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• Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors

developed by Genius Sonority, published by Square-Enix
1 player (3 player mini-games)/Nintendo Wii/2008.02.19

Dragon Quest Swords is a spin-off of the popular role-playing franchise that simplifies the standard formula in favor of action-oriented battles. It gets its name from its primary gimmick: players swing the Wii remote like a sword during battle to slay monsters. It retains some of the standard design elements of more sophisticated role-playing games (such as character building and item management), but limits the player to a small handful of areas to conquer.

Game Play

Dragon Quest Swords takes place from a 1st person perspective. You are free to explore the main town, but once you’re out in one of the game’s 8 areas, you’ll pretty much walk in a straight line. Every now and then you’ll encounter a branching path, which will either lead to a treasure chest or to the area’s boss. It’s essentially an RPG on rails, so don’t expect to explore off the beaten path.

The primary draw of Dragon Quest Swords is its battle system, which is unlike any other RPG. You have to observe enemy patterns and aim your attacks when monsters momentarily drop their guard. You can hit multiple enemies if they are lined up by using horizontal, vertical, or diagonal slashes, which adds a puzzle-like element to the game. You can also defend yourself by holding up your shield (by pressing and holding the B button). You simply move the shield over the enemy’s attack to block it.

The main problem is that the Wii remote isn’t entirely accurate, so in order to line up your strikes you have to aim them beforehand. This is done by setting the cursor, which constrains your slashes to a specific X,Y screen coordinate. It’s a bit cumbersome but you do get used to it.

One of three companions will tag along, providing back-up during battles. They’ll cast healing spells or defensive buffs, but can take damage from enemies if you’re not careful. You can also force them to cast spells by entering the menu.

Most of the monsters are pretty easy to kill, but they each have their own ways of moving and attacking. Some enemies will keep their distance from you, so the only way to damage them is to deflect their attacks back at them. Bosses are particularly puzzle-like, because they have multiple patterns of attack and are defenseless during very short windows. Battles are short, and for the most part they’re pretty fun.

You’ll be rewarded differently depending on your accuracy, among other things, at the end of an area. Items can be used to forge better swords, which unlock powerful new attacks. These can only be used when your sword meter reaches 100%, and involve swinging the sword in different patterns to build up its energy before unleashing a devastating blow.

Presentation

Familiar monsters from the Dragon Quest franchise populate the fields, and they tend to look pretty good. The characters look ok, but they’re not very animated. The environments are disappointingly dull, which is kind of surprising considering the designers only had to dress up limited areas. It’s all pretty mediocre.

The worst aspect of the game is undoubtedly the voice acting, which ranges from ok to absolutely terrible. Your companions repeat a small handful of phrases during battle, which gets tiresome quickly, and the side characters and bosses have some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard in a video game. Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Conclusion

Dragon Quest Swords has a lot of strikes against it, but manages to carve a niche for itself with its unusual battle system which is surprisingly fun. The game can be beaten quite easily in around 6~8 hours, though it may provide a couple more since you can return to previously conquered areas to strengthen your characters. It may be worth picking up if you can get it cheap, but if you paid full retail when the game was new it would be a huge let down.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Fun puzzle-like battles
  • Familiar monsters look pretty good
  • Easy to pick up and play

CONs:

  • Wii remote isn’t accurate enough
  • Boring settings
  • Atrocious voice acting
  • Unimaginative plot
  • Limited selection of areas


Visit the official website

One Sentence Review: A mildly entertaining paint-by-numbers RPG.
One Word Review: Mediocre.

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