This was done as the Day 24 Entry the VG Resource's 30 Days of Gaming
When I was in primary school, everyone was playing Pokémon Red and Blue. It was almost the law. The games were popular, and for good reason – the combination of accessibility, an appeal to the compulsive collector nature of kids, and game mechanics that didn’t play down to an age group are great game design factors. Of course, that’s not why we played; the abysmal television show and never ending torrents of Pokémon toys were what guaranteed our interest, but there was another game of a similar nature that was forced out of the limelight due to its lack of brand power. But on the other hand, I still play that game now, whereas Pokémon Red has gathered dust.
Dragon Warrior Monsters was the first Dragon Quest game I’d ever heard of, and I wouldn’t actually play another Dragon Quest game until Dragon Quest VIII. When I bought the game, I was drawn to the strange, more dynamic and aggressive beasts on the cover. Fully aware of the famous 151 to the point of boredom, the prospect of new fauna to tame was an exciting one.
The differences took some getting used to. There were no cities, just the Kingdom of GreatTree, an oak the size of a skyscraper; a series of increasingly tough dungeons filled with those elusive monsters; and an arena where my monster-training prowess was put to the test. Having not experienced enough RPGs back then to be aware of the typical clichés, the high fantasy bent was an appealing change to the urban sprawl of Pokémon.
The way the monsters themselves worked was different, too. I couldn’t force them to be my friends, I had to slowly make them like me by giving them meat. Not knowing the maths behind it, I tried many ways to make new monsters my friends – making sure they were the last foe standing; deciding that even though Ribs were more effective than PorkChops, that Grizzly was a PorkChop kinda guy; keeping a monster with a dance or song move, just in case a monster liked dancing. And when a monster did decide to devote its services to you, you didn’t automatically have complete control. They had a personality, and preferred to use some moves over others.
But what impressed me the most was monster breeding. Bear in mind that Pokémon Gold and Silver were still vague rumours in the magazines, so the idea that I could make crazy new monsters by breeding my old ones was an incredible concept. At first, the process was random, putting any two monsters I had together and taking the result – but as the game progressed and gave me hints about breeding, and working through trial and error I learned to be clever about marrying off my monsters; each generation growing stronger and knowing a wider set of skills.
The way you can build your team of 3 monsters impresses me, even in hindsight. While all the monsters in the game are different in where their strengths lie and what moves they can learn, any other monster can have those strengths and skills through some patient breeding. Back then my favourite monster was the ZapBird and the Shadow, two monsters of very different strength levels, but by the end of the game, they were both fearsome in combat, Zap! knowing all the strongest elemental spells, and Myst spreading curses and capable of transforming.
The later games in the Dragon Quest Monster series have held some of these excellent sensibilities that sets the games apart from Pokémon, but I was sad to find out that it was no longer possible to turn your early-game monsters into late-game competitors through love and care.