The overworld map themes in the Dragon Quest series have always been some of my favorite tunes in the game as they invoke a sense of exploring a wide world and capture the mood as you and your allies set out to fight the forces of evil.
Koichi Sugiyama has always composed such great themes that truly make you feel that you’re going on an adventure. I used to put the DQ map themes on my phone and play them as I was taking walks in large green areas. I even thought of doing a series of YouTube videos where I just explore parks, hills, and many more green areas with DQ map music playing (Maybe I’ll get around to that when the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end).
All of Sugiyama’s overworld themes for the DQ series have been amazing, but if I had to choose one, it would be “A Lonely Youth“, which is the first Dragon Quest II map theme.
“A Lonely Youth” – Famicom/NES Version
“A Lonely Youth” – Super Famicom Version
“A Lonely Youth” – Theatrhythm 3DS/Nintendo Switch Version
“A Lonely Youth” – MSX Version
To me, this theme invokes a mix of adventure, tragedy, and hope. Upon starting the game, the Kingdom of Moonbrooke is destroyed by Hargon’s forces and your father, the king of Midenhall/Lorasia sends you out into the world to stop him. As the young prince searches for his cousins to aid him in the fight against Hargon, this theme plays on his journey and is much sadder than the original Dragon Quest’s overworld theme in Alefgard which gave a mysterious sense of adventure in a vast world. This theme also invokes a serious determination to avenge the people of Moonbrooke and stop Hargon for good.
The beginning of the theme starts off with a feeling you’re about to start a long journey, but in a much sadder tone than DQI’s overworld theme. The middle part of the song reminds you of the tragedy that befell Moonbrooke Castle and the last part gives you the hope you need to prevail on your quest. I used to leave this song playing on my NES as background noise and even recorded it to cassette tape with a Fisher Price microphone and tape recorder when I was a kid. I even still play it in my car when I travel like the nerd I am.
My favorite version of the song is probably still the original NES/Famicom version followed by the MSX version. The Super Famicom version adds a lot more to the song with an extra verse which carries on the sad feeling of the original, but I enjoy the simple sound channels of the NES/Famicom a bit more. The Theatrhythm/Switch version gives it more of an epic and serious feel which is nice and works well for the updated ports of the game.
Once you finally find the Princess of Moonbrooke, the overworld theme changes to “Traveling with Friends” which is also an excellent theme which signifies the reunion of the cousins who are the descendants of Erdrick/Loto. I still prefer “A Lonely Youth” more, but “Traveling with Friends” is also a great theme. We all know the game has a happy ending, so it’s fitting that the map theme changes with the mood of the game.
I love all the themes, but “A Lonely Youth” still has the biggest place in my heart after all these years. Let me know what your favorite DQ overworld themes are!