The day I heard that the PS4 would receive the first console Dragon Quest game since the PS2’s Dragon Quest 8, I was ecstatic. ( I refuse to acknowledge Dragon Quest:Swords on the Wii) The Dragon Quest games have an odd relationship with the west, like most Japanese role playing games, it has been misunderstood. The announcement I was hoping for was at least a PS4 port of Dragon Quest 10, released on Nintendo's Wii in 2012, but was a little disappointed to discover it would be an action game instead of the RPG I wanted. The title was Dragon Quest Heroes and it's not a step in the right direction for hardcore fans.
As a stand alone game, Dragon Quest Heroes is actually very entertaining. Basically a Dynasty Warriors type game of constant hack and slash with Dragon Quest characters, it adds some light RPG elements by leveling up your character's armour and weapons. You can also assign skill points to each character which is very cool. Nintendo did it earlier with Zelda releasing Hyrule Warriors to moderate success. It was a fun game...but felt like a game in between the game we are really waiting for...as does DQH. With about 40 hours of gameplay, Dragon Quest Heroes is a nod to fans with the inclusion of characters from past games, hardcore's get a small taste of the Dragon Quest characters, costumes and music we have come to love over the years. It’s not enough.
What really scares me is this is what Square Enix thinks we want in a Dragon Quest game for our consoles in the west. The Nintendo DS has really been the only platform that has shown any kind of love for western DQ fans. I understand why the emphasis has been put on the handheld when it comes to JRPG’s, it’s the type of game you can pick up and play for 20mins at a time and grind for experience points (a staple for the Dragon Quest series) which is perfect on the go. It is less of a gamble to re release older games in the series on the DS/3DS, requiring less development since they are basically just tweaking the graphics and gameplay to adjust to two screens. I love the DS versions of the games, especially since part 5 and 6 never made their way to the North American Super Nintendo, it gave new and old fans a chance to finally play these great additions. The 9th game, solely released on the DS, was graciously brought over from Japan. it had a cool multiplayer element which could help lower level players gain experience much quicker. It sold very well in the west, giving fans of the series a glimmer of hope for the future with Dragon Quest 10 announced for the Wii a few years later…..in Japan. We all collectively held our breath waiting for an announcement. When will we get the game? It never happened. You see, Japanese developers have been giving us the shaft when it comes to turn based role playing games since the NES/SNES days. Countless amazing games never made their way over the pond because western gamers were considered less intelligent, action games were all we wanted apparently, and wasting their time translating a long RPG to english wasn't worth the time or money to do so. Unfortunately, to some extent, this is still the case.
So does purchasing Dragon Quest Heroes help or hinder chances of Dragon Quest 11 being released in west? We all gave up on getting part 10 for the Wii, should we get our hopes up again? It’s hard to say. I bought Heroes to show support for the series, my thinking is if purchasing the game helps the cause by letting them know there is still interest we would likely get part 11 of the main series. On the other side of the coin is a reaffirmation that western gamers just want an action orientated Dragon Quest.
My hopes for the future of the series were dashed slightly when I picked up my copy on release day. Only 5 people in my city had pre ordered DQH at my regular EB games location (Gamestop in the States). I asked the clerk why he thought the interest wasn’t there, to which he replied, “ Well, it’s a kids game right?” “What?!” I quickly replied, almost a little angry with him. One would think that an employee of a game store would at least know a little about a series which basically introduced the console RPG to the western world. Dragon Quest is one of the highest selling RPG series ever. The only reason we have Final Fantasy or even Dragon Age for the that matter is because Dragon Quest made it feasible to play a complicated game with 2 buttons on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and still feel somewhat deep. Before DQ, role playing games were heavily text based and required a keyboard. I started realizing I was defending a video game series out of Nostalgia at this point. Even though it is still immensely popular in Japan, the Dragon Quest series (known as Dragon Warrior until part 8 in the west) never made the same impact as Final Fantasy, due to it's light heart roots. My argument fell on deaf ears as my rant left him with a stunned look on his face, I quickly grabbed my game and got out of there, feeling old and grumpy.
Maybe Japan is right. Maybe we are a society that generally has a shorter attention span, and requires a game that caters to that….but I still cling to the hope that the rest of us get what we want. My support for the series won’t stop, even if SquareEnix decides we don't need Dragon Quest 11...but there is still a chance we will get it.
I urge all of you reading to do yourself a favour, if you have never played a Dragon Quest game, find any of the games up to DQ8 on mobile, or the DS(parts 5-9), NES(parts 1-4), translated repro SNES carts(parts 1-3, 5 & 6), give it a chance. Get on the forums, tell Square Enix we want a real Dragon Quest game, Translate Dragon Quest 11...we deserve it!