Returning West: An Interview with the Developers of Dragon Quest Heroes
Dragon Quest has always held a sort of peculiar situation outside of Japan. With multiple entries delayed or outright absent in several regions, fans were left wondering if there ever would be any sort of consistency with the series missing a localization for several key Nintendo 3DS releases. That question was finally answered following the Japanese release of Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below - the first Dragon Quest back on PlayStation platforms in nearly 10 years and the first high-definition entry in the series that will make its way overseas later this year and thus, marking four years since English-speaking fans last saw an official localization.
Hot on the heels of the game's release date announcement at E3, we had a chance to sit down with Dragon Quest series executive producer Yuu Miyake along with Tecmo Koei Games manager Tomohiki Sho to hear the latest on the upcoming action RPG and what it means for Dragon Quest going forward.
RPG Site: Why did you decide to localize Dragon Quest Heroes so quickly?
Yuu Miyake: Because this is the first action game in the series, there was a really big reaction abroad when we announced it originally and because the overseas audience seemed very keen on it, we thought we had to get it out quickly. There was also a big call for us to bring it out on the PlayStation 4 as well, so we wanted to respond to that too. We felt that from the temperature of the reactions there from the audience that we had to get it out earlier.
RPG Site: People have said that Dragon Quest Heroes looks a like like the Warriors series. What do you say to that?
Miyake: When the Dragon Quest Heroes project started, we didn't set out to make a Warriors-type game. It was very much not the intention there. The real idea was to partner with Koei Tecmo to turn Dragon Quest into an action RPG. If you look at the titles, what we tried to do with Dragon Quest Heroes was to bring in the feeling and essence of a Dragon Quest game and to make that into the overall ethos into creating it. If you look at Hyrule Warriors, it's actually a lot closer to the rest of the Warriors series in that it's not so much removed from there, but we certainly tried to make a very different game. I can say they do look similar in a lot of ways, but there are very different ethos and ideas behind the ways those two were created.
It's kind of unavoidable really - if you get Koei Tecmo to make an action game everyone's going to be like "oh it's going to be a Warriors game," but we think when you actually pick it up and play Dragon Quest Heroes you'll see that it feels a lot more like a Dragon Quest game. It's a Dragon Quest game that's been turned into an action game and I think if you play it you'll get that.
RPG Site: Do you feel like there's a lot of pressure being the first HD Dragon Quest game?
Miyake: (Laughs) I think it was really exciting to see, rather than pressure, to see what we could create in a new image and visual style for Dragon Quest and there was a lot of discussion on how we were to go about doing that. For example, how can we take the slime and make it a more realistic slime and using the power of the PlayStation, we can show that in a new way. It was really exciting and challenging as well, I think.
RPG Site: Can you tell us more about the characters in the game?
Miyake: As you are probably aware of, there are a lot of characters from previous entries in the Dragon Quest series like Yangus, Bianca, Alena, Jessica and others. In addition to those, we have two completely new main characters designed exclusively by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. The two main characters are Luceus and Aurora that you can see in the game's key artwork.
This is one of the first times we're going to have absolute full voice acting for all of the characters - not only the new protagonists, but the old characters as well. In the older games they have the kind of "beep, beep, beep" kind of thing for their sound effects when they talk, but this time everyone's going to be done with full voice.
With the addition of the voices like that, and also the new style of animation, and Koei Tecmo along with us, we tried really hard to get in this new dynamic animation style, so we really added a lot of realism to the way the story is told; I'm really proud that we managed to create this new way of expressing Dragon Quest through that.
RPG Site: When this game came out in Japan, it also came out on the PS3. Is there a reason it's now PS4 only in the west?
Miyake: Obviously there are a lot of business things that we have to factor into these decisions and that's how we approach this. But I think we have to look at the Japanese market and at the moment there's still a very large user base for the PlayStation 3 - it's still a very popular console, so we really have to consider releasing games on it for them as well.
