The iOS platform is a haven of great (and some not-so-great) ports of classic games. Square Enix has made a big business out of porting their older catalog to iOS alongside some of their original mobile titles, and their most recent example of this is an excellent port of the 2008 Nintendo DS remake of the 2002 PlayStation remake of the original 1990 RPG classic Dragon Quest IV. You following so far? Dragon Quest IV on iOS uses the same pseudo 2D/3D visuals of the Nintendo DS version, formatted in portrait orientation for one-handed gaming, and including some extra content that wasn't in the original NES release. It's an incredible game and an incredible port on iOS, capturing both a 5 star review and our Game of the Week nod.

However, over in the game's forum thread, one of our community members had a question for our resident RPG expert Shaun "Must Read" Musgrave. Forum goer Louis Ace asked, "Shaun, how would you compare this to the Final Fantasy games on the App Store? What are the similarities and differences?" Given Shaun's lengthy, well thought out and interesting response, I thought I'd share it with you here on the front page, in case you're yourself wondering which series of iOS ports would be more your style: Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest? Of course, there are far more Final Fantasy games on iOS than there currently are Dragon Quest games, but if the rumors from last fall are to be believed, it won't be long until the first eight Dragon Quest games are all available on the App Store.

So, without further ado, here is Shaun's response to the questions:

"…how would you compare this to the Final Fantasy games on the App Store? What are the similarities and differences?"

The first thing I want to say is that there is a key difference that separates Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy as we know them today. Final Fantasy is and to an extent always has been a name and a few core concepts that were used by a number of teams to explore different RPG ideas. Apart from certain mainstays who even now have largely departed such as Yoshitaka Amano and Nobuo Uematsu, the games usually had very different staff from installment to installment, and there was no real auteur to the series. FF long outlived creator Hironobu Sakaguchi's tenure at Square, and indeed there aren't many people at all from the old days still working on the series.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 49 10Dragon Quest, on the other hand, is the vision of one man, Yuji Horii. He always collaborates with artist Akira Toriyama and the music always has been at least under the supervision of Koichi Sugiyama. Those three work with various programming houses (Chunsoft, Heartbeat, and Level 5 so far) to create the games, but they very much reflect the vision of Horii, lending them a very interconnected feel.

This is important because fundamentally, the Dragon Quest series iterates, eternally perfecting its established gameplay, while FF innovates, often throwing out nearly everything to try something totally new, without care of refinement. It makes the series harder to compare than you would think, especially once we get past the first few games where FF was mostly existing as a reply to DQ games.

Dragon Quest IV is a weird era-straddling game. It came out quite late, in February 1990, with the Super Famicom less than a year away. It released around the same time as Square's Final Fantasy 3, which had an unenviable job of trying to clean up after FF2's mess and establish some sort of stable relevance for the series. I like to think that at this point, even though FF was relatively minor compared to DQ, that Horii *was* paying attention to what it did well, but that's just speculation.

The chronology looks like this: DQ1DQ2/FF1DQ3FF2FF3/DQ4, and I think that works for most of the comparisons. DQ1 is very primitive, DQ2 added party members and extra means of travel, FF1 had some similar ideas and threw in a bunch of crib notes (and sketches) from DnD, DQ3 introduced a class sytem and implemented it in a more sophisticated way than FF1 did, FF2 came out with a tight story focus and introduced gamers to Akitoshi Kawazu's madness, FF3 came out with a more back-to-basics approach that seemed heavily informed by DQ3, and then there was DQ4.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 49 48DQ4 wasn't the first time DQ had "named" heroes, but it was definitely the most advanced attempt at such a thing. Tossing out the ability to change jobs and choose the job types you wanted for your party was pretty bold and seemed to fly in the face of what job classes were supposed to do. Instead, the story dictates which types of characters you have at your disposal at any one time, only allowing you to customize in the back half of the game. Interestingly, even later DQ games that brought back the class system tend not to introduce it until you're quite deep into the game, so this isn't the last we'd see of this approach, technically.

From a technical point of view, this allowed the team a lot of opportunities for balancing, but more importantly, having a large cast of named characters allowed them to tell an even better story than the already impressive efforts in the Loto Trilogy (the first three Dragon Quest games). It put characters first, even going as far as implementing AI so that they could have their own personalities in combat. This was also the first DQ game with a full casino, a wagon (being able to switch your party members around on the fly? WHAT?!), saving in churches instead of by talking to kings, and more stuff that stayed in the series forever. It's a far more sophisticated game than FF1/2/3, and the only thing that belied its 8-bit roots in my opinion was the appearance.

