"Dragon Quest Heroes... retains all of the RPG elements I need to stay invested without slowing the pace of its action-packed battles."
There's something uniquely thrilling about the prospect of seeing familiar game characters transplanted into a foreign universe, transcending the confines of their respective genres and worlds. The crossover, a time-worn tradition in the gaming industry, is a surefire way to ramp up the enthusiasm of diehard fans. It's the kind of thing we wrote fanciful stories about as children, daydreaming wild combat scenarios pitting Sonic against Mario, Golbez against Kefka. We somehow live in a world where it's possible to realize both of those fantasies. Isn't life beautiful? The latest schoolyard fever-dream brought to life is Dragon Quest Heroes, a combination of the Warriors series (known as Musou overseas) with one of the longest-standing RPG legacies in history. I had an opportunity to not only play the game at E3 this year, but I also had the honor of speaking about it with Square Enix producer Ryota Aomi and Koei Tecmo director Tomohiko Sho.
Aomi-san says that Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest, has wanted to make an action game in the series for over ten (!!) years. He eventually began collaborating with Koei Tecmo, and Dragon Quest Heroes took shape — although he set out with the intent of creating a Dragon Quest action game first and foremost, not a Warriors game that happens to contain DQ elements. This isn't just lip service, either; from what I played, DQH has the trappings of a hack-and-slash, but is clearly in touch with its RPG roots. Hit points are displayed on-screen whenever damage is dealt or received, characters have a full suite of weapons and armor to equip, and there's even a crafting system in place to create accessories. Furthermore, in DQ series fashion, the player can customize each character's ability loadout with the skill points they earn in battle. Just like in an RPG, there's planning to be done outside of battle if the player is to achieve success.
Dragon Quest is built upon tradition and its cast of memorable characters. In addition to the two protagonists, Luceus and Aurora, DQH includes over ten other puissant personages to recruit into the player's party of four. I asked Sho-san about how the team decided who to include in order to best represent the series' legacy and please its fans. He remarked that it was important for the team to implement characters with a variety of abilities and playstyles, making some more effective in certain situations while also acknowledging that some players will simply select characters they like or are most familiar with. Some are heavy and powerful, like Dragon Quest VIII's Yangus, while others are better suited to slinging spells from afar, like Dragon Quest V's Nera. Out of curiosity, I cheekily asked my interviewees who their favorite characters are; Aomi-san is fond of rough-and-tumble princess Alena, while Sho-san has a soft spot for Bianca, as he holds fond memories of marrying her in Dragon Quest V back when he first played it.
I was taken aback by just how good DQH looks in motion: the demo I played ran at a solid 60FPS, with a bright color palette and marvelously over-the-top attack animations. I also enjoyed what little of the game's music I heard, so I asked if Square Enix had any plans for a North American soundtrack release via iTunes or some other service. Unfortunately, because composer Koichi Sugiyama holds the rights to the music, it doesn't look like that'll be happening anytime soon. For audiophiles like me, that's a shame, but I'm sure I can manage by taking in all of those bombastic, orchestrated battle melodies in-game. And speaking of extras, I knew beforehand that DQH received some DLC after release in Japan, so I inquired as to whether the localized version would follow a similar schedule. From what I was told, that DLC will actually be included on the game disc in North America, so it will be available from day one — an unexpected bonus.
I'll admit that the charm of Warriors games tends to wear off pretty quickly for me; even Hyrule Warriors, my favorite game in the series yet, only kept my attention for a couple of weeks. Dragon Quest Heroes, on the other hand, retains all of the RPG elements I need to stay invested without slowing the pace of its action-packed battles. This winning combo may be enough to convince even the most stalwart of traditional JRPG enthusiasts to let their Tension rise when the game releases in North America and Europe this October.
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to Square Enix for arranging our interview with Aomi-san and Sho-san. We were and still are very grateful for your time and consideration.