Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation

When the original Famicom incarnation of the third entry of Enix’s Dragon Quest series saw its release in Japan, chaos ensued with people skipping work and school just to buy it, allegedly leading the Japanese Diet to pass a law limiting the franchise’s releases to weekends. Although the first four games on the Nintendo Entertainment System saw English releases, they wouldn’t reach as much popularity as they did in Japan, and some years into the following millennium, Square-Enix seems to have neglected the pantheon in North America again, although they would make some exceptions, as would prove the case with the latest release of the third entry on mobile devices, Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation, which is an ideal experience for those accustomed to the series.

Upon starting a new game, the player answers several questions that determine the hero or heroine’s initial personality, which might or might not affect stat growth throughout the game. After a conversation with the King of Aliahan about the Archdemon Baramos wishing to conquer the world, the player is off to the local tavern to hire up to three warriors of various classes to accompany him or her throughout the game, with pre-created characters including a soldier, a priest, and a wizard, although players can create allies from scratch of other classes, with the sundry combinations of player parties making for excellent lasting appeal.

The player randomly encounters enemies on the overworld or in dungeons, a spell ultimately allowing them to avoid fights with foes of lower levels to save some frustration, although in the title’s latter portions, random conflicts seem unavoidable. In battle, the player can input commands for the protagonist and his/her three allies, although various A.I. options allow the game to automatically select commands for them, with most players likely preferring to have manual control over their characters. Enemies and the player’s characters take turns whose order depends upon a combination of randomization and agility, the former at points being frustrating and occasionally leading to points where, for instance, healing doesn’t reach a character low on health until too late.

When the player reaches Alltrades Abbey, they become able to change a character’s class when they reach level twenty, in which instance their levels reset to one and they lose half of all their stats but keep whatever skills and MP-consuming spells they’ve learned, it is possible, for instance, to create a warrior that can use magic, although most players might wish to hold out on class-changing, and beating the game is possible without making use of this system. The battle engine works well for the most part aside from the aforementioned issue with turn order, not to mention marathon endgame boss battles, but otherwise, it helps the game more than hurts.

The interface is superficially decent, with easy menus and controls, although merchants, as in other entries of the franchise, bombard players with dialogue and conversation while shopping, and the direction on how to advance the main storyline, and even deal with the final boss, is often poor, although there are some conveniences such as dungeon-exiting magic and that allowing players to warp between visited towns (but not dungeons). The T ‘n’ T minigame, present in the Super Famicom and GameBoy Color versions, is also notably absent. Ultimately, interaction could have definitely been given a more thorough look.

The story is also lackluster, perhaps the low point of the third Dragon Quest, with only the male or female protagonist having a bit of backstory as the offspring of the hero Ortega, his allies all being pretty much blank-slate, although the ending does have a little twist that ties into the first and second entries of the first trilogy of the franchise. The localization is easily one of the title’s high points, with regional dialects for various regions that make sense given that the main game world is based on Earth. There is some occasional flawed medieval English, but the translation definitely compensates for the weak narrative.

Koichi Sugiyama, as usual, does a nice job with the soundtrack, which is of high quality that borders on orchestral, plenty of solid tracks such as the Star Wars-esque overworld theme and sailing music, although there are some pieces remixes of particular tracks such as the second version of the underground dungeon theme that are absent in the iOS iteration.

The graphics also look nice, with lovely scenery and character sprites, and Akira Toriyama as always doing a nice job with the monster designs in battle despite common palette swaps. Moreover, foes are inanimate unlike in the Super Famicom and GameBoy Color ports, although given that animate enemies would prolong fights, this is in some ways a mixed blessing.

Finally, the third entry lasts about thirty hours, the postgame dungeon mercifully still present to append playing time.

Overall, Dragon Quest III is for the most part a good conclusion to the franchise’s original trilogy, given its solid gameplay systems, superb localization, great soundtrack, nice visuals, and plentiful replayability. There are some issues, however, such as the lack of features present in a few prior incarnations, not to mention the weak narrative and sometimes-terrible direction on how to advance the primary plotline, although those used to the franchise’s positive and negative quirks will likely appreciate the title, which proves that the pantheon isn’t quite dead in the West.

This review is based on a playthrough on an iPad Air.

The Good:
+Solid gameplay and class systems.
+Excellent localization.
+Great soundtrack.
+Nice visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Doesn’t include extra features of Super Famicom and GameBoy Color iterations.
-Weak narrative with poor direction on how to advance the storyline and fight the main last boss.

The Bottom Line:
A good threepeat.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: iOS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Medium
Playing Time: 20-40 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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