Dragon Quest Monsters’ producer on lore, legacy, and legions of beasts

In our Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview, we talk to Kento Yokota about the legacy of the series, designing monsters, and more.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview - a photograph of producer Kento Yokota standing at a Dragon Quest booth at an event

Dragon Quest is a truly iconic name in the world of RPGs. For me, at least, it invokes a real sense of childlike wonder, inviting you into a wonderful world full of charismatic characters, fearsome foes, and awe-inspiring adventures that I just can’t get enough of.

Square Enix’s recent release, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is no different, seeing you journey into a fantastical world on a quest for revenge, through which you must wrangle monsters and create an army fit for a cataclysmic battle. In celebration of this new entry into the iconic series, we got the opportunity to talk to producer Kento Yokota in this Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview.

The Dragon Quest Monsters series has quite the legacy behind it, with the first game coming out 25 years ago. That’s a quarter of a century, and quite a lot for The Dark Prince to live up to. As Yokota explains, “the previous game in the series before The Dark Prince was Joker 3, which concluded the Joker sub-series.

“Moving on from that milestone, for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince we wanted to make sure that we lost none of the essence that makes the Monsters series what it is, but at the same time re-work the majority of the core gameplay systems to refresh the series and make it even more fun to play.”

Speaking of gameplay, we asked about the team’s approach to the new game, and whether they strived to make any major changes or stick to the original formula, to which Yokota says “the basic gameplay cycle remains unchanged from the series so far, and the battle system is also essentially the same.”

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But don’t worry, The Dark Prince does have some notable changes to keep things fresh. Yokota explains, “there are numerous small tweaks and improvements relating to battles, such as the individual monsters’ capabilities and the all-new ‘burst’ mechanic. One other completely new feature is the concept of changing seasons in the game world. The synthesis system that is the major source of enjoyment in the Dragon Quest: Monsters series has also been reworked to include elements from the classic Game Boy titles Dragon Quest Monsters 1 and 2.”

While maintaining a cohesive world across the board, most Dragon Quest games always strive to be standalone experiences that you can play in any order, and The Dark Prince is no different. However, as the Dark Prince sees the return of Psaro from Dragon Quest IV, we were curious whether Yokota recommends playing the fourth mainline game first for any additional context.

In response, Yokato states “the game does indeed star Psaro […] but it was designed so that you do not have to have played any other Dragon Quest game (including Dragon Quest IV) before in order to fully enjoy the story or the gameplay.” However, he also states that “if you enjoy Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince and take an interest in Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen because of that, then by all means try it out and I’m sure you’ll make some fascinating new discoveries.”

Speaking of Psaro, we’re excited to see him back in action. He’s definitely a memorable guy, and has become quite the fan favorite over time. But, in The Dark Prince, he’s quite different from the man we remember from Dragon Quest IV, and appears to be younger. As such, we were curious as to whether the narrative of The Dark Prince serves as a canonical origin story for Psaro, or whether it takes place in an alternate timeline.

Yokota highlights that the team have “deliberately not specified whether The Dark Prince is a true, canonical part of the Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen timeline or if it is a story from a completely parallel timeline” as they “want to value the player’s own interpretations of the events”, which is actually a pretty cool approach, if you ask us.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview - Psaro standing in a cabin as Monty says 'I just know you'll be a natural, lad. After all, it's in your blood!'

Regarding Psaro’s appearance, Yokota acknowledges the differences from what we remember of him, but clarifies that “this is not due to differences in the timeline and rather represents the gameplay of the Dragon Quest Monsters series and how he is presented as a character within the story.”

He goes on to explain that “we closely discussed the setting and conceits for how Psaro should appear in the game with Mr Horii Yuji, the original creator of Dragon Quest, before passing on all that information to Mr Torioyama Akira for him to work up the new design.”

On the topic of designs, the Dragon Quest series features a lengthy bestiary of over 1,000 different monster types, and there are over 500 monster designs in the Dark Prince alone. We were curious about the process of designing new monsters, and how the team goes about ensuring each one stands out while also fitting with the world’s overall aesthetic.

Yokota informed us that “when we create a new [monster], we adjust and refine the design many times to make sure that it fits in when lined up with the existing beasties.” And, for fans of the legendary Akira Toriyama (known not only for his work on the Dragon Quest series, but also as the creator of Dragon Ball and many other notable projects), Yokota confirmed that “we still ask Mr Toriyama to do the main character and various other designs for each game.”

While the Dragon Quest series has called Nintendo its home since the very beginning, this is the first Monsters game on Nintendo Switch. However, we did get the brilliant Dragon Quest Treasures in late 2022 (check out our Dragon Quest Treasures review if you haven’t played this one yet), which boasts similar designs and gameplay to the Monsters series.

As such, we were curious whether the team working on The Dark Prince learned anything from the release of Dragon Quest Treasures, and how they went about adapting the game to suit the Switch. Yokota explains that, “as the platform the previous games appeared on was the Nintendo 3DS, with its double screen system, we had to rework the whole screen layout. The Nintendo Switch does allow you to have touch controls, but we had to test and refine in both TV mode and portable mode to ensure that the visual presentation and the feel of the controls did not change between the two.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview - a screenshot of gameplay showing a battle with two Dragonthorns and a Vegandragora

“In that sense, learning from the development of Dragon Quest Treasures […] was a very useful reference for Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince, too. We constantly checked and compared the two games while working on them to ensure that the gameplay did not feel too similar.”

Now that Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince has hit the shelves (both virtually and physically), and to very high praise at that, we can’t help but wonder what’s next for the series. Unfortunately, Yokota states “I am not able to share any updates about the future of the Dragon Quest series overall today” and “nothing has been finalized yet in terms of future plans for The Dark Prince”.

But don’t worry, Dragon Quest fans, as he has big hopes for what’s on the horizon, stating “I do have a wish to see the series played and enjoyed by more fans outside of Japan, in the same way that it has always had a large following here.” And we couldn’t agree more, to be honest – personally, I’ve been playing Dragon Quest games for over 20 years, and I look forward to seeing it continue to bring its unique, playful sense of adventure to audiences all over the world.

Finally, on a more personal note, we know that Yokota has been a fan of Dragon Quest since before he joined the company, and that he worked on Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below before. As such, we wanted to know how he felt working on a new game in the Monsters series.

He replies “whether it’s Dragon Quest Monsters or another type of game, I always enjoy working on a new entry to the series and bringing it to the fans”, highlighting that it makes him “incredibly happy” and that he “wants to continue making games that even more people will play in the future”.

Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview - character art for the monster OVerkilling Machine in front of a grey scale collage of monsters

Oh, and, of course, we had to ask him whether he has a favorite game and monster from the series – to which he replied that his personal favorite Dragon Quest title is Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, and his favorite monster is the Overkilling Machine. We can see why, it’s a pretty cool monster – I mean, a mace, a sword, and a bow and arrow? All at once? Come on, that’s badass.

And that’s all we had time for in our Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince interview. We’d like to extend a big thank you to Kento Yokota for his time and thoughtful responses. If you fancy trying the game for yourself, Dragon Quest Monsters: The Dark Prince is available now on Nintendo Switch. Or, if you’ve already tamed all those beasts, be sure to check out our list of the best Switch RPGs, the best Switch adventure games, and the best games like Monster Hunter.