Over the years Square Enix has farmed out the main Dragon Quest series to the likes of Heartbeat, Chunsoft, Artepiazza and even Level-5, with the regular groups of Bird Studio and Armour Project involved, and creator Yuji Horii steering the ship for good measure. For Dragon Quest X: Mezameshi Itsutsu no Shuzoku Online, referring to its original Japanese moniker, rather than looking outside of the company, Square Enix has decided to keep control of its progress in-house. The game was originally announced back on 10th December 2008 by Horii-san himself at a Japanese conference related to the franchise, but with the focus staying on Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies due to its heavy promotion outside of Japan during Nintendo’s publishing efforts, everything went extremely quiet on the topic of Dragon Quest X. In fact, all went so deadly quiet that, due to the faltering performance of the Wii console in Japan over the subsequent years, many people feared for the worst, speculating that it would be moved over to PlayStation 3, just as Monster Hunter tri had been moved from Sony’s format to Wii earlier in the console lifecycle due to PS3’s slow start compared to Wii. Some even joked that it would be ported across to DS, poking fun at the weaker visuals of Wii, thanks to the ninth entry’s portable success.
However, rather than making a move that would have been almost as drastic as Final Fantasy VII being cancelled for the Nintendo 64 and transferred to the PlayStation (along with the potential development of Dragon Quest VII, according to various sources), a Wii release was re-confirmed by Square Enix on 5th September 2011 at another Dragon Quest conference, stating that it would release on the system in 2012, as well as on the console’s successor, Wii U, at an unspecified later date.
Akira Toriyama is back once more on artistic duties, bringing the unique style of his company Bird Studio that helped make Blue Dragon, Chrono Trigger, and Dragon Ball so distinctive, whilst veteran Koichi Sugiyama is once again handling the soundtrack duties, just as he has been doing since the very first Dragon Warrior on the NES in 1986. When Square Enix announced Dragon Quest X was being developed internally, it meant every single aspect, with even the opening sequence being created by Square Visual Works. Yosuke Saito is overseeing the majority of the project, following his success on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 RPG Nier, whilst Dragon Quest VIII and IX’s director, Jin Fujisawa, returns.
From the small pieces of information unveiled, players eager for more RPG action will be able to create their main character, just as in Dragon Quest IX, with six different races up for grabs; Elf, Dwarf, Ogre, Human, and two unusual ones by the name of Pukuripo and Wedi. Officially it has been said only the five non-human races can be used for character creation, yet the initial trailer shown did actually show off a human lead, and they also play a large role in the main story, with a mystery in ‘our’ world needing to be solved. Again, though, the official line only makes mention of five key areas in the world of Astoldia; the four continents of Ogleed, Dwachakka, Pukuland and Eltona, and the grouping of the Wena Islands. Where the human realm comes into play is not quite clear as of yet, but considering how the five locations are on the periphery of a mysterious land where problems lie, it does not take a rocket scientist to make the connection that this may indeed be where humans reside.
With all the talk of Dragon Quest X being online, it may raise concerns about whether or not the story will be as weighty as previous editions. However, Square Enix’s Yosuke Saito-san has been quick to confirm that there will indeed be a huge story, but this point has not yet been elaborated upon other than it will build on the foundation set by Dragon Quest IX. One key matter, though, is there will be no shortage of quests to undertake, with special events coming along for the likes of Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and so on, on top of a whole batch of post-release side-quests that will likely come at an even quicker pace that in Dragon Quest IX. The idea is one of players having “the joy of being able to play forever,” with some quests not being one-off ventures, instead actually coming in linked sections spread over a period of time.
Visually, Dragon Quest X definitely appears to follow the cel-shaded appearance of Dragon Quest VIII on the PlayStation 2, except with added polish. As in Dragon Quest IX, changes to armour and weapons result in physical changes made to the characters as they wander around the world. In terms of fighting, only one of the team can be actually controlled by the player (although three characters can be created in order to have a choice of different appearances and races to choose from). People playing alone can add non-playable characters to their squad that are controlled by the computer. The entire game can even be completed this way, but generally when in the online world any allies will be real-life players from all over cyberspace, similar to the multiplayer aspect of Dragon Quest IX. As in past outings, new party members are enlisted by venturing to a local public house, and then out in the gaming world there is the chance to watch others fight and help those who have fallen during battle.
A highly important point to bring up is that, whilst the first few hours of Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online are free, to play through everything a subscription fee must be paid, as with Square Enix’s other online-based RPGs, dating back to Final Fantasy XI. At least that is what it appears to say on the game’s website, but with the wording being: ”Q.) Besides buying the software package, will there be any fees to play? A.) Yes, playing online requires a payment of a separate fee”, it is left somewhat open to ambiguity. Could it simply be referring to the fee people pay for their general Internet services? This could be wishful thinking, perhaps, but there is still a slim hope, especially if Nintendo helps with the online server management as it has done with many other Wii games.
What else has been revealed so far? Well, Fujisawa-san wants to maintain a clear, clean appearance throughout to make Dragon Quest X as accessible as possible for the entire fan-base. This also stretches to the forms of control input, with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, Classic Controller / PRO, and even USB keyboards being available as options. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has also added that it additionally means that play can start on the Wii version and then continue on the Wii U iteration, possibly via the announced USB memory stick that comes included in the package. As for when a play session comes to an end, your character can be used by other parties in the game world, along with weapons crafted by your own hands that build in status level the more widely they are used, and a home can even be built, á la Animal Crossing, that can be visited by others.
As for battling, there is not too much known about this at the moment, but the early trailer shows off non-random battles. Instead, rather like in the recent Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker titles on DS, you can see the enemies whilst wandering around the world and choose to enter into battle encounters at will. One other difference is that it appears that the main character can move freely around before choosing whether to fight, defend or use items.
No doubt more details will be revealed later this year, but for now all we have is the above and a teaser website to keep us satiated for the time being. Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online clearly came as a shock to everyone, including investors if the recent stock plummeting is anything to go by, yet calculated risks sometimes pay off considerably and lessons will indeed have been learned from the online-only disaster that was Final Fantasy XIV. As for that tasty little nugget about a Wii U release, the only morsels revealed so far tell us that it will have the same overall world but come with superior graphics, and the online element will be cross-compatible with the Wii edition. There is also the chance that Nintendo 3DS functionality may be included, with Iwata-san mentioning a StreetPass character viewer as one possible option. Though many assumed that Nintendo 3DS may have been on its way out prematurely, Nintendo’s recent event in Japan showed that the handheld is set to get a massive push this Christmas and looks set for a strong 2012, meaning inter-system connectivity would definitely be a worthwhile addition.