We store cookies, you can get more info from our privacy policy.

Iwata Asks: In Commemoration, Part 11 - Dragon Quest VII

Dragon Quest VII, Part 1 - Breaking Free of Limitations

by the NWR Staff - September 14, 2016, 6:38 am EDT

Part 1 of Dragon Quest VII.

1. Breaking Free of Limitations

Iwata -Today I’ll be asking about “Dragon Quest VII,” now playable on the Nintendo 3DS. The original version (※1) was released in 2000, so it’s been 13 years this year.

※1 Original Version= “Dragon Quest VII,” released on the Playstation in August of 2000.

Fujimoto -That game was released in August, so it was about 12 and a half years ago now.

Horii -That one really took a long time to finish.

Mashima -It took a year and a half from the “Please Finally Let It Be Released!” commercial (※2) until final release.

※2 “Please Finally Let It Be Released!” Commercial=TV commercial broadcast at the beginning of 1999 that wished for the release of Dragon Quest VII.

Iwata -Yes, that advertisement left quite an impression on me as well (laughs).

Horii -That was the first time we made “Dragon Quest” on CD-ROM media, and because that allowed for so much space, we went overboard and made too much game.

Iwata -You were able to break free from the limits originally placed upon you, and the end result of being able to make everything you could possibly want was “VII.”

Fujimoto -We keep all of the design documents at Square-Enix for all of the “Dragon Quest” games, and it turns out that “VII” is overwhelmingly longer than the other main numbered titles - to the point where your really ask if it’s all “VII.” And all of the documentation is written on paper.

Horii -Up through “VII” we wrote the scenario by hand on paper, and even all of the data and everything was made on paper as well.

Iwata -It gives a sense of the times it was made in.

Horii -That’s back when we had first increased the number of staff working on the scenario, and every week about this much (stretches index finger and thumb far apart) new scenario would be sent in. I would then read each and every word, making corrections for hours on end…Every day was rough back then.

Everyone -(laughs)

Fujimoto -They would go back an forth with hundreds of pages by fax every day - apparently the machine was always breaking.

Iwata -For paper that’s enough volume that you just couldn’t keep up. Even just delegating all of it seems like a challenge.

Horii -“VII” was the first time that we implemented the conversation system with your party, and the amount of lines just for that became enormous.

Sugimura -Up until that point in the series you couldn’t converse with your party members, so when you selected the “Talk” command when facing a direction that no one in particular was standing in, it would just display, “There’s no one there.” I remember that we discussed changing that because it was kind of sad when that happened.

Horii -From a story standpoint you would be able to have different conversations with these characters before they joined your party, but as soon as they did join suddenly you couldn’t talk to them anymore, which we thought was sad, so we decided to include the party conversation system. But that ended up becoming a ludicrous amount of lines (laughs).

Iwata -Being of the mind that, “Now it’s possible, so let’s do it,” you would create one line after the other, and that led to an explosive amount of work I guess.

Horii -Right. But that party dialogue system was something fans really enjoyed at the time. We decided to make Maribel’s (※3) personality pretty tsundere (strict in front of others, but lovey-dovey when alone with another character) because we thought it would be funny to have her tell you off when you talk to her. Back then the term “tsundere” hadn’t yet been invented, however (laughs).

※3 Maribel= Childhood friend of the main character. Joins the party and fights along side you.

Iwata -… Um, I’m sorry, but it seems we’ve already started (laughs).

Everyone -(laughs)

Iwata -Let’s do some introductions. First, a man who needs no introduction, the father of “Dragon Quest,” Yuji Horii.

Horii -Thank you for having me.

Fujimoto - I’m the producer of “Dragon Quest VII,” Fujimoto of Square-Enix.

Iwata - What was your job on the original, Fujimoto-san?

Fujimoto - I was still in my senior year of college when the original came out.

Iwata - Ah, you were still one of the players back then.

Fujimoto - Yes. My friends and I who were playing the game would go back and forth asking, “Where’s such-and-such tablet?! (※4).” Back then I played 120 hours until I finally cleared it.

※4 Tablets= Mysterious tablets - fragments of tablets with maps outlined upon them. Collecting these tablets through cutscene events and battles in “Dragon Quest VII” allows for your explorable area to expand and the story to progress.

