If you are a fan of Dragon Quest IX then you might be aware that the number of sidequests in the game totals 184, if you’ve unlocked the DLC. However not very long after the game launched, some players encountered something strange. They found an NPC offering up Quest #255, an unbeatable directive that contains no quest log text and only vague instructions. And depending on who you’ve played the game with, it’s possible you could encounter it as well.
If the quest is accessible to you, it can be initiated by talking to the ghost at the Bowhole, a late-game dungeon that, geographically is just south of the first town, Angel Falls, but is actually located on the second to last continent in the game.
It goes like this: You travel to the Bowhole and enter the dungeon. The very first room is a large open space with three holes you’re supposed to fall down into. But if you walk past those holes, at the back wall will be a ghost NPC. She is in every person’s game and she teaches the player a party trick, an animation that players use to goof around in multiplayer or satisfy specific quest conditions.
But if your game has access to Quest 255, talking to her will instead trigger a text box saying:
“Dr. Earlybird says “My admiration! No, my veneration! Greygnarl must know how I feel, whatever the cost! Please, my traveling friends, deliver this statuette for me. Will you once again take it to the summit of the Magmaroo?”
The top screen of your DS will display the usual Quest description page, except the description will be totally blank. Once you accept the quest, you’ll get another text box saying:
“You accept? Oh, splendid! Actually, I do have one or two spare statuettes, so don’t be shy if you break that one.” Followed by a box saying “Player Name receives a statue of Greygnarl from Dr Earlybird.“
But if you look in your inventory, you’ll see that you’ve received no statue. And when you check your quest lists, Quest 255 isn’t there. The game only displays the 184 recognized quests. Talking to the ghost again just results in the same text boxes being cycled through again.
And if you know the game then you might have realized that by the time this quest is open to you, Greygnarl the dragon is gone, either dead or flown away so even if you had the statuette there would be no one to give it to.
I’m sure many instances of this quest being reported by players were met with disbelief and dismissal. To be fair it does sound like a 90s school rumor being passed around before wider access to the internet shut these things down.
As pictured above, the DQ9 save editor has no quests listed beyond #184 If you go poking around there, you won’t find it.
So the quest is a bug, right? You can’t possibly give the statue to Greygnarl by the time you reeceive the quest and even if you could, you never received a statuette to actually give to him. There is no item in the save editor that you can hack in to finish this quest. And using mods or cheats to get to this ghost NPC before Greygnarl dies are futile as nothing happens when you speak them. Dragon Quest as a whole is resistant to sequence breaking. That’s right. The quest is bugged. It occurs as a result of using Action Replay cheats. And as I mentioned before there is no way to complete it. End of story?
I wasn’t satisfied with the story ending there so I started digging. It doesn’t take very long at all to learn that Quest #255 occurs as a result of using cheats. In fact, if you’ve read about it at all it was probably within the context of someone explaining the conditions under which it occurs.
It seems that French fans have encountered this bug as well, except that in their version of the game, the dialogue from Dr. Earlybird is missing. Here are some machine translated forum posts from users encountering the “bug”.
Dragon Quest IX contains a lot of DLC exclusive quests. However, this “downloadable” content comes pre-programmed on the cartridge. Nothing is actually downloaded. It remains hidden from the player until the first time they go online to buy things from the now-defunct DQVC shop (which is no longer defunct if you use the wiimmfi workaround; see my guide here on how to get that working) or until they visit the world of a player who already has the DLC unlocked. The DLC wasn’t accessible immediately upon release of the game. Week by week, Square Enix unlocked portions of it to the players, simulating a live service game.
But by the time the game hit North American shores, a full year later, the quests had all been released in Japan so many American fans were already aware of their existence. Action Replay codes that unlocked all of the additional quests became popular amongst those who didn’t want to wait for Square Enix to trickle-feed the DLC to them.
