Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Review
Monsters, waifus, and nostalgia
For us in North America, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride didn’t come out until 2009 on the Nintendo DS. By no means was this the origin of this game though. In Japan town, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride released in 1992 on the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo) as well as in 2004 on the PlayStation 2. We’re talking 22 years of existence since its initial release. History lesson aside, now you can play this game on iOS and Android devices.
This port to mobile devices is the DS version. This means better graphics, a fourth slot for party members, and a new bride choice – you know, for those who loves tsunderes. I have to say, for a mobile game, the graphics and controls are far better than I expected. Throw that together with classic Dragon Warrior music and sound effects and suddenly you have yourself a damn good port. You have to give it to the franchise for keeping the outdated yet nostalgic sound effects from previous games. I acquaint it to Dr. Who keeping eggbeater Daleks in modern episodes.
The JRPG plays in a pretty standard way compared to others in the genre in the early 90’s. You have a top down map view with 360 degree movement. Here you’ll ‘rob’ innocent villages, talk to citizens, buy better gear, and generally progress the story. Different terrain in the world harbors different encounter rates depending on if you’re grinding or trying to reach a new objective. The various characters in your party will be shown following the hero (protagonist).
In combat, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride keeps true to the franchise. You’ll enter a first person view of the foes that stand in front of you. You can set up tactics to have your party members do specific tasks each round or you can assume direct control yourself. While farming, tactics will be your best friend and makes combat incredibly fast. When against bosses you’re going to want to be a wee bit more involved. Some of the combat sounds are reminiscent of the original Dragon Quest/Warrior which is oddly soothing. Combat is turn based which requires your input before each round after all your characters and monsters take an action. Your characters have the option to attack, cast a spell, use an item, or to flee – the standard fantasy package.
What isn’t standard is the monster taming feature. Early in the second generation, you’ll purchase a wagon which opens up this entire aspect to the game – which is a pretty big one. Humanoid characters that travel with the hero are often short and sweet ventures. Monsters however, they are a man’s best friend. Not only do they never leave you, but you can keep them in the wagon where they receive exp from combat allowing them to progress even when not used. Lastly, monsters in the wagon can still cast spells outside of combat. This means if you throw some healers in the mix,you then have a mobile infirmary at all times. The best part, you don’t have to do anything. Sometimes the monster will just join you after the fight, no Poke Balls or anything like that. Only certain monsters can be captured though.
Another unique feature, well at least to the original time period, is a choice of different brides, or waifus. It’s true, I’m an absolute sucker for generational games – a game that spans the life of multiple characters in one family and/or different time periods in one life time. The hero of this game starts traveling with his father, later becomes an adult, marries, and so on. In the original version the player had the choice of two different wives while the DS and this version have three. Each wife becomes a playable character, has different stats, different spells, and different personalities. For the early 90’s, this is absolutely remarkable. After all, the game is called “Hand of the Heavenly Bride.” Do you marry for love or because you like a specific character’s stats? You dog.
For a mobile game, it really is optimized for simplicity. This port offers simple item sorting, a quick save for standby modes, a heal all button (which pools all your characters and monsters, and cast spells until everyone is at 100% HP), and it's surprisingly gentle on my battery (iPhone 6). While these seem like small fry features, remember you’re not using a controller. Simplifying item transferring across all your characters and monsters is god tier in the time management category. Anytime you’re playing a 20+ hour game on your phone, optimization is key.
While I enjoy the story, the writing is rather simple. I get that the game is older and was translated, but it’s still transparent. There are more situations than I’d like to count where the characters say something that sticks out so much that is so obviously foreshadowing that it makes me cringe. Note the picture below: “If you ever find yourself in trouble – when you are a little older, I mean – come to our land again.” Come on! That just hurts. The plot isn’t focused on one thing at a time though and events are going on in the world that aren’t just based around the hero – this is great.
To be overly blunt, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride. I come from the camp of JRPG fans that don’t have much experience in the Dragon Quest franchise. The only one I ever played, before this one, was the original on the NES. If it wasn’t for the mobile version, I’d probably never have been reintroduced into the series. All this said, I’m an old school JRPG fan so this type of game absolutely speaks to me. If you’re not a fan of the classic JRPG style, this game could potentially be slow paced and basic to you. The $14.99 price tag is a little high. For the hardcore, pick it up now but if you’re on the fence, wait for a sale. Regardless, it’s worth it.