Back when it was first announced for the DS, Dragon Quest IX looked like it would be completely different from its predecessors. Not only would the game be on a portable system, it looked like it would be multiplayer and in a real-time, if not an action-RPG, system. After Dragon Quest VIII’s revelations (huge graphical upgrades and a rename in the US to follow the Japanese series name), it looked like the ninth entry would bring even more changes to a series that is notorious for having old school gameplay and feel. Was Square Enix finally going to change the main system of the grandfather of RPGs?
The cover for the original Dragon Quest.
More recently, the news has trickled in that, yes, the game would be multiplayer, but it would have the same turn-based battle system. So the battles will remain unchanged, but it looks like there will still be the four-player multiplayer. I’m curious to see how well this works out, as the last time I played a multiplayer cooperative turn-based RPG was Final Fantasy 3 SNES (really 6, of course), which had a two-player mode. I wasn’t impressed, but then cooperative gameplay was not the focus of the game by any means. If Square-Enix can manage to pull off a small-scale multiplayer RPG well, then the cooperative style of gameplay I love so much could really catch on.
This could be a big change for Square-Enix: a new, full-budget, big name RPG for a portable system doesn’t come around too often. With the worldwide popularity of the DS, it’s also an opportunity for players to see if handheld RPGs can be as compelling as their modern console counterparts.
More generally, Dragon Quest lost a lot of momentum in the West because the Super Famicom entries for the series were never brought across the Pacific. Dragon Quest VII was translated, but it went completely under the radar. Its incredibly long story was largely ignored because of its generic appearance, and it didn’t do very well. Dragon Quest VIII, by comparison, was much more vibrant, included voice acting (in the translation only) and also was helped along by a significant advertising campaign. As long as Square Enix doesn’t drop the ball on Dragon Quest IX, they stand a good chance of bringing the popularity (if not the mass hysteria) of Japan’s biggest RPG series to the US, and we could see future ports of the earlier games we missed out on too.
[DQ9 Info via GamesAreFun]