The downside was that many of the AR codes were sloppy and using them caused all kinds of buggy things to happen, like making the guest book at the Inn to become unusable, completely muting the game’s music, or adding Quest 255.
You see, the Action Replay code to unlock the DLC was a bit overzealous and in truth unlocked ALL disabled quests, including dummy quests, test quests, and possibly content cut from the game. It’s likely that Quest 255 was either a demo quest in an early build of DQ9 or it was a quest planned for the final game that was cut for an unknown reason.
I say that it could be a demo quest because, unlike content that wasn’t finished, the dialogue for Quest 255 is rather complete. Sure, we don’t see much of it in game but fans faster on the uptake than I have already dumped the quest’s text.
The full dumped text of the quest reveals that the Dr. Earlybird character is aware that Greygnarl has passed and would have had you to take the statuette to the summit of Magmaroo to honor his memory. But you weren’t allowed to Zoom there. You had to walk, all the while avoiding every monster encounter. It would’ve been doable given enough Holy Water and some lucky maneuvering from the player. But of course the quest is still not completable as it exists in game. There is no statuette and no programmed ending for the quest. You were never meant to encounter what these quest remains at all. The ones who did, did so accidentally through side effects of cheat usage.
“But, Aust,” You say. “I haven’t used cheats. I don’t even own an AR device!”
Sure, you may have never used cheats in your game, but somebody you have played with might have. See, this bug spreads. Remember how I said the DLC is unlockable by visiting the world of somebody who already has it? This is true for any quest the host world has access to that the guest player’s do not.
And there’s no real way to know that you’ve been infected with Quest-255-itis without checking in with the ghost at the Bowhole, a dungeon that most players will never return to after they’ve finished that area. So this bug proliferated around a bit from cartridge to cartridge without most of the infected players initially realizing it.
As far as we know, there’s not any real harm done by the bug, other than overriding the text that the ghost at the Bowhole originally had, possibly eliminating the ability to learn their special party trick. (As of right now I’ve been unable to procure a save at the appropriate point in the game to test this. Please contact me if you have information or a save file made right before entering the Bowhole for the first time)
Nonetheless, many players simply didn’t want their games infected by glitchy, AR-induced bugs. And I can’t say that I blame them, after having heard about other unintended side effects of AR usage.
Some players who learned they had the bug did try to quarantine themselves. It must be rather depressing to retire a high level character from multiplayer because they are afflicted with a mostly non-noticeable bug.
When the glitched quest was first disovered by the NYC Tag Mode Regulars they did try to get the word out. I spent a little time talking to RPG Wizard, one of the players who attended the meetups.
“With respect to the discovery of it, the regulars apparently had accidentally gotten it unlocked from the early days of meetups, and we never realized it UNTIL the aforementioned GameFAQs board poster went and asked about it. (There’s little reason to go back to the Bowhole when you’re in the post game, after all.) We all then went and took a look and realized that we had accidentally gotten additional buggy quests unlocked. It was considered something of a nuisance, but none of us could do anything about it, so once it was known, we just warned people before having them adventure with us. The regulars included people like DekaBlue, Destructor526, Liam, myself, and PerfectAkuma/Shellshock among others.
You’re right in that it feels very school-yard-ish, but once discovered, we made sure everyone knew. We also lamented that something unexpected had happened in response to playing to get the quests early, but no one could’ve known at the time.”
Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be any “creepy” stories from players who first encountered the quest and were confused by it. If the target demographic of Dragon Quest in America had trended about 5 or 10 years younger, perhaps rumors and urban legends surrounding Quest 255 would have abounded. Or perhaps such a thing just isn’t likely to happen in the modern age of instant information retrieval and online communities. The players involved were able to discover the cause behind the bug before news of it could even get out.
Quest 255 Around The World
My attempts at finding posts from Japanese players encounters with Quest 255 turned up nothing relevant. This intrigued me as Japanese data on this game should be much richer than what’s found in the English speaking communities.
