Dragon Quest’s Hero: A Unique Strength and a Unique Weakness?

By now, many sharps minds in the Smash Bros. Ultimate community have analyzed the trailer for the new “Hero from Dragon Quest” DLC character and have noticed a couple of interesting properties. First, the Hero appears to have much more than four special moves, and unlike the case with the Mii Fighters, he does not appear to have a customizable move list. Second, at one point he’s shown pulling up a menu of magic spells, and the ones displayed on the menu aren’t the only spells he uses in the trailer.

This has led to speculation that the Hero might have more available special moves than any other character in Smash Bros. history—possibly up to 16! What this means is that the character has a diversity of options unlike any other. But characters aren’t only designed with advantages. What could balance out this strength?

The most obvious drawback of the Hero’s wide array of spells is that he has an MP gauge: if he doesn’t have enough MP, he can’t use a spell. There’s no word yet as to how the Hero might gain back MP, so that could be another mitigating factor. However, there’s another potential flaw in how the Hero plays that is largely unseen in Smash: the risk of completely telegraphing what special move he’s about to use.

The only characters who come anywhere close to having such a weakness are Shulk and Olimar. Shulk’s Monado Arts clearly display which mode he’s in, and thus roughly what the opponent should be looking out for. Olimar uses his Pikmin in the order they’re plucked, and can only change which Pikmin is used next by either attacking or using his whistle. In Olimar’s case, identifying which Pikmin he’s trying to use (and therefore what attacks to be wary of) is also easier said than done due to their small size. But even Shulk’s giant “this is the Monado I’m using” tell is not the same as having literal menus pop up that show what move the Hero wants to use next—menus the opponent can easily see as well. There’s no clear indication of any shortcuts, either.

With a character that’s not even out yet, it’s impossible to accurately say how good or bad a character is going to be. However, based on this potential prospect—the unique strength of 16 (?) spells tempered by the unique weakness of showing your cards—I’m looking forward to both the strategy and counterplay that will develop with the Hero. I can’t wait for him to be available.

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Banjo-Kazooie, Dragon Quest, and the Precariousness of Nostalgia

The dual Smash Bros. Ultimate character reveals of the Hero(es) from Dragon Quest and Banjo and Kazooie have gamers abuzz with excitement. While I didn’t quite get the DQ villain I wanted, I’m no exception when it comes to riding the hype train. However, seeing some of the negative reaction among English speakers online over the Hero’s entry into Smash makes me realize something: a lot of fans care less about video game history as a whole and more about their own video game history.

This is not unexpected, nor is it inherently bad. The games we grow up on and love are going to get a stronger reaction than things we only have a more academic understanding of. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and when people engage in hype, they’re not necessarily engaging their intellectual side. Even the Japanese fans who are freaking out over Dragon Quest are doing so because of emotional attachment. DQ crosses generations and is an indelible part of Japanese pop culture on a scale that few things can compare to. If Banjo-Kazooie fever is a combination of 1990s gaming nostalgia and the return of a prodigal icon, then Dragon Quest in Smash is just plain nostalgia for a perennial favorite, transcending gaming and any specific time period. It popularized the RPG as a genre in Japan, and its simple gameplay made it accessible to audiences young and old in ways few games ever have.

Where I take umbrage with some of the reactions I’ve seen from some vocal Smash fans is a combination of entitled behavior and the seeming inability to engage that intelligent side of their brains that can allow them to appreciate things that aren’t necessarily connected directly to them. Just because there’s no deep, emotional bond doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of attention or fanfare. Smash Bros. is in many ways a celebration of video game history, so to see fans willfully reject that history is sad to see.

Dragon Quest has the potential to expand the reach of Smash Bros. far beyond what anyone has seen. Few characters can reach literal sixty-year-old Japanese businessmen the way DQ can. World-famous manga artists like Kishimoto Masashi (Naruto) have written about their experiences with the RPG. Toriyama Akira (Dragon Ball) has been responsible for the art since the franchise’s inception!

Banjo-Kazooie and Dragon Quest are both important new titles for Smash Bros., and I hope as many people as possible appreciate that.

PS: The Japanese trailer for Hero actually has him saying the names of his spells, so a silent protagonist he is not. I wonder if this might change the impression people have of the character if this difference sticks.

