Why Is Dragon Quest A Turn-Based Series?

By Ishaan . July 10, 2010 . 12:19pm

http://www.siliconera.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/dqix.jpg Dragon Quest IX wasn’t always a turn-based game. At one point, Level 5 were developing DQIX as an action RPG, until development was rebooted under the instructions of publisher, Square Enix.


In a discussion with series creator, Yuji Horii, Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, pointed out that Dragon Quest games have traditionally stuck to their turn-based roots.


“With role-playing games, back then, most of them were turn-based games,” said Iwata, possibly referring to the days of the Famicom and Super Famicom. “But that’s not really the case these days. Not that I agree, but there are some people out there who think that turn-based RPGs are outdated.”


Horii, however, actually prefers to develop turn-based games as opposed to action-oriented ones. He believes that this gives players more control over their playing time.


“I think that playtime is something that belongs to the player. I didn’t want there to be waiting time for them or to have them feel rushed,” Horii explained. “Until you yourself push that button, the world is on hold. For that reason, the turn-based system, based on entering commands, was a good choice in the sense of operability and also fundamentally. All you have to do is push the A button.”


“That’s why you can play even when you’re watching TV,” pitched in producer, Ryutaro Ichimura. “That’s why you can play even when you’re watching TV. And even during battles, if you need to take a bathroom break, there’s nothing to worry about. The pace really does belong to the user.”


Dragon Quest’s design philosophy isn’t based around the concept of old or new design; rather, around that of letting players take in the game world and enjoy the story. Action games, Ichimura feels, may not facilitate this as much.


He concluded: “With games, when you want to experience the game world, or maybe when you’re trying to enjoy the story, all of a sudden you’re in battle and you need to make intense action — that can happen in a game, you know? If that happens, players may think, ‘Hey, I’m not looking for an action game,’ or ‘I thought I bought an RPG,’ and they get frustrated.”

  • Even though I don’t have a DS, so I won’t be playing this, I am glad to see that he is keeping the series traditional. Sure, there is a place for action-based RPG’s and games with real time battles, but I am so sick of everyone abandoning the turn-based system. I like battles that require the strategy a turn-based system gives.

    • Aoshi00

      I’m still a little disappointed and surprised Last Story is not turn-based, I figure Sakaguchi would be the last guy to give up the traditional turn-based battle system (not that I won’t play Last Story). Blue Dragon, ASH, and Lost Odyssey were so fun, just like the RPGs I grew up playing, and I could count on him to continue making those games.. I would still play some RPGs (like Nier being an action RPG and masterpiece), but I agree w/ what Horii said, I feel like I have more control w/o being rushed, like FFXIII, most of the time you only get to change your class/formation pretty much and leave other things to auto because everything is too fast and hectic, there’s almost no room to enter commands manually (not to mention you don’t even get to control the other two members directly).If they do make another Chrono, it would be nice if they stick to turn-based, w/ Horii and Toriyama on board.

      • Yeshua49

        Agreed with what you say except for the Chrono part, the Chrono team has left Square since a long time ago so making a new one without them it won’t be a real Chrono in my opinion, oh and Toriyama suck>_< ( I really don't like his design at all, sorry ).

        • Aoshi00

          To think that S-E considers making the next Chrono a Western RPG too, I just hope they won’t mess up the Chrono legacy if they finally do make a 3rd game, but chances are they would..

          I understand Toriyama’s art style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you didn’t like his Chrono Trigger design? I thought it was really memorable, I especially love his mech and monster design, also he’s one of the few people that can create a very unique world. Personally I liked his drawings up until the 90’s, as more effort went into it. I think for many artists, their art style peaked in a certain period. It’s like Rurouni Kenshin’s Watsuki Nobuhiro, his drawings was the best in the middle of the series, but he was slipping at the end of the series, and in Gun Blaze West the simple style wasn’t very good, got better again in Busou Renkin or Embalming, but still wasn’t as good as his heydays (the design he did for games weren’t very good either), of course that has something to do w/ losing his assistants too like One Piece’s Oda Eiichiro or Shaman King’s Takei Hiroyuki (ironically I really like Takei’s art, like his new manga Ultimo w/ Stan Lee now).

          • Yeshua49

            Toriyama design in game for Trigger is fine but his arts are just not my cup of tea^^ it’s like that, I can nothing about it and personally I prefer Cross design to Trigger design even if most people feel the exact opposit. And for a new Chrono as a western RPG I sincerely hope that day won’t never come.

          • Aoshi00

            I like Yuuki Nobuteru’s art up to a certain point, Cross’s artist also did the design for the Record of the Lodoss War OVA. I like his character design for Escaflowne too. But one of his trademarks that bugs me later was his chars sometimes have extremely pointy Pinocchio noses that look kind of weird.. one reason I didn’t like Cross too much was also because of his design..http://img474.imageshack.us/f/escaallenh5qr.jpg/I did like his art for Escaflowne or Record of the Lodoss War very much (even for X The Movie), but not so much his design for Chrono Cross for some reason.. I guess I really want Toriyama’s art for Chrono for consistency, just like DQ.

