It’s been a busy month in video games. While Marvel’s Spider Man has certainly taken center stage, we also got a new title in a classic franchise with the release of Dragon Quest XI. At Crunchyroll Expo a couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to sit down with none other than Yuji Horii, the creator of the Dragon Quest franchise and scenario writer for the 16-bit classic Chrono Trigger, to discuss the game, as well as his thoughts on where his career will go from here.
Dragon Quest is a pillar of the RPG genre – it’s been 32 years since the release of the first installment in 1986. While technology has certainly changed in that time, what’s changed when it comes to the writing of Dragon Quest?
Every installment has a different story, but with the ultimate goal of defeating the dark lord. The way we put together the story is to think about the various events that take place in the process of doing so. With all of these technological advancements we’ve been able to really bring that to life visually – capturing the deeper human connections as the story goes on. It’s easier to do now more than ever – and that’s an important element that has changed.
Dragon Quest has long been a staple in Japan, getting rave reviews from fans and critics alike. However, it wasn’t until Dragon Quest VII started to really resonate with the foreign market. Were there any changes that were made with the Western audience in mind?
Specifically with Dragon Quest XI, that was at the top of our mind from the beginning. We had our international audience in mind, and how our western fans would respond to that scenario and story. When we initially started developing this game, it was meant to be a culmination of the 30 years history of the title.
In that sense we wanted to bring all these great aspect from past titles and bring it all together within Dragon Quest XI. When we were thinking about bringing and localizing the game for the west, we were thinking about the game which really took off – which was Dragon Quest VIII. We feel as though our fans experiences and memories were tied to that title specifically. In that sense we insured that for Dragon Quest XI we were changing the menu UI, implementing voice overs, and we tried to accommodate all of those aspects that were received positively following the Dragon Quest VIII release. Just as Japanese gamers, when they jump into a new Dragon Quest title, feel like they have those same experiences from earlier titles, we wanted to bring that sensation to western audiences familiar with Dragon Quest VIII.
In an interview with The Verge, you stated “I think I can still go strong for another 20 years or so…” Looking forward, what excites you the most on future projects, and what would you like to see from the industry as a whole?
Just to let you know, I said 20 years in that interview because our composer is currently 87 years old but still composing music and going strong…so I said I could probably go another 20 years based on that. [laughs]
As for the game industry and where it’s headed we feel as thought the virtual world will continue to tap into our real world even further (VR, other technology). When you look at games as a form of entertainment, it’s also kind of an escape from reality. It allows you to escape – even when there are things going on at home or in life. When you come back to the real world, you may feel a sense of growth from your experiences playing games. I would like to continue creating games that produce that feeling and experience as you leave the virtual world and return to the “real” world.
Many thanks to Mr. Horii and the Crunchyroll Expo staff for coordinating this interview!