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CONSOLE: Nintendo DS DEVELOPER: ArtePiazza; Cattle Call PUBLISHER: Square Enix
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 16, 2008 GENRE: RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Classic RPG action, thy name is Dragon Quest, even when remade.

A wise man once said, "The only constant is change." Well, that wise man was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher famous for the implantation of the term "logos" in our head. Unfortunately for him, he lived from 535-475 BC, long before video games ever became popular. For the Dragon Quest series in particular, the surviving phrase should be, "The only constant is the menu system." Such truer words have nary been spoken; the Dragon Quest series is one of the few realms of the gaming universe that is extremely resistant to altering its core systematics. Only graphical and sound quality is where major changes have been made. So when it was announced that Dragon Quest IV would be remade for the blossoming Nintendo DS, I doubt there were many who expected a grandiose alteration of the dynamics of how the game is played.

A classic blend of brawling, wandering around towns, and talking to the most useful people.

And they would be correct in doing so. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen plays very similarly to its counterpart from the NES days. The basics are all there: you take your party (of varied numbers at various times) in a fairly linear quest, crossing continents and oceans, battling it out with random encounters, all the while trying to better yourself by gaining experience to raise your levels and seeking out new and improved weaponry and armor. It's your standard RPG through and through, and a far more simplistic one than most others. And that's probably how it should be, considering the older Dragon Quest games (including DQIV) helped to shape the current design of RPGs today, laying the foundation for what many of us take for granted today. Dragon Quest helped to make elements such as random encounters, leveling up, and shopping for better swords prevailing factors in many of the most endearing RPGs to date.

But what is different and unique in Dragon Quest IV that separates it from the rest of the brood? For one thing, this is the only chapter-based game of the series. The game is divided into six chapters, the first four of which follow a different character whose backstory and motivations we learn more about. In the fifth chapter, you finally control the Hero (that's right -- it takes THAT long before you get to control... well, you) and guide him as he acquaints himself with all of the characters from earlier chapters and as they join him for a common goal. A sixth chapter, not present in the original version, works to add even more depth to the Hero's journey against the tyranny of the main antagonist, Psaro the Manslayer (who seems to pop up frequently in the travels of each character). Additionally, during battle, each character can be controlled either by you or by the CPU; if the CPU is chosen, you can designate certain tactical battle styles to each character (or the whole party), such as always using magic, healing, or giving it your all with fisticuffs. And, of course, saving is now completed in church, not by a king. Originally, it was in a "House of Healing", but now that Nintendo has been less stringent about its content concerns...

Perhaps the biggest change is the brand spankin' new translation. While I appreciate that developer ArtePiazza worked to expand upon the cramped dialogue of the NES version (where space was limited), it is definitely also a point of contention for myself and many other Dragon Quest fans. For whatever reason, the game now sports a whopping 13 dialects spread out across the many regions of the world, many of which can be closely related to how someone from certain real-life countries would speak English, complete with modified grammar and accents. Some of the dialects required a couple of re-reads before I could figure out exactly what they were saying. That's pesky; text should be straightforward. It might have been easier to understand with voice acting, but because such is not available, I believe plain English for everyone would have sufficed. Globalization may not be the favoured choice of all citizens, but it would sure make my legendary quest seem a bit easier.

Naturally, the graphics are definitely a step forward from the NES version. I wouldn't expect any less. All environments are now rendered in 3D; due to the stymieing overhead view, the camera can often be rotated so you can see everything within your surroundings. I've always found 3D to be a bit awkward-looking and jagged on the DS, but it's tolerable in Dragon Quest IV. Plus, if you get lost, there's a sweet map! Characters, however, are still 2D sprites, but they seem to work well within the environment. Another nice thing is that, with the more updated capabilities of the Nintendo DS (and, I suppose, the PlayStation remake which this is also based on to a degree), the towns, the dungeons, and the vast countrysides can now be illustrated in far more detail. Even the character portraits can accurately reflect the visions of designer Akira Toriyama. The battle menus also have little icons to go along with the text as well. As for sound, it's more or less a remixing of tunes from the original, only with more updated instruments. But every song is suited to the series, bearing the chipperness expected of any Koichi Sugiyama soundtrack.

...I'm not sure if I actually reviewed the game or not. Hmmm. But what I do know is that if you are looking for a modern-looking handheld RPG that harkens back to a simpler time when we didn't need to attach customized jewels to our weapons or needless sidequests involving cooking, then... well, I guess pretty much ANY Dragon Quest game would be a great place to start. But, considering this is the start of its own unique trilogy, this could be a good point in the series to dive into.

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