Reviews

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. “A Simple Grind.” A Review.

It’s just a siiiiiiiimplleeeeeeeeeeeee

kiiiiiind of maaaaaaaaaaan game.

Butt rock aside, recently I beat the final boss of Dragon Quest IV. That is a lie, considering I’m starting the writing of this review before I’ve actually beat the game. AND, if we’re talking final boss as in “the last boss of the game,” I would also be lying because the last boss of the game exists in the post game content which I will likely not explore anytime soon due to Dragon Quest VII coming out today (9/16/2016).

But hear hear…I’m going to write about this game while I’m spending my final moments with it. For now. I’ll probably go back and do some of that post game. Because this game is a fun, simple, and therefor relaxing experience.

I say obvious because this is a Dragon Quest game. These games all have their different points, but they are also steeped in tradition, meaning they do not stray away from what you would expect. Everyone compares this element of Dragon Quest with Final Fantasy, and that is a very good comparison–Final Fantasy likes to keep a specific flavor and throw EVERYTHING ELSE OUT OF THE WINDOW to differentiate every game, while Dragon Quest likes to deliver a traditional JRPG experience with a new cast of characters and a new world. The changes are fairly smaller when it comes to how the game works, and how the gameplay performs, but being those changes are within a game so traditional they are more meaningful as to give players a reason to play multiple, if not all, titles in the series.

Anyway I played Dragon Quest IV and now I’m going to review it but first EVERYONE STAND FOR THE DRAGON QUEST NATIONAL ANTHEM OF JAPAN.

ANOTHER DRAGON QUEST GAME HAS FINALLY BEEN RELEASED STATESIDE EVERYONE!

THE 3DS REMAKE OF DRAGON QUEST VII IS FINALLY HERE AFTER THREE YEARS AND IT’S BEAUTIFUL SORRY FOR THE CAPS BUT I’M BRIMMING WITH HAPPINESS OKAY THANK YOU.

Let’s go!

dragon quest 02 alena.jpg
from Dragon Quest Heroes, not Dragon Quest IV (gematsu)

Dragon Quest IV is divided into chapters: and I love this design. It works to build the world of Dragon Quest IV–to introduce characters, mechanics, towns, NPCs, and it works really well in setting up the final chapter (again not counting the post game) which amounts to the actual, primary plot of the game.

You are “HERO,” or whatever you ended up naming your character. Prophecy foretells the emergence of Estark, Lord of the Underworld, who has been sleeping for thousands of years. He used the Secret of Evolution to become the ultimate lifeform, and his wakening spawns demons to roam the earth with the goal of destroying all human beings. Legend also foretells the coming of a savior, the offspring of an angel and a human woodcutter, who, embedded with the powers of angel and human, possesses the ability to drive back the demons and ultimately slay Estark.

You play as that hero. You wake in a town that is immediately invaded and destroyed by monsters searching for you. To kill you and end the prophetic defeat of Estark.

It’s a basic plot with very few twists and turns but it’s one that I feel is strong. You have your objective, you know your enemies, and you immediately experience tragedy that spurs your character into action. It’s not melodramatic. It’s actually kind of blunt how you just start the final chapter in a town that is completely gone before you can actually take control of your character. The game isn’t shoving emotion down your throat. It presents the situation, your goal, and it’s up to you to complete that goal. You leave the town on your quest with the entire world map unlocked, giving you the ability to swing around the various locations of the characters from previous chapters that you have already played as to add them to your party.

To me, this is the strongest and most interesting aspect of Dragon Quest IV: The set up, and the execution. The early chapters are short, bite-sized games on their own right complete with their own cast of characters, plots, beginnings, and endings. They introduce you to the world, and the characters, in an effective way by allowing the player to form a connection with the character before they become unlockable additions to your party. This makes every character meaningful even if they are ultimately one that you’ll never use in your final party. Personally I only ever really used the same four characters in my party during that last chapter but I still cared for, and liked, the characters that went unused. In my experience that doesn’t happen too often when I play these party-based RPGs. Like in Mass Effect, I generally use the characters I like, and I leave the characters I couldn’t be bothered with to mill around in whatever hub those characters live in. Not the case with Dragon Quest, and that’s all due to these initial chapters. They really aren’t throw away chapters meant to pad out content. The game doesn’t hold out it’s final chapter out like a carrot on a stick, alluring players into forceful and tedious exposition they must tredge through with the promise of the real game beginning afterward. These initial chapters are part of the real game, and the game really wouldn’t be complete without them.

dragon quest 04.jpg
dragons den

Otherwise the game is fairly basic albeit well executed and with a couple of very smart features that make playing this JRPG a fun experience. For one there is the ability to go into a menu and select “heal all” as a command, which really works during the last chapter of the game when you’re adventuring through the tougher, endgame areas, with parties of up to four characters. Characters with healing magic will all take turns healing the characters in your party, and thankfully this includes characters who aren’t in your party taking their turns, which is really smart! Prioritizing MP that isn’t in your party helps to manage the resources that matter to you most while adventuring with your party. Also, characters who aren’t in your party receive experience points along with those that are in your party, and this is a fucking blessing for a game like this. It allows you to experiment as much as you would like without that dreadful fear that you’re going to have to grind just to get experimental characters up to similar levels with your main characters. Also, it allows you to use strategy when putting together your teams for certain dungeons and locations where you deem strategy is useful. For example, one of the characters has a spell that prevents an enemy from casting spells for a number of turns. I never used that character except for one boss fight where the bastard constantly uses healing spells to completely heal himself. Cast that spell and mash attack, and he’s rendered into one of the easiest bosses in the entire game.

