Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Dragon Quest is a series with an extensive history of remakes in an attempt to reach new generations of gamers, one of them being of the fourth game using the seventh installment’s visuals and mechanisms for the Sony PlayStation. Although Enix America originally intended to localize the remake, the closure of developer Heartbeat terminated such plans. About two generations later, however, Square-Enix announced remakes of the fourth through sixth Dragon Quest games, known as the Zenithian Trilogy, for the Nintendo DS, with the company’s American branch translating the fourth game as Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, which is for the most part a solid remake.

The fourth game differs from its predecessors and successors in its use of a narrative system of chapters, staying true to the English subtitle, new to the remake (but present in the PlayStation version) being a prologue chapter where the player briefly controls the protagonist, male or female, they create when starting a new game. Following this are several chapters during which the player controls the hero or heroine’s allies before they join him or her in the main chapter, and fight randomly-encountered enemies.

New to the remake, at least to Anglophone players, is the ability to input manual commands for the hero or heroine’s allies once they join him or her in his or her main chapter instead of relying upon various AI commands, although those options are still available if the player doesn’t prefer manual command input. Each character can attack, use MP-consuming spells if available, defend, or use items. The party can collectively attempt to escape, though this option naturally doesn’t work all the time.

If the player doesn’t want to waste time fighting weaker enemies, they can nullify random encounters with Holy Water or a specific MP-consuming spell, although battles even with more powerful enemies, for the most part, flow quickly, especially if the player sets message speed to the maximum setting. The game mechanics work well for the most part, although turn order is often random and can lead to unfortunate instances where the enemy beats the player to healing a character with low HP.

The annihilation of all characters in battle results in the player being taken to a church with half their money lost (although a bank in Endor can nullify this penalty somewhat), with all allies still dead, and the player needing to spend the money to revive them until they receive revival magic, the weaker of which fails half of the time, although a later spell works all the time and recovers all HP. Aside from the randomization of turn order and some potential and necessary grinding, battles in the fourth game help more than hurt.

Those familiar with other Dragon Quest titles will undoubtedly be familiar with the interface, which remains largely unchanged, with endless dialogue and confirmations during shopping and a lengthy process of saving at churches; there is a quicksave feature, though it is unfortunately unavailable in most dungeons. Although dungeons lack automaps, moreover, that the environs of dungeons cover both screens of the Nintendo DS allows for decent viewing distance, somewhat negating the need for maps. Ultimately, interaction is above average, although there are some aspects that could have been better.

The chapter system helps the story decently, with a nice view of the hero’s allies before the player takes full control of the protagonist himself or herself, along with a solid translation that adds regional dialects based on real-life patterns of speech in various nations. One unfortunate part of the localization, however, was the removal of the party chat function, which would have added more characterization to the player’s allies that is somewhat lacking in the protagonist’s main chapters, although in the end, the plot helps the game more than hurts.

Koichi Sugiyama’s soundtrack, as usual, is nice, with plenty of neoclassical tracks, although one technical problem is that the music of wherever the player is, be it a dungeon or the overworld, resets after the player fights a battle, making the tracks feel repetitive at times and making it at some points impossible to hear themes in full without remaining still. The primitive sound effects in battle are also present, although the audio, like the battle system and story, helps the game more than hurt.

The graphics remain largely unchanged from the PlayStation version, not that this is a bad thing as they look nice for the most part, with an added bonus of enemies that are animate even if they aren’t attacking the player’s party, not to mention Akira Toriyama’s character designs being visible in combat and the menus as well, in spite of the retained first-person perspective of combat. Ultimately, the visuals, like most of the other aspects, help the game more than hurt.

Finally, the game’s length is lower than average for a Japanese role-playing game, with the player able to complete it in as little as fifteen hours, depending upon how much grinding they require, although post-game content such as an extra chapter can boost playing time to around thirty hours. In conclusion, Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS is pretty much laden with aspects that help it more than hurt, particularly combat, the story, the music, and the graphics. It does take some missteps, however, with regards to things such as the cut party chat feature, although the fourth entry, being the start of the Zenithian Trilogy, makes for a decent diving board into the franchise.

The Good:
+Quick game mechanics.
+Chapter system serves story well.
+Great music and graphics.

The Bad:
-Some grinding necessary.
-Quicksave unavailable in most dungeons.
-Party chat missing from English release.

The Bottom Line:
Great remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo DS
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 15-30 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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