In Japan, there are two elder statesmen of the RPG world: Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Both were forged on the NES/Famicom and both continue to be insanely popular in their home country, but Dragon Quest has never come close to achieving the international success of its rival. Numerous attempts have been made to spark American interest in the very traditional JRPG series, with little success. And now the venerable franchise is trying again, with the re-release of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen.
Though it had an underwhelming US release on the NES (as Dragon Warrior IV) back before most of our readers were crapping their diapers, this DS remake will be brand new to all but the most hardcore western DQ fans. Its story is pretty standard: an ancient evil awakens, and the chosen one must stop him. But at least the devs put a spin on the way it’s told, as the early parts of the game are devoted to introducing the supporting cast, all of whom are more interesting than the boring old hero you’ll play as for the rest of the game.
The gameplay’s just as conventional as the storyline, and the battles play out exactly the same way they did in the very first Dragon Quest: attack the monster, get attacked, and then the turn begins again. It might sound dull, but it’s still as uniquely satisfying now as it was back in the ‘80s.
One word that has always described Dragon Quest is “conservative.” That’s not a negative for DQ, either, particularly when the series has refined its formula to such a dependable level of excellence. And while the graphics won’t dazzle you like other DS RPG remakes numbered IV, the quality of the enemy animations and the rich, subtle detail in the environments - particularly in the towns – are easy to appreciate.
Another interesting detail is in the people you’ll meet over the course of the game. Many of them speak with heavy accents that are actually written into their dialogue text. It gets a little weird, reading ridiculous French pronunciations spoken in what’s supposed to be a fantasy world, but it gives the game even more charm.
Dragon Quest IV’s rigid traditionalism might deter some players from trying the series, which is a real shame. As a remake of a game played by too few outside of Japan, it’s a great starting point for those new to the franchise, and older fans can relive their memories with greatly improved graphics and translation. If you like your RPGs old school, yet approachable in their difficulty, you can’t do much better than this.
Sep 12, 2008