Dragon Quest Swords Hands-On

Square Enix unsheathes its slick Wii Dragon Quest game. Slimes beware.

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MAKUHARI, Japan--One of the centers of activity here at Square Enix's 2007 Party is a booth containing more than a dozen kiosks with a playable version of Dragon Quest Swords. The upcoming action game was announced last year and gives players the chance to roam through the rich Dragon Quest universe and stab anything that crosses their path. We had the chance to grab ourselves a Wii Remote and get our Nintendo-powered hacking and slashing on with the promising game.

The demo on display appears to offer players a chance to try one facet of the whole game experience, adventuring. Before the Square reps by every kiosk handed over the remote, they quickly zipped through what appears to be a large town with non-player characters to chat with and prime you to leave the settlement. Once you leave, via the massive town gate, you'll come to a 2D world map with points of interest. You'll use the Wii Remote's onscreen cursor to highlight a place and hit the A button to choose it. The demo level revolves around you making your way through a lush, enemy-filled forest and facing off against a golem boss.

Before you set out to do your slashing, you'll have the option to choose a secondary character to come along with and provide backup for you. The demo offered a choice of just two, a nobly dressed male and a sassily dressed female rocking herself some big RPG hair. From what we could gather, your buddies will lend a hand during certain points in battle and occasionally pop into view to say something we imagine is encouraging (the demo was in Japanese). Once you've settled on your partner, you'll head out for some adventuring. The game uses a first-person perspective and moves on a set path through locales. Though you'll come to some forks in the road where you can choose which way you want to go, getting around is a pretty linear affair.

The action in the game revolves around using the Wii Remote to take on the assorted critters that cross your path, usually with intention to cause you some fatal harm. Your only means of defense is the nunchukless Wii Remote, which you'll wield for offensive and defensive actions. The game's simple control makes using the remote a breeze thanks to an intuitive setup. You'll move around with the D pad, which will let you move forward and backward on your path when exploring. In the city it looks as though you'll be able to use it to freely maneuver around, so you can explore every odd nook and cranny in your surroundings. Combat is handled simply; you'll just slash the Wii Remote to attack. In the demo it looked as though there were about three major motions that resulted in different slashes: a simple horizontal cut, a simple vertical cut, and diagonal slashes from either corner of the screen. These basic attacks can be specialized by using the A button to lock an onscreen cursor onto a set part of the screen, making it the focal point of your slashes. This gets pretty important as you take on multiple enemies who come at you from various angles. Besides the different slash attacks, the game has as a thrusting attack that you'll perform by pulling back and thrusting the controller like a fencing sword. The attack seems to be key when it comes to dealing with certain enemies prone to blocking your attacks.

When facing superaggressive foes you'll need to defend yourself and block their attacks. Holding the B button switches your onscreen cursor to a shield that you'll use to block attacks by holding it in front of incoming projectiles. The demo helped us out some by alerting us to incoming projectiles and slapping a marker on the part of the screen you need to have your shield in to block. As you take on more and more enemies you'll fill a sword gauge beneath your life that, when full, can be used to trigger a powerful special attack by hitting the 2 button. The powerful attack we tried in the demo required a two-part action to be triggered. Hitting the 2 button shifted the action to a dramatic camera angle and onscreen icons that helpfully noted what needed to happen to perform the attack. The first part required us to hold the remote upright, while the second part had us slash the screen a few times. The dual actions were greeted by a flashy scene and a copious amount of damage dealt to any foes onscreen.

If this all sounds too simple, don't fret--the game has some depth to its systems to keep things interesting. You'll find different items ranging from health or mana restoration to equippable gear. In addition, you'll be earning experience and gold from defeating enemies, which we expect will come to affect your character's attributes.

As far as the presentation goes, the visuals in the game are gorgeous and sport a clean, detailed look in the same vein as Dragon Quest VIII. So far, the characters are large and colorful with solid animation. Special effects to punctuate the combat action are shiny and well done. As far as the environments go, the forest we journeyed through featured impressive color gradients and lighting. The audio appears to be a dramatic mix of simple tunes and suitable bombastic rock that suits the action well.

Based on what we played, Dragon Quest Swords is shaping up to be a cool Wii title. The game's mix of simple gameplay mechanics and light RPG elements makes for a solid, accessible experience. While fans of the series will get the most out of the title, even non-DQ loyalists will be able to appreciate exploring new places and stabbing things. Dragon Quest Swords is slated to ship this July in Japan for the Wii, with a US release to follow later in the year.

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