Welcome home. Those are the words the president of Sony Computer Entertainment Asia addressed to Yuji Horii when unveiling Dragon Quest Heroes. There had indeed been nearly 10 years without a Dragon Quest title on a Playstation system. After a smashing success in Japan where it shipped 1 million copies, this action spin-off of the famous RPG franchise comes to the West only of PS4. Good thing since that’s the one I’ll tell you about.
The now well-known studio Omega Force being in charge, it is a Musô-like game (like a Samurai Warriors) which is delivered to us. You thus have in hands an action-RPG like any other, where you’ll level-up, learn skills, create accessories and do side-quests to get stronger. Combat is in real-time and each character has 3 or 4 combos with various combinations of square and triangle. It’s kinda too few, but there are also 4 magic spells that you can activate quickly with L1, and a highly destructive super-attack you can unleash when your fury gauge is filled. Magic and physical attacks can be linked in seamless fashion so that control can be mastered in no time. Only drawback : dodging is set on R2, which not as convenient as circle (used in God Eater for example).
But KoeiTecmo and SquareEnix haven’t merely copied the Musô formula with a Dragon Quest skin. The game system is different. In Dragon Quest Heroes, you’ll be very often defending a location or a NPC as monsters come from everywhere. You have to cover all sides at the same time : before you can clean one part of the frontline, monsters will alread been rushing on another side. In order to complete those missions, you’ll be able to rely on ally monsters (that you acquire by picking up medals) and place them at strategic locations to have them hold the ground for you. There are dozens of them, actually the entire bestiary of the series! The game is pretty easy in its first half so that’s a bit disappointing, and the enemy troops are always not as massive as in Samurai Warriors. That said, the challenge makes more sense in the late stages of the story, where stronger fiends make battles really fierce. Let’s stress that some free DLCs in Japan throws you against insane opponents. The big letdown is the lack of multiplayer, despite it being traditionally a huge added-value of “Warriors” games.
Before being an action game, this new SquareEnix title is a Dragon Quest, a true and pure one. Of course, you can play as legendary characters such as Alina and Manya from Dragon Quest IV, Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII, Bianca and Flora from Dragon Quest V. 13 in total in you include the main characters created for this game. Both have a personality and fit in the Dragon Quest universe very well. Against you march numerous classic enemies of the series, like Slimes and Killer Machines. Not to mention gigantic statues and dragons which are impressive bosses.
This title is a true rejuvenating experience because the it sticks to the Dragon Quest universe from back to front. Music, sounds and even the icons during the dialogs are the same as years ago! In the Japanese version, even the writing style is taken from former episodes, that is to say few kanjis and spaces between the words (which is traditionally implemented in games aimed at kids, like Pokemon). In the same way, dialogs are easy-going but keep to comic tone of the series, though it prevents the story to be surprising in whichever way.
While you do feel nostalgic by playing it, it doesn’t mean Dragon Quest Heroes is not modern. True, it’s not the most complex PS4 game graphically speaking but it remains visually stunning. That’s not for the character/background modeling, average for the system, but for the incredible flurry of sparkling colors, especially of magic and skills. Animation is of great quality too, as the rapid frame rate never drops. There are also lots of tiny animation details like when the characters are stun or exhaust the magic that make it a whole new Dragon Quest experience. The numerous cut-scenes are beautiful and extremely well directed, like in pretty much every SquareEnix title. The last artistic feature is the small blurry effect that occurs when you beat a boss, which is truly exciting for people like me who love to use their Share button.
Dragon Quest’s return on Playstation is a definitive success with that PS4 episode. It reunites both the old and the new and can appeal to any Japanese gaming fan. A fun and exciting game so fully Dragon Quest that it gives shivers of nostalgia.