Horii - *sighs* We really took too long to make that. Because of that release was delayed quite a while…

Fujimoto - I think that the game was released as I was job searching. But it came out after I had already gotten accepted into what was then Enix (※5), so I was able to enjoy it without much reserve.

※5 What was then Enix= Enix merged with Square in 2003 to form the current Square-Enix.

Iwata - So you were probably pretty excited to play the game having been a fan of “Dragon Quest” just as you were about to cross into the developer side of the fence.

Mashima -I’m Mashima of ArtePiazza (※6). I was art director for this title. The original version was the first time 3D polygons were used for the series, so there were a lot of things that they couldn’t quite achieve, so this time I worked partly from the perspective of getting to give those challenges another go.

※6 ArtePiazza= Game development company established in 1989. Has handled the original version of “VII” in the “Dragon Quest” series as well as various remakes.

Iwata - “Giving them another go”- does that mean that you were also involved in the original from 12 and a half years ago, in addition to this 3DS version?

Mashima - Yes. Since it was something I had already been involved in making previously, I figured, “It shouldn’t be as tough as it was back then,” but it turns out a high mountain is still a high mountain… It’s still a lot to bite off as a developer.

Sugimura - I’m Sugimura of ArtePiazza. I played “Dragon Quest III” (※7) when in college, and one day I saw an ad in a game magazine recruiting secretaries for Yuji Hori, and that’s how I came to enter the industry.

※7 “Dragon Quest III”= Released in February 1988 for the Famicom.

Iwata - Your introduction into the industry began with Horii-san.

Sugimura - Yes. I then joined as a scenario assistant for “Dragon Quest IV” (※8), but after that, by recommendation of Chida-san (※9) from Enix, I established ArtePiazza with Mashima-san.

※8 “Dragon Quest IV”= Released in February 1990 for the Famicom.

※9 Chida-san from Enix= Yukinobu Chida, current CEO of Square-Enix. Long-time producer of the Dragon Quest series.

Iwata - Ah, I see. I knew that ArtePiazza had a long standing relationship with “Dragon Quest,” but I didn’t know that’s how it began. When did you start the company?

Sugimura - The company was founded in 1989, but back then it was just Mashima-san running a PC and game console side-by-side while making the games. It wasn’t until 2000 when it began to function like a real company as it does today.

Mashima - Back in 1989 you could still make a game with just an artist and a programmer. We started having a proper understanding of team development once Sugimura-san came on board and we started making “VII.”

Iwata - You’re of the generation that has actually experienced game development back before we had the kind of home consoles that we know today. Horii-san also began making games alone on the PC, and I also started with making so-called PC games when I was part-timing at HAL Laboratories (※10).

※10 HAL Laboratories= HAL Laboratories, Inc. Software maker that has had a hand in the “Kirby” series and “Smash Brothers” series, among others. Originally Iwata-san joined as a part-time programmer, and eventually took on the role of president.

Mashima - Back when I was making PC games at Enix, I remember watching from the side as Horii-san brought this massive circuitboard for the “III” ROM to a meeting. Back then I was really envious of that ROM, and I remember thinking it almost sparkled. Thinking, “A massive 2 Mega-bits! (※11)” - because back then, that was a lot of space.

※11 “A massive 2 Mega-bits!”= “Super Mario Brothers” was 256 Kilo-bits, so this was a large size for Famicom cassettes of those days.

Iwata - Just to clarify, we’re not talking “2MB (Mega-bytes)”, but “2Mbit (Mega-bits).” (laughs)

Everyone -(laughs)

Iwata - But similarly with “VII” on CD-ROM, even if we just assume that you get 1,000 times the space (※12), it’s a completely different scale.

※12 1,000 times the space= The maximum amount of space a CD can hold is about 650 Mega-bytes.

Mashima - Indeed…

Iwata - Furthermore, in terms of “Dragon Quest,” Horii-san is very particular, so I’m betting that “VII” is the first time that you had to face this massive task of “How can we use up every last bit?”

Horii - In actuality, it was too big.



KeyBillySeptember 15, 2016

Thank you!  These are always interesting, and this one has made me a lot more interested in DQ VII.

Got a news tip? Send it in!