Throughout its early years, SquareSoft's business strategy consisted almost solely of stealing other people's ideas. Many of its first efforts were inferior copies of other games, which might have been why the company performed so poorly to begin with. Final Fantasy itself was a Dragon Quest clone that never would have existed had Enix not broken the mold. But the difference was that it was the first time one one of Square's ripoffs was an improvement on the original. Not that that in itself was some momentus achievement, mind you. Dragon Quest is something like a Ford Model-T within the video game sphere: innovative, popular, and tremendously influential, but ultimately a damn jalopy.
I've taken some flak for badmouthing Dragon Quest before, but let's face it: as far as the earliest installments are concerned, there's really no contest. Final Fantasy is the superior software. It's got better music, more items, more spells, more monsters, a richer world, and a more interesting storyline, and this is all just quantitative. Final Fantasy's customizable four-man crew eclipses the first two Dragon Quests' one and three-character parties. The expanded and improved turn-based battle system makes for a deeper game, inasmuch as the player isn't sitting around drooling for hours at a time while his one character trades 1 HP blows with a single monster. The concentration of early-genre bullshit is significantly reduced: there isn't as much EXP grinding, the player doesn't have to buy or find keys to open a hundred thousand locked doors, and never has to stress over how many torches he's got left. There's none of that "press the A button and select the 'Stairs' command to walk down a flight of stairs" nonsense, either. Dragon Quest may have come first and concocted the JRPG, but Final Fantasy made it good.