Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
If you missed playing the original Dragon Quest IV back in the glory days of the original NES system, you're in luck: you now have the opportunity to play one of the most uniquely structured classics around. Although it's no longer the game to end all RPGs, Dragon Quest IV's aged simplicity is perfectly for the DS and it should appeal to both casual and hardcore RPG gamers.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An admirable remake on Nintendo's handheld, Dragon Quest IV proves once again that solid gameplay and a good story beats flashy gimmicks hands down.
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Let's Get Together
What really sets DQIV apart from countless other RPGs is its story, or rather the way that story is told. Instead of a predictable plot that relies on tired genre conventions, DQIV introduces a memorable cast of characters in several separate stories. Although your main character is central to the plot as "The Chosen One," you won't be playing with him (or her) for much of the game. Instead, after you choose your character's name and gender, the game breaks the story up into six chapters. In each act, you play though different events that chronicle each party member's travels before uniting with the main group for the conclusion.
This style of storytelling works especially well since it gives a distinctive motivation for each character's quest-Maya and Meena, a pair of magic wielding sisters, seek revenge for their father's mysterious murder; tomboyish princess Alena runs away from home to travel the world, aging knight Ragnar McRyan leaves his kingdom to investigate a grim prophecy, and series favorite Torneko Taloon ventures across the country in order to become the world's greatest merchant. When everyone eventually meets up, DQIV has already delivered four eventful chapters of masterful storytelling. As if the cast wasn't diverse enough, the dialogue for each character is unique to their respective home country, showing a welcome extra step in localization detail from developer ArtePiazza.
Grinding and More Grinding
Another one of DQIV's charming traits is its simple, yet challenging, battle system. There are no complex menus to navigate, no complicated button sequences, and no multiple chain-hit combos to be found here-it's just your party versus monsters in turn-based combat. Of course, it wouldn't be Dragon Quest without level grinding, and you'll have to do a LOT of it to get through the game. Moving from one section of the world map to another often results in encounters with overpowered monsters, and you'll sometimes fight seven at once! Fortunately, most barriers can be overcome with patience-I was usually forced to level grind for a good hour or so before every dungeon and boss battle.
As far as RPGs go, this classic gem's looks won't drop your jaw. The graphics aren't a huge step forward from the Japan-exclusive PlayStation remake, random battles can quickly get wearisome for the average player, and you'll have little to no reason to whip out your DS stylus. But if you're looking for a good, simple RPG that you can pick up and play without chaining yourself down, you should definitely choose Dragon Quest IV this fall.
PROS: Excellent story and colorful graphics; simple combat system stays challenging throughout the game.
CONS: No use for the DS stylus; many parts of the game require a LOT of level grinding.