I think Dragon Quest has held on to its core...
I think Dragon Quest has held on to its core identity in a way that Final Fantasy hasn’t. Dragon Quest has evolved, but there’s a clear through-line from the original game to now. As the series and its fans both grow up the games lean a bit more on nostalgia - and a huge part of why that’s effective is because the series has maintained a consistent tone across its installments. Playing Dragon Quest XI today feels a lot like how it felt to play Dragon Quest III on the NES. Final Fantasy, meanwhile, has reinvented itself a few times. Multiple mainline games feel like the sort of experiment you normally see as a spin-off title, taking the series in bold new directions that sometimes stick and sometimes don’t. Final Fantasy XV is all-but unrecognizable as a descendant of, say, Final Fantasy IV. There’s still nostalgia, but it feels more detached - like bits of intertextual homage rather than bringing tradition forward. For example: Final Fantasy XV feels the need to justify/contextualize the inclusion of the classic victory theme by having one of its characters sing it. Meanwhile, Dragon Quest XI just straight-up uses the classic sound effects. Modern Final Fantasy is nostalgic for classic Final Fantasy. Modern Dragon Quest still is classic Dragon Quest. I think this is why, despite having played more Final Fantasy as a child, it’s Dragon Quest that I’m still drawn to today. It’s Dragon Quest that I want to wrap myself in like a blanket.
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