Not as heroic as you might hope.
Dragon Quest is a curious beast. The series is monstrously popular in Japan, more so even than Final Fantasy, and its old school gaming mechanics and stubborn resistance to change only seem to have increased its popularity. It’s a lot more family-friendly and angst-free than most JRPGs, with silly-looking enemies pouring from every corner and the sort of cheery overall demeanour that can usually only be reached with high prescriptions of Valium. Grinning one eyed monsters and giant ecstatic looking blobs of slime are frequent sights to behold, and the dialogue is packed with puns that would make a children’s stand up performer cringe. It should be ridiculous, but in its own psychotically cute way, it works.
Rather than controlling through the series’ traditional turn-based approach, Dragon Quest Heroes’ combat is taken straight from the Dynasty Warriors franchise: button mash your way through hundreds of enemies at once and get to the end of the level. It’s pure hack and slash that does away with the need to select moves from a menu as previous entries in the series required. You’re only ever dishing out very simple combos, using a combination of light and heavy attacks, although if that still sounds too much like hard work for you there’s even a simplified control scheme where you just hammer a single button. Why anyone would ever use this is beyond me as most levels consist of little more than walloping your way through the enemies before you; reducing this to a single button mash gets boring incredibly quickly.
There are magic abilities and a smart bomb style super attack that can be called upon, as well as the ability to raise defeated enemies to fight alongside you as allies, and directional attacks such as double jumping and dodging. But it’s being able to summon monsters that mixes battles up the most.
Visually, it’s a pretty experience thanks to Akira Toriyama’s iconic art style – all bright colours and wacky looking characters.
Sadly, they don’t make as much impact as you’d hope and are rather difficult to control in that they never quite seem to do what you want them to. They seem to be utterly lacking in intelligence, as do the enemies you’re expected to fight, and it’s only their numbers that provide any kind of challenge as opposed to their AI. There’s no sense that they’re using strategy to take you down, and there’s no real strategy required of the player to make heads roll either. It all leads to a crushing feeling of repetition backed up by a sense of shallowness that’s hard to avoid the further you get into the game.
Visually, it’s a pretty experience thanks to Akira Toriyama’s iconic art style – all bright colours and wacky looking characters – but it’s not what anyone would call the PS4’s finest. The same can be said of the plot; new characters Aurora and Luceus are both appealing leads who have some great character moments interspersed between all the button mashes, but the narrative is simplistic and doesn’t offer up any significant twists or interesting plot points that make you want to keep playing. It could have been so much more – the foundations for it are certainly there – but sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
If a simple hack and slash experience set in a bright and breezy fantasy realm is what you desire then Dragon Quest Heroes will be a filling main course. But if you’re after something with a little more meat on its narrative and combat bones, then Dragon Quest will leave you feeling very, very hungry.