Finally after almost 10 years, a Dragon Quest game returns to Western Playstation consoles. I’m currently going out of my mind at the thought of what the future holds for my favourite gaming franchise, as this could be considered a make or break it situation for the hugely popular Japanese series. I say that because it’s a franchise that rarely releases outside of Japan simply because it doesn’t need to, it’s just that damn popular at home and the cost to localize the text and voices is too expensive and unnecessary. Yuji Horii, the series’ creator has decided to once again dip his toes in the Western waters with a hack ’n’ slash spinoff title to see if there is enough demand for future releases. Well Mr Yuji Sir there is, and if you’re telling me that this title is the best we’re gonna get for now, well to be quite frank … I really don’t mind!
Dragon Quest Heroes is a brand new original tale set within the Dragon Quest universe that, for the first time ever, trades in the turn based RPG format for a more chaotic, explosive and action focused one. With Square Enix collaborating with fellow action giants Koei Tecmo give the much loved franchise a Dynasty Warriors makeover that turns those adorable, silly grinned monsters into blood thirsty heathens … with adorable, silly grins that still manage to melt hearts in the heat of battle. The story takes place in the Kingdom of Arba, a peaceful land where man and monster unite in friendship … that is until a dangerous hooded sorcerer casts a spell that turns all the land’s creatures doolally, putting everyone in dire jeopardy. You play as Luceus & Aurora, royal bodyguards to the King of Arba, Doric, who together must save their country folk and unravel the mystery that lies before them. They won’t be doing it on their own however as, by fate or coincidence, warriors of old have began to appear in Arba for reasons unknown to unite together and uncover a great secret that the world once kept to itself. It may not feel like your typical Dragon Quest game but Heroes too is a dialogue driven, magical adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. As an avid fan of the franchise I was both incredibly excited and disappointed during the lead up to this game’s release, why have I waited so long for a new Dragon Quest title only for it to be a spin off? During the first 10 minutes of playing I didn’t just eat my words, I wolfed them down in one; Dragon Quest Heroes is pretty fantastic!
The best thing about Dragon Quest Heroes is how familiar it feels, looks and sounds, which can often be a huge negative for other franchises. The opening trumpet fanfare, the same old characters, the quirky jingles, everything about this game makes me feel right at home and will immediately make fans feel reassured that this is going to be tremendous fun. Dragon Quest Heroes is a gorgeous looking game too, sticking with the brightly coloured, beautiful cartoony art direction off it’s predecessors that looks simply stunning on the Playstation 4. As for the gameplay itself, each mission tasks you with the same simple objectives, protect something and/or defeat every monster on the map, nothing mentally challenging or original but hugely enjoyable all the same. In order to complete these quests you must select your team and take their array of spells and abilities to the battlefield, who you pick is entirely up to you but the decision does get more difficult as you unlock more characters. Each character has a unique weapon of choice and their particular set of skills couldn’t be any more varied, causing each battle to be hugely exciting, pretty manic and overall just so bloody awesome.
With each playable character being so different, switching your comrades genuinely spices up the gameplay, sure it’ll be relatively similar to a mission you’ve completed before but this time you’ve got a woman throwing a boomerang like a phoenix and a chap who kills enemies by pointing at them; quests may follow the same pattern but amending your party can add an entirely new playing experience. Speaking of new experiences, Heroes also adds in a splash of monster capturing into the series in the form of ‘Monster Medals’, a flat shiny Pokeball that once used will release a recently defeated foe to aid you in battle. These allies only last for a single mission yet can seriously help you when you find yourself in a spot of bother, whether it’s to land a few critical hits onto that level’s boss, to cast a fiery spell on a barrage of enemies or to raise your tension meter so you can unleash an eye-watering special attack onto everyone in sight. I thought that last one may have grabbed your attention. What Dragon Quest Heroes does so well is making every single attack look like an absolute spectacle, like the kind of abilities you’ve come to know and love from the series’ past. Each spell and ability that is cast looks sensational and vastly over the top to the point where it never gets old no matter how many times you cast it, which is a good thing as you’ll be using them an awful awful lot. Successful combos raise your characters tension level and upon reaching maximum capacity will turn them into a “Super Saiyan” like stature, making their attacks more powerful, causing you to temporarily become invincible and activating a simply awesome violent attack. In Dragon Quest Heroes you’ll do an inhumane amount of fighting and hitting repetitive combos, but thankfully you’ll never be bored of using them as they’re all so damn cool to watch.
Dragon Quest Heroes, unlike its predecessors, isn’t the kind of game you can play for hours on end. The game may look, sound and play spectacularly well but unfortunately a bit too much of the same thing can become a tad stale. As much as I enjoy playing this game, I can’t deny that I’m not expecting much variety in its gameplay and I’m essentially replaying the same opening mission a further 3 dozen times. If you’re not protecting a target then you’re trying to close a monster portal, and if you’re not closing a monster portal then you’re heading back to that target; it’s a format that can only be tackled in short bursts before even the most diehard of fan will find it repetitive and gruelling. Dragon Quest Heroes also to some degree never becomes truly challenging. Sure the waves of enemies become bigger and more powerful, but they’re nothing compared to a couple of standard attacks that take little effort to pull off. Traversing across each map, though small and claustrophobic, is a slow paced ball ache, especially when monsters just reappear in bigger numbers on the opposite end of the battlefield to where you are, which doesn’t add difficulty but more a huge groan of annoyance and misery. Even with its violently vibrant colour pallet, jaw dropping special abilities and tantalising tale, after a while the game can begin to run its course and slaying endless waves of cheeky faced monsters can get boring; after an hour’s break however I was back for more. The Dragon Quest franchise is incredibly original in its look, sound and attitude towards gripping storytelling, and in many ways Dragon Quest Heroes retains these magnificent qualities, but sadly the same can’t be said about its game play and content, which have taken an original idea and executed it in the most unoriginal way. Sure the combat itself looks fantastic, but buried below all the fancy swordplay is a very bare and uncreative demon.
In short, Dragon Quest Heroes is exactly how I imagined it to be. It looks stunning, it sounds delightful and it flows so smoothly, but underneath all the impressive graphics and cutscenes is a game that has played it far too safe and in doing so has caused it to be a bore in the long term. Its overly repetitive format and quest structure makes it a difficult game to enjoy for a multitude of hours, but played in short bursts will show off what the game has to offer and remind you how much you are truly enjoying it. The hack ‘n’ slash genre works tremendously well within the Dragon Quest universe and along with it has introduced a whole new way to enjoy one of the most popular Japanese franchises ever, whilst still retaining the charm that has made the series such an astounding hit. Thank you Mr Horii, now crack on with Dragon Quest XI yeah?
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.