Dragon Quest XI, and the Echoes of an Elusive Age

It’s been a long road, but Dragon Quest XI has finally arrived in Japan. It’s a landmark release not only because it’s commemorating the franchise’s 30th anniversary (though it missed it by two years), but also because it’s the first new (as in, non-remake) story-driven single-player game in the franchise since Dragon Quest VIII released for PS2 in Japan in 2004.

The game comes in three flavors released through two packages simultaneously. The PS4 version is the full, cinematic experience those who adored DQVIII have wanted for years, while the 3DS version contains two iterations of the same title. It has a 3D version whose graphics style is reminiscent of the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII, and a 2D version that mostly resembles the Super Famicom games, the latter of which makes for a fitting 30th anniversary gift. For anyone who’s a fan of the franchise, it’s tough not to be jealous of those currently playing it if you don’t understand Japanese.

Fortunately, Square Enix was thinking of westerners when they didn’t want us to feel completely left out on this day. They posted a video address featuring creator and director Yuji Horii, who described how significant of an event this was for the franchise, and more importantly confirmed how the game will be coming west under the name “Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.” Unfortunately, no details were given outside this and the short press release describing what kind of game this is and the main staffers involved, like character designer Akira Toriyama and music composer Koichi Sugiyama. More details on the western release will arrive in fall 2017, while the game will release sometime in 2018.

Of course, the big question is which versions the west will release, which they made sure not to mention to leave all of us in suspense.

The PS4 version coming is a given considering how well the console and its software are performing in the worldwide market, but whether the 3DS version will see a release outside Japan is a big mystery. Currently, the only companies with 3DS games planned for release in western territories in 2018 are Nintendo and Atlus USA; but the former’s lone title is a small effort that won’t require too much work to localize (Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido), and the latter’s titles are RPGs from a small company that’s perfectly fine with low profit margins. DQXI on 3DS will either come from Square Enix or Nintendo, and both are big companies that would need larger sales to justify the localization.

While there are no public sales numbers for DQVII and DQVIII on 3DS, rumors suggest they were nothing special. Bringing it over may not be worth their while, as a 3DS game in 2018 is unlikely to sell too well, but I’m hoping they take one for the team. I’m not the only one who’d love to play the 2D version.

When the game arrives next year, there’s a good chance the Switch version will come alongside the PS4 version. Now that the PS4 and 3DS versions are available in Japan, Square Enix should reveal this version soon. They know their fanbase (and those looking to become DQ fans) is dying to know whether it’s a port of an existing version, or a new version made for the system. I’m personally going with it being the PS4 version, to make all three available for handheld play, but we’ll find out for sure by the end of the year.

Impressions and walkthroughs of the game are being posted online, now that Japanese players and importers have had a chance to spend time with it. It’s reportedly an enjoyable game, though very similar to previous single-player installments; hardly a surprise given how conservative the series is. Those who’ve compared both the PS4 and 3DS versions have noted how the scripts are the same, but core content like dungeons and battles are different. That means this situation isn’t quite mimicking what occurred with Level 5’s Ni no Kuni titles on DS and PS3, as the latter had extra story content over the former. But it also means it may not be too cost-intensive for Square Enix to localize the 3DS version, so everyone who wants it should keep their fingers crossed.

There are multiple gameplay videos of the versions on YouTube, though more of the PS4 version since it’s easier to record. Some players have already made remarkable progress thanks to some shops in Japan selling the game early, so be careful about running into spoiler-related content.

It won’t be easy keeping in the dark for so long, since the game could be around a year away if they feel that summer is the best time to launch it, similar to Dragon Quest IX in 2010. They could also make time to add voice acting like DQVIII’s localization, which is missing from the Japanese version. There’s no way to tell when Square Enix will reveal more info about the localization this fall, but that likely depends on when the Switch version is finally revealed in Japan.

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