Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

System: Nintendo DS
Developers: Square-Enix, Arte Piazza
Publisher: Square-Enix
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone age 10 and up)

One of Square Enix’s flagship series, the Dragon Quest brand is as instantly familiar to the Japanese as Quaker Oatmeal is to Americans. The series has never garnered as well of a reception outside of Japan, but the 2005 release of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for Sony’s Playstation 2 brought the series to the attention of the “not-Japanese” crowd with its high production values, simple yet addictive gameplay, and massive world for players to explore.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is a remake of Dragon Warrior IV (as it was known in the U.S.) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The remake follows the example of Dragon Quest VIII by offering a huge, lush world to explore, fantastic visuals and music, and the traditional Dragon Quest battle system. Unfortunately, even with the new polish, Dragon Quest IV fails to stand out thanks to the dated characters and plot which is sad considering the interesting narrative structure the game uses.

The game uses a chapter system to introduce the player to the characters who will eventually join you (the hero) in your quest to stop the return of the Lord of the Underworld. The chapters focus on one to three characters, and are meant to give them back stories and motivations. It is a pretty novel idea for a video game, but it is poorly executed in Dragon Quest IV. The reason for this is simple: the characters you’ll control during these chapters have minimal dialogue, if any. Thus the chapter system fails because the only insights you are given regarding your team are those given by nameless NPCs. A single, silent protagonist, which is a staple of the Dragon Quest series, is one thing, but an entire cast who never say anything is boring. Truly disappointing considering the charming designs the artwork of Akira Toriyama gives to the cast; they all look like they have so much personality when they in fact don’t. However, the most frustrating aspect of this problem is that Square-Enix removed the party talk function for the North American release. It would have given the supporting cast much needed characterization, but, for whatever reason, it was taken out of the final product.

The story can’t make up for the lackluster characters, and retains all of the poor pacing and lack of tension found in many early NES games. Coupled with poor characters, the story doesn’t even offer so much as curiosity. But in spite of all the negative comments I have about the game’s story, it is still a fun game to play. The battles, while simple, are enjoyable, and the music is an experience in itself. Some slowdown does occur when there are a large number of sprites onscreen, but the graphics are lush and the sprites and environments detailed.

Finally, with around 25-30 hours of playtime, Dragon Quest IV is much less daunting than the 80 hour behemoth that is Dragon Quest VIII, but it is also much less engaging. I can’t suggest it to newbies to the series, but vets and longtime fans will find it enjoyable.

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