Drakengard 3 Is Square Enix’s Attempt To Woo Hardcore Gamers

By Matt Hawkins . October 10, 2013 . 6:44pm


Siliconera met with Square Enix who was showing off their upcoming holiday releases along with one title that’s still in development, that being the much anticipated Drakengard 3. The demo was purely hands off, so I simply sat back and watched producer Takamasa Shiba put the game’s protagonist, Zero, through her paces. Shiba wouldn’t tell me much about the plot, other than how Zero is an Intoner and that she has five sisters who are also Intoners. Zero’s sisters abandoned her, so her mission is to kill her siblings. (Read more about Zero here.)


"Not to enact revenge, not to cause destruction, but just to kill them," stated Shiba. One key point that was stressed is how Square Enix has traditionally served two distinct audiences: casual gamers and hardcore gamers, the later of which were simply referred to as core players. Shiba explained how the former has been the primary focus in recent years and that Drakengard 3 is an attempt at impressing the latter party. In that sense, Drakengard 3 was described as being a risk on the publisher’s part.




Drakengard 3 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by combining on the ground combat with in-the-air dragon flying action. First, I witnessed improved melee combat, which included super speedy weapon switching system; it was implied that this action was a bit on the slow and cumbersome side in Drakengard 1 and Drakengard 2. Zero’s nimbleness when it came to dodging was also demonstrated along with her ability to block. It was pointed out that if one blocks an attack at the right moment (as in, press the appropriate button at the right time), the attack redirects.


Armed with a large staff-like weapon, Zero plowed through some stationary soldiers with large shields. The weapon was quite large, and not surprisingly, a bit unwieldy. You also had quick and nimble grunts that did more than just stand around, which Zero took care of  using a smaller, blade weapon that’s much easier to handle. As Zero fights, she becomes soaked in her enemies’ blood, which in addition to being a way to graphically convey how much mayhem she’s making, is also an indicator of how close she is to having her berserker rage meter filled. Once full, Zero can unleash her full Intoner abilities, which in this instance made time slow down for everyone but herself. It’s akin to Bayonetta’s Witch Time, which even Shiba concurred as well.




Along for the ride was a young male (Apostles in the Japanese release) acting as a support character who you do not have control of. He goes about his own business, fighting by your side and saying bits of dialogue to embellish the narrative. The support character will change throughout game, as dictated by the game’s narrative, but Shiba would not divulge details. Though I did catch how he called someone a "nympho". Perhaps, referring to Zero?


The melee portion of the demo ended with a boss encounter. Zero fought a large three-headed dog that’s purple. That sound a bit peculiar, and the monster looked it as well. It’s hard to say much about the visuals, especially since the game is still in development, but the graphics doesn’t quite line up with other titles coming out for the PS3 these days. Other developers are pulling out all the graphical stops, but then again, Drakengard 3 has a connection to Nier, another game that was lambasted for not having the prettiest visuals in many people’s eyes. Nier still managed to develop a cult following thanks to some smart art direction and other fine qualities.




After the three-headed dog was dispensed with, Zero took flight on the back of her dragon companion Mikhail. Shiba explained to me how much the aerial component of the game has been completely overhauled. In addition to soaring the skies and shooting fiery death from above, you can also run around on the ground and basically run over the enemy. I was hoping to see additional feats of agility in the air, but the environment in the demo was wide open, with no nooks or crannies to dart in-between. A bit disappointing, but the demo takes place in the early part of the game, and giving players less complex environments make sense in this instance.


Another key point that was constantly driven home is how Zero is an anti-hero, which is something inherently unique when it comes to JRPGs, or so I was told. Some may beg to differ this opinion. Then again, many of Square Enix’s offerings are led about noble characters whose modus operandi is about saving the world. Whereas Zero, from what Shiba said, is just out for blood. At the very least, I can’t recall the last time Lightning was ever soaked head to toe in blood, let alone a single drop on her many forms of attire.

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  • Scipio

    I’ll gladly take subpar graphics if it means the gameplay has been overhauled and fixed. Glad to hear it has.

  • JustThisOne

    Damn. I guess I can’t let this developer’s risk go to waste then. :>

    As for the game itself, I’m glad to hear there’s some character banter. It’s a very good form of character development, I think, without feeling forced and without having to employ cutscenes.

