Dragon Quest Treasures Interview: Taichi Inuzuka Explains the Shift From Monsters to Treasures, and Yuji Horii Appears! - Prima Games

Dragon Quest Treasures Interview: Taichi Inuzuka Explains the Shift From Monsters to Treasures, and Yuji Horii Appears!

Yeah, Yuji Horii showed up for a minute, no big deal

by Lucas White

Wow, so, I’m a little shook. I just wrote up and published a preview for Dragon Quest Treasures, a compelling adventure coming to the Nintendo Switch on December 9, 2022. Months ago I was offered a chance to shoot over an email interview for an unnamed member of the DQTR development team. I figured I’d be corresponding with producer Taichi Inuzuka. I was right, although I regrettably didn’t ask for his thoughts on the Bullet Club in case I wasn’t. But I wasn’t entirely right.

Inuzuka didn’t just wear a Bullet Club shirt to a Dragon Quest event, he wore an “Underboss” Bad Luck Fale Bullet Club shirt to a Dragon Quest event. Powerful sicko energy on a level I’m not strong enough to understand myself.

Taking me entirely by surprise, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii also stopped by for a couple answers. A hell of a bonus, to say the least! But as dope as that is, we can’t let Horii’s drive-by guest appearance overshadow the information Inuzuka gave me. I was a little worried I was asking questions I wouldn’t get eager responses to, but I was pleasantly surprised here as well. I came away with little snippets of information on how a new Dragon Quest Monsters title morphed into a brand new spinoff, and some of the thought behind Treasures’ casual-friendly gameplay.

Lucas White, Prima Games: In 2018, the young versions of Erik and Mia (alongside Purrsula and Porcus) leading DQTR were introduced for a new Dragon Quest Monsters title. Is DQTR connected to DQM in terms of creative, development, etc.? Or was DQTR conceived entirely separately and these designs were repurposed for it?

Image credit: Gematsu

Taichi Inuzuka, Dragon Quest Treasures Producer: In the beginning, Dragon Quest Treasures was being created by the team behind the Dragon Quest Monsters series, and it was intended to be a new title for the series. There were many twists and turns from there, and once it was decided that treasure hunting would become a central focus for the game, we consciously made this game as something entirely different from what it was originally going to be.

Yuji Horii, Dragon Quest Series Creator & Game Designer: I remember this project starting up as a new entry for the Dragon Quest Monsters series, but Inuzuka-san proposed to turn it into a treasure hunting game, and I approved it. I thought that Erik and Mia were suitable characters for the treasure hunting theme.

Either way, a younger version of a “core” DQ character exploring a new world in a starring role has largely been DQM’s thing (Joker aside). How did the team settle on going that way for a new subseries instead of creating a new protagonist or some other approach?

Inuzuka: We decided that the game would feature a pair comprised of a boy and a girl before we chose Erik and Mia, so we came to an agreement that they would be the best option out of the choices that we had.

Horii: Each character from Dragon Quest XI was popular, but not much was known about Erik and Mia’s childhood, which led us to believe that they were appropriate choices for a spin-off title.

What’s the process like for designing new monsters? Are there any rules or guidelines that have to be followed?

Inuzuka: It’s a vague rule, but we do make sure that the designs adhere to the quintessential elements that contribute to generating that Dragon Quest feel and to respecting the essence of Akira Toriyama’s original designs for the original monsters.

What’s the best part of creating a new Dragon Quest spin-off? What’s challenging about it?

Inuzuka: A benefit of creating a spin-off is to have the opportunity to take approaches that would be difficult in mainline games. I would say that the challenging part is taking those new approaches while executing them in ways that would not have a negative impact on the mainline titles. Our hope is to create a game that leaves a positive mark on the Dragon Quest series.

Dragon Quest as an IP seems to be a healthy breeding ground for spinoff projects or genre experiments. From Fushigi no Dungeon to Builders and now Treasures, is it DQ’s colorful and lighthearted nature or something else about the fanbase that makes so many non-JRPG titles viable?

Inuzuka: I do agree that the series’ unique qualities and statuses, like the ones you mentioned, may play a role in why players love these games.

DQTR seems to have elements reminiscent of “live service” games or certain mobile games, such as building up your gang and home base over time via gathering resources, loot and monster characters. What kinds of modern/recent gaming trends inspired parts of DQTR if any?

Inuzuka: As developers, we take inspiration from all forms of entertainment, so it’s hard to point out one example. I may have unconsciously referred to the convenience of such mobile games to draw inspiration. My one and only wish was to have players be able to casually enjoy this game.

Related: Dragon Quest Treasures Is the Builders Charm I’ve Been Looking For

When it comes to resources and expansions being key to progress in a game, what kinds of problems need to be solved on a design or development level to help keep players invested? The answer seems easy for mmo/service/mobile games, but I feel like it’s a more careful balancing act for a single-player console game like DQTR.

Inuzuka: I don’t necessarily believe that it’s something that should be completely controlled either, so I think that the best course of action is to have a general outline for the story and the level up system, and leave the rest to the players to have them control each aspect freely.

Can you talk about the history behind the Forte system? Monster allies in Dragon Quest games are typically serving combat roles or collectibles (or both!), but having them more involved in players navigating the environment feels different. How did the DQTR team arrive at this feature?

Inuzuka: We had the idea that Fortes would be useful for traversal since the very early stages of development. It actually came even before the combat system.

How about the combat? Was there a goal from the beginning to shoot for a certain level of complexity, or was the end product a result of more experimentation or shaping over time? Was real-time combat with monsters challenging to implement effectively, especially for a Nintendo Switch game?

Inuzuka: There was a premise that Dragon Quest fans were not very big on real-time battles, but we also thought that intuitive action would be the best to ensure that it can be a casually played game. Therefore, we aimed to make this game playable for both people that have difficulty with action games but also enjoyable for people who like action games.

Related: Dragon Quest Treasures is a Lighthearted Dopamine Fountain

What’s an aspect of DQTR that may not be a good fit for marketing, but the team is proud of or excited to see players react to?

Inuzuka: I’m excited to hear the reception and reaction towards the voices of monsters. Voice actors have different standing in Japan and the West, so I’m looking forward to hearing how the voices will be received in each region.

For the folks looking forward to Dragon Quest Treasures, I can definitely understand why Mr. Inuzuka is looking forward to how y’all respond to the VO. It’s something else, especially from the Slime family. From my perspective, the takeaway from this interview is that Dragon Quest Treasures isn’t just a new idea born from a troubled sequel. While I still hope we’ll see a new Dragon Quest Monsters in the near future, the idea of treasure hunting becoming such a key element this project became something else entirely is a lot of fun.

I don’t expect to hear about that kind of creative flexibility coming out of big IP-based videogames, so it’s refreshing to see that be the case with Dragon Quest Treasures. Stay tuned to Prima Games as the December 9 launch approaches, as we’ll have a review out in the coming days along with several (hopefully) helpful guides following the launch. In the meantime, make sure to read the previews from Jesse Vitelli and myself, linked earlier throughout the piece.

As always, I wanna thank everyone involved here. I’m grateful Mr. Inuzuka and Mr. Horii offered some of their time to me, and I hope to get another chance in the future so I can ask Inuzuka about Bad Luck Fale. Shouts outs also to the kickass PR representative for Square Enix who facilitated this whole thing.

Lucas White

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favs include Dragon Quest, SaGa and Mystery Dungeon. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas. Wanna send an email? Shoot it to [email protected]