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Tempering Dragon Quest XI 3DS Excitement with Sad Truths

by Neal Ronaghan - July 28, 2015, 8:24 am PDT
Total comments: 7

The latest mainline Dragon Quest game has been revealed, but does it even have a chance of making it out of Japan?

I'm so very excited for Dragon Quest XI, which was recently announced to be coming to 3DS, PS4, and maybe Nintendo's mysterious future console, the NX. Set to hit Japan in 2016, the latest mainline entry in the fabled RPG series seems to be doing some neat things, such as presenting both a 3D and a 2D world map on the 3DS. My unabashed excitement for Dragon Quest XI is curbed, however, by the fear that the game, like countless Dragon Quest games over the past few years, likely won't ever release outside of Japan.

With the exception of the upcoming Dynasty Warriors-esque Dragon Quest Heroes, the most recent console Dragon Quest release was Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 in August 2011. Considering that Heroes is only coming to PS4, that is more than four years and counting without a single Dragon Quest game releasing outside of Japan on the Wii U and 3DS.

Meanwhile, Japan has been loaded with Dragon Quest titles. The online game Dragon Quest X has hit Wii, Wii U, and 3DS. An abundance of 3DS remakes ranging from Dragon Quest VII and VIII to the first two Dragon Quest Monsters games have come to 3DS. And then there's the new spinoffs, including Theatrhythm Dragon Quest, Rocket Slime 3, and the forthcoming Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3.

As evidenced by the numerous releases, Dragon Quest is still big in Japan. Maybe not quite as big as it was in its heyday, but it's still an active cultural touchstone. The series has never even sniffed that status in America, and judging by the past four years of inaction from Square Enix and Nintendo, it doesn't look like either of the companies will even bother with localizing the prolific 3DS output of the series.

We can only speculate as to what happened to the Nintendo and Square Enix relationship that spawned Nintendo-published DS games including Dragon Quest IX, Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2, and Dragon Quest VI from 2009 to 2011, but the end result, judging from the lack of Western releases of every game since then, must have been failure. While Dragon Quest IX was a success, Joker 2 and VI, by all accounts sold poorly. However, that was most likely due to circumstance and timing, as Dragon Quest VI launched a month before the 3DS came out and Joker 2 came out after an improved version was already out in Japan. Also, the DS was a pirating cesspool of R4 cards by 2011.

Maybe there's a thread that says since Dragon Quest IX was considered a success, that Dragon Quest XI is ripe for a Nintendo/Square Enix partnership akin to Bravely Default. I personally feel that's more wishful thinking than an actual reality, as I've been trying to rationalize throughout this entire article how Dragon Quest XI could make it to the 3DS in America.

The most likely outcome, in my eyes, is this: Dragon Quest XI will come to America on the PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo versions of the games will stay in Japan. As long as Dragon Quest Heroes sells decently, that's the best business move for Square Enix. PS4 is the biggest system in America right now, and Nintendo still holds Dragon Quest cache in Japan despite the slouching sales of the 3DS. As a general gamer, it'll be nice to see the Dragon Quest series exist outside of Japan, but as someone who spent countless hours playing Dragon Quest games on DS, the lack of the series on handhelds outside of Japan is a gigantic bummer. I'm still crazy excited for Dragon Quest XI and the potential of the 3DS version coming overseas, but it's hard to be optimistic when the series has been so constantly ignored outside of Japan.

Talkback

TOPHATANT123July 28, 2015

We could get another Ni No Kuni situation where the action oriented HD game comes to the west but the more text oriented handheld version gets left behind. I am confident the HD version will come over because of the low sales of PS4 in Japan, it will easily be outsold by the handheld version, the only way they can make money with it on PS4/NX is if they push it hard in the west. Hopefully once the team that's on Bravely Second finishes they get to work on the 3ds version ASAP since I find it hard to imagine 3ds games in 2017 lighting up the charts.