  • bloodiOS

    I don’t mind the subpar in-game graphics, no AA, or even massive amount of screen-tearing, as long that the performance is locked at a constant 30fps. Any worse than that and… well, I would still keep my pre-order nonetheless but I just won’t be singing praises about it. Anyway…

    Another key point that was constantly driven home is how Zero is an anti-hero, which is something inherently unique when it comes to JRPGs, or so I was told. Some may beg to differ this opinion. Then again, many of Square Enix’s offerings are led about noble characters whose modus operandi is about saving the world. Whereas Zero, from what Shiba said, is just out for blood.

    But is she as monstrous as Caim?

    • Caim is still my favorite silent protagonist. I would like to have a secret boss battle of Zero vs Caim, Mikhail vs Angelus. Nevertheless, Caim in HD render gonna be bloody awesome.

      Visual doesn’t play big role in my priority. I recently purchased a latest game with top notch visual. I still have to finish it, but so far everything story-wise is too predictable for me, make me kinda regret it and hunger for another breakthrough like the first Drakengard and Nier.

      • bloodiOS

        Mikhail vs Angelus? I don’t think that child would stand chance against Angelus. Anyway, while graphics does not make the game but a game with an amazing story and gameplay would be an absolute killer with good graphics.

      • Rayhan PromisedGallery

        Considering this game is a prequel, i hope we can see Drakengard 1 characters at some point, especially Angelus who’s over 10000 years old

        • Solomon_Kano

          I’d think Angelus and Legna have the best chance of appearing, though a pre-Faerie Leonard could also work based on 3’s position in time relative to 1.

          • Bur

            Drakengard DOES hate children, so that’s a point in pre-Faerie Leonard showing up’s favor.

  • Vincenth69

    Too bad there is no retail version of the game. It may be out after the PS4 release but that doesn’t mean they have to release every games they make digital only :x.
    That and all the iOS remakes they’re making makes me sad about the future of Square Enix…

    • bloodiOS

      Not sure if it’ll hit retail stores, but you can pre-order a physical copy over at Square Enix Online Store:


      • Vincenth69

        Square-Enix said it’be only in their store and on limited quantities. And it’s only on the US store, for the moment it’s digital only for Europe; of course, US store does not deliver in Europe.

  • Lucky Dan

    OH WOW so Final Fantasy XV and Kingdoms Hearts 3 confirmed for casual market !!

    • Herok♞

      not really they have more brand recondition while you need to have someone hardcore to know what Drakengard is

    • Ferrick

      way to take things out of context

    • Solomon_Kano

      It’s not like they said last attempt, they said an attempt.

      That doesn’t negate any of their other games being for core gamers, just says that this particular one is a concerted effort to grab them. Y’know, since this is the game they were showing off at the moment.

    • Chiupon

      wait you wouldn’t even need a confirmation to know that

      last i checked kh was aimed at like 11-15 year olds (which is why i throw shade at anyone over 20 who takes it seriously)

      • Ferrick

        gameplay wise, maybe, but story was rather convoluted to the point where i had to explain it to my 12 yo cousin

        • Arcana Wiz

          story of KH is so… “hard” that i play most of the games and need explaining….
          PS i’m 17.

          • Rayhan PromisedGallery

            blame XeHardNort

          • Ferrick

            all of this could’ve been avoided if xehanort had just kept his darkness in his pants

        • Chiupon

          that’s just the bad writing.

    • Anime10121

      What Kano, Ferrick, and Herok said. Plus they said the last few few years they’d been catering to the casuals, and now (present tense) they are trying to do stuff for the core market. Considering XV and KH3 arent yet released, and will be releasing AFTER Drakengard 3, its pretty safe to assume he wasnt referring to them as casual titles (and by the context of this article, I’m thinking he’s equating casual to mobile gaming).

  • Dark Zerato

    So Utautai is Intoner in English. I would like SE to keep the former.

    • Solomon_Kano

      Yea, I actually really liked the sound of that. I’ll deal, but I think Utautai would’ve good to keep. With them being worshiped as goddesses, I think it’d add to the feel that they were something other than human. Intoner sounds more like a class or something. Like Bard or Dragoon.

      • Curan_Altea

        Uta is song in Japanese. I think that’s worth noting.

