Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age is finally coming to the west later this year. To celebrate the announcement DualShockers sat down with the game’s Producer, Hokuto Okamoto.
Okamoto-san spoke about the 3DS version of the game, the overall story, bringing the series back to consoles in the west, as well as some of the new additions coming exclusively to the western version of the game.
If you’d like to know more about the game we’ll soon have a preview of a demo we perused to check out some of the new features in action.
Jordan: We heard that the 3DS version of Dragon Quest XI is not going to be released in the West. Could you elaborate a little bit on the reasoning behind this decision?
Hokuto Okamoto: One of the concepts in developing Dragon Quest XI was to essentially serve as a culmination for the history of the series that has spanned 30 years. Of course, we were interested in existing fans and consumers to enjoy the Dragon Quest XI experience as well but we also wanted new players to have the opportunity to experience this game from the get go.
Considering that we haven’t released a mainline numbered Dragon Quest game for the past thirteen years or so on consoles — it’s been since Dragon Quest VIII — we were looking at various options for what would be the best way to bring this game onto market in the overseas territories and we truly felt that the PS4 and PC version would be the best outlet.
J: A few days ago, you mentioned on Twitter that the western release of the PS4 version will be closer to a remaster than an update. Could you please explain what this means and what improvements we can expect from the already excellent Japanese version?
HO: To be specific, we haven’t changed the actual engine, it’s still developed on Unreal Engine 4 and in bringing additional features to the North American and European version it’s probably appropriate to say that we’ve optimized the game for western markets by introducing various new features, voice support, improving the menu, and the dash function, amongst other additional features you’ll find in the western version of the game.
So it isn’t just a simple addition a couple of elements to the Japanese version of the game, there were elements where we had to fully recreate as well. So in that sense I think we utilized the expression remaster because there are aspects that have been created anew for the overseas version.
The point of that tweet, in essence, is as about us bringing all these additional features to the west, but it just wouldn’t make sense from a cost perspective to bring all of these features back to Japan, and we wanted to express that in some way. It’s definitely a better version than the Japanese one. You can rest assured that it isn’t like a subpar version of the Japanese release.
J: Square made a statement to the press recently mentioning that the development of the Switch version will take a long time. Could you give us any info about the stage of development the Switch version is in, and possibly quantify this “long time” a bit more precisely?
HO: Unfortunately we can’t quantify the time frame yet based on the current situation, but we can let you know what we’re currently doing. To give you some background, when we were initially developing XI we did have the Switch version in our outlook for the platforms we wanted to release the game on. That being said, at that moment in time the SDK (Software Development Kit) for the Nintendo Switch wasn’t ready, which means we couldn’t start working on the port of game.
Now that the SDK is ready and the engine supports it we were able to startworking to support that platform for the game. That being said, the version of Unreal Engine 4 that supports the Switch is actually a version that’s higher than what Dragon Quest XI was built on, so that means we need to upgrade the engine and that comes with a slew of issues.
Right now we’re in the midst of resolving all those issues. Of course, we did consider bringing the Switch version out at the same time at the same time as the PS4 and PC versions but that meant since we don’t have a precise outlook on the development timerframe, we still believe it’s going to be a long way out.
We wanted our consumers on the PS4 and PC to experience the game overseas as soon as possible, which is why we’re leading with the release of these platforms version in September.
J: The English version will include voice acting. Will this be for all scenes and characters, or just some important cutscenes?
HO: With regards to the English version, all the movie sequences, cutscenes, as well as the battle scenes will be voiced. There’s a certain aspect called party dialogs within the game and a portion of that will be voiced as well.
J: Why did Square Enix decide that it was important to add voice acting to the game for western markets?
HO: There are two reasons. Firstly, we placed a lot of importance on Horii-san’s [Yuji Horii: Designer and Writer] scenario as well as the content of the dialog that unfolds within the game. We believe that to be one of the core aspects of the DQ experience and so we allocate a lot of the production time and effort into improving its quality. We really worked until the last minute to brush up the text and really refine it, but that meant we had to forgo the voice recording for the Japanese version.
Given the fact that now we have the text already available and in very high quality, we decided to provide voice support for the western version of the game. Yet, that isn’t all: within the world of Dragon Quest XI you really have a vast, expansive continent, and each region has its own own unique flavor associated with their area.
You may encounter areas where it’s snowing or some that are hot and desert-like. There are region-specific qualities within in the world, so how we depicted these in the western version of the game by allocating different types of accents to each specific region. Incorporating voiceover work provides additional depth and context to the regions because you have the addition of varied intonations of certain expressions. We really felt that it would help create that flavor of the different areas in the game, and that’s why we really wanted to include it in the western version.
J: Do you guys have the English cast of voice actors selected and completed?
HO: Yes, and we’ve already finished recording as well.
J: Can we expect the game to be fully uncensored and uncut compared to the Japanese version? Will there be Dragon Quest XI’s puff puff moment.
HO: Rest assured, puff puff is still included in this game. As far as any censorship there really isn’t any. Of course, certain expressions that are used within the game have to be adapted in order to localize it correctly for the western regions, but there is no censorship of sorts.
For instance, There’s a feature called Magic Slot within the game, but we’re pretty sure nobody in the west would know what it’s derived from. In Japan, there’s something called pachislot. Basically, it’s like a type of leisure activity that people play. I’m sure that doesn’t exist overseas so players might not understand exactly what it is, but even that has been left in the game.