Certainly for the Dragon Quest series, there are a lot of casual players who play the games in Japan and most of them play games on PS3 rather than switching to PlayStation 4, so for them, we have to release it on that system.
But then if you compare that to the market situation outside of Japan, those players have really made the shift now to PS4 and want to play that mainly now so those market forces really influenced what consoles we decided to release on. There is a clear difference between the market in Japan and outside of Japan so we have to consider that.
Square Enix PR: From a technical point of view, Dragon Quest Heroes on the PS4 - we think of it as the definitive version of Dragon Quest Heroes; it runs at 60 frames per second with more enemies on screen... So because we're really bringing Dragon Quest back to the west we wanted to deliver the definitive version of the game to the fans.
Miyake: Thanks for following up! (Laughs)
SE PR: That's the official answer.
RPG Site: We know the Dragon Quest series for its beautiful stories. Has it been abandoned here for more action gameplay elements?
Miyake: No, that's not the case at all. We understand that Dragon Quest is a game that people love for the story and so we very much made sure there was a proper story in there and the people who come for that will appreciate it.
RPG Site: Because the story is so important, will there also be a lot of exploration like in previous Dragon Quest titles or will areas be more linear with a focus more on set pieces?
Tomohiki Sho: There was a deliberate decision in how it was developed - in the way the game's put together. We set out with the priority of creating an action game, which is different in a gameplay sense to previous Dragon Quests. We understand that people enjoy traveling through different areas and walking around the world, but we feel they can still experience that in the pure, old school RPG Dragon Quests. What we really wanted to do was concentrate on the action this time and make sure people have that real feeling of being involved in battles.
On top of that, we do want to keep the idea of leveling your characters and character growth aspects from Dragon Quest, so in addition to the battle stages, you do have town areas where you can go and talk to people and buy items and stuff at shops. The overall focus, though, is the action side of it and we want players to experience the story through the action. We cut down on some of the exploration elements, like the world map, so we could focus the experience inward.
RPG Site: Can we expect to see some language choices like switching between Japanese and English voice acting?
Miyake: There will be! You can switch between Japanese or English voices in the English version. We do get - especially from the fans overseas in Europe - a lot of people saying they prefer the Japanese voices, so we decided to give that to the people who wanted it.
In the game, the voice talent that we use in the Japanese version has a lot of very famous voice actors who do a lot of Japanese anime shows as well. I think for people in Europe who like Japanese anime, this will be something they can really get on board with and really enjoy it because they know the voice actors.
From a development point of view actually - originally we didn't intend on having it in there because there was a bit of a problem with the memory on the disc. We didn't think we could fit having both the English and Japanese voices, but Square Enix came to us and said, "Look, we've got a lot of people from Europe who really want this. There's so many people calling for it." So we really knuckled down and tried to find a way and we finally managed to put it in there for everyone.
RPG Site: With Dragon Quest Heroes, and even Dragon Quest X, you've gone away from more of the traditional aspects of the series. Do you think that's something you'll be aiming for going forward by continuing to change up the formula a little bit?
Miyake: I think that Dragon Quest is moving and evolving with the taste of the times and the hardware available at the time, so if we make a Dragon Quest game for PlayStation, it's going to use the advantages of the PlayStation format and it's going to be aimed and optimized for that. By contrast, you have Dragon Quest games for smartphones that will be more geared toward that audience and closer to the originals in some way, or if it's made for the Nintendo 3DS, it will be based on the specifications of what the 3DS can do.
I think the nature of the game and what we do to change it is more to better fit in with the hardware they appear on.
RPG Site: Can we expect any sort of multiplayer going forward, perhaps added to this title or its recently announced sequel?
Miyake: We don't have any plans to introduce multiplayer to this game, no. But for future games, we do really want to look into it because a lot of fans are calling for something like that so we'd want to give it to them if we can. All the people in the development team as well - we thought it would be great if we could add multiplayer and everyone wanted it, including myself. It's something we'd like to do for sure.
Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below is launching exclusively for the PlayStation 4 in October 13 for North America and October 16 for Europe.