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Japan's Dragon Quest fever

Day 3: Square Enix HQ

Belly fattened with pretend Slime and meat clubs, we just about managed to heave into a taxi to go and meet the masterminds behind Dragon Quest IX: creator Yuji Horii, composer Koichi Sugiyama and IX’s producer Ryutaro Ichimura. Square Enix’s Tokyo HQ is – as seems to be a theme on this trip – surreal. A dour looking office building, its location next door to the Tokyo School of Fashion, results in a constant parade of outrageously dressed Japanese teens marching past the premises. Ever wondered where those crazier character costumes originate from? Try looking out the window.


Above: That's Ichimura, Horii and Sugiyama from left to right, with a liquid metal Slime between them

We meet the team at the end of a long day of interviews. Above their smiles they have a look in their eyes that says “ask me one more question about Dragon Quest IX and see what I do with this replica Slime Stack.” So we don’t. Instead we chat informally about music, fairies and, bizarrely, beef with Yorkshire puddings – hey, Sugiyama is a big fan. Here’s our top ten insights…

1) Horii doesn’t believe in instruction manuals. Tear off the wrapping and get experimenting, he tells us.

2) Sugiyama thinks nothing says Dragon Quest like a Slime. “If you see a Slime, you’re in Dragon Quest,” says he.

3) Horii’s Wi-Fi co-op inspiration? Animal Crossing: Wild World. There’s a hint of the Nook in IX’s Bad Badgers.


Above: Horii drawing a Slime on a copy of DQII

4) Ichimura says working on the DS after the PS2 was like reverting to the “old days”. Still managed to squeeze out every drop of power, mind.

5) Why the irritating girl fairy, Sandy? Horii fancied creating a female character after writing an old man into Dragon Quest VIII.

6) Horii says he uses regional dialects as shorthand for certain character traits – the moment they talk you already have a feel for them.

7) Combat originally involved real-time button bashing, but Horii felt this prevented people from thinking as a true team.


Above: Sugiyama puts down his John Hancock-san

8) Sugiyama says his hardest job is composing a battle theme that doesn’t grate after one thousand repeats.

9) As a young man, Ichimura would queue up on Dragon Quest release day. Now that he’s played the game before launch, he misses the excitement of anticipation.

10) Horii sometimes sneaks down to Akihabara undercover to link up with the fans’ games.

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16 comments

  • protospasm - August 4, 2010 6:45 a.m.

    Isn't the Spaghetti Carbonara a tribute to the Bunicorn thingies? ... *resumes drooling over Slime-Curry Nikuman.*
  • philipshaw - August 3, 2010 12:07 p.m.

    Trying to get a trip to Japan for next year, so if I get I will make sure to visit some of these places in the feature
  • admjwt - August 1, 2010 5:23 p.m.

    i rly want to goto japan now. hopefully next time they release a dq game ill get go there. dammit japa. you get all the good stuff
  • EnragedTortoise1 - August 1, 2010 4:26 p.m.

    Dayum. I want to go there, if only to get a plush Slime Stack... and the T-shirts. Awesome. "Th-the slimes, they're..."
  • Clovin64 - August 1, 2010 11:39 a.m.

    I would have been too terrified to eat anything in that DQ themed restaurant. That Cyclops club meat lump looked very nasty (made from real Cyclops?).
  • ChrisAntistaTastesLikePizza - August 1, 2010 6:18 a.m.

    A long time ago I played some random game boy game on my cousins game boy colour. I remember having a ton of fun beating up strange creatures and adventuring. Many years later I saw something I recognised... a slime! I remebered it from playing on my cousins gameboy when i was little. When I played my first dragon quest game I didn't even know what it was. Love the series now that I know what it is. Slimes will always have a special place in my heart.
  • Robusken - August 1, 2010 4:15 a.m.

    Ds being as common as a phone? Id want to live in a world like that. Looks like you guys had a ton of fun. Starting to think if Pikachu would beat this all mighty Slime in a popularity contest.
  • idlemindkiller - July 31, 2010 11:15 p.m.

    Great read. ive got like 15 hours into DQIX and love it. just bought my daughter a copy so we can play together. one of my strongest childhood memories is my dad waking my brother and i up in the middle of the night because he was at the dragonlord in dragon warrior. Some epic shit for a four year old.
  • vorpalbunnie - July 31, 2010 11 p.m.

    this article is so true! akihabara has been dominated by giant corporate brands, slowly eating up the small stores i know and love! great article! Japan: One of the few places where 9/10 men over 40 own and use DS's daily. reCAPTCHA: of Fedor
  • JPorFavor - July 31, 2010 8:35 p.m.

    What an amazing romp.
  • Ultimadrago - July 31, 2010 8:03 p.m.

    I have all gold armor, completion and no one to tag with.
  • ericeraqus - July 31, 2010 8:03 p.m.

    the slime stack reminds me of dango...
  • Hurricrane - July 31, 2010 7:49 p.m.

    ...That is absolutlely insane
  • Cyberninja - July 31, 2010 5:19 p.m.

    wish i could visit and i am not surprised they are still playing 9 its a really good game.
  • AnonymouZ - July 31, 2010 5:15 p.m.

    Well, this was a good read. Tho i only lol'd hard at the floyd reference and nodded in agreement at the elbows and noodles statement.
  • db1331 - July 31, 2010 5 p.m.

    Great feature. I promised my wife I wouldn't buy DQ IX so she could get it for me for our anniversary next month. The wait has been killing me, and this just made it that much more unbearable. Also, that mug is sweet.

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