Japan's biggest gaming craze recently got its first true Dragon Quest title. The result? Dragon Quest Monsters is all set to become the DS's next million seller, hinting at good things for Dragon Quest IX, which is also on its way to the DS.
And now, Square Enix is looking to continue the success on Japan's current hottest console. Dragon Quest Swords: Kamen no Jouou to Kagami no Tou (Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors) will be hitting the Japanese Wii this Spring, and Square Enix has already started up the hype, with an official site showcasing the characters, world, and even a gameplay trailer.
As detailed in our hands-on play test from last year, Dragon Quest Sword is markedly different from the main numbered Dragon Quest games, and even the Monsters offshoots. The game is based around Kenshin Dragon Quest, a year 2003 standalone game title which had players swing a sword at the television screen in order to take out Slime and other Dragon Quest creatures. That game was a huge hit in Japan, and the Wiimote allows Square Enix to replicate the sword peripheral without having to include a pricey motion-sensing device in every package.
Unlike Kenshin, Square Enix is giving Dragon Quest Sword the full package, complete with speaking characters -- a first for the series in Japan (the Japanese version of DQ8 was silent). In typical fashion for the series, you play as a nameless main character, which is more appropriate than ever here since the game takes place in the first person.
Other characters announced so far include Setia, a former priestess who worked in the castle town until heading out on adventure, Dean, a prince who happens to be skilled with a sword and magic, and Boud, your father. These characters contribute not just to the storyline, but also fight along side you in battle.
One area of our early play test that had us concerned was how limited the game seemed to be. The demo involved simply moving forward on a pre-set path and taking out beasts, without any chance for exploration. The game can be played with just the Wiimote, so we're not expecting the linear nature to change, but Square Enix at least seems to be preparing a reasonably large world. Set in the island kingdom of Alsword, your adventure will take you from the castle town on a western island of the kingdom to the forests and mountains of the main island. The tower of the title is located right behind your castle and promises to play a big part in the storyline, which itself still remains somewhat of a mystery.
DQS has a core staff that should be familiar to all Dragon Quest fans, with Yuji Horii, Akira Toriyama and Kouichi Sugiyama reprising their roles as general manager, character designer and composer. But in line with the new type of Dragon Quest game being offered here, there are some big new names as well. Manami Matsumae, known for his work at Capcom on Mega Man and Street Fighter II, is also working on composition. The development teams behind the game are also new to the Dragon Quest world. Genius Sonority, recognizable to anyone who's played Pokemon console games, is heading up planning on the title, with actual development taking place at Eighting, known by anyone who plays anime fighting games.
While the Wii has been an unquestioned success so far in Japan, third party titles have taken a back seat to Nintendo's own offerings. If anything has the chance to change that, it's Dragon Quest Sword. And who knows. Maybe Dragon Quest X will follow.
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