Break out the Icy/Hot, kids - you'll never make it through Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors without loose joints. The game dispenses with the turn-based RPG combat and sprawling world map of other Dragon Quest games in favor of an on-rails, first person hack and slash adventure perfectly tailored to the Wii. A few things are thrown in for fans of the series - familiar music, typical character stereotypes, Akira Toriyama character designs - but for the most part, Dragon Quest Swords has gone in a new direction that almost works out.
Above: Trust us, this is harder than it looks
Everything in this game is done with the Wii Remote, but the only thing worth a damn is the sword swinging. We can hear some of you groaning as you picture jiggling your arm around like a monkey having a seizure, but fear not - this is the only game we've ever seen to have an arm swing produce a realistic sword swing. If you want to make a horizontal slash, you've got to move the remote in a horizontal smooth horizontal line; if you want to thrust at an enemy, you've actually got to thrust.
Scoring hits fills up a power gauge that your can use at full to perform a Master Stroke - which is the same as a normal stroke, but there's an interactive cutscene where you have to complete a series of Remote swings in the right order to score a big hit on your target. This slick mechanic, combined with the first person perspective, makes combat more strategic (and more demanding), than any other Wii Remote-dependent game out there.
Too bad the rest of the game isn't as fresh. The plot is like half a hundred others we've heard of: son of a hero out to save his kingdom from some nefarious fiend. However, in Dragon Quest Swords, it's worth mentioning that you hardly see this fiend and the worst thing we saw said fiend do to anybody was turn them into a fish.
Main quest aside, there are a few minigames you can play with friends - such as the Slime Attack, in which you've got to kill a bunch of Slimes in a certain amount of time and an assortment of target-practice games. There's the single-player Tambola chance game, which has you frantically spinning a wheel to win prizes. And lastly, there's a weird cat creature that gives you cool stuff if you find mini medals for him. All in all, par for the RPG course.
Above: Imagine this line in a really annoying French accent
Unfortunately, none of these things are very interesting, and that, ultimately, is where Dragon Quest Swords tanks: there's just not much to do. The story is dull, the game is short, the voiceovers are horrible and - thanks to the on-rails mechanic - there's nothing to explore. The gameplay is there, but with a total lack of depth, most gamers will get bored in about two hours (if they haven't succumbed to carpal tunnel by then). We salute Square Enix for trying something different and for finally getting the Wii Remote/sword swing marriage to work, but their innovations in Dragon Quest Swords wind up cutting both ways.
Feb 19, 2008