After a long silence, venerable Japanese RPG series Dragon Quest is finally making a return to Western shores in 2015.
Dragon Quest Heroes, an action-packed spin-off in the vein of Dynasty Warriors, will debut exclusively for PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe via publisher Square Enix. An exact release date has not been set yet, but we do know it's sometime this year and that it will be available in both physical and digital download formats. The game is due to release in Japan tomorrow along with a Japan-exclusive PlayStation 3 version.
Square Enix community manager Dan Seto writes in a blog post: "In Dragon Quest Heroes, the protagonists must rise up against insurmountable odds, challenging swarms of enemies and conquering gigantic monsters in an exhilarating action game. Filled with characters and monsters designed by world-renowned artist Akira Toriyama, Dragon Quest Heroes is brought to PS4 in beautiful HD."
In addition to Toriyama, Yuji Horii, the general director and creator of Dragon Quest, and Koichi Sugiyama, the composer who made music for the series since its first installment, ω-Force (Omega Force) from Koei Tecmo, is involved in the development of Dragon Quest Heroes. Omega Force is most famous for the Dynasty Warriors series of games including the recent Hyrule Warriors, a spin-off of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda franchise.
"Dragon Quest Heroes is a game that Dragon Quest fans and gamers with all kinds of interests will enjoy," Seto said.
The announcement of Dragon Quest Heroes is a pretty big deal considering the West has missed out on every major Dragon Quest release for the last five years. Not counting the recent iOS and Android remakes of Dragon Quest IV, Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VIII, there have been several games released for the Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U that have not been localized. They include:
* Dragon Quest VII - The 3DS remake of the original PlayStation game.
* Dragon Quest Slime Morimori 3 - The 3DS sequel to Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for the original Nintendo DS.
* Dragon Quest Monsters - The 3DS remake of the original Game Boy Color game.
* Dragon Quest Monsters 2 - Another 3DS remake.
* Dragon Quest X - The MMO for Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U. There is also a Version 2 release and a Version 3 update has been recently announced.
* Threatrythm Dragon Quest - Due to release on 3DS on March 26 in Japan. There has been no announcement for the West yet.
That's a lot of unlocalized Dragon Quest games, something that has puzzled fans since Dragon Quest IX, the last game in the series to come out in the U.S. back in 2010, has sold well.
Square Enix has been criticized for dragging its feet lately when it comes to releasing old-style role-playing games, like with its Nintendo 3DS title Bravely Default, a turn-based game similar to classic Final Fantasy titles. Square Enix published that game itself for Japan in October 2012, while Nintendo, as it did with Dragon Quest IX, took the reins for the overseas release early last year. When Bravely Default sold well, Square Enix pledged to focus more on titles for its built-in fanbase that craves "heavy JRPGs" rather than a more general audience.
Final Fanasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, a high-definition re-release of acclaimed games from the PlayStation 2 era, also sold well; so well that a PlayStation 4 version of the collection is on its way this spring.
Clearly, there is a demand for "heavy JRPGs." So why has Square Enix chosen to announce Dragon Quest Heroes as opposed to a traditional text-heavy RPG? It could be due to Nintendo's recent success with Hyrule Warriors, a similar game that has the player battle hordes of enemies. But another likely cause of the lack of localized titles could be due to the pages and pages of dialogue necessary to translate into multiple languages. Since it's an action game, Dragon Quest Heroes likely contains a minimal amount of text to translate compared with a 100-hour RPG like Dragon Quest VII. That's a lot of time, money and effort to put into something that may not meet Square Enix's famously high sales expecations. Furthermore, it's apparently "technically impossible" to translate Dragon Quest VII anyway, at least for mobile platforms.
While the prospects for the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII's localization are disappointing, it would appear that Square Enix is listenening to fan demand judging by the #DragonQuestForTheWest hashtag recommended in the company's blog post. So if you want to see more Dragon Quest for the West, shoot Square Enix a tweet to let them know how you feel.
Now would be a good time, too, since Yuji Horii promises more for fans of "DraQue" as the series prepares to enter its 30th anniversary celebration.