Saturday, July 30, 2011

Famicom History: When Dragon Quest III Went on Sale

This is a really cool video, a news report from 1988 about the release of Dragon Quest III that I stumbled upon over at Famicom no Neta.

The news story is mainly about the problem of kids skipping school in order to go wait in the massive lines forming in front of department stores for Dragon Quest III. A large number of students had been caught doing so and the police, the education ministry and the game maker were having some trouble dealing with the delinquency issue caused by the game's popularity.

The video is a treasure trove of images from the day. Its got video of the massive lines of Dragon Quest fans snaking down the street in Tokyo waiting to buy the game. Its got images of store employees desperately scooping copies of the game fresh out of their crates and onto store shelves. Its got the thrill of victory by one shopper who has finally gotten to the front of the line and gives a wave to the crowd behind him as he makes his much anticipated purchase. Its got two store employees at the end of a busy day on the sidewalk, one with a bullhorn and the other with a sign saying that they were all sold out of Dragon Quest III.

This video really adds a poetic touch to the experience of scrounging through bargain bins full of old Famicom games. Copies of Dragon Quest III are often to be found in them, usually selling for dirt cheap. It is hard to believe when looking at them in that sorry state that once upon a time people were thronging the streets of the world's biggest city with fistfuls of cash waiting to buy them.

The fleeting nature of success. The emotion is best summed up in the opening passage of the epic Tale of the Heike:

"The sound of the Gion Shoja bells echoes the impermanence of all things; the color of the sala flowers reveals the truth that the prosperous must decline. The proud do not endure, they are like a dream on a spring night; the mighty fall at last, they are as dust before the wind."

Related Posts:
-Famicom History
-Famicom History Part 2: Japanese Famicom Slang 101


  1. I remember reading about this sort of thing in early issues of Nintendo Power magazine, Sean. It always amazed me Japanese boys and girls were so passionate about this series (and other series, too, like Mario and Zelda, etc.). Anyway, I'm pretty sure stories like this are at least partially responsible for me wanting to visit if not live in Japan. I guess you could say I wanted to get in line with everyone else :)

  2. Yeah, Bryan, I think it happened quite often with the most anticipated Famicom games. Actually it still happens here, a few months ago when the ipad was released I saw massive lines running down the street at the Apple Store in downtown Fukuoka.

    I've always wanted to get in line too, but nobody gets in line to buy retro games!! Definitely another cool thing about living in Japan though! :)

  3. Nice video! You're right, it is strange how ridiculously sought-after some things can be mere months or even weeks before they're cast aside. The same kind of thing happens here with some products, although not RPG's! I was amused to see huge queues in the city recently outside lots of shops and wondered what was going on. Then someone told me that the latest bloody iPhone was out that day! Bah, I'm glad I have enough patience to wait for the things I want most of the time :)

  4. It is kind of strange, isn't it? I'm not much of a trend follower, so like you I always just wait for a few months (or years) for the line ups to disappear before buying something!