Dragon Quest is quite a famous series in the RPG world. Final Fantasy, often considered the ‘daddy’ of the RPG genre, was actually conceived as a rival to Dragon Quest, and yet despite this, in the west the series remains largely unknown and not a massive seller. In the US the series has received a limited release, and in Europe (which remember didn’t even see Final Fantasy until the seventh iteration) only a few Dragon Quest games have been released – all of them in recent years.
Square-Enix has decided this is one franchise they want to push overseas now in an attempt to emulate its massive success in its homeland. How? Well, it’s Square-Enix, so there’s only one answer – remaking and rereleasing older titles in the series.
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is exactly what the name suggests – a remastered, reimagined, retranslated version of the NES Dragon Quest IV for Nintendo DS. As you’d expect, the game has been touched up in all the areas that matter for the Nintendo DS, boasting updated graphics, music and game mechanics, so even those few in the West who have played the game before have some surprises in store.
[image="dq4_battle01.jpg" game="109" nomark]Standard affair battling.[/image]
For your average RPG fan who’d be reading this site, many of the game mechanics are exactly as you would expect – levelling up, exploration, and lots of grinding against Toriyama-designed monsters in standard issue RPG encounters. The gameplay is admittedly simplistic and definitely a product of its time - even more so than Final Fantasy IV DS, released just one week earlier. However, Dragon Quest has arguably always been a series with more simplistic game mechanics than Final Fantasy and as such Dragon Quest IV is actually the perfect bedfellow for Final Fantasy IV DS if an RPG fan is looking for a ‘balanced diet’ of what the JRPG genre has to offer.
Indeed, while Final Fantasy IV had a wonderfully interesting and dramatic plot, storyline is actually where this particular title shines. The narrative of the game is presented in an interesting fashion that I actually wish more games would emulate. As the title suggests, the game is divided in chapters – six of them – and each chapter sees you taking control of different groups of heroes each with their own interesting motivations and baggage.
Whereas most RPGs tend to focus on one character and their group of followers, the decision to base this title around chapters allows the scenario writers to flesh out the world of Dragon Quest IV more than the worlds of many RPGs; across the course of the game you will view it from several viewpoints – a seasoned knight, a princess, a merchant, and two grieving sisters. The fifth character – you – will serve to bring the others together as the game hurtles towards its exciting finale.
[image="dq4_event.jpg" game="109" nomark]Beautiful environments..[/image]
From a technical standpoint, the game is equally as impressive as Square-Enix’s other DS titles – very. The development teams over at Square-Enix - even the ones who aren’t in house – seem to have become masters of squeezing every last drop of performance from the DS, stretching it to display beautiful CG environments with vibrant colours and arguably impressive textures for the handheld.
ArtePiazza have taken this one step further than the previous DS efforts from Square have, displaying the 3D environments across both of the console’s screens and allowing every location in the game to be rotated with the L and R, often revealing hidden goodies in the most unlikely of places. The sound design is as impressive as ever, and while still noticeably midi-based, the DQ4 music is clearly based on some of the most impressive synthesisers possible on the DS.
Last but certainly not least is the localization on this title. Square-Enix have some of the finest localization teams in the business, and of lately have been paying particularly large amounts of attention and care in ensuring the stories of games are accurately portrayed in the West. It’s not much to say that the localization of this game is much better than the heavily-censored original NES translation, but it is worth mentioning that this localization is as impressive as all of the recent efforts by Square-Enix, and is truly a treat for Western gamers, especially those Dragon Quest fans who were stuck with the terrible original translation.
[image="dq4_menu.jpg" game="109" nomark]The usual RPG menu lore..[/image]
The problem with this game, then, is the gameplay. It sounds like an incredibly strange thing to say, but this game is near perfect in every aspect – yet another masterful remake from Square-Enix, and one that certainly warrants the price tag it carries – even with the mystical ‘Square Tax’ added. In spite of all this, the gameplay of Dragon Quest IV has remained largely unchanged, and by comparison to modern RPGs and games in general, shows its age.
It's still a lengthy game, and will provide hours of joy - but there is little to inspire replays. Even added Wireless features cannot hide the fact that this is an old, old game - just made prettier.
More simple but also more beautiful than Final Fantasy IV DS, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is a welcome addition to the catalogue of DS RPGs, and a must-own for fans of Square-Enix or classic JRPGs in general.