Dragon Quest Heroes is an absolute gem of a game you might have missed out on. Produced by Omega Force and published by Square Enix, an interesting yet very compatible fusion has been alchemized here.
This cutesy action JRPG follows the latest trend of turning mega franchises into mousou romps (such as The Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule Warriors and One Piece’s Pirate Warriors).
This time we’re looking at the amalgamation of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay with the lore and spirit of Dragon Quest.
The result is a fan-honouring treasure chest of Dragon Quest nostalgia, coupled with the swarm-busting antics of Dynasty Warriors – the result is sheer bliss if you’re a fan of both series.
With Dragon Ball’s artist Akira Toriyama in charge of designing characters and monsters, expect a delightfully realized realm, brimming with everyone’s favourite anime’s likeness.
The game takes place in an alternate world set in the DQ universe, in which humans and monsters actually get along and play together in joyful harmony.
It doesn’t take long before some Italian sorcerer with a pencil moustache casts a blanketing incantation that returns the once amicable fiends to their senses, erupting in a worldwide onslaught.
You start off by choosing your main character between either the strategic windbag Luceus or the more hands-on, hot-headed Aurora, both loyal members of King Doric’s guard and the game’s central protagonists.
Along with said king, these two will embark on a nationwide adventure with the aim of quelling the source of their newly murderous play-pals’ aggression, unleashing unmitigated genocide on the colourful monsters along the way.
As you proceed along your journey, your party will steadily be populated by previous Dragon Quest titles’ heroes. As this franchise started in the archaic era of consoles, veterans of the series will be delighted to see text-based characters of old come to life in the current generation with jolly voice acting.
Eventually, you will have a bustling party akin to the size of Dragon Age’s squads. You can take four of your merry band into battle at a time. You will probably find your favourites in time, from spell-heavy magicians, to heavy hitters wielding massive steel killers, to the bare knuckle brawler.
While there are a lot of characters to choose from, each with their own unique style and arsenal, I generally found myself focusing on four characters that were just a cut above the rest. Either way, keep your party interchangeable and exploit each member for maximum, versatile enjoyment.
If you’ve played any Dynasty Warriors title before, you know exactly what to expect from this one. It’s basically the endless swatting of enormous swathes of enemies, done in the most entertaining and satisfying manner.
Nothing beats plowing your way through tons of minions with arcing combos and special moves. Mousou games heavily rely on the entertainment factor of overpowered mass-murder, which can become stale for players in search of more versatile offerings other than the illustration of a 20th-century African warchief’s emotions.
Along with the usual combos comes a bunch of spells and skills for each character, adding a much-welcomed buff to the usual square/triangle button-smashing antics.
More useful abilities include healing spells and attacks that reduce enemy defence, but most focus on widening your path of destruction with swirling electrified or burning tornadoes, overpwered combo outlashes, and even a meteor or two.
Altering the trajectory of a meteor a million light years away to come crashing down to the earth without causing a globally-encasing splash of suffocating ash has always been one of my favourite moves in JRPGs.
The circle button has always held a special place in Dynasty Warriors titles, unleashing an unstoppable torrent of charged attacks, splashing a large amount of enemies about with burning ferocity.
In Dragon Quest titles, players could build tension to build attack-power for a devastating move. Think the super saiyan equivalent for Dragon Quest, unleashing some seriously draconian fireworks.
Once you fill your tension gauge, you will become temporarily invincible and have a boost to attack power, as well as infinite mana. Once the gauge drains, feast your eyes on each player’s individual climactic ‘coup de grâce’.
The game may seem predominantly easy and juvenile, but late game it can become quite overwhelming, especially when trying to protect an objective from endlessly storming high-level mini-bosses.
A lot of the game involves escorting or defending objectives, a rather severe leash for unrestrained hacking. I guess the developers didn’t want the game to seem like a flat series of massacres, but the game is exhilaratingly shallow enough to afford such meaningless entertainment.
There is a skill tree for each character, and along with the universal HP, MP and general stats upgrades comes a plethora of individualized buffs and abilities for each character.
There is a unique design implemented for each character, affording the realization of each player’s ladder-climbing strategies.
Eventually players will have access to fast travel and will be able to whiz about the lovely map, pursuing side-quests that are generally the rehashing of previous story missions. You can also revisit previous stages at any time for some leisurely, objective-free marauding.
The monsters and characters are all very adorable, true to Toriyama’s enchanting artistry. It makes for a pleasant change in an industry choking on alpha males and twisted horrors.
The undeniable iconic charm of the game produces much of the pull; you will most likely fall in love with its vibrant anime design and Tolkein-ish inspiration.
As for the story, it’s the usual cliched battle between light and dark, nuanced with a few twists. The characters and world are attractive enough to hold your attention, but George RR Martin would probably jiggle his heavy man-breasts with laughter if you explained the plot to him.
If your stomach is churning with the indigestible difficulty and stress invoked by many of the GOTY monster-hits we saw in 2015, Dragon Quest Heroes is a purifying swig of minty Gaviscon.
It need not be something you even devote yourself to finishing, just some palatable stress-relief to be enjoyed in the gaps between our anxious 21st century existence.
Despite its JRPG flushing, this is your standard mousou experience, albeit a glittering, bejeweled and very enjoyable one.