The announcement of a new Dragon Quest game is always a tremendous deal in Japan. Less so in North America, but Square-Enix’s revelation about Dragon Quest X: Rise of the Five Tribes Online being an online game certainly got us chattering on this side of the puddle, too. It’s also difficult not to be intrigued by the news that a Wii U version of the game will be available, though whether or not the Wii U edition will launch alongside the Wii version remains to be seen.
The Dragon Quest X unveiling brings three big questions with it. First, how will Japan react to the game’s online features? Dragon Quest is a solid role-playing series that has always been celebrated for sticking to tradition. An online Dragon Quest–especially a numbered game and not an offshoot–is a pretty big break in what’s typical for the series.
Second, given the trouble Square-Enix has had with bringing its other online project, Final Fantasy XIV, up to code, will Square-Enix be able to give Dragon Quest X‘s online world the attention and polish it needs (the development of recent Dragon Quest games has fallen to Level-5 and Chunsoft, but Dragon Quest X will be developed internally)?
Finally, and this question is obviously of more concern to audiences outside Japan, will Dragon Quest X hit North America, Europe, and the UK? More importantly, how will the player base outside Japan respond to the idea of an online Dragon Quest title?
Thus far, the response towards Dragon Quest X has been laced with skepticism from both sides of the pond. It’s not that people object to Dragon Quest going online, but there is some confusion as to why Square-Enix insists on making its online Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest spin-offs part of the main series instead of simply erasing the series number and replacing it with “Online.” There would be far less hostility towards Dragon Quest Online than there currently is towards Dragon Quest X.
On the other hand, it’s possible Square-Enix fears that the “Online” label would be overlooked, whereas nobody (least of all in Japan) would want to miss out on an official installment of the Dragon Quest series–even if they don’t agree with its direction. Everyone is going to be scrutinizing news updates for Dragon Quest X very carefully, whereas Dragon Quest Online would be dismissed by critics of online games without a second look.
Some media critics are also concerned about Dragon Quest X being developed internally, as Final Fantasy XIV is another internally-developed online game by Square-Enix, and after a disastrous beta period, the company has been struggling to make the title passable. The concern surrounding Dragon Quest X‘s development isn’t baseless by any means, but Square-Enix has passed through some pretty rough trials courtesy of FFXIV. It probably doesn’t want to screw up Dragon Quest X’s vital first impression. What’s more, Final Fantasy XI was also developed internally, and with its 85 out of 100 on Metacritic, it’s generally hailed by critics as a good, solid online RPG.
But will Dragon Quest X ever see the light of day outside Japan? It’s likely, though the question remains “In what form?” Nintendo and Square-Enix have been working hard to boost the popularity of the Dragon Quest franchise in North America, and although the series has yet to even touch Japanese levels of recognition over here, the Nintendo DS remakes of Dragon Quest IV, V and VI were all well-received, and Dragon Quest IX for the DS had a decent run, too. But North Americans are unlikely to want to pay monthly fees for an online Dragon Quest game. To hazard a guess, Dragon Quest X will receive an English localization, but online fees will be waived, as was the case with Monster Hunter Tri, also for the Wii. Or, at the very least, we’ll see a payment system that’s far closer to what’s becoming North American standard, like the game being free-to-play until the player reaches a certain level, or a system that’s supported by microtransactions.
Free online play should be enough to get North Americans interested in Dragon Quest X (provided the servers remain stable). In fact, given the smaller fanbase that exists over here, there might be a wider range of acceptance towards an online Dragon Quest here than in Japan. Established North American fans are admittedly a bit peeved about the series’ direction, but if Nintendo markets the game aggressively (provided Nintendo will remain on board as Dragon Quest‘s English publisher), it might grab the attention of a whole new family of potential Dragon Quest fans.
Either way, it’s been a while since North Americans have had to do without the Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest series, so we can count on Dragon Quest X to see out our Wii consoles (or usher in our Wii U systems). Currently, there’s plenty of grumbling over whether or not the game will be worth playing, but Square-Enix ought to know what’s at stake, and it won’t take the game’s development lightly.