This year's PAX West was good to us here at Nintendo Life. We had the chance to play some upcoming games, meet some interesting people, and talk to some of our favourite game developers. Between all of the commotion and excitement, at the top of our list of "best PAX moments" was being whisked away to a private press room where we were able to sit down for a chat with Dragon Quest VII producer Noriyoshi Fujimoto.
Initially announced for Japanese release in 2012, Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past has been a highly sought after addition to many RPG fans' collections. After years of waiting and fan-baiting, a localization was announced in late 2015, and DQVII finally sees its western release later this week. To coincide with its launch, we caught up with Mr. Fujimoto to learn a little more about the game's lore, working with Nintendo, and how ravenous the fans truly are to get their hands on this latest remake.
Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I'm the producer for Dragon Quest VII. My name is Fujimoto and I'm really excited that Dragon Quest VII is finally coming to the States!
Could you give our readers a quick introduction to Dragon Quest VII?
Dragon Quest VII starts off on a small island where there is a single town and a single castle. Once the user starts collecting short stories, then it turns into a bigger story that players will be able to embark on.
Dragon Quest VII is well known for the size and scale of its adventure. Is that size and scale a challenge you had to address when working on this remaster for 3DS?
The volume itself was actually really, really difficult to get in. Back in the original development, the size of DQVII was so huge compared to the other numbered titles. It's not just double; it's way more than that. I remember, back in the original days, our development team was having a really difficult time getting everything together. However, I thought that the 3DS portable system and Dragon Quest VII were a really good fit for each other.
Back in the original days, our development team was having a really difficult time getting everything together. However, I thought that the 3DS portable system and Dragon Quest VII were a really good fit for each other.
Like I said, Dragon Quest VII is a sequence of short stories, so with systems like Nintendo 3DS where you can bring it to work, play it for a little bit, then put it down, I thought that being able to basically bring the game anywhere you go would be a really good fit. I really want all of our fans to take this opportunity and try out the 3DS version.
Can you talk about changes in visuals and presentation in this 3DS version in comparison to the original, and explain the reasons for taking that approach?
We focused on the fun that people can have through the graphic element. For the remake version we implemented simple encounters, which means users will be able to see where the enemies are. This game actually has the highest number of vocations, so we focused on each vocation having different appearances. It'll give the users an additional layer to changing vocations. We also have different skills and spells for each vocation that have different effects and animations. The same thing can be said about monsters that have different effects and animations for each.
What key features and changes have you implemented to enhance the experience for portable gaming on the 3DS?
We actually added a lot of elements for the fans to be able to grind. One of the elements is a traveller's tablet. This is a function that players can use with 3DS StreetPass as well as Wi-Fi communication. With the traveller's tablet, players can select three monsters that they've tamed, then use the three monsters to create different tablets that they can go and play. With this new element, people are able to experience different worlds that they can create through these different combinations of these three monsters.
I hope this isn't a spoiler, but for the core fans that played the original version, Kiefer will actually have a new story that will be made available for download!
Who do you perceive the audience will be for Dragon Quest VII on the Nintendo 3DS?
We've been releasing a lot of Dragon Quest titles, such as Builders, Heroes, or other numbered titles as well, but I'm hoping this game will attract old RPG fans as well as action game fans and sandbox game fans. I think there are a lot of people who will be able to enjoy this remake.
The original PlayStation game released over 16 years ago. How do you think RPGs have changed in the years since DQVII's original release? How did Dragon Quest as a series fit in then, and now?
As far as the overall RPG goes, I get the impression that the new trend is to go towards open world. As for battles, there are a lot more action elements added.
In terms of Dragon Quest, from the start the series has always consisted of three pillars: Mr. Horii as the creator, Mr. Toriyama as the Art Director, and Mr. Sugiyama as the Music Director. For 30 years we haven't changed those three pillars at all. Another thing we haven't changed is that we're always trying to make a game that anybody can play. We want to make sure that, even though there are elements of action, we want to make sure that people don't have to feel pressured or too threatened to play this game. It feels like a safe place for a lot of the gamers to play.
I can definitely say that, among all of the Dragon Quest numbered titles, Dragon Quest VII has a very dense storyline, so I think a lot of RPG fans will be able to enjoy it.
As far as the stories go, we make sure that we put a lot of time into thinking about the stories and concepts. We make sure that the users are able to resonate with the storylines that we have and really get a lot out of playing through the story.
Beyond the updated visuals, what efforts have been made to make this game appeal to a modern gaming audience?
Even the RPG fans who are into the open-world style of RPG, I think one thing we can say is that story is a very big element. If it's not a fun or interesting story, users may shy away from those titles. Dragon Quest VII is definitely an RPG in which the users can enjoy the storyline. I can definitely say that, among all of the Dragon Quest numbered titles, Dragon Quest VII has a very dense storyline, so I think a lot of RPG fans will be able to enjoy it.
Conversely, what will appeal to fans of the original release?
With this remake, we have new translations and we re-localized the game, so I think a lot of the old players will be able to get the sense of a fresh start as though it's a new game. Also, we added a lot of party chat to this remake, so I think the original users will be able to enjoy those added elements and learn more about the characters. With this added party chat, I think users will be able to like certain characters more, and dislike certain characters more! The added chat gives another layer, so players will be able to emotionally invest more in these characters, so I think it'll be super fun!
How influential were vocal Dragon Quest fans in the West in terms of securing a localization of Dragon Quest VII and VIII on 3DS?
There are a lot of things that everybody did to make this happen, but one of the things was a Facebook petition that was very active. I think the thing that influenced us the most were the letters that people sent us. These letters came to the Square-Enix office from all over the world. I thought it was pretty normal for Dragon Quest producers to receive these letters, but the fans actually sent letters to the President, Vice President, Executive team, even Final Fantasy producers and producers of other titles as well! These letters started piling up on my desk. Every day I would come to work and somebody who received a letter would bring them to my desk. Once it started piling up, I realized that I really needed to reconsider and make this happen. The letters aren't just copied and pasted; they actually catered the content for each of the addressees!
What has Nintendo's involvement been in the development process?
I thought it was pretty normal for Dragon Quest producers to receive these letters, but the fans actually sent letters to the President, Vice President, Executive team, even Final Fantasy producers and producers of other titles as well!
The sheer translation volume of Dragon Quest VII is more than 2 times Dragon Quest V, so it's a gigantic game. It was really hard to make the business decision to localize the game. With Nintendo, we were able to work it out and work hand-in-hand and make it happen together. To be completely blunt, it's like Nintendo took half of the bill!
How was the decision made to bring this to the 3DS rather than Sony platforms?
There are two reasons. One is that Nintendo 3DS is a portable system and I thought it was a really good fit for DQVII. The second one is that, in Japan, Nintendo 3DS is the most popular hardware, so I thought it would be a really good opportunity to get DQVII to more fans.
What are you most excited for players to experience in the game?
The vocations are definitely one of the elements I think users will be able to enjoy. Especially with this remake, I think users will be able to enjoy changing vocations. We made it so it's a little easier to change vocations, and by changing them, users will be able to experience the different graphics and animations. I think those are little elements that users will be able to have fun with.
Thanks again to Mr. Fujimoto for taking the time to speak to us, and to Nintendo of America for arranging the interview. Be sure to check out our Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past review for a detailed assessment of this release. Spoiler: we loved it.