An important note is that this feature isn’t always available. You can’t switch out party members, depend on unused party members’ skills, or share experience with them in certain dungeons, and this was probably put into place to make the game balanced. The game is fairly balanced, though certainly on the easy side. Which I like for a title like this, because it means I get to play it while splitting my attention on to other things such as The Sopranos, wrestling, YouTube, Twitch–the important things yeah? I’m all about that multitasking.

In true Dragon Quest form, dying only means you respawn at the last visited town’s church with half your money. You also use these churches to save, purify characters of poisons, resurrect dead characters, and look up how many experience points it takes to level a character up. I would have liked to see that experience information in the regular menus so that I know how long I have to grind. I also would have liked more information on the map, and about my characters’ spells, as they are often named goofy names such as bang, zoom, and squelch, which fail to communicate what they actually do. The important spells you’re going to be using all the time in the field are described, but not the battle spells until you are actually in a battle. This doesn’t matter much since the game is purely turn based and you have all the time in the world to select your moves, but I always enjoied knowing what spells I got upon leveling up in RPGs.

What matters much more is the lack of information on the maps, which is downright weird. It causes me to look up a map on the internet along with the walkthrough I’m using  and that just feels silly! Why can’t that information be available in the game? There’s a spell called Zoom that allows you to teleport to towns and important locations–a major time saver–that feels useless without looking up an Internet Map because there are enough villages and castles to cause me to forget where everything is at on the map without looking it up. They give you a nice map that points out locations as red dots without naming them, which also seems weird. You did half the work! Why not list where these towns are at?

The general flow of this game is as follows: go to town, get quest, grind until you have best equipment you can buy, travel to dungeon, fulfill objective, go to town and gain reward. This doesn’t really change except for one of the initial chapters that I won’t spoil because I found it really interesting, surprising, and unique. And it doesn’t have to change. This game is simple because it doesn’t have to be complicated. You’re a hero, the savior of the world, and making that anymore complicated would be downright silly FINAL FANTASY MASS EFFECT because “you are the savior of the world” is a basic plot that doesn’t require a complicated structure. This game is focused, unlike this paragraph, and I like that.

dragon-quest-03
gamespot

I played the DS version, and the graphics and sound are great. As always, Dragon Quest IV has art drawn by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, and as such a lot of characters share a remarkable resemblance with characters throughout that franchise. Enemies are inspired by various mythologies, most noticeably those shared with Dungeons and Dragons (as the first Dragon Quest was an effort to create a Japanese RPG inspired by DnD computer RPGs like Ultima). And yes of course this game has slimes, the trademark Dragon’s Quest enemy. The art is colorful and fun to look at, and the graphics do them justice. The towns, castles, and dungeons are rendered in 3D, the characters are 2D sprites, making for a beautiful combination of 3D and 2D art. I really liked how the major boseses in this game get 3D rendered models–it makes them look huge and intimidating next to all the sprite characters. Each party member possesses a distinct look that defines their personality as much as their dialogue and speech, which itself is stylized to represent that different regions and countries in Dragon Quest IV–making for a fully realized world with different cultures and patterns of speech. Otherwise the NPCs have repeating sprites, and enemies scale such that models are reused but recolored and renamed. I’ve always been fine with pallet swaps as long as their justified, and being this is a game about grinding until you become stronger, I don’t mind repeating enemy types.

The game’s two screen are utilized well enough, though I don’t like how the map is on the top screen while the game is on the bottom. A lot of DS games did this, and being the bottom screen has a lower image quality I’ve never been a fan. I’m always glad when a game has a map on the top screen, however that is only really the case while you explore the world map. Dungeons are small enough to not require a map, as are towns, so instead you are treated to this really nice effect where the top screen displays more of the villages and dungeons, as though it’s a camera shot above the camera shot of your character walking around. This is nice during the few stealth sections of the game and the developers used this trick to help make those 3D rendered bosses even larger and more intimidating. Cause they’re bigger than one screen alone. Pretty cool.

The party members themselves are well done, all learning different spells from one another while sharing just enough in common that you can form a balanced team with whoever you pick (as long as you give the selection some thought). There aren’t exactly classes or jobs here, just characters that are obviously meant to fulfill a purpose, such as magic, defense, attack, and healer. I focused mostly on physical attack with one character as my healer and magic and attacker. Your “Hero” character does a great job of serving every function, meaning you will at least have two of every function available in your team. This comes in handy when you’re facing the many difficult bosses.

