When Hyrule Warriors achieved sales success last year, it was inevitable. More of our favorite video game franchises would surely jump on the Warriors /musou game bandwagon – and here we are with Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below . I’ve been playing since its release, and it’s an audiovisual delight that doesn’t play like the usual Dynasty Warriors spinoff. It’s more like a breezy action RPG that should please Dragon Quest fans who don’t mind a little hacking and slashing. It’s also, however, a missed opportunity, especially in light of the fact that the entire future of Dragon Quest in the West could hang on its success.
We’ll start with the good stuff. I’m not always the biggest fan of “Mr. Dragon Ball” Akira Toriyama’s character art, but it (and his superlative monster design) has been perfectly rendered on the PlayStation 4. Dragon Quest Heroes is a cartoon brought to life, with perfectly-animated characters and monsters geared towards keeping a grin on your face the entire time. The wonderfully British voice acting is on-point just as it was in the famous Dragon Quest VIII , and the rest of the audio is, well, as Dragon Quest as it gets. It hasn’t been remixed like Hyrule Warriors’ soundtrack was, but rather aimed at producing maximum nostalgia through faithful reproduction, albeit at high fidelity.
Playing Dragon Quest Heroes is simple and fun, though like many Warriors games it lacks challenge at first. I’m not far enough to see if I’ll encounter the challenge I desire in the optional late-game activities, but for now the well-designed boss battles are doing a good job keeping me entertained. If you thought the bosses in Hyrule Warriors were huge, try the Gigantes fight that happens early on in Dragon Quest Heroes – but the bosses aren’t just great in terms of scale, they require positional attacks and smart usage of the environment. It’s like taking the boss strategy in Hyrule Warriors to the next level. Outside of these boss battles the game definitely gets repetitive at times, but it throws in some nice additions like Dragon Quest -style character advancement and the ability to summon monsters to guard map locations or assist your party on the spot.
All in all, Dragon Quest Heroes is an entertaining title that doesn’t take itself too seriously, perfect for short bouts of nostalgic monster-bashing fun. It’s also, however, a missed opportunity, especially in the west. The biggest reason for this is the complete lack of multiplayer. I’m not even a huge multiplayer gamer, but I find this style of game to be far more entertaining with my friendly local couch co-op partner (also sometimes known as my husband). This game may be as far from the traditional formula as a Dynasty Warriors spin-off gets, but it would still have benefited greatly from the possibility of allowing a friend to jump in, either locally or online. Playing with a friend makes the repetition less noticable and allows for more interesting strategy when it comes to the push and pull of attacking and defending areas.
The lack of multiplayer in this title is particularly a missed opportunity because Square Enix is using its success as a major decision-making factor when it comes to releasing future Dragon Quest games in the west. The last major DQ game (ignoring the super-niche Joker spinoffs) we received here was Dragon Quest IX , and that was published here by Nintendo, not Square Enix. Western Dragon Quest fans are still waiting for a relase of the amazing-sounding remake of Dragon Quest VII on the 3DS, and we’ve pretty much given up on seeing the Dragon Quest X MMORPG.
If Square Enix is using the relative success of a game that doesn’t even play like other Dragon Quest games to determine whether to release those games in the West, couldn’t it at least consider that Dragon Quest Heroes would probably make more sales here if it had a multiplayer option? Dragon Quest Heroes 2 has already been announced for Japan, and guess what? It’s got multiplayer. The problem is that if this first Dragon Quest Heroes game doesn’t sell as well as Square Enix hopes it does (and we have no idea what that magic number is) in the West, will its sequel even be given a chance here? Will any Dragon Quest games be given that chance?
It’s hardly fair, especially when Dragon Quest Heroes lacks one of the most important features that drives Western sales. That’s why I encourage everybody to give DQ Heroes a chance. It’s not like we’re taking a fall on a bad game, because it’s actually rather delightful and fun to play, especially in short bursts. It’s a great antidote to the super-serious AAA titles that dominate this season, and its sales could convince Square Enix to give the entire series another chance in the West. If you enjoy it solo, just think of how much fun you could have with a friend or three in its sequel – and think of the smiles on everybody’s faces if it sells enough to earn us more localized DQ titles. Square Enix putting its fans in this situation kind of sucks, but I guess that’s just how the slime slurps in the cutthroat world of today’s game industry.