In a recent interview for Edge magazine, Yu Miyake, executive producer of Dragon Quest, talked about the difference in popularity between Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The two series are both great successes, albeit in different regions. While Dragon Quest is hugely popular in Japan, it’s largely unknown in the west. On the other hand, Final Fantasy is even more popular in the west than it is in its homeland. Miyake offers his thoughs on why, and how Square plans to approach this.
Basically, it comes down to several things:
- Poor localization of earlier Dragon Quest games. Miyaki is sure things would’ve gone differently if they’d gave it the attention it needed.
- Different target audiences, along with a stigma that cartoonish graphics carry in the west. He claims that DQ is played by people of all ages in Japan, while westerners may pass it up on account of the “childish” look.
- Historical timing – DQ blew up on the Nintendo Entertainment System, while FFVII took off on the original Playstation.
His thoughts on the divisiveness art style are particularly interesting:
Akira Toriyama’s art style is cartoonish, and in Japan that doesn’t alienate anyone; it’s not seen as childish. But outside of Japan, I think there’s often a stigma attached to that kind of aesthetic. Now, when an adult tries the game, they will discover that the subject matter is actually quite mature. Nevertheless, players are still left with this disconnect between how the game looks and how it plays. That’s a tension that just doesn’t exist in Japan.
They’re optimistic about the future, though. They’ve learned from their mistakes, and they’re using Dragon Quest Builders and Dragon Quest Heroes to lay the groundwork for releasing the next proper Dragon Quest game in the west. On the other hand, it might just turn out that it’s simply not what the majority of western players want. Miyake’s responses feel like he’s sure all of it stems from technical issues, disregarding completely the fact that different cultural frameworks breed different tastes.