Monday, April 11, 2011

RPG Retrospective: Dragon Quest Part 2

I forgot to mention that the first three Dragon Quest games were part of a trilogy known as the Loto or Erdrick based around a central hero and his descendants. 20 year old SPOILER!!!!

In Dragon Quest 3 you play as Loto and in DQ 1 and 2 you play as his descendants. So basically the chronological order would be Dragon Quest 3, Dragon Quest, and then Dragon Quest 2 (ironically that is in the order in which I like the games)
My personal collection

The next three Dragon Quest games are also considered part of a new trilogy known as the Zenithia trilogy or "Castle in the Sky". All three games are radically different from one another in the way each story unfolds but all have a few common themes such as a legendary hero, legendary equipment, and the castle in the sky. While Dragon Quest 4 was released in America as Dragon Warrior 4 for the NES, Dragon Quest 5 and 6 were not released in America until very recently so it is our first chance in America to play these games officially. Since all three games were released on the Nintendo DS, I can give my full impressions on all three since I finished them all.

Dragon Quest 4: Chapters of the Chosen

Dragon Quest 4 was ported to PS1 using the the engine for Dragon Quest 7 and that version was basically ported to the DS. Basically all the Zenithia games use this engine. I always wanted to play this game because it was advertised on the back of the Dragon Quest 7 manual but never was released until the DS version in America. Blah blah on to the game.

Dragon Quest 4 switches it up like no RPG before it has done. Instead of having a main hero go and recruit the regular band of stalwart heroes from town after town, the game has you play as each of the party members so you can discover why they need to fight with your main character. So actually you don't even play as your main hero until the last (albeit the largest) chapter of the game. This is similar to the Wild Arms series (up until 3 because sadly I didn't bother with the rest).

You get a slew of different interesting characters, Ragnar the strong knight, Alena the spunky princess (that is actually is a very good physical fighter) and her two bodyguards, Torneko a shop keep who isn't a good fighter but has one of the more interesting story lines, and twin mages Maya and Meena. Eventually all of these characters have a need to find the legendary hero, and it all falls into place in the final chapter.

Each character has their own story to tell.

Most chapters play out with some sort of problem that is solved by traveling and fighting in the usual RPG fashion. However one of the most charming chapters is Torneko's chapter. He is the lovable chubby shop keep that has a nice wife and son and he just wants to open up a big store in a big city. To do that though, he is going to need lots of money. A lot of Torneko's quest is about finding treasures in caves and selling them for money or haggling people in your shop for money. These best part is how you have to go about caves differently. Torneko's can't do it alone so you have to hire bodyguards and the such. I can see how some people may not like his chapter that much because it does have a slow pace (in the beginning you have to mind a store and sell goods to people who come in), but I still like the unique take on an RPG story.

Square-Enix went real liberal with the translations in this game. Most towns you visit have some sort of crazy real world accent. So instead of "Hello, how are you doing?" you may be greeted "ello, govner 'ow are ye" or something like that. It is actually quirky and cool but sometimes I had no clue what people were talking about. It is little touches like this that make the Dragon Quest series so charming and light-hearted. Most NPC characters do not feel like a waste of space as I feel they are easily to relate to.

Battles are played out in the usually Dragon Quest way except that there is an AI system (which was mandatory in the original version) which you can use to fight battles for you. It works pretty well, especially with healing. Attacks aren't too over the top but the enemy animations are smooth and fluid. Battles are also fast so grinding really isn't a total drag.

Pretty much once you get to Chapter 5, it becomes a good old classic Dragon Quest right until you finish the game. Also I found the last boss to be hard as hell. There is even post game content featuring one more playable character and an even harder final boss and it is story related too.

Overall this was a pretty great RPG and so far the best Dragon Quest I played until...

Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

From a boy to a man

This game is one of the best RPG's ever made. Plain and simple. It doesn't look much different than its predecessor, doesn't play that much different, and its actually a little less challenging. So what is it that makes this game IMO stand next to the Chrono Triggers and Final Fantasies as best RPG? The Story.

Basically the game follows the story of a young boy through his childhood all the way up to a full grown father with children. You play as said boy as he has fun adventures as a child, until he realizes that he needs to find the Legendary Hero in order to save the world. Dragon Quest games are usually light-hearted and this one has its moments but it is also filled with some of the saddest and darkest scenes in RPG's ever.

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD so if you intend on playing this game please do not read because I do not want the story ruined for anyone who intends to play it.

As a child you venture out into the world and early on you are about to get beat up by some slimes then your father Pankraz (better named in the Japanese version as Papas) comes to save your arse, and wow what a beast he is. You kind of get that feeling that as long as dad is here, we can't lose. As a child you get caught up in all sorts of adventures, meeting other little kids and just having a good ol' adventure which include exploring a scary old haunted mansion and visiting a magical fairy land. However this fun is not meant to last as it gets all too real too fast. You have to explore an old ruin at some point and you get caught up with some evil demons who are about to kill you and your friend but your father comes in to rescue you but they force him to lay down his weapons as the have you in their control. It is a sad moment as you are powerless and you have the watch them kill your father. In that instant, your childhood is over, the demons kidnap you and you grow up as a slave.

