Blimey - what a mouthful. I guess we don't expect brevity in titles from the guys behind Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, but this is getting a little bit ridiculous. Still, at least the name is descriptive: Square-Enix's new Wii game is a member of the Dragon Quest family, Swords are involved and there is - not wishing to give the game away - a masked queen in a Tower of Mirrors at some point in the game. The key word in all this is Swords. Anyone wanting an epic RPG on the lines of Dragon Quest VIII should look elsewhere. This game looks, sounds and even has some of the atmosphere of that fine PS2 adventure, but it plays very differently indeed.
In fact, I'd say the closest reference point is probably Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles. Like Capcom's survival horror gun game, it's an offshoot of the main series retooled and conceived specifically for the Wii. It has some of the features you'd expect from a regular Japanese RPG, like a plot, quests, monsters, treasure and a town in which you can buy new weapons and armour, but the real gameplay is more akin to an on-rails gun-game than a proper free-roaming RPG. At first, this may come as a shock. After a brief tutorial section that covers the basics of swordplay (more of this later) you're free to roam the town, using the D-pad at the top of the Wii remote to walk forwards and backwards or rotate your view left and right. You can use the onscreen pointer to select and talk to the members of the game's small cast, buy the few items of equipment you can afford and then get ready for your first exploration of the world outside the town gates.
The graphics are a reworking of the same lovely cel-shaded cartoon visuals we saw in Dragon Quest VIII - though a few new water and surface lighting effects make them arguably even more appealing - and the incidental music even quotes directly from that game. Even the dialogue - another cracking translation with warm English voices and some wonderful touches of self-aware humour - will be familiar to Dragon Quest VIII fans.
Once outside the gates, however, everything changes. One of the great pleasures of Dragon Quest VIII was having this huge cartoon fantasy kingdom to explore, knowing you could roam almost anywhere the eye could see, In Dragon Quest Swords (we'll leave the rest out from now on to save my fingers) the town effectively acts as a hub from which you can enter one of several mission areas. Within these areas, your movement is limited; you can walk forwards and backwards and look a little to either side, but basically you're glued to a path. And as in any old-school gun game, the purpose of that path is to put you in the way of monsters.