On the 27th September Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition arrives on Switch after debuting on other platforms over two years ago. Japanese gamers were lucky enough to get the game on Nintendo 3DS (with a special feature that had both 3D and classic 2D views of the game running simultaneously), but this will be the first chance for Nintendo gamers in the west to get their hands on this celebrated entry in the venerable RPG series.
We caught up with the game's producer Hokuto Okamoto, assistant producer Hikari Kubota and the development director Masato Yagi at PAX West 2019 for a chat about this enhanced port and its journey to Switch.
Nintendo Life: You can play Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition entirely in 2D. What does that design decision say about Dragon Quest in 2019, when you had just made the leap to 3D, (that) it’s apparently still important (to you) that the players are still able to play in 2D?
Hokuto Okamoto (producer): We have over 30 years of Dragon Quest series history behind us and many titles have come out in that series, so fans of the series have their own particular favorite titles and when they think of Dragon Quest and what Dragon Quest means to them, they may think of a particular title. So one of our goals with Dragon Quest XI S, was to make sure that whatever Dragon Quest meant to you, you were able to play it in this version of the game.
And so that’s why our version of the game contains both a modern 3D mode, and the more nostalgic 2D mode as well.
What are you most proud of with this port to Switch? It’s quite a feat to get the whole thing handheld.
Masato Yagi (development director): I think it has to do with the fact that we were able to get both the 2D and 3D versions onto the Switch, and that enables the user to play both on the television and to take the Switch around and play wherever they want to. It means they can play and enjoy the 2D visuals on the television screen or they can take the Switch outside and play 2D or even enjoy the beautiful 3D visuals outside.
And so I guess if there is something that I’m thinking of that I’m proud of, that would be it.
Which mode do you personally enjoy playing?
Okamoto: [laughter] I prefer the 3D mode...
I want to take a step back and talk a little bit about Dragon Quest, in general. It’s just an observation that RPGs are always changing and evolving. And games can be anything. So how important is it to you personally, for whoever wants to answer, that “classic” RPGs persist in the gaming market - both with Dragon Quest and outside of Dragon Quest?
Okamoto: When you say these “classic” or nostalgic RPGs, what are you specifically talking about?
Specifically referring to menu systems, turn based...
Okamoto: Are you talking about specific titles, though?
Oh, no, just referring to the genre at large. It could be something that Square-Enix puts out, or it could be something that somebody makes in their living room. Referring to the genre as it has evolved over 30 years ago.
Okamoto: Speaking from the perspective of Japan, we have a lot of fans of the Dragon Quest series that aren’t expecting a lot of change. They like to experience new stories that are added to the games while playing the game with systems, menus (and) battle styles that they recognize. They appreciate that familiarity as opposed to wanting to reinvent the wheel each time. And so when it comes to continuing to make RPGs in that classic style, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
No, it’s not a judgment of quality ... I’m hearing that (Dragon Quest’s persistent style) is based on audience expectations.
Yagi: I have a bit more to add to that. That’s speaking more about the Japanese fan base for RPGs and for people who play only Dragon Quest games - those types of fans. But thinking about the overseas audience, you know, there may be people who are fans of turn-based style RPGs, but as we continue to make games, we need to make decisions in real time, as we continue to develop. And if a game is well-suited to have turn-based battles, then I think that’s the decision we would make for that game. And if we need to evolve the battle system for a particular game, then that’s what we would do.
Let’s jump to the fact that the Switch and PS4 version of the game is now on console (in the) west here ... Dragon Quest has a history of skipping titles for the west. Whenever these releases come out, do you feel any differently after you see it played in America or read western reviews of your game? And does that feedback influence you any differently than eastern feedback?
Yagi: We do pay attention to impressions that we hear coming from outside of Japan, whether it pertains to voice acting that’s in the game, and people’s desire to have more options for that, or the way text is displayed in certain windows. And it even extends to the music. We heard strong requests for an orchestral soundtrack. People have a lot of nostalgia for the music from Dragon Quest VIII, (and) there are ways to listen to that to that in the game as well.
Can we discuss the differences between the definitive edition and the original version? It’s a little bit of an unusual thing to have such a wide (amount of time) between the two territories, but your team adds a lot of different content to the new version in that time. Can you speak to what’s new?