Too make a long story short, you escape from being a slave, now more mature and grown, you follow your fathers last words, which are to find your mother who may still be alive and to find the legendary hero. Basically in this time you choose a wife, between three lovely ladies, although one is the clearly canonical choice (hint: she's the one on the cover of the game and the only one in the instruction manual). With this wife you eventually have kids and live in a castle. The best twist in this game which even shocked me is that you are NOT the legendary hero. You can't wear the armor and you can't use the weapon. It isn't some latent unlocked ability or what not, you just aren't him. This somewhat made me sad but that's the case. So who is the hero? It isn't your wife or any of the people you meet. Oh that's right it is your son. When I seen that, not only did I feel like a proud pappy, but I liked the twist on it. Not to mention that this is the only RPG where I can take my wife and kids into battle to defeat the evil in the world.


There isn't overly dramatic cut scenes or crazy set pieces but this game had a bigger emotional impact on me than any RPG I have ever played. It is subtle yet very well told and almost very believable. I was at a point where RPG stories were predictable and not that important but this game has changed my expectations from story telling in RPG's.
The game looks familiar, but this is one of the best games on the DS.

As far as other things such as presentation, monsters animate even better in battle, graphics are mostly the same. There is a monster recruitment aspect where you can recruit monsters you defeat in battle and use them as party members complete with leveling and learning new abilities. Some turn out to be better than your standard party members. This is actually a bigger deal than I made it to be because there are points in the game where these monsters are going to be valuable allies and sometimes it is fun to just whoop some monsters with a slime family.

Dragon Quest 5 is a fantastic masterpiece that every RPG gamer should experience. Those who are expecting extreme flair or dramatics might not appreciate its fine story telling but take it for a spin and discover one of the best RPG's ever made.

Interestingly this game might have had a limited print because I have not seen it in stores anywhere. So I checked Ebay and this game is selling for 70 dollars already, so if you find it buy it and hang on to it. I wish I could say the same for...

Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Revelation
Solid game but easily the most disappointing Dragon Quest I played.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing games I have played in a long time. Don't get me wrong, Dragon Quest 6 is a fine RPG but its initial strengths on the Super Famicom are not able to translate into the DS version and it makes this game lose a bit of what made it special upon its initial release. When this game came out in Japan, it was the first time Dragon Quest had real updated graphics, a vibrant colorful world, enemies had attack animations for the first time, and it was a real treat for fans. Unfortunately the story took a hit but at least the game looked nice.

So when bringing this game to the DS, it didn't get updated graphics as it looks the same as DQ4 and DQ5. It would have been a great idea to give this game the Dragon Quest 9 treatment because compared to the other two games it really doesn't have offer a great reason to play it. The game is also very "grindy" and you have to fight and fight and fight.

The game doesn't carry the same weight as the other 2 DQs

I guess my biggest issue comes from the initial impression of the game. Dragon Quest 6 starts out with 3 heroes ready to take down an evil demon lord but before they begin to fight the demon turns them into stone and scatters them all over and then your main character wakes up. This happens in a lot of RPG's but it is still intriguing. Is this something that will happen in the future or did this happen in the past? Is my main character dreaming? The first 10 hours of the game goes into solving this plot thread and it is the strongest part of the game. After figuring out what this all means, the game is anything but over, as it expands into a much larger quest...mostly about nothing. It feels as if the rest of the game is some kind of epilogue side story. Basically you move from town to town solving villagers problems. It isn't such a bad problem but it is kind of dull after having a strong opening. It does pick up towards the final five or so hours of the game but there is a long gap in between of fight this monster here, or protect this castle there.

This game does try to spice up the battle system a bit by introducing a class system similar to classes in Dragon Quest 3 which has also been seen in Dragon Quest 7 and Dragon Quest 9. Basically after you reach Alltrades Abbey, you can switch classes of your characters to any of your choosing. Naturally some characters are better fit for classes than others but you are free to do as you please. Once you master a couple of tier 1 jobs than you can start learning tier 2 jobs which offer bigger benefits and better skills. Unlike Dragon Quest 9, you keep all the skills learned from any class regardless which class you are using. This makes for pretty good mix up skills and unique teams, though if you want to win, you most likely need two gladiators and two sages. However, they removed the monster recruiting system in Dragon Quest 5. This isn't such a big deal normally because it is a different game but, it was in the original Dragon Quest 6! You can still recruit a few slimes and a hackasaurus but that's about it.

If there was a particular strong point of this game, I would say the music is pretty good. There is post game content but I didn't care enough to see it through.

So chronologically these games are a bit more vague in terms of which one takes place when. I believe DQ6 takes place first due to the state of the flying castle and there really isn't mention of a previous hero. Then next is DQ4 and I think DQ5 finishes the trilogy off.

For the next retrospective I will take a look into the last 3 games in the main Dragon Quest series, DQ 7, 8, and 9.

1 comment:

  1. I all ready reordered DQ8 but just reading some of the stuff about DQV sounds very cool. I didn't read the spoilers but the idea of playing a hero from childhood to adulthood sounds very intruiging , hopefully I can find that game at decent price somewhere. Loved the article.