Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors series has had longer legs than most would've imagined. It's a simple template with a great amount of appeal that easily lends itself to adopting other franchises as its veneer, from Gundam to The Legend of Zelda. The upcoming Dragon Quest Heroes is the most recent application of the formula, combining the action of the parent series with the bright and colorful world of Dragon Quest. The title looks to be a departure for the series as well as a return to the franchise on PlayStation consoles.
"The majority of the game will be spent slashing through these enemies by the hundreds..."
Heroes takes place in the world of Erusaze, where people and monsters live together in harmony. This peace lasts until a man named Hermood sets into motion a plan to destroy the world. His first plan of action is to send the monsters into a frenzy, making them lose control and turn against the humans. Players must take control of Dragon Quest protagonists to help defend the capital city and stop Hermood. Story and creative elements for the game are being handled by Square Enix, specifically, series creator Yuji Horii, while the combat is being handled by the Dynasty Warriors developer Omega Force.
Players begin the game by choosing a boy or girl, named Luceus and Aurora respectively, to serve as the main party member for the game, but the decision is mostly a cosmetic one. The chosen character can be renamed while the unchosen is referred to by the default name, but the story doesn't change except for the given perspective. Heroes features twelve playable characters, most taken from Dragon Quest IV, V, VI, and VIII, each featuring an updated character model.
Combat is a straightforward affair. Squads of enemies litter the screen, practically waiting to be attacked. The majority of the game will be spent slashing through these enemies by the hundreds using swords, bows, sceptors, magic, and other implements of destruction. Every character has a basic attack and a charge attack as well as a jump and dodge and his or her own unique moveset. Defeating monsters gives the character experience points that allows them to level up on the spot, increasing health and mana and opening new skills for purchase.
On the field, players only control one character at a time, but can switch between other characters in the party instantaneously. When a character runs out of health, control switches to the nearest standing character, at which point the fallen character can be brought back if the active character is within a certain proximity. Items in the inventory can be accessed during gameplay by using left and right on the D-Pad to cycle through and using the active item by pressing up. In addition to the unique moveset per character, each has their own magic abilities that can be activated for a mana cost. By holding R1, the face buttons' normal functions are replaced with the special attacks. These moves have to be used sparingly, as mana regnerates slowly over time.
Monster catching is also a proud tradition of Dragon Quest games and Heroes has its own unique take on the concept. Along with gaining experience, sometimes defeated monsters will drop coins representing different monsters. Using this coin in the middle of a battle will summon said monster to aid the player, whether as a short-term defensive measure or as a single powerful attack. The AI for the summoned monsters is as basic as most of the enemies and they will only mindlessly attack their nearest targets until they are defeated or their timer runs out, but summoning them is integral to the newest aspect of the game, which is a departure for both Dragon Quest and Dynasty Warriors.
The game is divided up into levels, each with a specific mission. Often the goals for these missions will be to wipe out all enemies or specific commander units strewn throughout the map. However, some missions will require the defense of a certain point in addition to taking out certain enemies. In other missions, the player will face off against an opponent that towers over the others. These fights are more similar to boss battles, however, awareness of the map will become more important. The larger monsters have higher levels of health, making the characters basic attacks less effective. Stationary gun emplacements, which are capable of doing high amounts of damage if fired at the right place, are spread throughout the map.
Dragon Quest's return to PlayStation is not the most traditional, but it's looking to be a heartfelt one. Heroes is a new direction for the series in its first turn in high definition but is looking to keep fans of the series invested. Dragon Quest Heroes arrives on PlayStation 4 on October 13, 2015 in North America and October 16. 2015 in Europe.