In the early days of console RPG, there were two big names: Squaresoft's Final Fantasy and Enix's Dragon Warrior. Things are different now, with Dragon Warrior becoming Dragon Quest, and both Square and Enix doing a fusion dance to create a new company, Square Enix, but these two franchises are still two of the largest JRPG names out there. Final Fantasy is primarily known for its spiky-haired heroes and chocobos, and Dragon Quest is known for, well, its slimes, but when it comes down to it which JRPG franchise is the best?
Best Classic Entry: Final Fantasy 3 (6)
Best Modern Entry: Final Fantasy 12
Best Off-beat Entry: Final Fantasy Tactics
Biggest Embarrassment: Final Fantasy: All the Bravest
Thing It Does Best: Give players gorgeous, sprawling JRPG worlds to explore.
Thing It Just Can't Seem to Do: Stick with a damn battle/character development system for more than one game.
Best Classic Entry: Dragon Warrior 3
Best Modern Entry: Dragon Quest 9: Sentinel of the Starry Skies
Best Off-beat Entry: Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
Biggest Embarrassment: The fact that character designer Akira Toriyama can really only draw like four different faces.
Thing It Does Best: Reward players with power in exchange for relentless effort.
Thing It Just Can't Seem to Do: Break out of the stone age of RPGs. Things like only being able to save/revive in-town are best left in the 8-bit era as relics of an era long since past.
Winner: Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy has occasionally been criticized for making too many changes on a game-to-game basis. FF10 plays completely differently than 11, or 12, or 13, and each of them are completely different from each other. While this can be a bit of a crapshoot in terms of quality, what it does mean is that Square Enix is willing to experiment.
The Dragon Quest series, however, has seen nary an improvement since its premiere in 1986. The victory music is still the same 8-bit chirp it was on the NES, for God's sake. Yes, there's value in nostalgia, but there's also a point to realize that old things aren't always the best things. You don't eschew text messages because you're nostalgic for carrier pigeons, do you?
Overall, while these two titanic JRPG franchises both have a lot of fun to offer the world, it seems that Final Fantasy is the higher level game series.