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- Game: Dragon Quest IV: Chapter of the Chosen
- Reviewed Platform: Nintendo DS
- ESRB: E10+
- Developer: Square-Enix
- Publisher: Square-Enix
- Gameplay: A-
- Sound: B
- Replay Value: B
- Overall: A-
DRAGON QUEST IV (DS)
Classic Slime-fighting returns in a gorgeous remake of an oldie.
By Nadia Oxford
January 22, 2009
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Think back to the Time of Long-Ago. You had a Nintendo Entertainment System, right? It was a well-used machine that endured many years in your parents' chilled suburban basement. The door on the front end of the system couldn't close properly because you'd punched it after being knocked back into a pit by a pigeon in Ninja Gaiden.
Maybe you had a game called Dragon Warrior IV. The graphics were simple, but the story and the depth of the gameplay were ambitious. Characters were drawn together after acting out their pieces in separate chapters, eventually called together to take down an earth-shattering evil.
Maybe you traded this rare RPG adventure for a handful of pogs and regret it on stormy nights when you're kept awake with your thoughts.
Fear not. Square-Enix is giving you a chance to own and re-experience one of history's most beloved RPGs on the Nintendo DS. Dragon Quest IV is a significant upgrade from Dragon Warrior IV: for starters, the entire Dragon Warrior series reverted back to its original Japanese name, Dragon Quest, when Square-Enix wrestled the naming rights away from now-defunct TSR and got serious about reviving the franchise in the US.
Dragon Quest is a series that commands tremendous respect in Japan for reasons that are apparent through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. The gameplay might initially seem a little dated to some: these days, it takes a lot of chutzpah to ask RPG fans to put up with random encounters and basic turn-based battles. And Dragon Quest IV is not apologetic about its roots. In fact, it demands you revel in them. The game's random battles are not sparse, nor are they forgiving.
But the battles move very quickly, provided you select the quickest battle speed in the options menu (do it), and they look and move gorgeously. Long-time Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior fans will already be familiar with Dragon Quest IV's roster of enemies (designed by famous manga artist Akira Toriyama), and seeing them move is delightful. They don't just throw a punch or wave their hands to throw a fireball: they dance, they twist, they spit water and fire. In the case of the famous Dragon Quest mascot, the Slime, they fling themselves at the player. Hey, you do what you can when you have no arms or legs.
The game's towns and caves are well-rendered, though the 3D takes on old structures makes it easy to miss doors and entrances. Fortunately, most of these areas can be turned around using the L and R buttons, giving you a full 360-degree view whenever it's needed. It's a satisfactory compromise that avoids frustrating the player, but still manages to preserve the charm of the original towns, dungeons and towers. The music is nicely composed, but tends to be repetitive. Overworld tunes reset after each random encounter, so you'll be hearing a lot of song beginnings but not nearly as many endings.
Character backgrounds and stories in the Dragon Quest series always tend to be a bit on the light side. There's a story in Dragon Quest IV that's worth following (though you might have a rough time getting around the characters' dialect), but the game is not as plot-driven as the Final Fantasy series. Ultimately, it's about good heroes fighting bad people. There isn't much grey in between.
Dragon Quest IV is well-aware of what it offers: a modern twist on an old-school RPG adventure that deserves to be experienced—or re-experienced, as the case may be. You might not digest it well if you were reared on more modern RPGs, but if you want to get a taste of the games your forebears loved, you could do far, far worse.