Zoma for Super Smash Bros.

smashbros-zomamoves-small

Previous Characters:

King K. Rool (Donkey Kong Country)

Princess Daisy (Super Mario Land)

Geno (Super Mario RPG)

Great Puma (NES Pro Wrestling)

Pitfall Harry (Pitfall)

In celebration of Cloud Strife’s reveal as a new Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS & Wii U character, I have once again been drawing movesets and concept art for how famous icons of video games might work in Smash Bros. This time around, it’s Zoma, the final boss of Dragon Quest III, aka Dragon Warrior III.

Square Enix began as two rival companies, Square (later Squaresoft) and Enix. If Square’s flagship title was Final Fantasy, and its greatest success story Final Fantasy VII, then Enix’s was Dragon Quest, and its crown jewel Dragon Quest III. Having sold over 1 million copies on its first day of release in Japan in 1988, which included many students deciding to cut class just to buy it, it is one of Japan’s most beloved RPGs. Amazingly, once you beat it, you find out that it was in fact a prequel to the very first Dragon Quest, and your player character becomes the legendary hero whose equipment must be collected in the first game.

However, instead of just going with Loto (or Erdrick) as a counterpart to Cloud, I believe it would be more interesting if Enix could be represented by arguably its greatest villain. Zoma, like all Dragon Quest monsters, is drawn by Toriyama Akira of Dragon Ball fame, and strikes an imposing figure. A demon lord who rules over the land of Alefgard, according to Dragon Quest IX he actually went there because he’s extremely popular with other monsters and is trying to get away from his fans. Zoma is shown to be much larger than the heroes, but like Bowser there does not seem to be much consistency with his scale, so I figured he’d best be a large, heavy target similar to other super heavyweights. However, where Zoma differentiates himself from the rest is that his attacks are not only powerful, they’re very quick to recover.

If you’ve fought a character like Mario in Smash 4, you find that he can move very quickly out of key attacks (Up Smash, down air, back air), and that it makes him difficult to punish. Zoma would be similar. While some of his attacks would have long wind-ups, such as his Side-B Kacrackle (the strongest ice spell in Dragon Quest), it is difficult to take advantage of him if he misses, as he can quickly transition into something like a jab or a forward smash. This is meant to reference the fact Zoma is actually able to attack twice in one turn in his source material.

To balance this out, Zoma would have by far the worst mobility in the game, like if you weighed Ganondorf down with bricks. He would have decent jumps in terms of sheer distance, but would be extremely slow in terms of acceleration and max speed. His walk speed would be awful, and he wouldn’t even have a true dash. Instead, he would get a mini-teleport that still has all the restrictions of a dash. Think of him as being somewhat like Slayer in Guilty Gear.

All of Zoma’s attacks come straight from his battles across various games (he’s been a guest boss in a number of titles), and many of them are capable of freezing. C-C-Cold Breath is a super-charged version of the Ice Climbers’ Down B, and Disruptive Wave can remove status changes (both positive and negative) and even stun opponents very briefly. In one-on-one situations you won’t be able to capitalize on it, but it does travel far and is good for shifting momentum back into your favor, especially given once again how difficult Zoma’s moves are to punish. Bounce is a reflector and stage recovery move combined, making it useful for getting past projectile-based edgeguarding attempts, but is otherwise below average for a recovery, traveling far but very slowly. It is also impractical as an on-stage reflector. Kacrackle is both a powerful damage dealer and a way to seal stocks early, but can be difficult to land. At the same time, it can be thrown out similar to Meta Knight’s forward smash as a read in neutral.

Zoma’s Final Smash is a reference to the fact that Zoma originally covers himself with a protective ice barrier in Dragon Quest III that greatly augments his abilities. The only way to remove it is to use the Orb of Light, and seeing as no one has it in Smash Bros., I figured it would be better as a temporary measure.

Perhaps most important of all, Zoma would have all of the signature attack sound effects from Dragon Quest.

So that’s Zoma, one of the most infamous of JRPG villains. If anyone wants to design a Loto as well, by all means be my guest. As for the next character, it’ll be “the one I’m waiting for.”

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