Dragon Quest V (DS)

By Steven Marsh

Published on Sunday, March 1, 2009

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 9.00
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 8.00
Gamelength: 10.00

The latest Square Enix remake, “Dragon Quest V: Hands of the Heavenly Bride” is on store shelves now and in my opinion, it’s easily the best game in the series so far.

The age-old tale of the “Dragon Quest” series is one that most RPG fans have come to love or hate over the many years since it’s conception. In the USA, we’ve received every game in the main series aside from the 5th and 6th titles. This is the 5th game in the series and the 6th is slated to make an appearance here on the Nintendo DS as well eventually. This game is absolutely amazing in every way, oldschool or not. It just proves that a game doesn’t need crazy bells and whistles to be a masterpiece. That said, there’s a whole lot to talk about, so let’s get crackin’. Let’s dig into the massive scope of “Dragon Quest V: Hands of the Heavenly Bride” for the Nintendo DS.

First of all, the visuals aren’t astounding by any means. They’re dated and very SNES-like, with a mixture of amazing 2D and decent 3D stuff all over the place. Despite this, the game’s art style is a love-it-or-hate-it thing that people on forums all over the place argue about constantly for some stupid reason. I’m not a fan, personally. The way I see it, this is a Japanese RPG and while it looks like characters were ripped straight out of the “Dragonball” series, the visuals get the job done just fine. It’s oldschool, but pleasantly so. Anyone playing this game already knows what to expect out of the graphics, so there’s not much else to say. It looks good, for all intents and purposes, despite it’s cliche design. The 3D visuals of the environments, however, are fantastic as far as the Nintendo DS goes. Everything is very bright and vibrant, with very high quality textures and plenty of colors to keep your eyes attached to the screen constantly.

Next up: Let’s hit the soundboard. The music is epic, although it’s not necessarily anything special and the same goes for the sound effects. The music doesn’t feel repetitious for the most part because, as with most of the better RPGs out there, the soundtrack is extremely varied. Nearly every area has it’s own song, which does a lot to aid in keeping this lengthy experience fresh from start to finish. The soundtrack isn’t bad, but I don’t know if I’d actually buy it or anything. Still, it’s a solid and fitting soundtrack that gets the job done very well.

Before I go on, let me point out that this game is indeed a re-release of an old Japanese Super Famicon title and as such, while some things may be different, it’s still a very oldschool and somewhat cliche game in some ways. Be warned: This game’s major selling point is the engaging story and how well the classic RPG elements mesh together, not it’s uniqueness. The most important thing about this game is the story, which is a bit on the cliche side, but there’s an extreme amount of emotions to be found every step of the way. Much like famous classics such as the “Final Fantasy”, “Xenosaga” and “Tales of…” series, “Dragon Quest V” stands out because of that emotional touch, cliche or not. And of course, no Square Enix RPG would be complete without an immense amount of gameplay and this game meets and beats that expectation by far. The game picks up a little bit on the slow side by comparison to other RPGs these days, but when it does, it’s very difficult to put the game down. As is standard fare for this series, there’s a lot of stuff to do. Yes, most of it’s an excessive grind, but people who play this series tend to expect that sorta’ thing. If you’re a newcomer, prepare yourself for countless hours of repetitious random battles just to gain enough power and money to progress to the next part of the game. This step is usually optional, but in the “Dragon Quest” series, it’s damn near mandatory due to the difficulty of the bosses and even some of the random battles. As you level up, you’ll unlock new skills and spells all while your attributes automatically increase. There’s no real customization with this level system, which may disappoint many gamers who prefer the deeper leveling mechanics that most true modern RPGs present. There’s also no real level restrictions for equipment or anything of that sort, so it’s theoretically possible to overgrind and make the game a bit too easy for my tastes, although that does take quite a bit of time and effort to do anyway. Aside from the usual grind, the shops present a nice array of equipment and items that players can purchase, which typically includes several new types of weapons and armor for those players hardcore enough to grind the cash. There’s also a monster capturing system in place that allows players to have a decent variety of monsters in their party, all of which can be switched out in favor of other monsters as the player sees fit. There are over fifty monsters to be captured and they act as full party members, aside from the lack of equipment. The monsters are pretty powerful and in some cases, if leveled up properly, they can outperform some of the major characters, which provides an alternative to gold grinding for new equipment in a certain sense. The battle system is extremely basic and doesn’t even try to reinvent the wheel, so don’t expect much there. It’s still very enjoyable if you’re a fan of oldschool games and honestly, you wouldn’t be reading this if you’re not a fan of those, but here’s the breakdown: During combat, you’re given the options to attack, defend, use skills, use items and run away. Skills drain MP when used, while standard attacks, defending, using items and running away do not. Attacking enemies, regardless of how it’s done, drains their HP until they eventually die. In the event your HP falls to 0, you will die and if your entire party dies, it’s game over, which means it’s time to load the last saved game and try again, so make sure to save frequently if you check this game out! The skills consist of very basic things, ranging from poisoning enemies to healing your party and elemental magic that heavily damages opponents. Monsters have their own skills, which are really just variants of standard skills with fancy names and sometimes, a cheaper or even more expensive MP cost. Outside of battles, players will be spending a whole lot of time in various towns, dungeons and on the extremely large world map. In towns, there’s a lot of talking to be done with various NPCs, while in dungeons, there’s typically a high amount of combat, lots of nice treasure and a big bad boss ready to stomp your entire party within’ a few rounds of combat. On the world map, however, there’s simply a lot of random battles and exploration. While roaming around, there’s always a map that can be looked at to help figure out both where you’ve been and where you need to go. The detailed map shows a bit more, but the normal map is all that most players should need and is displayed on the top screen while exploring the world map, so don’t worry about having to stop the game in order to check the detailed map frequently. Another extremely good part of this series is the awesome caravan system, which makes a fantastic return here. The caravan is almost always with you and allows you to switch party members and monsters as often as you want, but the biggest benefit of the caravan is the experience bonus. Anyone inside of the caravan still gains experience points, which means no characters are left in the dust, making the adventure much less of a grind than it could have been otherwise. After it’s all said and done, there are a few minigames and a bonus dungeon to tackle as well, but prepare to spend a lot of time if you’re trying to get absolutely everything done. This game could easily take up to and even over the hundred hour mark for the most dedicated gamer, but the main story should take anywhere between thirty and fifty hours to complete.

Overall, Square Enix has done a great job with this game and in truth, it’s probably the best remake they’ve released thus far. I’m very satisfied with this first release of the game here in America and I hope to see “Dragon Quest VI” sometime in the near-ish future!

-Outstanding 3D visuals.
-A-grade soundtrack with lots of variation.
-Plenty of things to do.
-Extremely long.
-Very easy to control.
-Hard to get lost.
-Story is likely to make you laugh and cry; sometimes at the same time.
-Capturing monsters adds a “Pokemon”-like feel to the game.
-Caravan saves a lot of time.

-May be a bit too “oldschool” for some people.
-Character design is very cliche.
-Battle system is extremely barebones.
-No real form of character customization.
-Level system lacks any sort of depth.

Bottom Line:
If you’re a fan of oldschool RPGs, you owe it to yourself to drop the $40 on this game. It’s a fantastic and lengthy experience that’s sure to please any interested player.

Overall Rating: 9.00

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