I Need a Hero!!!
In a world where Dynasty Warriors dominates the Hack and Slash genre it has become pretty clear that you are either a Dynasty Warriors gamer or you are not. To tell the truth, I was not. It makes sende that Omega Force, the developer of the Dynasty Warriors series, would want to do whatever they could to pull players like myself into wanting to play their style of games. So, taking a risk, instead of partnering with the local library of Japanese medieval history they partnered with Square Enix in an attempt to bring new life into the genre. In reviewing possible options for what game Square might be able to bring to the table they came across the Dragon Quest/Warriors series. For those who are not into the JRPG scene, Dragon Quest/Warriors is the series that was originally developed by Enix and was a key opponent to the Final Fantasy series in Japan before the merging of Square Soft and Enix to create the company known today as Square-Enix. These games follow the standard format of the player controlling a character or party of characters who are tasked with the burden of stopping some evil force who is determined to destroy or take over the world. Originally this story followed the Legend of Erdrick(AKA Loto) as the main character was considered a descendent of this legendary hero. As the games developed and the series grew Enix developed other main characters who were not directly associated with Erdrick, and began to develop a lore based on Zenithia which first appears in DQ IV. Throughout the rest of the series the most powerful armaments were associated with either the hero Erdrick or the Zenithian people. With all of this lore, a large fan base, and a myriad of characters to choose from Dragon Quest Heroes was born!
DQ Heroes begins in the world of Arba. In Arba Human and Monster-kind live side by side enjoying a harmony which many would think impossible. Unfortunately, this peace is not to last as the game begins with an unknown villain casting a spell which turns the monsters into mindless beasts causing them to turn on those whom they once lived peacefully with. Amidst this panic the player enters the scene as one of two captains of the Royal Guard. A strategically minded hero and a snarky but loyal heroine. Beside them is their good buddy Healix the slime, a good natured slime full of slime filled puns, who for an unknown reason has not turned against his friends. Their task is to do what they can to protect the people of their kingdom and seek to discover what has caused those who they once knew as friends to become their enemies. As the story progresses you come across 11 other playable characters who are recognizable from other entries in the Dragon Quest series. These characters have been pulled from other worlds because the spell that is wreaking such havoc in Arba is also pulling energy from these other worlds and leading to their ultimate destruction. Each time you come across one of these lovable heroes they are all too eager to join your cause of saving the world. Who is the evil villain who has cast this spell? What is his ultimate goal? Why is Healix the Slime the only monster who has retained his self-awareness? Enter into the fray in order to discover this and more!!! Let me just say that even though I saw the ending coming the way in which they chose to explain what was happening kinda made me a little teary-eyed. In the end the story is transparent, but good and the character development is well done if you pursue post game quests.
The gameplay includes, you guessed it, Hackin and slashin! But that is not all that this gameplay includes. Each party that you create includes one of the two main characters you chose to be your main at the beginning of the game, as well as up to three extra characters. You have the ability to effortlessly switch between these characters with a simple press of R2. The characters you do not control move and attack of their own volition and this is one of the strengths of this game. Though the characters who you are not controlling may not do the best attacks for a given situation the AI is amazing at dodging attacks. This allows you to keep from having to continuously worry about one of your best characters dying if you stop paying attention for a second. As far as controls go you have the options of easy or complex controls. If you choose easy then all you have to do is press one button over and over in order to execute combos, however, by choosing complex you can create combos by alternating the pattern of the quick and heavy attack buttons. Each character, apart from their standard attacks, has up to four spells they can learn and these spells are specific to them. This adds to the importance of familiarizing yourself with each character to determine which character you should use based on your specific strategy. DQ Heroes also incorporates an ultimate attack that is specific to each character called a “Coup de Grace.” There is a gage that slowly builds based on the number of hits you are executing. Once the gage is filled you may enter into what they call “High Tension” mode and the gage will slowly deplete. In this form you are basically invincible, your strength is greatly increased, and your abilities cost 0mp. Once the gage runs out or you press the O button you pull off your ultimate “Coup de Grace” which will instantly kill all but the most powerful of enemies.
While I usually find the Hack and Slash genre boring, DQ Heroes incorporates a few features that break up the monotony of the genre. One of these features is the utilization of weak points on moving enemies. Some of the enemies you face in this game are large in scale and move a lot. This makes finding and exploiting weaknesses on new enemies a fun and exciting challenge. Another feature that makes the levels more than a boring Hack and Slash is defending both character units, this doesn’t happen too much, and protecting an object, this happens much more often. This tower-defense style gameplay forces you to bounce between destroying the source of the monsters, ”Mawkeepers”, in the level and making sure that the object you are defending does not take too much damage. The Mawkeepers generate at different points in the level so if you find yourself too far away from the object you are defending it can spell doom very quickly. Finally, the incorporation of a quest system and item synthesis gives the player a sense of purpose as they seek to get stronger. The rewards for the quests were usually very good and I found all but one easy to complete. Stupid Belle Caps!!!
This game had a very balanced approach to its trophies. Rarely did I find myself feeling the need to grind in order attain the trophies in the game. The last trophy that I needed to Platinum the game was the same that I would get for beating the toughest post-game boss in the game. In order to have the strength and equipment to beat that boss I really had to do everything needed for the other trophies. Too many times games allow us to beat the strongest enemy in the game and then force us to grind for hours in order to clean up random trophies. It was refreshing to know that I would get the feeling of satisfaction of getting the platinum alongside beating the strongest boss.
I strongly recommend this game for all of the reasons stated above. For those who are new to the Dragon Quest/Warriors series it will more than likely make you curious about the other games. I know it made me want to know the backstory to a few of the characters. The colorful art scheme and the moving story really bring the Hack and Slash genre to a new level. I am looking forward to any and all future partnerships between Omega Force and Square-enix. Slime on my friends!!!