Player ID: Yuji Horii, or the man behind the Dragon Quest

When we talk about JRPGs in the West, we often tend to talk about Final Fantasy and most of the Square games. And for good reason: Here and in North America, Final Fantasy games have always received an incredible reception. However, the Dragon Quest series has always been more appreciated and popular in Japan.. The astonishing split that is changing, so recently, especially with the huge success of Dragon Quest XI, is changing the balance of power. The Dragon Quest franchise has never been so popular in the West, and it doesn’t look like things are going to end for what was previously the main Enix license. Today, we pay tribute to its creator, Yuji Hori, who was able to influence many more than we think thanks to his popular cult series.

A man is more influential than you think

The crazy story of Yuji Horii in the video game begins in 1982, when he participated in a field programming competition organized by Enix, which is looking for new talented programmers.. He was very interested in the medium, and during this competition he proposed a new tennis game called Love Match Tennis, which allowed him to become one of the winners. So he was set directly by Enix, and discovered around the same time as Wizardry, a video game inspired by heroic fantasy, considered one of the first role-playing games. Until then, Hori had only offered detective visual novels (interactive novel genres), but he had discovered an entirely new way to approach video games.

Dragon Quest XI, his latest small masterpiece
Dragon Quest XI, his latest small masterpiece

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Inspired by magic, he decided to create his own role-playing game, which he will call Dragon Quest.. This is not one, but four Dragon Quest games that will be released on the NES in the 1980s, the latter being incredibly well received in Japan. There’s no doubt that the fact that Yuji Horii managed to convince Akira Toriyama (creator of Dragon Ball) to get involved in the artwork and character design greatly helped this crazy popularity in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s also important to note that the first Dragon Quest game was released before the first Final Fantasy game, making Yuji Horii one of the early creators of the genre as we know it today. If success is on schedule in Japan, it will be shy anywhere else in the world, unlike Final Fantasy which would benefit from an explosion of global interest in the 1990s, especially with Final Fantasy VI and VII.

Yuji Horii upon presentation of DQ XI
Yuji Horii upon presentation of DQ XI

That doesn’t stop Yuji Horii from taking pride in his license and offering heaps of sequels to his fans, especially on Super NES (Dragon Quest V and VI), Playstation (DQ VII), or PS2 (DQ VIII). In the meantime, he’s overseeing another classic JRPG: Chrono Trigger. Yuji Hori finds Akira Toriyama there, but also Hironobu Sakaguchi (his rival, creator of the Final Fantasy series). Then, Square and Enix merge: Now, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy are no longer rivals but colleagues. This allows licensing to have less pressure on his performance in the West, and ironically, that’s when we started to succeed. With Dragon Quest XI, his latest game, Yuji Horii has achieved the greatest success. The game has been sold like hot cakes all over the world, and there is no doubt that the series still has a great future ahead. Moreover, recently, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the series, a new adaptation was announced …

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