        • Solomon_Kano

          Oho? It appears that I knew this in the back of my mind, since I immediately thought Shiki no Uta when I read your comment. Never bothered to make that connection to Utautai somehow. -,-

          Yea, in that case, I’m more with the fans on picking Songstress for the translation. Intoner still sounds…

        • Aoshi00

          Utautai basically means singer, as in kashu, but an older term. I think Intoner is rather fitting for the game’s dark setting.. songstress (they say “utahime” in the game too) just sounds common and not exotic or dark enough? Intoner has a more of ominous feel.. songstress makes me think of something like Ar Tonelico lol. I’m glad S-E went w/ a more unique title..

          • Solomon_Kano

            Hm, in that case… okay, I’m actually more on board with Intoner.

            By pure definition, it’s a better fit than Songstress. Songstress would likely be the closer transliteration, based on what you said the word Utautai means, but Intoner fits better with what it means in Drakengard’s mythology.

          • Aoshi00

            I think songstress and utahime sound more similar to each other, like a priestess who sings, but Intoner like you said is more of a class of its own, I don’t see games use the word Utautai too often which is why it sounded so cool :). Also in Drakengard 3’s context, utautai are worshiped by people before like angels, and later seem to be feared when they (or just Zero) wrecks havoc in different kingdoms, so I think Intoner sounds more fitting and darker, something to be feared :) songstress just sounds like a literal translation, but they’re a dime a dozen… both terms utahime and utautai seem to be used interchangeably in the trailer though.

      • bloodiOS

        I was thinking that Intoner (Utautai) is what their “kind” actually is but they, or at least the other sisters, are commonly praised by the people as Songstress/Diva (Utahime), mainly due to the fact that they brought peace to the land(?). Notice how in the trailers, only the soldiers would use the term utahime, while Zero only ever refers to her sisters as utautai. I don’t know, just wildly guessing on my part.

        • Aoshi00

          Yeah that could very well be it, I thought it was strange they were introduced as utautai yet the citizens kept referring them as utahime as in songstress or diva like macross frontier.. Wonder if the eng ver would differentiate btwn those two terms as well. Anyway intoner sounds quite cool and unique like utautai :)

          • bloodiOS

            I’ll be a bit disappointed if they don’t.

    • Utautai sounds like a tribe name. The first time I heard it, I mistook for Uruk-hai of LOTR.

      I like how fans translated to Songstress.

      • Aoshi00

        I like both Utautai and Intoner, sound more unique and exotic (maybe you thought it was “Utatai” because of siliconera’s transcription at first?), while Utahime and songstress sound so common and overused in many other games..

        Imported the LE and can’t wait.. wonder if the US physical release is only available at S-E online store or other retailers too..

  • Tenshiken

    If they really want to woo hardcore gamers, they’ll ditch even the slightest notion of censorship.

    • bloodiOS

      They better.

    • Curan_Altea

      I’d like to think we’ve reached a point where that’s not necessary.
      And I pray we never get another situation like the one with Nier’s protagonist.

      • Lynx

        Except we didn’t get a situation with Nier’s protagonist.

        They were two versions released in Japan, Gestalt and Replicant. We got Gestalt. It worked so much better then Replicant did.

        • Rayhan PromisedGallery

          i hope we don’t see any Papa VS Brother Nier discussion again.
          The producer come up with Brother version first, but then they made Papa version for western. But in the end Brother seems to be more Canon which the drama CD and Grimoire Nier mostly based on him.

          But in the end both Papa and Brother worked on the story, with some point being better in the other and vice-versa. I won’t really comment which one is better, though.
          I prefer Papa because it’s easier to understand father-daughter relationship.

        • Trepie

          There was actually a situation with Nier’s protagonist. The brother was created first, and he was the “canon” protagonist, at least according to the creators. They didn’t like the father, and when Square-Enix wanted to axe the brother character and only have the father, Cavia almost dropped the game. Eventually they negotiated and created a version of the game for both characters, and Square-Enix tried to claim in the west that the father was the “real” protagonist, but that was never actually the case.

          Not to say the father didn’t work. Obviously he did since a lot of people seem to prefer him. But there was a situation.

          • Lynx

            They were both created at the same time. In Japan, 360 got Gestalt while PS3 got Replicant and released at the same time.

            That’s it.

            Do you have any sources saying that there was behind the scenes drama? If you do, I’d love to read it.

          • Trepie

            I do, but the source has never officially been translated, only unofficially. Have you ever heard of Grimoire Nier? It has A LOT of the backstory behind Nier and makes the setting a ton more interesting, imo.

            Anyway, here’s the link to the translation: http://docs.google.com/View?id=dgvmkf89_228fxgghgg3

            The part I’m referencing is the creator’s interview about 3/4 down the table to contents. And the question itself is near the end of the interview “Replicant was almost Cancelled in the process!?”

            Taken from the interview:
            “The producer Satou, who was sitting by my side, just sort of looked at me with a “…what do we do now?” face, and I just stuck to my opinion that I really didn’t want this. (laughs) If we can’t make “Replicant”, our development team’s motivation will go down like crazy, and as a result even “Gestalt” will be released later!? Are you okay with that!? Is what I threatened them with.”

            “We planned to make a sibling story in the first place. Although back then “Replicant” was to be voiced in English, but there was some trouble with the voice actors.”

      • Aoshi00

        w/ either bro or pop Nier, none of the mature themes were absent or censored.. personally I much prefer the character relationship of the US version and the excellent Eng dub.. still haven’t finished Replicant yet, backlog :(..

    • This is what the producer says http://fuckyeahdrakengard.tumblr.com/post/63646550361/we-may-keep-the-game-as-is-with-the-exception-of it seems he wants to keep it “as-is”, he is fully aware of our concerns.

  • DAT Bird From DAT Cage

    What really is a hardcore gamer? And what is a casual gamer?

    What about a person who is sometimes a hardcore gamer and sometimes a casual gamer?

    What u gona do then SE huh?

    • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

      Make a console game for a phone and see if the person plays it casually like the other throwaway 2 dollar experiences on phones that hardcore gamers fear will invade their console space. Hence why they abhor people who play Animal Crossing with much fervency.

  • Vash bane

    wait didn’t nier also not care about the world but his daughter?
    (sorry don’t remember much)

    • Ferrick

      he doesn’t care too much about the world ,but his daughter, kaine, the king of masks, weiss, popola and devola are the world for him

    • Rayhan PromisedGallery

      he actually cares for many people that he helped in the story and sidequest. Though he did all that because he need to find money for Yonah and his close friends, not because he cares about them that much.
      He just happened to accidentally destroyed the world because he sees the shades as total evil being. But in the end after he knows Shades are human, he still shows no mercy at all.

  • I think the more appropriate word is “mature audience”.

    It’s hard to define “hard-core” gamer. I often hear some dude play FPS-like all the time and refer themselves as hard-core gamer, or someone who spent nearly day and night playing MMORPG. It doesn’t sound right.

    • Mar Mar

      I define a “hard-core” gamer as a gamer who enjoys gaming on hardest difficulty available that requires skills and thinking not memorizing.

      I want to play this because the story is original and nothing I’ve seen before.

  • Judgephoenix

    Wish the game came with a digital code for the first two games so I could play them atleast.

    • At least Drakengard still seems to be on SE’s online store~.

  • I count myself as hardcore, looking forward to this.

    I love getting angry when I’m playing a game and kicking ass

  • Kotorin

    I think its great that they’re going for this kind of audience. Better then making deadbeat easy games for gajumals.

  • Jerry Hu

    Count me in.

  • Oh my goodness. I am so excited for this game, I just don’t have the words. And I’m ecstatic that it’s being localized too. ♥
    I’m hoping it won’t be censored, though I’d guess not much if at all by now?

    I really don’t mind if it’s not graphically stunning, either. As long as a game has a nice aesthetic and is clean (the company tried in some way), I am content~. And it looks to be the case here.

    Also, I agree that it is unique to have an anti-hero as the lead/protag. Especially a genuine anti-hero. Not someone just nonchalant, or a bit morally grey or something, but one that actually fulfills the archetype and role of a true anti-hero. That’s rare in gaming period, to me. (Even in other genres where the protag isn’t really good, they rarely border on being a fleshed out anti-hero more than just being a jerk or something.)

    This will be a really fun ride~.

    • Arcana Wiz

      well since it’s for more of the “hardcore” gamers, it wouldn’t have sense to censor it, cause the principal reason it’s to of censorship is to have a lower age rating to be more accessible to people who doesn’t follow gaming news…. so i’m quite optimistic about it.

      • It wouldn’t, but the first was pretty heavily censored, and I don’t know about the second. I’m pretty optimistic though too.

