Dragon Quest Heroes was a pleasant surprise. Melding the colourful world of Dragon Quest to the Musou action of Koei Tecmo’s Warrior’s series was probably much more successful than anyone would have hoped, and despite some missteps along the way, the potential for further games was obvious, especially given its impressive sales in its Japanese homeland.
Two years later and Dragon Quest Heroes II has arrived, now following the exploits of two Dunisian cousins – Lazarel and Teresa by default – as they try to prevent a war from breaking out between their homeland and their adopted land of Harba, before it spreads across the Seven Realms. Narratively the whole thing is actually quite a lot of fun without becoming too overblown, and the cutscenes do a great job of conveying the playful character of the series.
The game’s hack and slash gameplay occurs in two distinct area types. There’s the more confined War Zones, but these are linked to more open areas called Wild Zones. In both cases, you’re simply looking to smack around as many enemies as possible before you arrive at the next objective marker. That said, tere are some additions to the Musou formula that make the Dragon Quest Heroes games different, including side quests, gaining experience, improving your skills and unlocking new abilities, which brings it closer in line with the rest of the Dragon Quest franchise.
There’s plenty to tinker with, though both new weaponry and the way levelling skills works is fairly restricted to keep you moving forwards at the right pace. There is a nice quirk in that different days of the week offer unique boosts – like a double XP ‘happy hour’ throughout Tuesday – but if you can’t play on certain days you might find it more of a frustration.
Collecting monster medals that sometimes drop from defeated enemies allows you to call upon their help to fight alongside you against their former brethren. The three different varieties – Saviour, Sentry and Substitute – offer different tactical options, with Substitute types turning you into that particular monster for a period of time. It can be a great refresher from playing as the members of your team, even when you can swap back and forth between the four of them.
If you’re the kind of person who thought that Dynasty Warriors was too complicated, then Dragon Quest Heroes II has you covered. As with the first game you can choose between Quick Controls and Slick Controls, with the quick option allowing you to simply bash away with one button and pull off all of your character’s combos without a hitch. It’s an inclusive move, which opens the game up to a younger or less experienced audience, but the overall difficulty is fairly low anyway, if you’ve got an ounce of gaming nouse.
It’s still just a Musou game under all that Dragon Quest window dressing, and anyone that hasn’t gelled previously with the Warriors games is unlikely to be particularly swayed by the game’s evocative visuals. It also doesn’t do enough to empower you, with many slow, dumb, enemies providing a hack and slash gallery, but one that’s limited by the fact that the game rarely sees fit to set you against more than about twenty monsters at a time.
Those Dragon Quest characters and monsters definitely look the part though, and the game is handsomely presented. There’s a great solidity to everything, and fans of the series will get a kick out of the guest appearances. Those characters that appear from previous entries, such as Torneko Taloon or Maribel and Ruff, have probably never looked better than they do here. Players of the first game though may have an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, as both menus and the overall visuals look much the same as they did before.
Sadly, it doesn’t necessarily sound as good as it looks either. After the original game’s appalling English voice acting, I was hoping that Dragon Quest Heroes II would remedy the situation. It is better, but that’s not saying much, just that you probably won’t want to pull your ears off after only a few minutes. It’s still well worth playing with the Japanese voices enabled for some true Dragon Quest flavour, and to stop Healix – the eternally cheerful Healslime – from childishly squawking. As with the Warriors series, you’ll find yourself trying to read subtitles at the most inopportune times as a consequence
Dragon Quest Heroes II is an enjoyable hack and slash sequel with a great array of characters and enemies. It continues on the good work of the first title in conjuring the feel of the Dragon Quest series, but it’s still just a Musou title underneath it all with all the repetitive combat that entails. While the RPG elements add a nice level of customisation, it can all feel a little too prescribed to be truly enthralling.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro