June 8, 2007 - We didn't exactly know what to expect when Square Enix last year officially pulled back the curtain on Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (whew!) for Wii. On the one hand, it was a DQ title, which practically guaranteed its popularity in Japan. On the other hand, it seemed to be based on a plug-and-play DQ game that dropped players into an on-rails adventure highlighted only by simple sword attacks. DQ Swords is definitely not the deep role-playing effort that some fans were hoping for, but neither is it just a quick remake of the plug-and-play project. It is, as it turns out, something in-between.
You control "Hero," a spiky-haired warrior who begins a great quest from within a walled city leading up to a giant castle. We've always been a little sketchy about how controls would specifically function and we're happy to report that there is (a little) more than meets the eye. You are are to freely roam about some of the environments in DQ swords, although there are certainly limitations. The game only uses the Wii remote in order to keep play simple and therefore movement is handled with the D-Pad. Press left and Hero will turn left; press right and he'll pivot right. You can hold down the B-trigger to walk or you can alternatively press up on the D-Pad. Control feels digital and a bit on the clunky side, which is to be expected since you're sacrificing analog sensitivity with the loss of the nunchuk. As Hero moves about the town, you will notice that many of the environments are barred by invisible walls -- you might be able to spot a faraway hill, but you probably won't be able to walk to it. Rather, the game encourages you to stay on the walkways.
A look at one of the towns you can explore.You can visit shops within the towns and interact with traders, who will sell you items and weapons or will oppositely buy your goods. You can also pay them to repair broken weapons or to combine items when necessary. Tapping the - button on the Wii remote will trigger your menu screen, where you can access items and weapons, or view your various stats. The configuration is very straightforward and easy to follow, intentionally so. Square is very clearly attempting to bridge the gap between hardcore and casual players with this endeavor. Whether it works remains to be seen -- it could go over huge, particularly in Japan, or the move might altogether backfire.
Frequenting the town are characters such as Baud, a gruff warrior who happens to be Hero's father; and Baud, an elegant fighter who seems to come from royalty. One additional character may join your party during certain challenges throughout your quest and they will actually appear on-screen to lend a hand with magical or fighting abilities when necessary.
The title really begins to take shape once you leave town and start your journey through the wilderness. Almost immediately, the gameplay mechanics that make up the backbone of DQ Swords present themselves in the form of a randomly generated battle. When exploring outside towns, you can only move forward on a path by holding down the B-Trigger or pressing up on the D-Pad. You can look very slightly to the left or right, but that's it. The process is incredibly straightforward -- literally, in this case, we suppose.
You can swipe horizontally, vertically or diagonally with the Wii remote.When enemies appear, you jump into battle mode, where your Wii remote is transformed into a sword and shield depending upon how you use it. There are some intriguing control mechanic in place here. Pretending a golem appears before your path, you would merely point at the screen with the Wii remote to target the character, tap the A button to define a lock position, and then deal out a series of horizontal, vertical and diagonal sword slashes by gesturing appropriately with Nintendo's controller. If there are three slime enemies drop into your path, they may align themselves horizontally, in which case a wide horizontal slash could would slice them all away simultaneously. Other characters line up vertically or even diagonally and you will have to react accordingly.
Square Enix seems focused on making sure that DQ Swords plays like Wii games do in promotional ads -- in other words, using wide, arching movements. Minimal flicks of the Wii remote will sometimes, if not usually go unrecognized by the game and you will therefore find yourself executing grander movements during fights. We don't know if this is a good or bad choice yet -- we would need much more time with the title determine that. However, at a purported length of 15-plus hours, we can definitely envision a time when making exaggerated gestures would grow tiresome.
Special moves are tied to special meter that fills up as you play. When it's full, you can go into your menu and select it -- there will a good dozen of specials to choose from. These heavily use gestures on the Wii remote to inflict more damaging blows on enemies. On-screen icons light up to let you know how to perform a special. For example, you might have to raise the Wii remote into the air and then swipe downward in order to execute one of these more powerful attacks.
You can bring up a shield at any point by holding down the B-trigger during battles. The shield is represented on-screen as a semi-transparent object, enabling you to peer through it at oncoming enemies and projectiles. Foes armed with swords sometimes give away their plan of attack in their animations and you can block their swipes by pointing at the screen with the Wii remote and aligning the shield with their blade. Sidestepping projectiles is a little trickier. When, say, archers shoot arrows your way, their landing spot is shown on-screen as a red dot for a very brief second. You then a moment to move your shield to that spot before the arrows fly. The process can be picked up and mastered with very little practice, but we're told that as the title advances so does the difficulty. Although Square Enix has not demonstrated any levels deep into the experience, we've already spotted a few variations on combat and some potential for added depth. For instance, you can also hit back some projectiles -- like arrows -- by pointing at their arrival spot, tapping the A once for a lock, and then making a swipe gesture with the remote just as the arrows come at it. Hero will swing his sword and knock the arrows back at archers, inflicting damage on them.
Dragon Quest Swords runs in 480p and 16:9 widescreen on Wii. The title sometimes looks fantastic for a Wii project, coming to life thanks to very strong character design and animations, richly detailed backgrounds and a number of added visual effects, such as bloom lighting. Occasionally, though, textures suffer up close -- a common complaint of standard definition titles. The fluidity seems to be locked at around 30 frames per second.
Dragon Quest Swords releases in Japan in July, but there is currently no word on an American ship date, which leads us to believe it's going to be awhile. The game doesn't offer too many surprises -- it played and mostly looked exactly as we had expected -- but its unexpected combination of the DQ license (often associated with epic RPGs) and very simple, accessible controls, has us intrigued to play more. We'll keep you posted just as soon as we get our dirty hands on the final Japanese build
I am very happy that Dragon Quest is coming to Nintendo's consoles.
So I am especially happy with the way Dragon Quest Swords is looking. So it turns out, in towns, all the movement is with the D pad but outside its on rails. I myself dont find this dissapointing at all, but I am glad with this decision. Its clear that Square Enix isnt looking to make a huge RPG but a light one...for everyone to enjoy! The only thing im mad about is its just 15+ hours so 20 hours at the max most likely. Its weird, I was expecting something much longer.