    • Chibi RAWR

      Square Enix doesn’t censor that much……… Have you played Nier? lol. Go look at the opening of Nier and hear Kaine talk. Far from censored, she has a LOUD MOUTH LOL

      • I was considering how Nier was on the other end of censorship though, lol. I mean, I feel Drakengard (1) has some stronger themes/content than Nier, but Nier was more recent so maybe that represents how open they are now. Hard to say.

  • Arcana Wiz

    They were able to do it (to me)…..
    now only a physical edition that isn’t from the Square store pleaaase.

  • Go2hell66

    Consider me wooed

  • Yggdr5

    It’s difficult for me to understand Square Enix Logic behind this. They promote this game as a title for the “hardcore” gamers, but don’t release a retail version in Europe and scrap dual-audio. Two features only the core gamers are caring about and many deeply so.

    • michel

      If we want physical, we can import from US, althought it won’t be cheap… too bad for the dual audio, though…

    • Göran Isacson

      Huh. There won’t be a retail version? When was that stated, and can you link me to the statement?

  • neogeno

    Well they seem to be doing a pretty good job from here I’d say.

  • Fine fine fine. I’m sold. I’ll get it. It’s been a while since I bought a Square product, anyway. XD

  • Lemon

    I hate to say it, but the graphics will definitely be something ‘hardcore gamers’ will nitpick Drakengard 3 on. I think this series will still mostly depend on the sales to its fairly niche fanbase.

  • firstarioch

    Well. I simply cannot wait .
    Yoko Taro games are beyond excellent and this is a dream come true .
    I will get 10th Anniversary Edition japcversion and will have to import us physical disk edition .
    Can’t see myself downloading digital shite which I can’t stand .
    It’s already game of the year for me and th fact that I can actually play it I’m English makes it ever so sweet .

    Come on Square .Finally maybe you are waking up to certain back catalogue you havw .

    Now for Bushido Blade 3 and Zweihander ( einhander sequel ) and all is well.

  • AkuLord3

    Well this really deflects with the other article with the creators…toserve to people who would enjoy it than Square’s “ERR ITS GOT BLOOD MAN, THIS IS NO ORDINARY SERIES WE HAVE, YO HARDCORE.”
    Meh whatever, they’re bringing it over so i’ll let it pass

  • revenent hell

    Well I’m woo’ed just by getting the game I think I should go peorder it now haha… Personally I think blood is a nice touch when so many games try to appeal to a larger audience by lacking certain themes , not that these games are bad but in most of them you do play as an adult over the age of 18 or the story is dark enough you would expect to see a bit of gore…
    I think the older I get the more amazed I am that in most games its totally ok to kill something whether its a monster or person and yet blood, guts and beer bottles are taboo…..How is killing something more acceptable than seeing a cigarette or bar in a game? So weird to me

  • enorka miho

    Well, if you consider Sephiroth and Kuja from their perspective.. They are pretty much an anti-hero..Its especially true for Sephiroth’s case.. He use to be first class soldier.. a hero who then later decide that he is fed up of this world and just wanted the world to be reborn.. As for kuja.. He just wanted to live so he did what he did to survive, and well,indirectly not let the new world be replaced by the old world.. Zero may as well be like that though..

    Truth is.. I’d never really played true anti hero games before because its either they became good later or they were crown as a villain from the start .. And, I am actually not a fan of cold blooded main character… But, well, I hope there is another factor in the story that can grip me if not the protagonist..

  • KanjiLikesBoys

    I don’t think the comparison to Baynetta stops at the Time Stop mechanic. From the trailers and previews Ive seen this game is a lot more similar to Devil May Cry and Bayonetta than the Dynasty Warrior feel of the first two Drakengards and hey! that’s an amazing thing! With Bayonetta 2 being a Wiiu exclusive and DmC probably dead after it’s very poor sales, the space is wide open for a well made action game with sharp controlls and lots of speed.

    On the note of differentiating Zero as being an Anti-hero…maybe there would be a more of a change if she didn’t have the exact same personality of most other normal hero in an action game/RPG. She’s the cool as ice, emotionless killing machine that Cloud, Squall and Lightning all were. Sure d Cloud and Squall learned to think about other people, but on the outside they were a blank slate unless they had to emote rage at their enemy or the thought of losing.

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