Memories of Taking Great Joy in the Female Hero She’d Been Awaiting
Games were largely a pastime for boys in the Famicom era. Dragon Quest gained a girl fan simply because of the Dragon Quest 4-Panel Comics
Text & Materials: Misao Sanjou
Ever since I was a kid I had no interest in playing with dolls, but instead with sentai heroes and the Famicom. My first encounter with Dragon Quest was in 1993. DQ V had already been released, and the DQ I & II remakes for the Super Famicom were about to come out. But the reason I got into Dragon Quest was the first volume of the 4-panel comic, that I just happened to pick up. Primarily based around DQ III, I was enthralled by all of the well-known components that made up the Dragon Quest world contained within: The weapons, armor, items, magic, creatures, stores, fields, and the characters that made up the party. It was the reason that I then wanted to play the games.
The Dragon Quest 4-panel comics
The Dragon Quest 4-panel comic attracted my interest because it was an easy to understand manga that conveyed the very charming setting of the games. I suspect it was responsible for bringing a lot of women fans into the world of Dragon Quest. After that I got the Famicom version of Dragon Quest II, and played my first game in the series. When I played DQ III, the one that charmed me so much in the 4-panel comics, I wasn’t yet used to naming my party members. So I gave the main character my own name, and I made my three other party members girls, giving them the names of some of my classmates.
The official strategy guides, released by Enix
From there I started buying all sorts of things outside of the games, one after another: Official strategy guides, game books, novels…you name it! I spent my days going deeper and deeper into the world of Dragon Quest, but as a girl gamer there was one thing that frustrated me: All of the pixel art and illustrations of the main character were drawn with the character as male (You could play as a female hero in DQIII, but that didn’t change the pixel art). Of course when I played the game I was completely convinced that I was the true hero, and felt that there were no obstacles that I couldn’t surmount.
These books allowed you to play through the game’s story in purely paper form!
But Dragon Quest IV put those feelings of frustration to rest. Not only could you play as a female hero, but there were separate illustrations and pixel art for both the male and female heroes individually. Being able to give the main character my own name without feeling odd about it must have made many girl gamers, including myself, very happy. I also think it conveyed the message that women can be heroes too, to the many women fans out there. Though it may have partially been a tactic to keep the increased number of women fans with the series past IV.
Because of the Dragon Quest 4-panel comic, my DQ fever continues on even now: In recent years I’ve gotten really into both Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest Heroes. And of course nowadays it’s not uncommon at all for women to play these games. I think that there are a lot of different reasons that women fans are attracted to the series, but I also believe that the 4-panel comics are a big one.