Yagi: So the new scenarios were added to the game, and also there were some quality of life changes added to the game from the PS4 version, like for example, the ability to dash across the map and the ability to change battle speed. We added in additional voice, so now there’s Japanese voice in the game. There are also different sound modes that you can change between, so you have the orchestrated version and the midi version. We also added in Famicon style soundtrack as well, for areas that use past title’s music. And also, monsters that you can ride, you can now use some of those monsters to attack enemies on the field. You can knock them out of the way while you ride, which you could do in the PS4 version, but now you gain experience points.
We recently did a reader poll at Nintendo Life and we found that (for) a lot of our readers, (Dragon Quest XI S: Definitive Edition) is their first Dragon Quest experience. And this is my first Dragon Quest experience. What do you want to say to me and our readers who are going into this for the very first time?
Hikari Kubota (assistant producer): The Dragon Quest series from the beginning has been made as a series that anybody can really play. If they try really hard, they can get to the end. So for somebody trying this for their first time, as we said before, the entire history of the series is packed into this game. So it’s also been made so they’ll be able to experience the game smoothly as well.
One other piece of feedback we were able to see from when the first edition of the game came out was that the characters of the game resonated with the fans who played it. So with the additional scenarios we hope to offer people more of what they liked about those characters and, I would say that overall, if you’re someone who likes the story elements of the game, and really like sinking your teeth into something like that, then Dragon Quest XI would be the game for you.
There was a lot of press in America about the fact that Dragon Quest XI: Definitive Edition had a 10-hour demo. Can you talk about that decision, and how you arrived at the conclusion (to release it), and ... did it work?
Yagi: We thought about a lot of the players whom this would be their first Dragon Quest game and we wanted to give them enough time to gather party members together, see what the plot would be, and also give them a sense of the ease of play, but also give them a sense of wanting to play more of the game. Because there’s still, even after that 10 hours, a lot more of the game for them to enjoy.
Just by playing 10 hours of the game, you won’t even be able to return back to the real world, you’ll get so enthralled. [laughter]
[From our PR person] Just one more question.
Okay...this is my most important question. Why is Hero so overpowered in Super Smash Bros.?
Kubota: That’s because Mr. Sakurai likes him so much.
Okamoto: Is he powerful?
A lot of the tournament players are debating whether or not to ban him...
Okamoto: That’s not because he’s too powerful, it’s because of the random element being too powerful, right?
Uh...in short...sort of.
Kubota: We thought that he would be an easy fit just putting him in Smash, but from Mr. Sakurai there were all these ideas that kept getting added in after the fact, like putting in a turn-based command window, as well.
Okamoto: You know, as somebody on the Dragon Quest team, we make games, like we said before, that we want people to get through from start to finish - anyone should be able to get through our games. But you get to Smash Bros. and you’re dealing with an action fighting game. As that skill ceiling increases, there are people who won’t be able to keep up, (as there are) people who can’t play at a certain level of difficulty.
So I think that with Hero from Dragon Quest XI, because that strength of his randomness is so powerful at times, that gives him the appeal of being a character that (for) somebody who’s a button-masher, (they) can get in and deliver some really powerful blows. And I think that’s kind of a good point about the character.
Yes. Dragon Quest is for everyone. Even in other games.
We’d like to thank Mr. Okamoto, Mr. Kubota, Mr. Yagi for their time. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Something that has been bothering me about this site's DQ 11 coverage is the misinformation about the 3ds version. The 2d and 3d on both screens was a feature only present for the very beginning of the game. After that, you could choose to play in either 2d or 3d and switch whenever you were at a church. You did not play the whole game with both 2d and 3d on separate screens, only the very beginning.
I’m just starting to catch up on this whole Dragon Quest thing. I’ve been buying all of the DS and 3DS games as they look great, in particular IV and V on DS, I really like that retro pixel look but with 3D environments. Kinda reminds me of how Octopath Traveller looks, but 10 years earlier. No idea how I let it go over my head before, these games will keep me busy for years!
It’s a shame XI on 3DS only released in Japan, as I don’t have a Switch (yet). But this Switch version definitely seems the one to get. I was thinking about getting the PS4 version because it’s cheap, but it does look like they’re pulling out all the stops for the Switch release. It’s nice to see they’re adding good content to make up for it releasing much later than the other versions.
I downloaded the demo, I’d never played a Dragon Quest game before, yet I’m sold, it feels like old school JRPGs like Grandia 2 I played years ago. I got 10.5 hours in before I reached the cutoff point. Looking forward to buying this.
