The latest issue of Edge magazine has an interview with Yu Miyake, the executive producer of the Dragon Quest series, who touched upon the franchise’s western popularity in comparison with Final Fantasy, which is something publisher Square Enix has “been thinking about a lot internally.” Miyake also hints at Dragon Quest XI releasing in western territories.
According to Miyake, “the source of nostalgia is different” between the franchises in Japan and in the west. Miyake said that Square Enix should have originally put in more effort into the localization of Dragon Quest, and that its cartoon-like aesthetic may not immediately appeal to western gamers.
“We’re still trying! (Laughs),” Miyake told Edge. “It’s a topic we have been thinking about a lot internally: the question of why Final Fantasy is so much more popular than Dragon Quest in the west. One conclusion that we’ve reached is that it’s a question of historical timing. When the Famicom came out, Dragon Quest was the key game everyone was playing. But when the PlayStation came out, Final Fantasy VII was the game that everyone was playing. So the source of nostalgia is different for both groups: in Japan it’s Dragon Quest while overseas it’s Final Fantasy. The truth is that if we’d put a lot of effort into localizing Dragon Quest at the time, we probably wouldn’t be facing this issue today. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but we kind of messed up in that regard.”
Miyake continued, “One thing that does stand out: in Japan the target audience for Dragon Quest is vast. It ranges from primary school students to people in their 50s. Now, Akira Toriyama’s art style is cartoonish, and in Japan that doesn’t alienate anyone; it’s not seen as childish. But outside of Japan, I think there’s often a stigma attached to that kind of aesthetic. Now, when an adult tries the game, they will discover that the subject matter is actually quite mature. Nevertheless, players are still left with this disconnect between how the game looks and how it plays. That’s a tension that just doesn’t exist in Japan. What we’re seeing now is that the age of people who are playing is rising. Interest is also increasing. We’re trying to put a lot more effort into promoting overseas the spin-off titles we’ve been working on – Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest Heroes – in order to soften up the ground for Dragon Quest XI.”
Edge also brought up how the design of Final Fantasy often changes and must deal with the risk of alienating fans whereas Dragon Quest must maintain a traditional experience while ensuring that players don’t grow tired of the formula.
“Instead of changing the game itself, we focus on changing the way it’s played in the world,” Miyake said in regards to the Dragon Quest series. “For example, with Dragon Quest IX we made a handheld game, because that’s how people were playing games predominantly at that time. Dragon Quest X we made into an online game. So that’s how we try to keep the series fresh. In fact, we run the risk of alienating the fans when we moved from pixel-art to 3D with the move to Dragon Quest VIII. And when we made the tenth game, a lot of players complained, saying that Dragon Quest should never be an online game. But it turns out that, in each of these cases, when you start playing the game, you find that it still has the same feel. It’s still quintessentially Dragon Quest.”
The latest numbered entry in the Dragon Quest series, Dragon Quest XI: In Search of Departed Time, is due out for PlayStation 4 and 3DS in Japan in 2017. A Nintendo Switch version is also planned. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is due out for 3DS in North America and Europe on January 20. Dragon Quest Heroes II is due out for PlayStation 4 in North America on April 25 and in Europe on April 28.