The Dragon Quest series has been an iconic franchise in the gaming industry for over 30 years. It’s not easy to maintain that momentum, but the series remains popular, especially in Japan. About a year ago, series creator Yuji Horii announced a film for the franchise, titled Dragon Quest: Your Story. Based on Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, it would be a 3D CG film to adapt that story for modern audiences. Releasing it on Netflix, it seems that in a lot of ways, it succeeds in telling this story. Unfortunately, there are some interesting choices that keep this film from reaching the magic of the franchise.
Without spoiling too much, the story is a sort of retelling of Dragon Quest V. Focusing on the hero, Luca, voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, it tells his adventure from childhood to adulthood. After various tragic events, Luca is enslaved by the evil bishop Ladja (Jason Marnocha) for ten long years. Ladja aims to build a temple to help him summon the world ending Grandmaster Nimzo, using his prisoners to do it. Together with his friend, Prince Harry, Luca manages to escape to start a journey to rescue a loved one from the clutches of Ladja. After some time, Luca and Harry separate, and Luca goes solo for a bit, reuniting with other friends along the way. The story plays out in a grand presentation, and even has an interesting twist at the end. It truly brings the “Your Story” name to the bigger picture.
The animation quality in Dragon Quest: Your Story is pretty top notch, bringing the world to life in a gorgeous display. Characters have a style that works well for the film, though it’s unfortunate that a bit of the Akira Toriyama style is lost in the transition. At least those designs are kept for the monsters, which there are tons of classic creatures shown from the series. Interestingly enough, the mouth movements were animated after the original Japanese voices were recorded. The English voice cast does a great job recording over it, though there are still moments where they don’t match. It’s to be expected, so you can’t really fault the studios for something that can’t be avoided.
Everyone performs well and it works within the setting of the story. Perhaps the most interesting thing was hearing the voice actors call out spells like Kasizzle and Swoosh. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s nice to know that the elements of the game weren’t lost in the film. What truly shines here is the Koichi Sugiyama score, taking plenty of the classic songs from the series and integrating it into the presentation. It really sells a triumphant moment when the main theme accompanies it in the background. It’s also great that some of the classic sounds from the series make their way into the movie.
One thing felt like a missed opportunity, and that may be due to the distribution. In Japan, this movie was played in theaters, though the rest of the world got it through Netflix and other methods. It would have been cool to have an interactive option similar to Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Fans of Dragon Quest V would know that the game has a moment where players are given a choice of who to marry. That comes up in the film, but it would have been cool to give the viewer the option to choose a bride for Luca. How it ends up feels pretty endearing at least, but it could have made this movie much more interesting. Obviously, that would cost more money in animation and voice work, so it makes sense as to why it wasn’t done.
As mentioned before, the story plays out similar to how the game does, except for one notable moment in the end. It feels like Dragon Quest: Your Story borrows a bit from the Star Ocean series, another Square-Enix published RPG franchise. I won’t spoil exactly what it is, but it definitely comes out of left field. Not quite sure that it was a bad thing or not, though the movie definitely didn’t need it. At least it ends up providing a big lesson, and hopefully something heartwarming for die-hard fans of the series. One other particular note is the super anticlimactic way certain enemies die. Monsters of all types just sort of disintegrate into rubble, which feels a little out of place.
Overall, Dragon Quest: Your Story was an interesting adaptation of classic game tale. While not entirely true to the Akira Toriyama designs, the characters and visuals still have a certain charm to them. The animation is solid and the presentation is superb thanks to great performances and music. You might not see the ending coming, but it doesn’t take away from what is otherwise a good introduction to the franchise. Even if you’re not a Dragon Quest fan, there is still plenty to enjoy with this movie.