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773 Hours Later, Steve Tolin Is Finished With Dragon Quest IX

The road to 100% completion is paved with hundreds of hours on a single cartridge.

Note the amount of time spent in multiplayer, or, you know, the complete lack thereof.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies launched on July 11, 2010. The final piece of downloadable content for the monstrous portable RPG, Quest 184, was released last week, a whole year later.

Steve Tolin has been playing since the beginning, plucking away at the cartridge's every nook and cranny. The last quest finally allowed him to complete his ultimate objective of exploring every part of the game.

He had originally projected this ambitious task to take him 100 hours. As it turned out, not quite.

It took him 773 hours--just over 32 days--of game time to cross the 100% completion threshold.

"For the last couple of months I only played about a few hours each Friday to get the new quest complete," he explained to me. "Then a bit each morning once the DCVC store [an in-game online shopping network] refreshed to get the new items. So I've been staring at the game clock above 650+ hours for a while now. My sister jokes: 'Still playing those Late Night Chronicles.'"

35-year-old Tolin has been playing the Dragon Quest series since the Nintendo Power promotion where Nintendo unloaded more than 500,000 copies of the original as a benefit to subscribers, after realizing the game wasn't going to be a runaway hit.

Back then, the series was called Dragon Warrior, changed for the US because of trademark worries. It reverted back to Dragon Quest with the cel-shaded Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for PlayStation 2 in 2004. The Dragon Quest series has never achieved same sort of popularity outside Japan as its rival Final Fantasy series, but fans are just as dedicated.

"I've played everyone of the mainline games and most of the spin-offs over the years," said Tolin. "Since then [I] have Day 1 purchased each game of the series. It takes long enough between releases that it's still an event for me. I even just replayed the DS trilogy remakes. I still have all the original cartridges and discs."

Whereas other games series have chased after Western design, Dragon Quest has stayed true to its Japanese roots, even in art style.

His day job involves being the owner and creative and technical director of game developer Deep Fried Games, who developed the PSP version of Full Auto 2 for Sega and ShadowPlay, the first WiiWare release to use the MotionPlus accessory.

It took Tolin an already-impressive 62 hours to finish the mainline quest in Dragon Quest IX, which means the vast majority of the ensuing 711 hours were spent working through the side content.

"It really wasn't until about the 300-hour mark that I realized how much more content there was to play," he said.

Um, yeah.

Tolin achieved 100% before the one-year anniversary of the game's release, which means 8% of the last year of Tolin's life was wrapped up in the latest release from Yuji Hori. That's especially impressive for a non-MMO. In games like World of Warcraft, sometimes the act of playing can take a backseat to chatting and socializing.

The first marathon session was during a two-month road trip from Vancouver to Yukon and Alaska. By the time the trip was over, the in-game clock read 250 hours. During his journey, he'd update the message board NeoGAF with his progress.

At 328 hours, this is what his DS looked like:

Time spent playing: 328:21
Defeated Monster List Completion: 87%
Wardrobe Completion: 64%
Item List Completion: 88%
Alchenomicon Completion: 74%

Only 445 hours to go until 100%.

The longest break Tolin took between sessions was two weeks--but only by accident. He simply forgot to bring the cartridge with him for a trip. He claims he didn't go through withdrawal.

This is what Tolin's character looks like after 773 hours within Dragon Quest IX's world. I wonder if my hair would qualify for "legendary" status.

"It wasn't an obsession, more like a few comfortable play sessions a week," he said. "Like watching an HBO mini-series that just kept going weekly for a year. If there's DQ withdrawal it's from the time in between title releases or having the next game released in Japan and then waiting a year for localization."

By "comfortable play sessions a week," he means four-to-six hours several times per week spent in front of the glow of his DS.

I know what it's like to play for a ridiculous amount of time, having maxed out the clock to 99:99:99 in several Final Fantasy games back in the day. The last time I sank that deep into a game was Fallout 3, where the downloadable content pushed me over 80 hours. And as much as I enjoyed those many, many hours, when I confess the total time to less dedicated gamers, sometimes I get a suspicious eyebrow.

Tolin said it was never like that for him with Dragon Quest IX.

"Everyone who knows me knows that I really enjoy and complete my games," he said. "Most of my friends and peers usually come to me for game advice or recommendations. Video games are also my career so it's never 'wasted' time. I've got a lot of deep knowledge of many game series dating back pre-NES days. I've put that to use and will continue through the rest of my career."

Dragon Quest IX is not the first game he's done this with, either, as he regularly sets out to 100% games that he's especially fallen for, but he does believe he's the first one to hit 100% on this game.

"There are quite a few forum posters who stop in the post-game around 100-200 hours," said Tolin. "Since Quest 184 was released and people have seen my 100% file they have messaged me that they are going to pick the game back up to play more."

