Thursday, 2 April 2009

Review - Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

  • Game: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
  • Format: DS
  • Other Formats: N/A
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • Genre: JRPG
The first thoughts that you might have when you hear the letters ‘RPG’ may be that of semi-epic storylines interwoven with poor voice acting and random battles. After those letters, the word ‘retro’ and no doubt the word ‘grinding’ might also come to mind. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen doesn’t break the grinding trend but it does thankfully reduce the need for it. DQIV a remake of the formerly unreleased in Europe NES (and later PS1) game for the DS, with what seems to be a trend in RPG remakes, a few extras on top.

The first thing that you’ll notice is that the graphics haven’t been updated from their PS1 days, arguably for the better. The graphical updates in other Square-Enix remakes Final Fantasy 3 and 4 whilst slightly compelling aren’t particularly pretty. DQIV chooses to keep 90% of its artwork as sprites; buildings and certain objects are presented polygonally. Enemy battle animations are basic but pleasing and what polygonal use there is in the game fits in with scenarios perfectly. The bottom screen is used for in-game action whereas the top screen is used for the world map as well as extending your field of vision when inside dungeons – very useful for avoiding dead ends. The game’s aural qualities remain rather basic yet functional with a pleasant and at times catchy score enticing you, and it almost demands to be hummed along to. I was also relieved to find there was no awful voice acting…

As with all Dragon Quest games, the script is top notch. Characters are given regional accents - via the, at times, genuinely funny script - as well as certain characters talking in awful English, not to mention the one or two references from popular culture thrown into the mix as well. Sexism, prostitution and blatant xenophobia have rarely been so smirk-inducing in a game and Square-Enix have done well for themselves to translate the dialogue so well. The main plot is a traditionally cliched ‘save the world or everyone dies’ affair but it’s perfectly adequate to allow progression.

Now we can see twice as far... but only in one direction, I'm afraid.

However, DQIV really shines in its flexibility. Whilst the first dozen hours involve separate storylines from different characters being played out as a semi-prologue, once each of the player’s party consists of everyone from each chapter there is a sense of freedom felt that isn’t in RPGs of a similar age. The entire party consists of two smaller parties; a main and secondary one. The main one consists of your chosen characters that you wish to fight in battles as standard, whilst your secondary party consists of your remaining characters should your primary party be eliminated in battle. Party customisation allows the player to select a group full of tanks or full of mages if they wish rather than the restricted one tank, one healer, one all-rounder, etc. of games of a similar age. Battles are of course random with minimal grinding needed to progress through the game should the player feel the need.

DS exclusives are few and don’t give the player a need to utilise them. Aside from the fantastic extra field of vision in dungeons and rearrangement of menus the central feature seems to be a pioneering system where the player sends out custom NPCs (which is admittedly a little fun when creating them) and linking up via local multiplayer to exchange characters to populate a town. It’s not very compulsive but it would probably be a bit of fun with numerous DQIV owning friends.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is a wonderful and charming game that rarely shows signs of its age. Whether you’re interested in RPGs or not and you’re looking to find an entertaining time-waster then you could do a lot worse than playing Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen.


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