Blighted by the night, vanquishing the plight by the children of the light. No video game character conveys endearment and sadism in a single expression as well as the Blue Slimes.
In Dragon Quest Heroes: The World’s Tree Woe and the Blight Below, these iconic teardrop-shaped blobs have never looked more adorable and homicidal, which is what makes killing them en masse one of this game’s greatest pleasures. It’s one of many delights aptly delivered by a collaboration that is one part Dynasty Warriors, one part Dragon Quest. As a hack-and-slasher with countless enemy encounters, character growth, and a shopping list of quests, it was joy to be reminded how much both series have in common.
As a contrast to all the dimension hopping that made up much of last year’s Hyrule Warriors (a Dynasty Warriors take on The Legend of Zelda universe), this Dragon Quest spin-off takes the reverse approach. Instead of protagonists jumping to various worlds in older Dragon Quest games, adventurers from those games come into the new world established in Dragon Quest Heroes.
Welcoming these otherworldly guests is a new foursome comprising of two co-protagonists whose default names are Aurora and Luceus, the boisterous King Doric, and an skilled inventor named Isla. I have always admired the mainline series for defying traditional fantasy RPG party formations and archetypes and this new team could easily carry a mainline Dragon Quest installment. That’s a bold statement especially when Aurora and Luceus are two sides of the same coin. Their complementary personalities are best showcased during the cutscenes where your see Luceus’ analytical side and Aurora’s impatience to jump into battle. Aside from a momentary interlude where you’re forced to use one of the guest adventurers, you can have a wholly enjoyable time relying solely on these new characters while ignoring the rest of the roster.
It’s a varied cast where each warrior easily proves their worth over the course of a single battle. The only thing better than seeing 3D models of characters like Dragon Quest IV’s Alena and Kiryl is hearing them speak for the first time. Just as it was momentous to have voice acting in a Final Fantasy game in 2001 with Final Fantasy X, so too was the introduction of dialogue in Dragon Quest VIII ten years ago. Hearing much of the cast speak in English accents in Journey of the Cursed King created a rare connection to the Tolkienian roots of JRPGs. Having Yungus’ cockney accent reprised in Dragon Quest Heroes–by the original voice actor no less–only makes this reunion all the more special.
This mingling of heroes from other worlds helps distract from the story’s laughably generic premise of light versus dark. Even the two co-leaders are named Children of the Light. The story starts off on an uncommonly cheerful note, even by Dragon Quest standards, where humans and monsters are happily co-existing. Due to a spell by a dark wizard named Velasco, the monsters are suddenly reminded that they’re supposed to hate humans. The ensuing chaos and unrest gives the game’s heroes more than enough to deal with, let alone reason to investigate why their non-human friends suddenly turned on them. It’s a good thing the story has its share of twists and guest character interactions to compensate for this otherwise plain narrative.