I say difficult as in their challenging not difficult as in their unfair. This game rewards forward thinking in that your party makeup and strategy can win the day, but there’s also a very strong grinding component to Dragon Quest games and this title is no different. Many times if the player is having trouble with a boss they can spend an hour or so grinding and they’ll come back strong enough to beat that troublesome bastard. Grinding, being that this is the DS version, is extremely easy: You but mash the A button to attack everything. You can set your party’s tactics to “All Out,” which means they will attack everything, use MP, with the purpose of just killing as quickly as possible, and this is good if you want to mash A less. If this seems boring it probably would be–that’s why you do this while watching TV or whatever. It’s a very good multitasker–I watched a lot of worthless content while mashing A in this game. And that’s not a bad thing. I like to feel like I’m accomplishing something, which keeps me from watching worthless content. Now I can feel like I’m working at something even though I’m just watching DansGaming stream through the Mafia games on Twitch! Wow! It’s like I’m playing two games at once!

Seriously, if you don’t like grinding you probably shouldn’t be playing JRPGs because that’s what they’re about. When I was younger I hated grinding to the point that I couldn’t even defeat a Pokemon game because I never grinded. These days I see the value in it. When I was facing the last boss today (which was an amazing boss that had seven forms and you knock off his limbs and he transforms into more demon looking shit fuck that was awesome) he kicked my ass. I spent an hour grinding, and then came back to absolutely destroy him. It was rewarding to spend all that time working at bettering my characters, and to see my efforts pay out in the defeat of the boss who killed me several times. Even though I prefer games like Dark Souls, where most of the game, and most of a player’s success, comes down to actual hard skill in playing the game, I find games like these extremely rewarding.

That said there isn’t much grinding in this game that is required. The only time I had to do excessive grinding was for that last boss (which is how it should be–he’s the last boss, it should take work to beat him). For the rest of the game, I only really grinded to buy the best items in every new shop. That gave me enough experience to beat everything quite easily, and that equipment no doubt helped me in my adventure. Bosses can be seem cheap at times in that some will possess strong abilities like the ability to spawn more enemies, or heal themselves, or put your party to sleep, or in the case of the final boss cast spells which outright KILL party members, but there’s always some tool at your disposal that will counteract any big powerful badass. That’s satisfying. All of these tactics also work at building up each individual boss as a big deal. They aren’t just enemies with higher health. They have strong magical capabilities, or strong physical strength, or they attack multiple times. But so does your party, so there’s nothing in this game that is unfair.

dragon quest 06 alena.png

Alena is the MVP of the game, especially being that she was the reason I wanted to play Dragon Quest IV in the first place. I loved her in Dragon Quest Heroes, and here she is just as effective with her high speed, high strength, and high luck, leading to a high chance for critical blows. She’s critical to every time in my mind, and I would always use her when given the chance. I was able to equip her with a weapon that could strike twice, giving her twice the chance for critical blows. She proved extremely effective when grinding, because certain areas have a chance for metal slimes to show up.

These rarities have high defense, low HP, high speed, and a high chance to flee from battle. When a player defeats one, however, they reward enough XP to level up characters one, sometimes even two or three times. So having a character that possesses a high chance of scoring critical strikes is a must if you want to level up quickly.

I like the rare items you can find in the game. There are hammers that curse your party members, shields that reflect spells, enemies that give great experience or drops, and consumables that resurrect fallen party members. The game is really about exploration, so looking through every path of a dungeon, in every village on the overmap, and through every openable chest, drawer, or breakable pot, is vital to finding all of the best stuff. Dragon Quest has these items called seeds, which when fed to a character can boost up specified abilities dependent on the name of that seed. Strength seeds boost strength. Agility seeds boost agility. So and so forth–they are to be used on the characters you will be using, obviously, and players must prioritize which characters get which seeds to make them most effective. That’s the most decisive the game wants the player, as level ups distribute stats at random, but this is okay. As I said before, Dragon Quest is a simple RPG experience.

If Dragon Quest appeals to you, this is a great place to start. You get a good flavor of what Dragon Quest is like in a sub-30 hour experience that offers a decent and straight-forward story formatted interestingly along with extra content the DS version provides in the post-game additional chapter that I did not play but when I do maybe I will update this Review hello. What more do you need from me? Huh? I liked the game goddamn what else is there to say? For fuck’s sake what do you think I am? A writer?

The Dragon’s Quest Fer Chapters of some Shit gets a Beefy Frito Burrito out of Cheeto Dusted Chicken Fries.

(It’s a much more comfortable experience than any of that, though. Promise.)

trust me

dragon quest 01.jpg

now playing dragon quest vii!

09/16/2016

 

 

 

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One thought on “Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen. “A Simple Grind.” A Review.

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