Dragon Quest Monsters is delightful even 24 years (!) later. I’m playing with this retranslation patch, mostly because I wanted something different:
It’s actually a really good patch though, and makes the game’s dialogue infinitely more charming.
The game itself is still rock solid, of course. It’s hard to communicate how much of a revelation this was for me when I got it as a kid. I was fresh off of Pokemon Red (or was it Blue?) and my mom got this for me because she said it “looked like one of those pokemon games you like”. This was my first Dragon Warrior game of any description, so every reference went straight over my head.
At first I was slightly disappointed in this game - it’s much more basic in structure than Pokemon (go to dungeon, defeat boss, talk to king, do next tournament, repeat) and doesn’t really have exploration in the same way. All the dungeons are randomly generated as well, so it has a kind of generic flavor in some ways.
It’s also Way Fucking Harder! As an adult I’m breezing through the early dungeons and tournament fights, but as a kid I didn’t really understand RPGs so I was struggling hardcore. The game can really screw you over with dungeons too - the random encounter rate is average for the genre, but the convoluted layouts will sometimes mean you spend a good long time looking for the exit. Or sometimes you spawn right next to the exit! There are also a ton of special rooms that can either be benefits or serious challenges, and every drain on resources makes it harder when you finally face the boss. I ended up relying a lot on luck to get through dungeons.
I also screwed myself over on accident as well. I was used to Pokemon where you must tell your little dingus what to do on every turn. But DQM has 3 settings where you can tell them to be aggressive, mixed, or cautious, which lets them choose their own actions. Letting the monsters decide their own actions will make them better at deciding what to do, and sometimes even providing significant benefits (more crits, free spells, defending other monsters).
OR you can specifically tell them what to do every turn. The problem is that if you always micromanage, your monsters become unable to manage themselves at all, and get really dumb. And in the tournaments, you can’t specifically tell them what to do, only provide general coaching, so your dumbass monsters will just sit there and get killed.
So of course I turned all my monsters into cowardly idiots by micromanaging them! The manual even specifies this (of course I read the manual) but I’m a control freak, so…
Still, I managed to get pretty far in the game once I understood it. The breeding in this game is fairly complex and robust, and since you lose monsters upon breeding them, you have to end up with a rotating cast of monsters if you want to succeed. Once I got over the worry that I was losing great monsters, then I was able to take advantage of the breeding system and make some really cool monsters.
Also, once I figured this out I was much more skeptical of the single player in Pokemon. It’s kind of brainless and relies on novelty of finding new 'mons, towns, and NPCs to drive interest. There’s nothing wrong with novelty of course, but I ended up preferring the mechanical complexity of breeding monsters in DQM.
This was also my first roguelite of sorts, since the random generation of dungeons, items, and special rooms most closely mirrors mystery dungeon games. I was able to recognize these elements for what they were only much later, when I saw them in Dokapon: Monster Hunter on the GBA, which is much closer to a mystery dungeon game, and also extremely fucking stupid.
I only finished this game about…maybe 6 years ago or so? I tapped out as a kid at basically the final tournament, essentially because I was intimidated by it. I did this a lot - even when I could see the goal line and how to reach it, I would lose confidence and quit. I was very proud to finish this game (and the sequel) as an adult!
I’ve also finished all the DQM Joker games (they’re really good!) and attempted to play Caravan Hearts but something about that one rubbed me the wrong way.
This also started my long-running habit of liking the spinoff games from DQ much more than the main series. Between these games, the Rocket Slime game on the DS, and Dragon Quest Builders 1 & 2 I’ve basically had great DQ spinoffs for my entire life.
Anyway I’m not sure if I’ll finish this a second time but I’m enjoying my time with it for now.