Dragon Quest III & Dragon Quest XI
Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they've been chewing over. And with Dragon Quest III HD-2D Remake — or whatever it's meant to be now — finally re-emerging after three years, Alana's here to make a case as to why this is the RPG remake we need right now.

Square Enix's back catalogue is full to bursting. Think of a classic RPG from the '90s that you'd love to see on a modern system — ported, remastered, remade, you know it — and there's a good chance Square, Enix, or Chunsoft made it.

So, when HD-2D burst onto the scene with Octopath Traveler in 2018, showcasing gorgeous lighting, stunning pixel art, and a combination of 3D backgrounds with 2D sprites, a whole generation of us lost our minds. Chrono Trigger in HD-2D? Final Fantasy VI? Or wait, what about Dragon Quest V? The possibilities were, and still are, endless. But Square's first pick wasn't what many were expecting — it was Dragon Quest III HD-2D.

Revealed back in 2021, I and many others were thrilled at the game's announcement. But for the past three years, the remake effectively vanished, and DQIII was pipped to the post as the first HD-2D remake by Live A Live. Still, the remake never left my mind, and over time, I've heard a sentiment whispered from many a person's lips — why Dragon Quest III? If it's going to be a Dragon Quest game, then why not IV or, as mentioned, V?

If leakers are to be believed, then it is going to be more than just III: it's the whole Erdrick Trilogy (that's I, II, and III). But it still begs the question — why the original trilogy, and why now? The answer lies in the most recent numbered entry in the series, Dragon Quest XI.

A Legendary Line

Before I jump into some spoiler-y talk on Dragon Quest XI, Dragon Quest's legacy should not be dismissed. We're talking about the biggest game series in Japan in the '80s, and certainly still the most popular RPG series in the country.

why the original trilogy, and why now?

You've probably heard tales of students and adults in Japan taking sick days just to go and pick up and play the new Dragon Quest game. Those stories are actually true, and the incidents prompted a rule that Enix only release Dragon Quest games on a Saturday. Nowadays, it's simply tradition, with Dragon Quest XI even launching on a sunny Saturday in 2017.

Final Fantasy might be bigger internationally — and sometimes, FF fans are a bit more vocal, as you can see in those results polls — but in Japan, Dragon Quest is king. If I pick up a Dragon Quest game, I know what I'm getting, in broad strokes, and the dichotomy between this series and Square's Final Fantasy is plain to see. The latter is ever-changing, evolving, doing something groundbreaking and different with every mainline release, while the former is content and consistent; familiar and warm.

I got into Dragon Quest pretty late — I'll blame European RPG releases for that one since Dragon Quest VIII was the first mainline DQ game we got — but upon booting up Dragon Quest VIII, I immediately understood the appeal. I felt the love and the honour poured into the game, and it felt like I'd played something like this before, but in a way that felt so comfortable.

Fragments of a Beloved Past

The template that the original Famicom Dragon Quest set in 1986 can still very much be seen and felt in the series today. Dragon Quest XI feels like it could've been made on the NES, in many ways: the battle system is simple, while on a 3D plane where you can move characters around, still follows the basic structure of the OG. Spell names are still the same, 38 years later. Even the general structure of a Dragon Quest story is the same, with the same warm fuzzies and fun character archetypes peppered in.

Dragon Quest [...] is content and consistent; familiar and warm

Dragon Quest XI is the game that made it to the mainstream in the West, and it prompted many to seek out the rest of the series. In fact, the original trilogy is already available on Switch, albeit ports of the mobile versions. There's nothing inherently wrong with these ports, but they're not exactly the best-looking versions of the Erdrick trilogy. The gameplay is essentially the same as it was on the NES, so they're perfectly fine versions to pick up. But things that an HD-2D version could bring to the table — let alone better visuals? C'mon.

But that's not why I think Dragon Quest I, II, and III are the right games to remake in 2024. As a series that has stayed so loyal to its roots for almost 40 years, I, II, and III are the only games Square Enix could and should remake in 2024.

