Dragon Quest

Square-Enix’s North American branch has, in recent years, been suspiciously silent on the major releases of its Dragon Quest franchise, given the lack of localization plans for entries such as the MMORPG tenth installment and the remake of the seventh title, with not even Nintendo, which had taken up translation duties for Dragon Quest IX, Joker 2, and the Nintendo DS remake of the sixth title, saving the latest releases for western enjoyment. However, Square-Enix recently demonstrated that the series isn’t quite dead in the west with iOS releases of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, and did the same with the latest incarnation of the franchise’s very first entry, simply titled Dragon Quest, which provides an experience on par with its many successors.

Dragon Quest features one-on-one turn-based battles, the protagonist squaring off against a variety of enemies, with commands including attacking with his equipped weapon, using a magic spell, using an item, or attempting to escape, a feature that doesn’t always work, though in most cases the player won’t want to flee battle for want of valuable experience for occasional leveling. The first entry isn’t terribly difficult so long as the player frequently upgrades the hero’s equipment, and aside from occasional inconsistent turn order, with the enemy sometimes taking their turn before the hero in rounds of battle, the combat system doesn’t leave too much room for improvement.

Neither does the game interface, with a relatively-small overworld compared to more contemporary RPGs, and very little need to consult a guide to determine how to advance the main storyline. Dungeons typically require the use of torches or the Glow spell to illuminate the protagonist’s surroundings, which mercifully doesn’t damper the experience. Some maps for the more complicated dungeons would have been nice, alongside easier shopping without the seller dialogues and confirmations, but otherwise, interaction is far from terrible.

The first installment’s narrative is one of its weaker aspects, focusing on a descendant of the legendary hero Erdrick that must rescue Princess Gwaelin and retrieve the Ball of Light that the Dragonlord stole from Tantagel Castle. The extra scenes added to the GameBoy Color version that the player saw when starting a new game are absent in the latest versions, although there is decent backstory weaved through NPC dialogue. The translation is better, though, featuring a medieval style akin to the original Dragon Warrior, although there are misused words at times.

Koichi Sugiyama provides the soundtrack, featuring a neoclassical style, which never goes dull in spite of some repetition at times, notable tracks including the overworld and ending themes. The sound effects could have been better, but the remake is otherwise easy on the ears.

Dragon Quest is easy on the eyes, as well, the latest reincarnation using a style similar to the original Super Famicom release of the sixth entry and the Japan-exclusive SFC remake of the third game, although enemies in battle, while Akira Toriyama’s designs look nice as always in spite of some palette swaps, are still inanimate, and many of the buildings in towns appear unrealistic.

Finally, the game is fairly short, taking less than ten hours to finish, with little replay value given the lack of a New Game+ and sidequests. Even so, Dragon Quest for iOS is, in the end, a worthwhile experience, given simple but solid combat, good control, a nice localization, and a superb soundtrack, although there are things that leave room for improvement such as the storyline, simplistic battle visuals, and the lack of replayability. Those that don’t mind the aforementioned shortcomings and have yet to experience the franchise will find this latest release, at just $3, to be a good entry point.

The Good:
+Simple but solid combat.
+Good control.
+Great localization.
+Excellent soundtrack.

The Bad:
-Maps and expanded range of Zoom spell would have been nice.
-Not much plot.
-Simple battle visuals.
-Not much replay value.

The Bottom Line:
A great port.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 6/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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