In a JRPG landscape filled with identikit teenage protagonists, indistinguishable blacker than black antagonists and drab, clinical futuristic cityscapes, Dragon Quest IV is a deep breath of fresh air. This is, after all, a game in which you begin by assuming the role of a blue-mustachioed soldier in his fifties, a man who speaks in a thick, near-indecipherable Scottish brogue.
Ragnar McRyan is in no way a character designed off the back of some intense Japanese schoolgirl demographic focus testing. He is not aspirational. He does not wear a fussy, frilly shirt, unbuttoned halfway to reveal an over-designed amulet nestled betwixt stony pecs. He will never be a poster boy for a Dragon Quest Mountain Dew ad campaign in downtown Shibuya. He has a blue moustache.
A man approaching retirement, Ragnar is all tufty grey hair and regional accent, on a mission to catch a peeping tom and track down some missing children. And my goodness, for a game that was first released 18 years ago onto the NES it's a piece of anti-hero casting that feels braver and more interesting than pretty much any that's happened in the genre since. Doesn't that speak depressing volumes?