I have this vision that some time ago in Japan the suits over at Koei were brainstorming on how to release Dynasty Warriors 937 in some way that is not obvious that it is the same game everyone bought multiple times with some new repackaging. After much deliberation went into this plan, some clandestine meetings with Square-Enix led to the greatest business deal since Robert Johnson took some guitar lessons from the devil. The most popular JRPG series (sorry Final Fantasy) got Warriorified, and the result is Dragon Quest Heroes. The title seems a tad odd since it is a Warriors game. I wish they would have called it Dragon Quest Warriors, not only for continuity but also because the Dragon Quest series was called Dragon Warrior in the states up until Dragon Quest VIII came out and they rereleased IV on the Nintendo DS, but I digress. That may possibly why they named it Heroes over Warriors.
So how well does a turn based JRPG combine with a generally mindless action game? Surprisingly well actually. If you are a hardcore fan of both series, don’t even bother reading this, just go download the game. I’ll even put the link here a second time so you don’t have to backtrack any. If you have played Dynasty Warriors 2 or any subsequent entry, any Samurai Warriors games, Hyrule Warriors, or any other spin off you know what the basic game play is like. You charge into battle against a ridiculously large amount of enemies and just hack them to ribbons. What surprised me about this game is how it tries to be more than a mindless hack and slash game by incorporating RPG elements from Dragon Quest and actually does a pretty good job of it. I am still not happy that it is single player only, but unlike most Warriors games I was able to play this for extended periods of time solo and enjoy it. Hopefully we will get a sequel and keep the four person party element intact but each player can select two characters to switch between.
The game takes place in its own world with some original characters, and some convoluted Warriors Orochi-esque intergalactic portal nonsense brings characters from other worlds into it, namely characters from Dragon Quest IV, V, VI, and VIII. In total you have 13 playable characters and go into battle with a party of four. You can switch who you are controlling in battle on the fly and each character has their own unique set of skills, strengths, and weaknesses. You choose at the beginning of the game between Luceus and Aurora for your main character, but who you choose does not make a huge difference, especially since both characters will be playable in battle regardless of who you pick. As far as playing is concerned they are identical save for Luceus having fire based special attacks and Aurora uses ice for hers. Who you pick is really a matter if you want to be male or female, but I will say Luceus’s personality is a lot more annoying than Aurora’s so I would suggest going with Aurora, even though doing so will only minimally spare you from Luceus’s incessant ramblings. Aside from the main villains which are unique to this game, the majority of the monsters you fight are the classic Dragon Quest baddies, from slimes to golems to dragons to those irritatingly fast and hard to hit metal slimes. Similar to Dragon Quest V and some of the handheld spin offs, you can recruit defeated monsters to fight for you during the battle. These can make a huge strategic difference in the fights where you have to defend a central point while defeating monsters in different parts of the map.
The story itself is fairly generic but it works well enough for this game. The story and dialog are not representative of the depth that can be found in the traditional Dragon Quest games but this also is not a traditional JRPG. The voice acting is this game is definitely cringe inducing in some parts, but listening to the English voice track on previous Koei games this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The repeated theme of friendship overcoming everything makes me feel like I am watching a bad after school special from an era when TVs were square boxes with rabbit ear antennas. However, once we get past all that, this is a great game. I do not know if I can say this with 100% confidence, but this could very well be my favorite Warriors game, though that is hard to say definitively since I have played seven or eight dozen other games from Koei that play similarly to this. It is definitely in the top three. One thing I can say is unlike every other Koei game I have played, even the ones on current gen consoles, is I never once encountered slow down with this title. As is standard JRPG formula, there is a linear story path you follow but you can break this up by doing side quests that you can get from their version of a bulletin board on the Stonecloud. New Game Plus is available when you complete the main story mode, but I suggest ignoring that and just play the post game quests that open up. I would guess that if you complete everything that is available to you when you beat the “final” boss, I would say you are probably 60% done with the game. Some of these quests are harder versions of boss fights but this is also where you get a lot quests that are specific to characters in your party. As was to be expected, there is no disappointment in the Dragon Quest fan service department. Most of the game’s music, possibly all of it but I don’t have the soundtrack to every game in the series memorized so I can’t say for certain, is a reworked version of music from various Dragon Quest games. Some secret bosses are also classic end bosses from earlier entries, which were nice Easter eggs to find. There are numerous subtle references to plot points from Dragon Quest games in the character dialog, some of which I had to think about to figure out the reference since it has been many years since I played some of these games.
I spent more time playing this game than I want to admit and completed everything in it, and wanted there to be more. I enjoy Koei games a lot despite the fact they are essentially the same game over and over again, and I have been a Dragon Quest fan since it was called Dragon Warrior on NES. I still have physical copies of I-IV that I probably can’t even keep a save file on since the battery is long dead, plus that would require the blowing ritual every NES player knows all too well. I have also played every Dynasty Warriors game starting with number 2, along with a few assorted other Koei games, so this is one of those rare occurrences where a crossover game seems like something I would have requested. If I was rating this strictly on my experience and being a long time fan of both series, it would be a 5/5, and people who happen to be commitably insane both hardcore Koei Warriors and Dragon Quest fans would probably agree with me. Removing the fan boy filter, this is not a 5/5 game. Now, this is still a very good game, but lack of multiplayer, bad voice acting, repetitive game play, and forgettable story would be noticed by all regular gamers, along with the nostalgia factor being completely absent and unable to help sway their opinions. While it can only do so much to limit repetition because the nature of this type of game is very repetitious there is enough variety and RPG elements to keep it interesting. This is more of an action RPG than other games released by Koei, though the emphasis is on the action part of the genre. The difficulty is challenging but it feels pretty well balanced overall. A few secret bosses in the post game are extremely difficult, but I think that is kind of the point of post game content. The controls are smooth and responsive, the music is great, and unless you hate Akira Toriyama’s art style the graphics are great. The voice acting is far from great, no matter how much I enjoyed everything else about this game I have no delusions about that. Hardcore Dragon Quest and Koei Warriors fans need to definitely give this one a try. People who like action RPGs or fantasy action games would also very likely enjoy this one. Even with full knowledge of the flaws and the fanboy filter removed, this is a very well designed game. Follow me on Twitter