Dragon Quest, known by some as Dragon Warrior back in the day, has been a long running series here in Japan since 1986. It’s easily argued that Dragon Quest is the most popular RPG series in all of Japan. There are many reasons as to why this could be. It’s tried and true old school turn based formula hasn’t changed too much over the years. Having lived in Japan for quite a few years now I think a big part of the series’ success is the fact it hasn’t changed all that much. I could go on for days about how this is better or worse, but let’s focus on the topic at hand.
Dragon Quest 11 launched here in Japan on July 29th and sold over a massive 2 million copies on launch weekend. It was stated by a lot of sites, including Kotaku, that there were long lines and many places sold out here. I live in Tokyo, so it wasn’t all too tough. I visited one of the larger chains of electronic stores, Bic Camera, at their location in Shibuya. I barely waited in line at all and after my purchase I noticed they had kiosks setup for checking people who only wanted Dragon Quest 11. Of course, console sales increased exponentially this weekend as well for both PS4 and 3DS. I opted for the PS4 version.
As a note, my Japanese listening is okay (around JLPT2), but my reading/writing are just terrible. I managed to slug my way through Persona 5 when it released here in 2016. I really enjoyed it and thought it was good practice having to look up new kanji and such. Luckily in that game I had a plethora of voice acting to support me throughout the game. However, when starting Dragon Quest 11 I almost immediately realized there was no voice acting. I’ve gotten used to this, but it’s somewhat of a shock this day and age to not see it. This goes back to what I was saying before about being tried and true. The devs and come forward and said that the time involved in doing voice-overs would be significant and that they would lose any or all flexibility for the script itself. Fortunately, the kanji is fairly basic most times and they tend to reuse the same kanji over and over. However, I think this could greatly impact sales in the west and there are mumblings online that people think they’ll add voice acting for the west. This rumor is completely unfounded and is merely speculation at the moment.
The game starts you off with some exposition in the form of a good sized pre-rendered sequence. Our hero is still a child when the castle is attacked and the mother sends the child off into hiding via river (some real biblical stuff here). There he’s found by an elderly guy who conveniently has always wanted to have a child and that’s where we skip ahead in time a bit.
The game then opens up in a very tutorial-esque kind of style. Your childhood friend, a dog, and the hero must journey to the top of the mount to pray, at least I think that was the goal. During one scene the childhood friend, Emma (エマ), almost falls to her doom but is saved by some amazing ability tied to the mark on the legendary hero’s hand. After this, he’s revered as being the hero and is sent off the to the capital to meet with the king. Once arriving there he’s soon thrown in jail and labeled as 悪魔の子 (Child of the demon/devil). There we meet Vege…I mean Camus (カミュ). He’s a thief type of character that wield a whip or dagger. The two escape in a very cliche manner and then the oddly placed video we’ve scene as trailer is put in as the “real” opening. I’ll leave the story at that, as I don’t want to spoil a big part of it. It’s very traditional and uses a lot of RPG tropes, but it gets the job done and all the characters that have joined me on my journey thus far are lovable.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the game now though. First, the graphics. As always Squenix opted for the classic Toriyama Akira (of Dragonball fame) character designs. At this point to change it would likely result in some sort of riot, both on the internet and in real life. The world and characters a rendered quite well and might make you think you’re playing an anime. That being said at times it doesn’t seem as crisp as it could be. The game uses color to its advantage and things really seem to pop really well. The character styles, while nice, somewhat tend to hold the game back from being as detailed as current RPGs. Luckily they do add detail where they can, like in the wings of enemies, or the folds in characters’ pieces of clothing. I think this is a purely aesthetic thing where some will like/respect it, while others will think it looks a little old.
As for the gameplay. It’s pretty much what everyone one as expected at some point. Enemies can be seen on the field now, so no more random encounters. This I really like, I still try to fight things as often as possible. I’ll also note a quick “trick” to grinding at certain points. Before a character officially joins your party they’re in the battle but cannot be taken control of. They still take hits, but from what I saw they cannot fall. Take advantage of grinding without having to worry about healing or using items on this extra character.
Once in battle, you can move around. This part I have some qualms with. Moving around seems to have absolutely no significance in battle, and really has me asking why they chose to do this. Perhaps this comes more into play later in the game though. There is no job system in this game, but there is a skill tree that focuses on the weapons each character can use. For example, the main character can sport a sword and shield or handle a bigger two handed sword, and you can add damage bonuses as well as gain abilities for those weapons.
Another addition I’m not 100% how it works, is that after a time in battle characters will eventually go Super Sai….*cough* get powered up and glow blue. If multiple characters go into this mode special combo attacks can be performed. So far I’ve done one attack with 3 people, and I’m almost sure it’s possible to do it with all four (that’s the party max). These attacks are both offensive and defensive as well.
Once last thing I’ll cover is that you can now create items. Doing so requires the mats needed as well as a recipe. From the things I’ve made they seem to usually be slightly more powerful than the items you would buy at a shop. A even picked up a quest (there are a good amount of optional side quests so far) where a guy wanted a gold ring +1.
At first I went into the game very skeptical, but after spending a good amount of time with it I’m finding it harder and harder to put down each night. I’m sure I’ll eventually beat it long before the western version makes it out so look forward to a more comprehensive review down the road!
Oh, and you can ride some enemies now 😀