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Dragon Quest Heroes Hands-On Preview – Slimy Yet Satisfying (PS4)

March 2, 2015 Written by Heath Hindman

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Here’s a quick look at Dragon Quest Heroes, which I’ve been playing on PS4.

Square Enix is calling Dragon Quest Heroes an “action RPG” because the company doesn’t want people to be too turned off by the “Musou” or “Warriors” stigma, but let’s call it what it is: this is the Dragon Quest series injected with Dynasty Warriors steroids. I suppose they could have called it “Dragon Warriors,” but that would have been way too confusing, since Dragon Quest was originally called Dragon Warrior in North America.

I can see why they’d make the crafty genre distinction. Not being too huge a fan of Warriors games myself, I may not have been too into Dragon Quest Heroes to only hear the description. I don’t have anything against them, they’re just not high on my list when I think of the genres I enjoy the most. I guess I’m more in the “enjoy in moderation” camp more than the “mosdef gonna pre-order” camp. I would’ve been doing myself a disservice to skip this, though, as I’ve been thrilled by every minute of Dragon Quest Heroes.

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Square Enix isn’t flat out lying when they call this an action RPG. Killing monsters does make characters stronger through leveling, and genre vets will recognize staples like item shops and all the usual stuff that comes up when we try to draw genre lines. It’s there. It’s not wrong to call it an action RPG — certainly not. But the game flow and combat style are decidedly Dynasty Warriors, in the best way.

Maybe it’s that I’ve long found the Dragon Quest universe to be so damn cute and likeable, but I can’t keep the smile off my face playing this. Dragon Quest has famous enemies — so popular, in fact, that you kinda don’t want to kill them sometimes. How many RPG franchises are there in which the cutest, most loved character is a recurring bad guy? Yeah. It’s no wonder the series has its own wildly successful monster collecting spinoff.

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Point is, the monsters are a lot of the draw here. The game is more fun because the monsters look awesome. They’re cute but not cuddly (well, except for slimes maybe). What I mean is, they’re cute, but their very design and movements let you know that in this game, they can indeed hurt you. It’s a game, after all, and a monster doesn’t necessarily have to be scary, it just has to be a good opponent. I think of Martin St. Louis. That guy is tiny, but you could tell by his movements out there on the ice that he was an opponent to be feared. That kind of thing. Am I making sense?

The playable characters are fantastic, too. At four hours in, I’ve got six I can choose from. I can take four into battle, but one must always be the protagonist I chose at the beginning. Once in battle, I can switch freely among the four chosen.

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Combat plays out with a few different objectives so far. Sometimes I just have to kill everything, sometimes I’ve had to protect certain gates or NPCs. Usually, there’s a summoner hanging out somewhere that needs to be tracked down and squashed. When that little bastard can’t call in reinforcements anymore, the proper extermination can begin. And so it does.

The environments have all been lovely, most of them bright and colorful as well. Characters are detailed and sharp. Everything looks great.

The game is said to run at 60 frames per second on this PS4 version, and I can confirm that it runs very smoothly. There are some times when it slows down a bit, though most of these occur in my root town (which is actually an airship of some sort). You know when you run down a curved hallway and rotate your camera at the same time? Yeah, it kinda slows down a bit when you do that. When there are several characters around and the camera is rotating, there might be very slight stuttering is all. The grassy field is the only place I noticed it during combat, which is far more important than camp. So, in short, frame rate stutters are infrequent and minor.

Above all, it’s just plain been fun. Not a lot of high tension, not a lot of stress or dread, but fun. Remember that? I do. It feels good, man.

My time with Dragon Quest Heroes has been lovely so far, and when I finish it, look for a final review right here on PSLS.

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