Curious, I took an infected save from a US cartridge and wrote it to Japanese copy of DQ9. The bug did not show up.
And to be thorough, I took an uninfected Japanese save file and had it visit the world of a save file that I’d confirmed to be infected. When my Test Subject returned from the infected player’s world, I got the standard message “Hero has brought back additional quests from X’s world!” that appears when you visit a player who has additional quests unlocked. But when Test Subject visited the Bowhole, there was no bugged dialogue and no Quest 255. The dummy quests were unlocked in Test Subject’s game, but as far as I could tell there weren’t and visible symptoms of their existence in this Japanese version.
Quest #255 isn’t a thing in the original Japanese version of the game. And, after speaking to Japanese DQ9 players in the English community, I’m not aware of any reports of Japanese equivalents to it out there. I did find a few announcements from Square Enix that dated back to the game’s Japanese release warning players that the use of codes to unlock the DLC quests might unlock quests that weren’t intended to be seen.
But absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Could there have been some Japanese only bugs that resulted from the use of AR codes?
In truth, there were so many people in Japan playing Dragon Quest IX on buses, planes, in restaurants, and street corners that there was likely never any need for anyone to use cheats to unlock the DLC quests. Assuming they didn’t have access to WiFi in Japan in 2009 (unlikely), all they had to do was play with somebody who already had the quests. If they had used AR cheats, then that same high rate of co-operative play amongst Japanese gamers would’ve ensured that a Quest 255 equivalent would spread like wildfire.
I should also mention Quest 171, though it is much less interesting. If you have Quest 255, then you also have access to Quest 171. Although unlike Quest 255 it isn’t an actual quest you can accept, it is merely a string of developer dialogue you encounter by speaking to the ghost in Upover. There is a real Quest 171, however, at the Hunters Yurts in Ilugazaar Plains. It seems unaffected by this bug. Likely because the dialogue given by the ghost in Upover is referencing an internal numbering system, rather than the number system seen by the player.
With all of that said, I don’t believe there is any known serious harm done to your save file from Quest 255 alone. The biggest thing to worry about is the unknown. DQ9 is a big game and it’s possible that someone might have missed some other side effects of this AR code. And if there are any unknown issues, then spreading this bug to other players would be rather unfortunate.
“Fixing” Quest 255 is theoretically possible, but for all intents and purposes impractical. RPG Wizard speculated that it would require some editing of the infected save to deactivate the “dummied” or bugged quests, while still leaving all the other quests activated. It’s unknown if this would cause further side effects. And as far as I know, there’s no way to accomplish that is “user friendly”. It would probably be simpler for most players to completely start over, depending on how far they are in the game.
To be honest, information on this bug is fairly scarce. The likelihood of two non-Japanese gamers having a DS and a copy of Dragon Quest IX readily available and being within quick driving distance of each other is exceptionally low. But I found it so immediately compelling and saw the potential for reminiscing over the video game rumors and mysteries of old. When I first learned about it, I immediately thought of discovering MissingNo. in Pokemon Red as a child. Dragon Quest gets so little attention in the west, compared to almost any other franchise that there is a lot of un-tread ground in regards to cut content discovery and bugs and exploitations. It would be really sad if the “story” of Quest 255, no matter how short that story is, were to be forgotten or left behind.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-dive into a trivial part of such a large JRPG. I enjoyed researching the topic, even if there wasn’t as much meat to it as I had at first hoped.
The Dragon’s Den Forums (https://www.woodus.com/forums/topic/29560-liamlands-dqix-mail-and-tag-service/page/3/)
The Quester’s Rest (Gradis’ DQ9 Discord Server)
Woodus for creating the Dragon’s Den and its forums.
Gradis for creating an excellent Discord community filled with resources on DQ9.
Liamland, for uploading his DQHerpes to the Den which is what brought this to my attention AND for connecting me with RPG Wizard!
RPG Wizard for his time and answering my lengthy questions via email.
My friend Monty for his time proofreading for me