The remake solves that, of course, and I think people coming to the series today would be hard-pressed to tell DQ4 is from a different hardware generation than 5 and 6. Even in fully-remade 3D, it's still very apparent that FF3 is a NES/FC game, as an example, but DQ4 avoids that to a great extent. It has a greater focus on exploration than the FF games of the SFC era, but that's a general difference between FF and DQ outside of specific games. I think it's pretty unusual for a DQ game simply because the series isn't known for revolving the story around the player characters, but this one does.

If I'm going to go LIST WARZ on you, here's how I'd personally rank the DQ/FF games available to English iOS gamers right now, not including genre-jumping spin-offs:

FF5 > FF6 > DQ4 > FF4 > DQ8 > FFD > FF1 > FF3 > FF2 > TAY

As more DQ games get released, you're going to see those FF games from Dimensions on down get pushed down that list more, with DQ5 being notable as being the one DQ game that has the story chops to best FF6 and DQ3 being the DQ game with the customization to challenge (but ultimately lose to) FF5. But generally speaking - if you like stories more, stick to FF, if you like exploring and adventures more, DQ's your buddy.

Thanks Shaun! And for reference, here are the appropriate forum and review links for all games involved:

Final Fantasy - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy II - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy III - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy IV - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy V - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy VI - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Final Fantasy Dimensions - [Review] - [Forum Thread]

Dragon Quest IV - [Review] - [Forum Thread]
Dragon Quest VIII - [Review] - [Forum Thread]

  • sweetdiss

    Robin Williams always preferred Dragon Quest. : (

    • WrenDavey

      If Dragon Quest was Zelda or a FPS.

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    Great Shaun! Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    • VirtualBoyFreak

      Yeap, thanks a lot. In your infinite wisdom, how would you compare FF/DQ to Monster Hunter Freedom Unite? If they are comparable in any way, of course...

      • Shaun Musgrave

        Personally, I think trying to compare them is a bit too far of a stretch, so I'm not even going to try. Sorry!

      • VirtualBoyFreak

        Thanks, your answer is enough to know they are not even similar.

      • cinnamonandnutmeg

        I agree with Shaun. They are both extremely enjoyable and fantastic experiences in totally different ways.

  • Lemmonz

    RIP Robin Williams

  • Jazzpha

    Shaun Musgrave is officially the Moses of TouchArcade. Nature bends to his will, and us mere mortals cower before the awe-inspiring scope of his videogame knowledge.

    He is truly an inspiration, not only to TA frequenters, but to the vast majority of the human race.

    Here's hoping he stays gainfully employed, for all our sakes.

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    Dragon Quest is magical and unique, but FF is just legendary and transcendental, specially the classics ones, IV and V, VI. But surely both are the best RPG ever existed, along with Chrono Trigger.

  • Louis Ace

    Thanks for the awesome response Shaun!

  • NickyNichols

    No FF Tactics War of The Lion? Many kids seem to prefer that over all of these.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      It's a great game, but I put it in the genre-jumping spin-off category since it's in a whole different sub-genre. It would be high on the list, though.

      • Bliquid

        FFT is similar to DQ as described by you. It has a holy trinity of creators, Matsuno- Yoshida - Sakimoto, who created the cohesive vision of Ivalice, which is my personal favorite "world" in videogames. Boy, how i wish Square let the FF brand in their hands instead of spiky emo Nomura. My favorite numbered FF is XII, the story has been messed up by Square wanting a young main chara, but the system was great.
        It was an evolution of Vagrant Story's system, a game that deserves much more than it had and an iOS port as well.
        Can't wait for Unsung Story.

      • armilla


  • Nycteris

    Thank you so much for this wonderful, informative post!

  • Benjamin Rodriguez

    Stupid topic, it should've said the Shaun opinions towards the history of both series. The only real portayal of the topic is at the very end. So if you're actually trying to avoid reading a wall of shit and happen to go to the comments first: Skip to the bottom.

  • MewLover34

    Why has Kingdom Hearts not been ported yet?

    • Apalachicola

      Criminal negligence!

