Dragon Quest IV is one of those rare games that makes me feel like a kid again. Sure, it’s got a brand new sparkling coat on for the DS, but underneath, it’s still an old school role playing game — which isn’t a bad thing at all.
The player starts off the first couple of chapters of DQ IV getting to know the background of each member of their final party. Instead of a boring cut scene, players actually get to play as the characters before they meet the game’s hero. It means playing the boring part of leveling up a low level character into a mid-level character over and over again, but the battles were so quick that I didn’t mind. Even grinding to get some levels in goes by quickly.
The game’s graphics look fantastic on the DS. Sprites are crisp, 3D dungeons and towns are colorful and make the characters pop out, and monsters have a charming fantasy look to them and some pretty hilarious names. The addition of being able to rotate the camera in most towns and dungeons was also a nice touch and helped in revealing hidden items.
The localization team behind DQ IV did such a superb job with the script that I can’t help but chuckle at some of the puny NPC and monster names. All the different accents from people around the DQ IV world were fitting and entertaining. I’m usually annoyed by gimmicky accents, but DQ IV pulled it off perfectly. Talking to NPCs, which usually seems like a chore to me, was actually one of my favorite things to do upon reaching a town for the first time.
Battles in DQ IV feel like a blast from the past. The strictly turn-based battle system works well within this game and the fact that there are so many characters to choose from to form a party is a nice change of pace from other RPGs which only give you a couple of characters to play around with. I like that the magic using characters have their own specialization instead of just having one magic character with a bunch of spells to choose from. I do find myself playing favorites though.
Another plus for DQ IV is its difficulty curve. The game isn’t easy, but it’s also not frustratingly hard. I never felt like I needed to grind tons of levels just to beat a boss. At the same time, it never felt like I was over leveled for most of the regular enemies.
Dying in DQ IV is handled in a different way than usual Japanese RPGs. Upon complete party wipe-out, the player is brought back to the last church he saved in with half gold. In the church, players can resurrect fallen party members, save, remove curses, and so on. It’s a better system than getting kicked back to the title screen each time you die, but after dying so many times, I wish the cleric in the church wasn’t so wordy each time and just do what I asked him to do instantly.
At a time when most people are oohing and aahing over the latest HD game with the highest polygon count, it feels good to play something as simple and pure as DQ IV. I admit that I’m a Dragon Quest newbie and I was at first put off by people saying the gameplay hasn’t changed since its NES predecessor, but as soon as I finished chapter 2, I couldn’t tear myself away from it. If you’re craving an RPG that reminds you of the ones of yesteryear, DQ IV is your answer.
Images courtesy of Square Enix.