of places to go and explore, a handful of equipment to buy and not many enemies or bosses. All of this was mindblowing stuff back then, but today it's unnimpressive - some would read "boring".
But the good thing about this game, that many modern JRPG's get wrong, is the very open ended world. There's literally no roadblocks, you can go anywhere you want except the last dungeon right from the beginning of the game. This gives the game an organic feel that many JRPG's of today fail to replicate, it feels like you're going on an actual adventure and you're going where you want whenever you feel like. I was actually impressed by how well designed the overworld is. You'll find out that some places are just too dangerous early on, which will eventually lead you on the "right track", but YOU found that out for yourself - the game didn't tell you.
I guess the one problem people might have with this world is how obtuse it is. The game puts quite alot of faith in you to find out things on your own, and to interpret what NPC's say in the correct way to move on with the game. Personally I love this kind of design, it can be challenging and doesn't insult the player's intelligence, but due to dodgy translations sometimes it can be furstrating to understand what some NPC's are trying to say. The thing is though it's not exactly the designers fault, but whoever wrote the actual dialogue. This aspect could be better done.
As for combat and other game mechanics, they're admittedly too outdated and archaic for many players to enjoy nowadays. The menu thing that Dragon Quest stuck with for many games just feels clunky and obtrusive, and the combat is too repetitive by today's standards. Enemy is too strong? Gotta grind some more! Get the best weapon and armor. Strategic thinking is nowhere to be found in this game, except for when you have to think when exactly to use a healing spell. The game gives you a sleep and stop spell but they almost never work, and are just not worth using because the amounts of damage you can get sometimes only make the healing spells that much more important, so you need to save MP. You only have one save point, so managing your MP is absolutely crucial for the tougher segments. The game can get quite unforgiving, and some monsters have downright bullshit moves that will drive you insane. The last boss is incredibly difficult and will put your attention to test, since the smallest mistep will mean your doom.
As for the presentation, it's excellent. Specially for the time, there was no RPG that looked quite like Dragon Quest. Akira Toriyama's art gives so much charm and life to this world, and this series still has in my opinion the best character and monster designes ever in gaming. It is incredible, all of them are distinct and memorable in their own ways. The soundtrack is classic, the main theme, overworld theme, town music and final boss track are awesome...but that battle theme is absolute garbage. You listen to it constantly, in every single battle, which only aggravates things. It's annoying to listen to, and after awhile you start to dread that fucking music! I know I did.
I know it's a very simple, old and archaic game, but I still really enjoyed it. The mere fact it introduced a genre and a 30 year old series with some of the best RPG's all time should be enough to consider it a classic and one of the greatest games ever made. I've played the original, GBC and SNES versions, and if you still wanna play this game I recommend the SNES version for it's enhanced graphics and music, more balanced gameplay and more satisfying ending.
Score: 8.0 (Great!)