      (or licensing difficulties)

  • Ben Seeberger

    Great review. Out of curiosity, why FFV as the number 1? I've always felt the storyline was the most serious out of all the FFs, but the most poorly told of the great stories (FF4/5/6), with FF4 having the most emotional impact and FF6 having the best characters.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      I should start by saying I go back and forth on FF5 and FF6. If you ask me in six months, I might switch them around again. Ultimately, what I love about FF5 is that it's got so much diversity to its gameplay. I replay it almost every summer under challenge rules (The Four Job Fiesta) and I seem to learn something new each time. After my initial playthroughs of both, I'd have easily picked 6 over 5, but while my appreciation for FF6 barely wanes at all on replays, I appreciate FF5 a little bit more every time I play it. I also feel the contentious graphical style of the iOS ports is a better fit for FF5's goofier story.

      • visualplayer

        I feel the same about V. VI is a great story but often feels as if it's on rails... Great review!

  • jegmaranan

    The graphics reminds me of Xenogears. Xenogears will complete my iOS gaming. Bring it Squeenix!

    • Goggles789

      Man Xenogears was such an amazing, yet disappointing game. Disc 2.... 🙁 If they remade it and tweaked the end-game, I would totally buy it on ios.

  • Goggles789

    What an interesting article. Well, all I can add to this, is that I hope they are planning on releasing the original 3 Dragon Quest games as well. And, could you imagine if they port DQ7? That would be fantastic, as well!

  • Goggles789

    I would also add that both game series have a great focus on stories. I would just say that in DQ you have to kind of "hunt" for the story by talking with NPCs and such, and in FF series the games kind of "deliver" the story to you. Hope that makes sense!

  • Apalachicola

    "FF5 > FF6 > DQ4 > FF4 > DQ8"

    My sentiments exactly. FF7 is my favorite, though, and I look forward to an ios port.

  • Taeles

    Dragon Quests operate in trilogies and your heroes were being named as early as dragon quest 2. Each Final Fantasy, until very recently was always the final fantasy of the world the game took place on.

    Also of note on the iOS, who ever is doing the final fantasy ports likes gamecenter enough to give achievement support. Who ever is doing the dragon quest ports, not so much so.

  • tinkie277

    Next up FF7!

    • Apalachicola

      Fastest $15 I ever dreamed of spending. Cannot wait.

  • curtisrshideler

    I love reading educated and experienced gamers' thoughts on mobile RPGs. If it wasn't for these articles about these games I love, I would feel like I'm one of a handful of nerds who play these. Thanks to the forums, I've found the others in that handful. But these DQ and FF ports are just brilliant for mobile gaming. Thanks for giving them some proper attention!

  • armilla


  • William Cole

    Ever since DQ8, I've preferred DQ over FF. I mean I grew up a FF kid but after the PS1 era, I didn't like the series that much anymore. Dragon Quest just does everything right(especially 8) and hopefully we get a real non online DQ for PS4.

  • unexpect3rd

    I love articles like this. Articles that actually discussed games, not just review them (the reviews are useful too of course). Thanks Shaun!

  • ReddestDream

    FFVI>FFV. Don't get me wrong, FFV has a great job system. One of the best I've seen outside of an SRPG (e.g., FFT), but it has a lame plot and bad characters that are almost as bad as the characters in FFXII. FFVI is a bit more rigid, but you have so many characters that you basically cover all the (good) classes. FFVI, however, does have the BEST plot and characters of any FF game. Also, DQVIII>FFIV. FFIV really is overrated . . . The plot is pretty good, but the characters are meh, and the game (hard mode, which is what I played) can get criminally grind-heavy . . .

    Game-listing in general (not based on iOS ports): FFVI>DQVIII>DQIV>FFV>FFIV>TAY>FFIII>FF>FFII

  • Volucre

    I'm glad that FFV is finally getting the appreciation it deserves, now that gameplay mechanics are once again being prioritized, rather than graphics and realism.

    I would still rate FFVI and FFVII higher based on story, music and characters, but I agree that the replay value of FFV is second-to-none.

  • tpianca

    Wow. Thanks for the extra article, Shaun. And thanks Jared for putting this up, otherwise I wouldn't have seen it.
    With the risk of starting a "how would you rate this one" sub thread, (but I promises I'm just asking about this one, because I love it the most), how would Chronno Trigger fare in this list, Shaun? I mean, it is kind of a merge of developers, right?

    • Shaun Musgrave

      I'll answer that question in a week and a half, I promise.