This requires partially spoiling the true ending of Dragon Quest XI — so if you don't want to know what happens or what the specific links are, then this is your warning!

Planting the Seeds

Dragon Quest XI's true ending is beautiful. It's a celebration and tribute to the Dragon Quest series as a whole. When I played Dragon Quest XI in 2018, I'd only played two other games in the series — VIII and IX. Still, I wept as I was taken down "memory lane", as clips from all 10 previous Dragon Quest games were showcased. But it's what comes after the credits that really matters.

The original Luminary — who the hero of DQXI is a descendent of — Erdwin, and Serenica the sage, reunite and hold hands. These two figures are particularly prominent in the third act of Dragon Quest XI, and Erdwin's design is clearly modelled after the design of the hero of Dragon Quest III. That hero earns the title of 'Erdrick' (the same title the Luminary of DQXI gets), and Dragon Quest III is the last game to be released in the Erdrick trilogy, but the first game in the trilogy, chronologically.

Dragon Quest XI's true ending is beautiful.

The comparisons to III — and in turn, the whole trilogy — don't stop there. Every character in Dragon Quest XI is representative of a job that's present in Dragon Quest III — Erik is clearly a thief, Jade is a martial artist, and Sylvando closely represents a gadabout, for example. In Dragon Quest III, you need to collect six orbs to hatch the magical bird Ramia; in Dragon Quest XI, those same six orbs return and are needed to unlock the shrine of Yggdrasil. The orbs appear in VIII and IX too, but in slightly different capacities.

Dragon Quest III The Seeds of Salvation Switch Art
You might recognise that spiky hair... — Image: Square Enix

The final scene after the credits roll is really what ties everything all together, though. After Erdwin and Serenica reunite, the game cuts to a scene of a mother reading a book with the Luminary's symbol on it, suggesting that she's reading about the adventures of the hero of Dragon Quest XI. Putting the book back on the bookshelf, she heads upstairs and walks into her child's bedroom, where they lay asleep — their hair is distinctively, and recognisably, spiky. Then she shakes him, and utters the following words:

"Morning, my darling! It's time to get up! Today's a very important day!"

The last line of Dragon Quest XI is the first line of Dragon Quest III, and while Dragon Quest is always very self-referential, the ending to Dragon Quest XI goes way beyond that. The character's design, the line, and links throughout the main game, inextricably tie Dragon Quest XI to Dragon Quest III. And, when the Luminary speaks to Yggdrasil before the credits, he's shown a vision of his sword being wielded by the hero of Dragon Quest I.

It's clear that Dragon Quest XI precedes the Erdrick trilogy, and sets it up for a whole new generation to discover.

Starry Skies

Whether the upcoming remake is just Dragon Quest III HD-2D or the entire Erdrick trilogy, it feels like Dragon Quest XI paved the way for this new version of the NES classics. Get people interested by presenting the series' history in a beautiful way, and make it so the lore teases are just enough to get newcomers curious, while exciting long-time fans. That's how you do it.

Again, people could — and might have even — played those mobile ports because of Dragon Quest XI's ending. But Dragon Quest in HD-2D gives Square Enix a chance to fix a few things, particularly with Dragon Quest II, where party balance and the Road to Rhone can be pretty big roadblocks, and maybe make those connections more solid.

It feels particularly poignant that the HD-2D remake is re-emerging in the year that series' artist Akira Toriyama passed away; it gives his art the chance to shine in a whole new light, to a whole new generation of Dragon Quest fans. We've already seen some of those designs in HD-2D, and I can't think of a more fitting way to celebrate his legacy.

The Erdrick trilogy of Dragon Quest games are some of the most influential and important games ever made, with Dragon Quest III being one of the most beloved entries in the series. For a franchise that indulges in its roots and embraces tradition, remaking the story that started it all — and that Dragon Quest XI clearly embraces, too — is a no-brainer.

Are you excited for the Dragon Quest HD-2D remake? Do you think it'll be the Erdrick trilogy or just III? Let us know in the comments.