Dragon Quest V

A man named Papas awaits the birth of his son, after which something mysterious happens to his wife. Years later, Papas travels with his son across the world in search of something. Dragon Quest V was the first installment of the Enix series to appear on the Super NES, as well as the first not to reach North America, given that the company’s American branch would close for about a decade. A shame, since the fifth installment is an enjoyable title despite its flaws.

As with previous installments of the franchise, combat is randomly-encountered and turn-based, though this time, active party size is down to three characters. However, the player ultimately gains access to a carriage that allows him or her to switch out characters before a round of battle. Before a round, moreover, the player can also adjust party A.I., although there is the option of manually inputting commands for each character. Inputting commands for every character naturally begins a round of combat. As usual, turn order can annoyingly vary, and the escape option isn’t foolproof. Still, most battles are fairly fast-paced, with commands executing quickly.

One main twist in the battle system is that occasionally after a fight is over, enemies will offer to join your party, which comes in handy given the deficit of human characters early on in the game. The player can level up and equip monsters just like human characters, although he or she can only have a certain number in the party at once, and thus need to leave excess monsters behind at special facilities. Another twist is that if a monster’s intelligence stat is too low, it may not follow whatever commands the player gives it in battle. Still, the battle system works well, and is one of the main draws to the game.

Interaction is okay, but could’ve certainly been better. The menus are generally easy to navigate, and conveniences such as spells that allow the player to exit dungeons instantly and revisit towns exist like in previous installments of the series. Shops also show how new equipment increases or decreases your character’s stats. There are still some annoyances, though, such as the endless confirmations that occur when performing frequent tasks at facilities, the need to use a particular spell to see the effects of items, and a lack of direction at times. Nonetheless, interaction is passable.

Each installment of the Dragon Quest series has introduced something new to the franchise, in some instances the genre, as well, and the fifth chapter continues this trend, introducing the ability to capture monsters for use in combat, predating even the Pok‚mon series by a few years with this feature. The story also shows some signs of creativity, although the fifth installment does retain features from its predecessors like turn-based combat and many enemies, yet is still distinctive in its own right.

The story is fairly interesting, although like most installments of the series, it somewhat takes a backseat, with scarce depth and development throughout the game. There are some good twists that occur throughout the title’s generations, and despite the somewhat awkward pacing, the plot is nonetheless one of the better ones of the series.

The soundtrack, though, is one of Koichi Sugiyama’s best, with plenty of good tracks such as the battle theme and sailing music. The sound effects, though, are still more or less the same as they were in previous installments. The graphics, furthermore, are a definite step above those of the NES Dragon Quests, with vibrant colors and nice monster art, although monsters in battle are still inanimate, with no view of your characters in combat, either. Overall, the fifth Dragon Quest looks decent yet sounds better.

Finally, the game isn’t terribly lengthy, taking somewhere from twenty to thirty hours to complete, with an extra dungeon accessible after beating the final boss and some occasional sidequests boosting playing time. Overall, Dragon Quest V is a worthy addition to the series; though some aspects such as interaction, the story, and the visuals could’ve certainly been better, its solid combat and music largely compensate for those shortcomings. It would receive a remake on the Playstation 2, though odds are it will remain in Japan and thus be out of reach for mainstream American gamers, at least perhaps until the next remake.

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