Ian SaneJuly 28, 2015

Had Enix not come to the conclusion to not localize DQ V and VI on the SNES would DQ still not be a strong name in America?  Enix came to some ridiculous conclusion that America didn't want DQ after the fourth game, which came out on the NES well after the SNES had come out, didn't sell that well.  Of course any person with half a brain could figure out why an NES game released in 1992 didn't sell but Enix decided we didn't want DQ... but we did want obscure stuff like Robotrek, E.V.O. and Ogre Battle.  This would be like if Square had decided to not localize the Final Fantasy games but localized Romancing SaGa instead.

So the DQ series disappeared in North America for 9 years, skipping two games and an entire console generation.  Hell, since DQ VII didn't come out on the PS1 until after the PS2 launched it's more like it skipped two console generations.  The market in 2001 was way different than that of 1992.  If the series had had a regular release schedule in North America then perhaps it could have built up a fanbase.  Instead it's been this scattershot thing where maybe we get it, maybe we don't.  Well of course it doesn't have much of a fanbase here!

Luigi DudeJuly 28, 2015

Quote from: Ian

Had Enix not come to the conclusion to not localize DQ V and VI on the SNES would DQ still not be a strong name in America?  Enix came to some ridiculous conclusion that America didn't want DQ after the fourth game, which came out on the NES well after the SNES had come out, didn't sell that well.  Of course any person with half a brain could figure out why an NES game released in 1992 didn't sell but Enix decided we didn't want DQ... but we did want obscure stuff like Robotrek, E.V.O. and Ogre Battle.  This would be like if Square had decided to not localize the Final Fantasy games but localized Romancing SaGa instead.

So the DQ series disappeared in North America for 9 years, skipping two games and an entire console generation.  Hell, since DQ VII didn't come out on the PS1 until after the PS2 launched it's more like it skipped two console generations.  The market in 2001 was way different than that of 1992.  If the series had had a regular release schedule in North America then perhaps it could have built up a fanbase.  Instead it's been this scattershot thing where maybe we get it, maybe we don't.  Well of course it doesn't have much of a fanbase here!

What makes it even sadder for Enix is Dragon Quest V was basically the precursor to Pokemon with the whole monster training and battling aspects, which they'd later use for their own Dragon Quest Monster spinoff.  If DQV had been released in America back in the day, it's the game that probably would have made DQ a much bigger deal over here because of how unique it was for its time.

EnnerJuly 28, 2015

I guess maybe Sony has more muscle and/or savvy to bring the PlayStation 4 version of Dragon Quest XI over to the Americas, Europe, and Oceania? Certainly, the platform is in more dire need of a games and JRPGs than the 3DS.

I don't expect to see DQ XI 3DS in English, but I really hope it does. That polygons and sprites split between the two screens looks so good.

TOPHATANT123July 28, 2015

It would be neat to see Sony and Nintendo working together on a localisation, considering the story is the same for each version they would kind of have to, and Square Enix is too incompetent to do it themselves.

Evan_BJuly 28, 2015

I mean, it's always exciting to see a new Dragon Quest title- I grew up playing Dragon Warrior Monsters 1 and 2 and I've played a bit of VI and IX, but if Square Enix was going to give the series a shot again, they could have done it on Wii U where it would had literally no competition, or even 3DS which is still in more people's hands than any other system. Not factoring in their refusal to localize the 3DS remakes of VII and VIII (maybe? I've been hearing weird stuff about that one) which are considered even by western fans to be some of the biggest and best titles in the series, I feel like Dragon Quest has no audience in the west because Square has dug the grave themselves. The series has had a number of periods of inactivity in the west, of course, but I feel that there are so many ways one could promote the series- it has a beloved character artist, stagnant gameplay akin to Pokemon, a rich history in the industry. Hell, I'd go as far to say that if they did MORE with the gameplay and mechanics instead of letting it be so rooted in its traditions, they'd do more for the franchise as a whole. However, people play DQ games for a specific reason, and I can't fault that.

Mop it upJuly 29, 2015

If DQ IX were the best-selling of the DS games outside Japan, which was a mainline entry and not a remake or spin-off, perhaps they'll be willing to try again with a new mainline entry. DQ X may have technically been mainline, but it was an MMO so it would have been expensive to release here with little potential for sales.

I agree with the likely outcome being just the PS4 version releasing here, which would be a bummer.

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