          • lucy1986

            I agree, Nobuteru Yuuki’s artwork is stunning. I don’t like Toriyama’s character designs (something that puts me off the games) but the monster designs are great! Stick with the slimes. :)

          • Like you, I find that Toriyama-sensei’s art a bit hard to digest, mainly because he’s been using the same design from Dragonball era. However, his recent designs shows that he’s breaking out of that Dragonball mould and are quite pleasing, I must say :D

            I really hoped Chrono Break would materialise, but maybe it’s better to let the Chrono series rest in peace rather than getting slaughtered..

          • Code

            Man I had this discussion the other day with my friend about Chrono Trigger and they could understand my All or nothing view on the subject >w<' rar, I really need at least 80% of the Dream Team back in action for me to whole heartedly support a new Chrono game. Honestly it's hard to think of Chrono Trigger without Toriyama's art style, I could maybe support a different artist taking it on, but the key quality that I'd need is that memorable/lighthearted/classic feel to the designs, which I felt Chrono Cross couldn't even touch by comparison.

            rar, Chrono Trigger is just so deeply rooted in my childhood the notion of seeing them giving anything less then 100% for a sequel would be heart breaking, especially the notion of seeing it handed off to a western studio. I could maybe stomach a new team tackling it, but I wanna see that spark that Chrono Trigger, something I've never seen in a WRPG, not even remotely. At the same time though the notion of even Square themselves taking it on is kind of troubling, given there track record lately.

          • Aoshi00

            I know.. Chrono Trigger was so good and such a big deal back then precisely because it was made by the “dream team”, Horii/Sakaguchi/Toriyama (and a young Mitsuda + Uematsu). You articulated Toriyama’s art style very well, it was unique and lighthearted you feel very attached to his designs, the memories of the chars would never fade away (Dragonball was a part of my childhood to middle school, and CT was dear to me in high school, for the longest time I thought about drawing a CT manga seriously..). I actually didn’t like Cross very much, at least I never considered it a sequel to Chrono Trigger. The name Square definitely doesn’t inspire confidence in recent years… You know I actually thought Blue Dragon at the time was going to be a spiritual successor to Chrono Trigger, but its simple story never lived up to that expectation, even though it was a fun turn-based console RPG in a long time. I actually think ASH felt more epic and closer to Chrono Trigger as it has some time traveling element too (and a robot from the future). If they are picking another artist to do a new Chrono other than Toriyama, I think Minaba Hideo would fit rather well.

      • I avoided auto-battle when I played FFXIII. I think I used it for the first battle, saw what it did, and turned it off. The rest of the game, I did everything manually, which probably made things harder for myself, but I don’t want the computer playing for me.

        • Aoshi00

          I did try to enter commands manually (whenever I could and to the best of my ability, just so that I would have more fun, as much fun as I could have w/ that game anyway), as the computer doesn’t even pick the best commands sometimes, like I want to haste everyone first, but the computer would decide to do that last after doing all the buff or debuff. But like I said, you can’t control the other two characters mid battle, you can only change their class. Still, the pacing and the nature of FFXIII’s battle system, a lot of times it’s not possible to enter things manually, or you’ll just die when the enemies gang up on you unrelentingly.. not that dying matters in FFXIII because you start in the same spot right away w/ no penalty..

      • cowcow

        Judging by the newest trailer and interview comments from before, I am psyched about the new gameplay because it seems to do new things and blend a few other game elements (cover system) which to me is a welcome breath of fresh air in a exeedingly stale and cliche genre that is rapidly losing fans who are sick of the same old same old (which is why WRPG’s are getting so much interest nowadays)

        • Aoshi00

          I liked what I saw from the Last Story trailer, but I thought Lost Odyssey was very challenging too (there were many occasion I could die from even regular enemy encounters, or some tough bosses, even the first and 2nd one, that was before the DLC came out that made Kaim block a lot of attacks. One wrong move in a turn could decide win or lose), they threw in enough elements to keep things fresh, like the immortals learning skills from the mortals so you would try out all the members and never bench any of them, the party members in the front row building a wall for the back row (there’s actually a gauge to be broken), and the ring like Shadow Heart. Yeah, I think it’s because of the mentality of some thinking turn-based as slow and boring that made most developers give up this genre. I like many WRPGs, but a lot of them have shooting as the core gameplay, I don’t see how that’s refereshing either. I hope Sakaguchi won’t stop making turn-based games though for those who like that system. At least there’s still Blue Dragon 2 to look forward to, hopefully.. I see both action RPGs and turn-based RPGs have their own appeals if done correctly, I just don’t think one needs to replace another. Another one of my favorite games on the DS was ASH, also turn-based, I thought it was very fun mixed w/ a bit of strategy (damage based on your troop placement and the distance btwn your party members and enemies). Alas, it’s not brought here by Nintendo because someone thinks it’s boring and not good enough.