J: Square Enix is putting a lot of effort into releasing Dragon Quest XI in the west, improving over the Japanese release considerably. Is that a signal that you’re going all out in pushing this series on the western market again?
HO: Yes (Laughs). As we all know, since Dragon Quest VIII it’s been 13 years or so since we’ve had a proper console Dragon Quest game. We haven’t been able to deliver a console experience for quite some time, but now we’d like to bring that experience once again to the North American and European markets. We really are putting all our efforts into making Dragon Quest XI a success in the west. Alongside our European and American counterparts, we’re really going to put a lot of effort into promoting this game in the states and Europe. We’re all in it and we’re all pushing for it.
J: Should fans finally give up hope on Dragon Quest X ever coming to the west, or maybe it’s still a possibility if XI does well? Is that something you guys are looking at all?
HO: Dragon Quest X is an online game and it’s kind of unique kind of title even within the Dragon Quest series. Online games require live continuous operations and it’s not as easy as saying “yeah let’s give it a try, and let’s try releasing it overseas.”
There’s actually more that goes into it so with regards to the fact that the last console release was VIII in the west and it has been a while since that release, it would be a little bit sudden to release Dragon Quest X overseas. We’re not quite sure how much it would resonate with the consumers stateside or in Europe.
After DQ XI, if we’re able to bring back the original fans of the series and garner a new fanbase, we don’t want to completely exclude the opportunity of X ever coming stateside or in Europe. At this moment in time though it’s hard to say one way or the other.
J: The beginning of September and end of August are filled with a lot of game releases in the west. We have heavy hitters like Spider-Man and even Japanese games like Yakuza Kiwami 2 and more. How do you think Dragon Quest XI will fare alongside all of these games?
HO: One thing that we’re really focused on with Dragon Quest XI is the story and the universe that have really been crafted with a lot of care. In that sense, of course, Spider-Man and Yakuza have their own stories to tell. That being said, the overall gameplay experience it differs completely from those games.
Of course, people who are seeking an exhilarating action game may seek to play those games, but we do feel like there is a demand for this kind of heavy story-driven experience as well. I feel like this one aspect could really differentiate our game from our competitors out there. So yeah we feel like there will be demand for our type of game.
J: You have a game like Final Fantasy XV, that seeks to evolve the franchise by going open world, but Dragon Quest XI, part of another traditional series by Square Enix still has boundaries — did you ever consider going fully open world or youwanted to remain true to what Dragon Quest was?
HO: When it comes to Dragon Quest we don’t have any particular kind of drive to make it a certain specific way. We’re not necessarily saying that open world doesn’t fit within the Dragon Quest franchise. At the earlier stages of development for Dragon Quest XI there were discussions about potentially exploring the option of an open world.
This is a situation that surrounded the Japanese development of the game but as a result also applies to the western version as well: we had IX come out on handheld devices and then X was an online game so for a while we distanced ourselves from what we’d call the traditional storyline that was found within the Dragon Quest series.
Given the fact that we were hitting our 30th anniversary. we felt like we really wanted people to once again experience that traditional Dragon Quest storyline and we wanted to place a lot of importance and weight on that, letting players experience the game as the hero and the story unfolding.
We really truly want to showcase the story in the best light which kind of drove us away from the idea of exploring an open world environment. If Dragon Quest XI is successful overseas, who knows, maybe the next Dragon Quest installment may explore the idea of an open world game. We’ll definitely factor in what we feel is the optimal experience for our current fans as well as the new players that we will welcome through Dragon Quest XI. Would you like to play an open world Dragon Quest game?
J: Oh no, I was just wondering if it was something you considered.
HO: We’re not thinking about a potential open world in Dragon Quest at the moment. Obviously we’re always factoring different directions and approaches and we’re thinking about what would be the most optimal approach for any given title.
J: Can fans waiting for for the Switch version expect something comparable to the PS4 version, or will they be getting something that sits in between the PS4 and 3DS version that has a very different art style and gameplay?
HO: Given the fact that we are developing the Switch version on Unreal Engine, the PS4 version will essentially act as the foundation for it.
J: What are the challenges of marketing Dragon Quest XI to a wider audience in the west, including newcomers who haven’t picked up a JRPG before, or maybe they’re more familiar with a series like Final Fantasy?
HO: In particular with Dragon Quest XI the story is really the interesting aspect of the game, it’s essentially the focus. Oftentimes you won’t really understand the interesting element of the story until you actually play the game, so there is a challenge in communicating that while we promote and market the game.
This is something we have thought of ever since the Japanese release of the game. Considering the story is extremely large, there’s a lot to draw from. Yet, not a lot of people want the story told before the game is actually released. So it’s always challenging to find the balance between how much we can show and how much we should let players find out for themselves.
J: How long can players expect the game to last?
HO: Personally, I completed the main storyline in 80 to 100 hours. For the platinum trophy, it took about 200 hours or so. I’ve heard some consumers in Japan have gotten the platinum in roughly 150 hours, but it is a very large game and we’ve prepared a very enjoyable story in which the beginning parts of the game are really building on the storytelling, the universe, and characters. It’s so big that some people might actually even feel an inclination to give up partway but we really hope that you don’t, and you keep on enjoying the story because it really pays off at the end. You’ll really find it to be an amazing game when you complete everything.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age will launch in the west on PS4 and PC on September 4th. The PS4 version of the game can already be pre-ordered on Amazon. A Switch version will also come down the line, but it will take a while.
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