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• Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

developed by ArtePiazza/published by Square-Enix/2008.09.16
1 Player/1 Flash-ROM/Nintendo DS, SONY PS1 (Japan only)

Originally released on the NES back in 1990, it’s 18 years later and Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen has found a new home on the Nintendo DS.  How does it stack up to other RPGs and what is new?

Story

Dragon Quest 4’s storyline is split up into 5 chapters.  The first 4 chapters introduce the heroes in the game as the evil spreads throughout the land.  These chapters are great as they develop the secondary characters in different areas of the world map, so that you really get a good sense of what is going on around the world.  They vary in length, but probably won’t take more than 10 hours to complete in total.

The 5th chapter is about 20 hours long and unites the heroes from the earlier chapters.  The goal is to collect 4 legendary pieces of Zenithian armor before you take on the source of evil that threatens to destroy everything you’ve worked for.

Game play

Unlike in other RPGs, speaking to townspeople is very important.  Often, you will be unable to progress if you don’t speak to the right person at the right time.  Speaking of time, the game has a day-night cycle and people say different things depending on if it is day or night.  And after any major event takes place, the townspeople will have something new to say and will often hint at what to do or where to go next.  All of this talking is made entertaining by the great translation and the unique accents of each area.  Once you get into it, the game flows very naturally.

The battle system is straight-forward turn-based RPG stuff.  The encounter rate is high but not too annoying, and the battles themselves are over fairly quickly.  At first it may seem slow, but once you have multiple party members (which can fight intelligently on their own) the battles go by much faster than other RPGs.

I found both of these aspects to be very enjoyable.  The game is made even better by allowing characters to acquire experience points even if they are not in the active party, and you can save anywhere you want if you have to turn it off.  The dungeons aren’t overly long, so you can play it in bite-sized chunks.

Presentation

This is a no-frills RPG, meaning there are no CG / anime cinematics and the graphics are fairly basic. The monster sprites in battle feature excellent animation that really brings them to life.  Each monster has several animations for various attacks, spell casting, calling for help, etc, and they are all very smooth, quick, and fun to watch.  There are also some pretty cool 3d spell effects.

While the enemy sprites are easily the best part of the game’s presentation, the 3D environments are quite nice too. They’re a bit simple, but they’re colorful and easy to navigate since they spread across both screens.  They have a nice, hand-made look to them.

Extras

Besides making good use of both the upper and lower screens, there isn’t much in the way of DS features.  However, you can eventually use the DS’s online functionality to connect with other players and form your own town.  It’s a side quest and I’m not sure what you get for doing it, but basically, you send out a custom townsperson that can attract other players’ townspeople to your village.  The main problem is that this mode requires you to put your DS in sleep mode for hours at a time, hoping to have chance encounters with others, so it’s a feature that I didn’t use much.

Conclusion

Dragon Quest IV is a very fun RPG that should last you at least around 30 hours.  While I was interested in playing it since I haven’t played many games in the series, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.  It’s super addictive if you can get into it, which I imagine is easier if you have grown up playing retro games.  Having said that, this is an excellent RPG that you SHOULD buy if you own a DS.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Fast and enjoyable battles
  • Great monster animations
  • Involving characters and world
  • Good use of upper and lower screens

CONs:

  • Some graphics look 16-bit
  • No touchscreen support
  • Music may get repetitive

One Sentence Review: A fun, engaging RPG that should not be missed if you like this sort of game.
One Word Review: Addictive.

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