    • Joanna

      It really is sad. I do play ARPGs, but I much prefer regular turn-based RPGs, so seeing how this genre is dying outside the portables is really sad. :(

      Also I feel the same way about Last Story as you Aoshi. Really wished it was turn-based, but still excited and am going to play it.

      And Horii hit the nail on the head. I never was a big fan of action intensive games (although I don’t mind playing them if I’m in the mood to get my adrenaline pumping) because usually I like to relax when I play games and action games are not conductive to that (excluding a few ARPGs that aren’t too stress inducing).

    • RupanIII

      Agreed, was so cool to read this :

      “With role-playing games, back then, most of them were turn-based games,” said Iwata, possibly referring to the days of the Famicom and Super Famicom. “But that’s not really the case these days. Not that I agree, but there are some people out there who think that turn-based RPGs are outdated.”

      after all these execs and such (ahemWada) talking about ‘Westernizing’ their RPGs as of late. At least not everyone has abandoned turn-based traditional gameplay yet.

      Also, I’m with you guys on Chrono- would not want a new one unless it had the original team.

  • Extra_Life

    In my younger days I preferred the ‘instant fun’ of an action RPG, but as I’ve aged, I’ve found myself enjoying turn based RPGs to a much greater degree. I’ll still buy the action oriented RPGs that are released, I’ve found I much prefer taking my time over battles, so I’m really glad that DQIX did get rebooted as a turn based game, because I did feel initially (back when it was an ARPG), that DQIX would be the weakest in the series as a result.

  • Yeshua49

    I like to have full control of time in a game so I kinda agreed with them hovewer on DS you can put every game in pause simply by closing the console also most real time game have a pause fonction so their argument with the bathroom break is broken in my opinion^^

  • Horii makes a good point, but I think in the future when someone else is in charge of the dragon quest games then it will change the way final fantasy has. I enjoyed crisis core a lot the same as I did with final fantasy 1 on psp.

  • Good thing they kept these series turn based, that is just how DQ is :)

  • Jaxx-Leviathan

    I so agree with Horii here. I’ve currently started playing FFXIII and I am no fan of the principle of rushing through the battle, battle-system and win-awards actually encouraging rushing. I feel like I can’t take the time to make smart decisions in combat, I like turn-based for it’s more… strategy-friendly premise.

  • raymk

    I still wish that dragon quest IX would have kept its action format the game would have sold better in the U.S. That or i would have like it better like blue dragon ds that just came out.

  • mirumu

    I think the debate around turn-based vs real-time often gets led astray comparing apples to oranges. Speaking as someone who is happy to play games in either style I’d argue there’s significant potential available to each approach, but that’s not to say that each and every game implements their system of choice particularly well and fully realizes that potential. It doesn’t take much effort to find both good and bad examples of both turn-based and real-time games.

    At the same time though, as Iwata says, there does seem to be a certain view held by some that real-time is inherently superior to turn-based, or that real-time is “the future”. Personally I feel this argument is rather misguided and the examples given here by Yuji Horii counter it rather nicely. I really appreciate that many turn-based games allow me to play at my own pace. I think there’s many reasons we play games, and speaking of myself, sometimes I’m just not in the mood for action, or even to be challenged. At other times I don’t want to have to think or strategize. At other times I want all of these things. This is why it’s good to have diversity and choice. There is no one-true-and-ultimate-style of gameplay that beats all others.

    • Aoshi00

      I’m like that too, it depends on my mood, sometimes I like 3rd person shooters, but sometimes I want a slower paced game. I want immersive experience, but when I’m too tired I just want to relax playing video games and not get stressed.The major problem is not whether action or turn based is better, it’s that turn based RPGs is almost extinct (not counting strategy RPGs played on a grid) nobody wants to make them anymore. Game developers want to stay away from such system because they think gamers these days think it’s outdated and such kind of game is not needed in 2010, especially in the West. I hope turn based would still have a place. I’m all for Sakaguchi trying out different things too if that’s what he wants to do, but I just don’t want him to not do turn-based because he thinks nobody wants them anymore.

  • TomSkylark

    I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to turn-based or action RPG’s–I love ’em both, and both can be done either well or terribly–but I’m pretty sure that if someone asked me “Why do you enjoy turn-based RPG’s?” the first answer I’d offer wouldn’t be, “Well, they make it so much easier to go to the toilet.” I get the point about pacing for turn-based RPG’s ‘belonging’ to the player, but I’m wondering what effects this might have aside from the bodily convenience factor. Any thoughts out there?

  • neocatzon

    I love when he say “enjoy the story” some new rpgs often left the story underdeveloped and relied only on the characters and visual

  • Tom_Phoenix

    While I never played Dragon Quest, I appretiate the fact that there are still developers who think that turn-based combat is a viable option. There are already too many developers who have thrown turn-based combat away, thinking that it’s “outdated”.

    It isn’t outdated; it’s just different.

  • While it really would’ve been fascinating to see how DQIX as an action RPG would have turned out, I have to say that I’m glad it’s turn based.

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