reviews\ Sep 30, 2008 at 8:00 pm

DRAGON QUEST IV: Chapters of the Chosen - NDS - Review

For many Dragon Quest fans in America there seems to be one game that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the series, Dragon Quest IV. A friend of mine is a huge Dragon Quest fan and he always wanted me to try the original NES version released years ago as Dragon Warrior IV. He kept telling me how incredible the game was and how I had to play the game one day. Of course, years later as more games came out in the Dragon Quest series I did get my toes wet from time to time, such as the Game Boy Color version of Dragon Warrior I, II and III. Yet, I kept hearing the same statement over and over again “You have to play IV, it’s the best of the first four games.” Now here we are many years later and the fourth game has finally be re-released this time under its original Dragon Quest IV name but for the DS.

The premise of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is in the title. The game is broken up into five different chapters that are all connected to each other to tell one engrossing story. Chapter 1: Ragnar McRyan and the Case of the Missing Children tells the tale of the Knight Ragnar McRyan and his adventure to uncover the mysteries of kidnapped children. Chapter 2: Alena and the Journey to the Tourney centers upon the tomboy Tsarevna Alena and her quest for independence and excitement outside of the confines of the castle. Chapter 3: Torneko and the Extravagant Excavation focus on the adventures of the merchant apprentice Torneko Taloon and his desire to open his own shop. Chapter 4: Meena and Maya and the Mahabala Mystery tell the story of twin sisters seeking revenge for the death of the father. Chapter 5: The Chosen centers upon you and your best friend Eliza as you are suddenly thrust into the world as a hero with huge responsibilities on your shoulders.


Each chapter is its own self contained story that does a great job of building up to a much larger story that becomes connected as you progress through the game. Characters and locations that you see at the beginning of the game will come back in later chapters. Events in the game will keep on moving as you keep playing each chapter which will make each visit to familiar locations seem like a new experience each time. The idea of a game being broken up into different connecting chapters might not seem new but remember this isn’t a new game released for the first time in 2008. The original version of Dragon Quest IV first came out in 1990.


The majority of the gameplay however does feel like a rather standard RPG that came out 18 years ago. Maybe a better way to describe it would be to call it the classic Dragon Quest gameplay experience. Combat is still the classic turn based format found in countless RPG’s over the years. No matter how technically advanced RPG games have become over the past 10 years the Dragon Quest series has seemed to strive upon keeping itself as a traditional RPG experience. I read a recent interview with designer Yuki Hori and he stressed how he wanted to keep Dragon Quest as a traditional RPG because that experience was usually more open for anyone to play and understand. This means that Dragon Quest IV will have you leveling up before you set out to take on the next dungeon. Grinding isn’t a completely boring experience since the difficulty level seems to have been reduced from previous Dragon Quest games. It felt like it only took a few minutes to go up a level instead of hours like it did back in the first three games for the NES and GameBoy Color. I only ran into one incident where I couldn’t take out a boss. I knew I was going to have trouble because I didn’t take the extra time to level up before I challenged the boss.


Besides the chapter-based plot development there are several other key features found in Dragon Quest IV. One that everyone has raved over for years is the legendary Wagon. Once you acquire the wagon in the game you gain the ability to swap out characters to use during combat. Even the characters sitting in the wagon still gain experience points you earn during combat. The Casino is another feature that everyone always praised since you can gamble to earn additional items. You can bet on battles between monsters, play blackjack or slot machines to earn coins to trade in for items.

Visually the game is a fantastic looking old-school RPG for the DS. The colors are vibrant and bright with tons of excellent detail especially for a DS game. The graphics are definitely based upon the unreleased (in America) PlayStation 1 remake. All of the towns, dungeons and over-worlds are presented in an over the top 3D view that can be adjusted using the left and right shoulder buttons. Most of your viewpoint is on the bottom DS screen but the top screen will still show additional areas usually right above or below you depending on the location of the camera.


The combat is presented in a combination of 2D and 3D style. The top screen will show a simple 2D depiction of your character’s avatars with their stats. The bottom screen shows the creatures you are facing against a simple 3D background. The creatures do have some simple attack animations but no fancy spells or creature summons like other Square Enix RPG’s. For me the only negative part of the graphics is the gap between the top screen and bottom screen on the DS itself. Visually Dragon Quest IV continues the solid tradition of excellent looking RPG’s being released by Square Enix for the DS.

In the end Dragon Quest IV is all about charm - the simple charm of playing a good game. Sure, it might not have all of the bells and whistles of its Final Fantasy brothers. As I mentioned earlier Dragon Quest has always been about a simple and fundamental approach to role-playing games. Dragon Quest IV keeps this premise true with a game that presents a great story with innovative features in a package that is a throwback to games of yesteryear. Of course I am talking about a game that was originally released 18 years ago so we really shouldn’t expect to see a revolutionary experience that will blow gamers away. Instead we get a solid, fun, traditional RPG that will please hardcore gamers and novice fans alike. One part of the game that seemed really strange was the dialog. I had a hard time figuring out if the game was just trying to create unique dialects for each town or if the translation got a little screwy.

Review Scoring Details for Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Gameplay: 8.5
Fans of traditional RPG’s will be right at home with Dragon Quest IV. The turn-based combat and random battles will keep you warm at night for sure.

Graphics: 8.3
The visuals look fantastic on the dual screens of the DS. Bright and colorful visuals ensure the towns and dungeons pop out of the screens.

Sound: 8.4
Classic Dragon Quest music and sound effects are littered throughout the game. You’ll find yourself humming the music after a few hours of playing if you’ve never played a Dragon Quest game before.

Concept: 8.6
The chapter-based game structure really helps to give the Dragon Quest IV a feel of a television show that you watch from week to week. You can’t wait to get to the next episode to find out what’s going to happen.

Multiplayer: 7.5
The game does feature a multiplayer mode where you get a chance to send out characters to meet up with other gamers in the “Chance Encounter” mode. Unfortunately the Chance Encounter mode is limited to players having a DS and a copy of the game. Sadly no WiFi multiplayer is included.

Difficulty: Medium
Make sure to pace yourself and level up appropriately and you shouldn’t have a problem advancing in the game.

Overall: 8.3
Dragon Quest IV is a game that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Instead it gives you a solid, fun gaming experience that will get you hooked with its features such as the chapters and overall charm. Dragon Quest fans can be a tough bunch to please because they don’t want the games to be reinvented every time a new edition comes out. Well, Dragon Quest IV won’t disappoint hardcore Dragon Quest fans. Even gamers that never played a Dragon Quest game should be able to find the charm underneath the old-school gameplay.


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