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Three Things about Dragon Quest Heroes II

One good, one bad, one silly.

1. The Good

I previously theorized that the key to a good Musou crossover game is deep integration of the iconic aspects of the crossed-with franchise, and opined that the first Dragon Quest Heroes had shallow integration of important JRPG elements and suffered for it.

Well, Dragon Quest Heroes II has much deeper integration of these elements, to the point where it’s not even really a Musou game anymore. You can still see the Musou DNA if you squint, but I’d call it an action RPG and the experience of playing it reminds me more of Kingdoms of Amalur than Dynasty Warriors.

I’ll write more about this later, but for now I’ll just say that while I’m still a fan of Musou, this approach really suits Dragon Quest and I’m enjoying this game a lot.

2. The Bad

Fast travel is provided via the series-standard spell Zoom. As in other Dragon Quest games, this spell shoots your characters up into the sky and then back down at their destination. Thus, it can only be used outdoors - cast it in a building and your characters just hit their heads on the ceiling.

This is cute in concept, and the first time you bump your head in Dragon Quest Heroes II you get a trophy/achievement for it - like you’ve fallen for the game’s little prank but it’s showing you it was all in good fun. You learn not to cast the spell indoors and move on.

But certain outdoor areas also have obstacles above your head - rocky outcroppings, half-collapsed ceilings in ancient ruins, forest canopies, etc. - and these also block Zoom. It’s not so funny after the first time - the joke gets old fast and you can only get the achievement once. It’s just a delay - instead of warping to your destination, the spell fails and you must reposition yourself, go back into the menu, pick Zoom again, and pick your destination again.

This could be leveraged for tactical depth - there could be areas that are dangerous because you can’t Zoom out of them. In practice, I saw no such pattern, and it seemed to just be based on the visual world design that I doubt was created with this mechanical effect in mind. Even if that were the intent, they could just gray out the menu option when you’re under an obstruction rather than letting you attempt the spell and pick a destination when it’s just going to fail.

And the cherry on top of all of this? You can’t look straight up. You can’t confirm for sure whether the spell will work where you are currently standing. Multiple times, I’ve angled the camera as far up as it will go, seen what looked like clear skies, cast Zoom, failed, moved, tried to look up again, cast Zoom again, failed again. This no longer feels like it’s all in good fun.

Zoom should just always work outdoors. Failing that, it should gray out in the menu when it can’t be used. And failing that, the player should be able to look straight up and see whether the spell will work. The current arrangement wastes the player’s time in a frustrating way for no benefit.

3. The Silly

Several times in the game’s story, you prepare for an audience with the king. Each time, one of your party members tells you you’ve got some time so you might as well do some shopping or whatever, and the next time you talk to her you can go see the king.

At one point, the story pretends it’s the end of the game. You’ve won and it’s time to go see the king again for a big celebration. A couple of things give away that the story can’t be over yet, like unexplored map regions and huge dangling plot threads, but my favorite clue is the way the party member talks to you before the celebration. Her tone is less, “We have some time to kill, so do some shopping,” and more, “No, really. Do all your shopping. If there’s any shopping you think you’ll want to do, do it now. And save your game. Then we’ll go to the castle and I’M SURE EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE BUT JUST DO ALL YOUR SHOPPING FIRST ALL OF IT.”