One thing I've been confused about is the 2d in Dragon Quest XI S. I have read that the 2d is a feature you can use for visiting past Dragon Quest towns and dungeons but then I'm also under the impression that the 2d is a recreation of the entire XI story in that mode. So is it one or the other or both?
BRING DRAGON QUEST 2 TO SWITCH OR I RIOT.
Wow, what an interview. Surprised N-Life was able to cop a sit down with the legendary developers of DQ, all the way from Japan. Kudos for that.
I love Dragon Quest ever since Terry’s Wonderland on 3DS (fan translation). Then got DQVII and DQVIII remakes on 3DS, and Builders on Vita. But I never actually played any of them through.
Once DQ Builders 2 on Switch dropped I got suuuuper sucked in. And the demo for DQXIS is spectacular. Might top Xenoblade 2, Persona 5, YS VIII, Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII as the best JRPG I’ve played this gen.
You can play the entire game in 2D, start to finish, and you can also revisit all 10 worlds of all 10 previous DQ games in 2D, all of which have been recreated within the DQXIS game. It’s a stunning achievement of development.
It makes sense. After all, the DQ franchise got its start on the NES. What better way celebrate it than by giving Nintendo's newest system the most content AND its characters in Super Smash Bros. That's how you do fabservice correctly. If only some other certain developers did the same.
I enjoyed this little interview. I’m one of those players who’s never played Dragon Quest before this demo and I’m really I to it and want to get it when it comes out. Even thinking of Pre ordering from my local shop! I’m glad he basically said it’s the perfect entry to the series for newcomers as I was worried about that.
Fun interview, NL! I've been a big fan of Dragon Quest since I only knew it as Dragon Warrior. I love how the series has stayed true to its roots, while continuing to evolve in presentation. I'm really glad XI is finally coming to Switch, as I wouldn't have time for a game of this scope on a home console. The demo was fantastic. It's my most anticipated game this year.
@B-Locks You can play the entire game in 2d. The side missions where you revisit areas from DQ 1 through 10 are played in either 2d or 3d depending on the game. DQ 1 through 7 will be in 2D, 8 and 10 are in 3D. 9 is also in 2d. They basically let you revisit these games using their original (or remake) visuals. Edit: I guess you could consider 7 and 9 3D....
So what I can't understand from playing the demo is this: At a church you have the option to switch from 3D to 2D, but it says a new adventure log will be created. So does that mean if you make the switch you can't go back, or your progress in 2D mode won't carry over if you choose to switch back to 3D later? Or does it just mean you'll need to use 2 save files?
Gotta admit, I was not expecting to get into DQ XI as much as I am now, the demo is fantastic, really looking forward to the full game
@Aaronnnnn Teach me your ways...I want to like it so badly but every time I pick it up I get bored almost immediately!
@Giygas_95 You are either into this sort of game or not. This is the kind of RPG that is meant to relax the player. The monsters just stand around and wait for you to attack them, and the battles practically fight themselves. The characters and humor are very Japanese, circa 1986.
You either see this as a homecoming, or as traditional to fault and lacking in urgency.
@Giygas_95 uhhh...what NotTelevision said. For me, this is just that type of game I sit back and relax to. Goofy enemies, loveable characters, a really cool story, and gameplay I get used to. This type of game absolutely isn't for everyone. My best guess is maybe just don't look into it expecting extremely epic fast paced action game, and more of a relaxing journey. If you just can't get into it, it just simply isn't your thing
@NotTelevision @Aaronnnnn Well I've always enjoyed RPGs growing up. It's just that now that I'm living on my own, time restrictions have made me prefer faster, more to the point games like Mario, DOOM, etc. I really want to enjoy a whole bunch of RPGs, but the time commitment it takes to enjoy them sucks. Especially when there's already such a massive volume of games to play as it is. And that's even ignoring my ever expanding backlog.
@Giygas_95 Ok I can see your point now, time is a problem when it comes to RPGs. My best guess is maybe if you never have like a day off or time off or whatever, I don't know what you do, and you're in the mood to try this game, maybe sit back and try the game and see if you enjoy it, mainly because this isn't the type of game to try and rush through, but that's just what I think
I read my message for like 5 minutes trying to make it so it doesn't sound weird
@Aaronnnnn Another problem of mine is I tend to like to play through a whole series before playing the newest game so I was trying to tackle this whole series, not just XI. I completed 1 and 2 on an emulator, and I started getting a bit fatigued when I got to 3. I'll keep trying though, because not only do I want to play and enjoy this game, I want to play it with the rest of the series under my belt so I get all of the fan service.
