As the holiday season is upon us (retailers can’t even wait for Thanksgiving to end anymore), I thought it might be appropriate to provide a tribute of sorts to the salesmen of the video game world. These merchants often have bizarre locations for their shops, and sell such quest-specific items that I have no idea how they stay in business. Granted, it’s sometimes hinted that these items aren’t ALL they sell. In Final Fantasy VI, for instance, there’s a cut scene of your characters buying new clothes for Gau from a shop, and Owzer writes in his diary about buying an electric lamp at the item shop in Jidoor.
And there are some items that anyone could use, like medicines and such. As for weapon and armor shops, well, there are successful weapon shops around in the real world, and most of us aren’t accosted by monsters upon leaving town. Really, though, selling equipment to heroes who in turn take their money from dead monsters strikes me as a rather infeasible economic system. It’s not like the shopkeepers care that you’re trying to save the world, either. Hey, they have to make a living somehow. In role-playing games, you can usually return items you don’t need anymore, but you’ll never get the full price you paid back, even if you’ve never used it. I’d say it’s because the items depreciate in value, but they’re almost always just as good no matter how long you’ve had them. This even applies to items being held in caves that mankind hasn’t entered in centuries. Occasionally there’s some kind of worn-out sword or something that you need to get repaired, but most of the time the monsters seem to keep them in pristine condition. It helps that they tend to use big wooden chests to store everything.
By the way, why does the place where you begin an adventure always seem to have the weakest equipment for sale, even when it’s a major metropolitan center?
Dragon Quest III lets you put merchants into your party. They can find more money from dead monsters, and have the ability to appraise items. At one point, you have to take a merchant to the New World to help an old man start a new town. As time goes by, you find out that the merchant has become a tyrannical dictator, and the people overthrow him. That says something about the class of people you can hire in Aliahan, I suppose. Also, the DQ3 world is based on our own, and this is the only significant part of the game that takes place in North America.
Dragon Quest IV also has a playable merchant character, called Torneko in the original Japanese and Taloon in the earliest English translation. The Nintendo DS version combines the two and makes him Torneko Taloon, and has him come from a town where everyone talks with Irish accents. He’s the central character in the third chapter, and it lets you do a little more than just fight monsters. At the start, Torneko works for the local weapons shop, and you can work at the counter and choose to accept or not accept to buy and sell other people’s weapons. Occasionally they’ll sell you an item that isn’t normally for sale, and you can then buy it. Torneko’s goal is to buy his own shop, which you can eventually do with help from a strongbox that lets you keep your gold even when you die, and a rich collector in Endor who is willing to pay a lot of money for a certain silver statuette. Once you’ve bought the shop, Torneko’s wife Tessie works there, with you bringing merchandise to her and her somehow managing to sell most of it for more than most other stores.
I guess the people of Endor aren’t that great at comparison shopping. Eventually, Torneko leaves Endor to search for more treasure, leaving his wife and son Tipper behind. Tessie then turns the shop into a vault, and Torneko reappears as a playable character in the fifth chapter. Here, he’s rather willful and comical in battle, not always following orders, but sometimes doing something better. He can stop a monster from attacking by telling it a terrible pun, call wandering merchants to his aid, and trip and fall in a way that leads to a critical hit.
He reunites with his family at the end of the game, but his adventures aren’t totally over, as he appears as the main character in three of the Mystery Dungeon games. I haven’t played any of these, but I understand they’re dungeon crawls centered on finding treasure.