Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Dragon Quest XI’s Lack of Voice Acting

From what we’ve seen, every aspect of Dragon Quest XI is shaping up well on both platforms, and Square Enix’s approach has impressed many among the fanbase. It’s especially impressing those who’ve enjoyed nearly every game in the series up to Dragon Quest VIII, and were hoping for a new title more story-driven than Dragon Quest IX (which took a semi-multiplayer approach), and wasn’t an MMORPG like Dragon Quest X.

To keep most satisfied, the game will come in three forms across two platforms. The PS4 version will be the big-budget edition, a modern console experience that will essentially work as a successor to DQVIII. The 3DS package, however, will come with two versions: A 3D version with super-deformed characters, and a sprite-based version made in the spirit of the 90s titles — as in, sadly, without animated enemy sprites. While anyone who’s looking for a multiplayer experience won’t be satisfied, they’ve covered most bases. Though there’s also a Switch version, Square Enix still hasn’t provided details about that version.

But there’s one key issue some fans can’t get over with the PS4 iteration: the lack of voice acting. This was immediately noticeable with the cutscene revealing Camus in December, and has remained a sticking point for fans. But debate over this issue seriously reignited when the prologue video was posted, as some vocal fans feel it’s peculiar for a game with such high production values to lack voice overs in 2017. After all, we’re living in a time where even the newest The Legend of Zelda title, Breath of the Wild, finally received voice acting, so it feels at odds with the modern era.

To be fair, most of those taking issue with this are only familiar with the western version of DQVIII, which added voice acting after the Japanese version didn’t have it. But that’s not to say voice acting in DQ is an entirely foreign concept. Both Dragon Quest Heroes games contained it (and talking protagonists at that), but those were Warriors-style spinoffs developed by Koei Tecmo-subsidiary Omega Force. But the 3DS version of DQVIII was the first mainline title to release with voice acting in Japan when it arrived in mid-2015. So, logic seemingly followed that DQXI would be the first brand-new mainline game with the feature, but that wasn’t to be.

While it unsurprisingly has some fans in western territories scratching their heads, this is also the case in Japan, albeit to a lesser extent considering the franchise’s long history in the country. There’s a reason why a few development staffers felt it necessary to address this issue (alongside several others, admittedly) ahead of its release on Saturday.

The decision regarding whether to have voice acting split the staff in half, but it’s clear which one they settled on, adhering to the franchise’s tradition. The voice recording sessions would have required more development time, and would have made it necessary for the script to be completed much earlier. That also would have prevented Dragon Quest creator, producer, and writer Yuji Horii from making any late script alterations, particularly if they were for important scenes, since it would have been difficult to call certain voice actors back to redo lines each time. Horii was fine-tuning the script throughout its development.

It’s easy to see why people are miffed about this decision, since there isn’t any other company releasing games with such high production values without voice work. But Horii’s reasons for leaving it out are understandable from a story-writing perspective. They likely feel the game’s been in development long enough as it is, to the point that it missed the franchise’s 30th anniversary last year; though compared to the development times for other HD RPGs from Square Enix, it’s coming rather quickly. This also won’t affect those who plan on playing the 2D version on 3DS.

Besides, other’s feel the fact that it’s using a midi soundtrack is a bigger issue. Longtime composer Koichi Sugiyama has a history of being stubborn, and it’s apparently worsening with age.

The voice acting may not be an issue outside Japan, as there’s a moderate chance Square Enix will add it to the western version, like with the frequently-mentioned DQVIII. They’re undoubtedly aware westerners are more accustomed to hearing voice work in these types of story-driven games. Note that this would likely only be for the PS4 version (and the Switch version if it’s a port of that version), because it’s tough to see the 3DS version receiving a localization. It will be a welcome surprise if either Square Enix or Nintendo brings it over, however.

The PS4 and 3DS versions of Dragon Quest XI will release in a mere two days, Japan time. After they’ve been available for a while, they should finally start talking about the Switch version. They could also announce the western version, though a Dutch PR company might have spilt the beans about its impending arrival.

Leave a Reply