For now, however, with Dragon Quest IX behind him, Tolin goes back into waiting mode. Dragon Quest X for Wii has not yet been revealed, but details on the game are expected later this year. He's also crossing his fingers the Operational Rainfall campaign to bring The Last Story, Pandora's Tower and Xenoblade to the US is successful. He may be waiting a while.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
173 Comments
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Posted by takeshikitano3

I've got like 260 hours in but am still so far away considering all the rare items and such.  Love the game, and wow, congrats on 100%.

Edited by phoenixdk

Ah Dragonquest, so we meet again.

Posted by mau64

This is insane to me. I have never spent this much time on a single game ever. Good for him though.

Posted by Slab64

So how many times did he prestige?

Posted by SatelliteOfLove

 Do not know what drives people to plow hundreds of hours into this game, but more power to them.
 

Whereas other games series have chased after Western design, Dragon Quest has stayed true to its Japanese roots, especially in art style.


 
Fixed.
 

Posted by mattdragn

I just want to say that I completely disagree with anyone that thinks these news articles are unnecessary, though I respect their right to an opinion. Patrick has been responsible for some great and informative stories, and has broken a lot of news in the short time that he has been a member of the whiskey media editorial staff. He adds variety to the site and produces some amazing articles and I hope that he continues to do so for many years to come here at giant bomb.

Posted by EightBitShik

Wow, does Patrick talk about Neogaf in everything he writes? I feel like GB is getting screwed.

Posted by Majkiboy

Do you want to write articles about people playing one game for a long time? How about Final fantasy 11 for about 1000 hours?
Or any random dude playing wow?
Or any random dude playing pokemon?

Posted by fosuu

omg

Posted by Herrdoktor

@mr_shoeless said:

@TEAMHOLT said:

Giant Bomb was one of the few gaming websites that neither inundated me with news nor posted overblown editorials just to look interesting, but now we get this kind of junk a couple of times a week.

I have to agree. I enjoyed visiting Giant Bomb more before they started trying to post all those uninteresting "news" articles every day. I'd rather they lower the frequency and just put up videos, reviews, and editorials where they truly have a unique spin on it. I don't need to know about every intra-company squabble or buyout rumor.

Cry more please.

How hard is it to not read an article if you don't like the subject matter?

Posted by Adziboy
@Marz said:
Madness.... but I've spent over a year of my life in hours (8000 i think)  playing Final Fantasy XI and over about 1200 playing WOW so i can't judge him.
I really hope your joking haha. I mean, I've played WoW but... 8000 on FF?
Posted by Marz
@Adziboy said:
@Marz said:
Madness.... but I've spent over a year of my life in hours (8000 i think)  playing Final Fantasy XI and over about 1200 playing WOW so i can't judge him.
I really hope your joking haha. I mean, I've played WoW but... 8000 on FF?
8000 over 3 years... sounds bout right to me.   my total /played was near 400 days, FFXI was an mmo though, not something that you can actually finish playing.
Posted by Shinryujin

Mad devotion. I would get bored around the 30 hour mark. 

Posted by JackG100

I played more than 8000 dotagames so I cant really badmouth the dude for wasting his time.

Posted by aratto

Great story, Patrick!

Posted by Swoxx

Oh god. I wonder how many hours i spent playing wow back in the days

Posted by michaelawesome

Personally, I thought this was a very interesting article.

Posted by Protonguy

@swoxx said:

Oh god. I wonder how many hours i spent playing wow back in the days

That's probably roughly findable by resubscribing and doing some slash commands. It's probably best you don't know though :) i'd be scared of my own number.

Posted by Lelcar

Dude, 773 hours is a crazy amount of time. I thought it was crazy that I clocked over 100+ hours mastering each Final Fantasy X, XII, and XIII.

Posted by JoeyRavn

I had never had any interest in the Dragon Quest franchise, but after reading the article, I just went ahead and bought the game. Amazon UK dispatched it an hour ago. What's wrong with me?

Posted by patrickklepek

@EightBitShik said:

Wow, does Patrick talk about Neogaf in everything he writes? I feel like GB is getting screwed.

I've been part of NeoGAF since it was founded--before it was GAF. Just happens to be my Internet home away from home. Also, the guy is from NeoGAF.

Posted by James_ex_machina

I have no idea what time I have spent with most games. I have about 80 hours into Borderlands which NOTHING compared to that or what a lot of people posted in here.

I would love to know how much time I spent in Quake or Half-Life multiplayer back in the day. I would play Quake at work during third shift any chance I had. I would get home in the morning and fire up Quake/Half-Life. My gf would be leaving for class and when she got home I'd still be playing. My eyes would be watering and bloodshot. I'd go to bed when she went to her part time job. She'd wake me for dinner and I'd try to get some more time before work. I did this daily for months.

Posted by Rebirth1337

That's crazy that game can last that long. The most I've ever played a single player game has to be Fallout 3 and I think I just barely hit 300 hours with about 4 different saves.