Great Game! Great interview!
One of my favorite jRPG this Gen with Persona 5. Had lots of tough days at work after staying till 3AM playing the night before. Hope it does well on Stwitch.
Which mode do you personally enjoy playing?
Okamoto: [laughter] I prefer the 3D mode...
@Giygas_95 Ah ok, that makes sense. Good luck mate, and have fun, trust me you will
@Aaronnnnn Hope so! It's just... getting through the rest of this series is looking seriously daunting. DQ VII alone is supposed to take at least 100 hours.
@RedderRugfish I wouldn't have stuck with them if not for emulator functions like saving and especially fast forwarding. Made grinding so much less painful. That said, I really did enjoy 1 and 2! I'm enjoying 3 also, and I definitely want to play 5, 7, and 8 as well.
Another problem was that I was gonna play 1 - 7 in their original forms and then play remakes of each one to see what I liked best. I still want to, but that'll make it take even longer, and I'm not sure I have the patience for that. Maybe I should just start with the remakes. I usually like to play an original game before I play a remake of that game.
@RedderRugfish I appreciate the info. I'll probably stick mostly with remakes. Gonna mod the orchestral soundtracks back into VII and VIII on the 3DS as well!
cant wait to play this but another game to ad to my backlog of games to get too.
@B-Locks Both. You can only visit past DQ titles in 2D mode. And rest of game is both 3D and 2D.
@RedderRugfish So true. The more we buy the more reason they will have the next installment will be released here as well. So we don't have to wait an other 10 years
Can't wait for the 27th! Already preloaded the game, and played the whole demo in one day... One of my favourite game franchises ever
@Djrr-ific Same! Counting the days... Happily playing Link's Awakening a week before though.
@krvstkvlt That! And probably Daemon X Machina.. And Grid if that comes out soon.. And Right now I'm working my way through Astral Chain good times to be a Nintendo gamer
@Djrr-ific I'm happy that's a game for you! It isn't for me, so it feels like dry weeks. Three Houses didn't grab me as much as it should, Forager lasted me 3 days (15 hours of playing) and now I'm back at watching series again, instead of playing games. Even Xbox's Gamepass can't save me right now.
Very good and entertaining interview!
DQXIS will be the first experience in the series for me too (as a child I played for two-three hours DQVIII on Ps2 but my little brain couldn't understand what to do). I played the demo and I'm going to buy it at day one!
@krvstkvlt Lucky me that I have such broad tastes.. My wallet is not so lucky though haha.
I haven't bought Three Houses yet, I'm still on the fence. I loved Awakening on the 3DS but this one.. I'm not sure.. What put you off the game?
I was doubting for a long time how good this port would be, i'm happy to say my doubt were unfounded as it's pretty awesome. The 8-bit sound fx are a really nice touch in a modern 3D game.
I really want to play this game. This interview increases my curiosity.
@Djrr-ific It's a terrific game in every way, just not for me. As you noticed, I'm quite picky. So I kind of enjoy the gameplay, but it doesn't grab me as it should. But if you already know you love the formula of Fire Emblem, 3H should be it for you.
@krvstkvlt Thanks man, then maybe I will bite on it after all! After the crazy September/October months, since it's such a big game.
@Djrr-ific You're welcome, fellow dutchman!
Still want Dragon Quest Heroes I & II!!!!!
DQXI was one of the first games announced for the Switch 4 years ago, back when it was still called the NX. It’s wonderful to see the game arrive on the console at long last.
Having never played a DQ game aside from Builders 2, I initially had zero interest in this game, but that demo...bravo, Square Enix - after spending 8.5 hours with it, I have now preordered a physical copy of DQ XIS so I can get my grubby paws on it on release date and play through it to my little gamer heart’s content. Between this, Ni No Kuni and Link’s awakening, I’ll be absolutely skint this month...worth it though! These three, Luigi’s Mansion and Pokemon (and Rune Factory 4S, if that’s still on track to release soon) will happily keep me playing until Animal Crossing comes out in March (when I will wave my social life goodbye for good). What a time to be a Switch owner!
I hope they will do like World of Final Fantasy Maxima and give the S upgrade as a DLC on other systems later.
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