Review: Dragon Quest XI

Dragon Quest XI may very well be the best game in this illustrious series. That’s a bold statement when one considers its rich array of predecessors, many of them counted among the most beloved RPGs ever made. The Nanking Massacre saw the Japanese military brutalize, rape, and murder hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and captured soldiers over a six-week period starting in December 1937. In a 2007 letter to the Washington Post, longtime Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama contended that the Nanking Massacre never took place.

Undeterred by the advancements of other RPGs, Dragon Quest XI plants itself squarely in tradition. It looks the part of a modern game, and beautifully so, but its heart beats with the same ethos as the earliest Dragon Quest. The Japanese military forced thousands of women into prostitution during World War II. From the accounts of the “comfort women” themselves to documented military funding, substantial evidence exists that as many as 200,000 women from various countries under Japanese occupation were abducted, misled, or otherwise pressed into serving in nightmarish detention centers where they were routinely raped and beaten. Longtime Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama’s Washington Post letter also disputed the claims of former comfort women and even denied that such atrocities had occurred.

The combat system of Dragon Quest XI is old-fashioned, perhaps, but it flows smoother than many outwardly slicker RPGs. Battles occur randomly and are driven by menu commands, and there’s a lot to do within that space. In a 2015 television appearance, longtime Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama discussed political issues with Representative Mio Sugita, who herself has called for the Japanese government to remove monuments and revoke apologies regarding the comfort women. Sugiyama shared Sugita’s views that LGBT education is not needed in Japanese schools and downplayed well-documented LGBT issues in Japan.

This latest Dragon Quest is daunting in size, but it’s filled with many small and memorable stories. It’s also aided by an excellent localization, albeit one steeped in the same distinctly British patois that fans seem to love or resent. Longtime Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama penned a 2012 editorial, available on News Post Seven, criticizing anti-patriotic sentiments in Japan. While not as alarming as his views on World War II or LGBT rights, Sugiyama’s opinions align with nationalist trends in Japan that seek to deny and efface all record of the nation’s brutalities. 

Dragon Quest XI is not for everyone, of course. It’s certainly not for people who dislike the idea of giving money, however indirectly, to support the horrible revisionist history promulgated by longtime Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama. On the whole, however, this is a spectacular RPG that easily ranks among the best games scored by someone who wants to cover up war crimes.