It is a bit uncommon to see a videogame embrace the theme of playing through various generations of the protagonist’s life. Such a mechanic allows us to literally grow with and build a symbolic relationship with the character; and in the larger scope of things, this overarching theme of the transition from innocence to experience (childhood to adulthood) is something every one of us can relate to as we’ve all undergone or will undergo such a change. While you may not literally go out on a journey with your father to see the outside world and witness a sorrowful demise, only to later on foster a generation of your own to not only protect but also journey with, to play a game that focuses on such a theme is refreshing even if its original version debuted in 1992. It’s this very reason why I’ve grown fond of Dragon Quest V.
Being a port of a PS2 game that was a remake of an Super Famicom original, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride does nothing drastically new. As is typical of the series, Dragon Quest V takes in a couple of new ideas yet never drifts away from what makes the series lovable, memorable, and favorable among its fanbase. The ability to recruit defeated monsters into your party and go on a journey with your wife and kids may not sound very innovative or “new”; but when compared to other games in the genre that have yet to adopt this methodology, the game does a good job of standing out on its own. Additions to the DS version of Dragon Quest V include the PS2 features such as a casino, increase in numbers of monsters that can be recruited, sugoroku board to the bonus dungeon, and the ability for four people to be in the active party.
New to Dragon Quest V is Deborah, an adventure seeking third woman (and sister to Flora) the main hero can choose to marry who provides much needed humor to the game and even makes the hero sleep on the floor in her house on their very own honeymoon! The incentive to marrying Deborah lies in her status as a sound fighter; she’s able to equip some of the better weapons in the game and can use support spells, and the children she births have black/brown hair. It almost feels as if Deborah as just thrown into the game for the sake of there being a third woman, seeing as how Deborah just shows up when the hero makes the choice to either marry Flora or Bianca. True to her adventurous nature, Deborah’s wedding happens to have a casino theme attached to it. She’s a nice exception to Bianca or Flora, but I’m sure for the sake of the story most people will go with Bianca.
In typical Dragon Quest fashion pre-Dragon Quest VIII, battles play out in first person view with battle animations to make up for the character’s actions. As already noted, four people can be in the active party with recruited monsters able to join the fold, acting as actual party members that sometimes don’t pay attention to the commands given until they’ve been properly groomed. As with the DS version of Dragon Quest IV, the monsters all have their own animations and move fluidly. Turn-based battle tactics apply, and they are complimented by Sugiyama’s graceful battle compositions. Your characters now carry their own item bags that allow them to carry their own things, making it easier to use a healing item or an ailment remover.
Outside battles, the game, as with previous iterations, opens itself to exploration. The characters you meet and greet have their own cool personality, and there’s never a dull moment in the humor department. Even like its predecessors and successors, Dragon Quest V places major emphasis on the journey rather than on the destination itself, making the player feel more active in the journey and aware of things within the game such as helping people out or listening to interesting stories. What makes the journey in Dragon Quest V interesting is the simple fact that you are on a journey with family members as opposed to complete strangers, which gives the game a deeper, personal feeling as if it were the player and his/her family on that particular journey.
One thing that seems to be synonymous with Dragon Quest games is the need to grind to have a chance in battles and steer clear of any looming complications. While many people would make such a claim, I’d say there isn’t much need to grind in any of the games. I made the mistake of saying this when talking about Dragon Quest IV; and looking back on that and comparing it to my playing of Dragon Quest V, grinding was never a major need. Sure it’s required if you’re the kind of person who wants no troubles or access to better spells, but getting through the game is very feasible with proper planning and equipment. Grinding today has come to mean that the player must be so many levels ahead of the competition just to ensure victory, a definition that seems more typical of tedious and troublesome; but really, grinding is about refining your tactics and shaping them into something that works for you. Leveling up comes with the package, but it’s not an arduous task or chore that would turn off the player.
Even then, Dragon Quest V, as much as Dragon Quest IV, stands the test of time. The PS2 visuals in the DS version suit the game just fine with very little troubles. Sure the battle mechanics may seem outdated to today’s generation of RPG gamers who prefer immediate results or a fresher interface, but Dragon Quest V is as good a title as any other game. The overall arching theme of family and love makes Dragon Quest V an enjoyable game; and though turn-based it may be, the game also provides gamers with a long adventure waiting to be seen. Should Dragon Quest V grace North American shores, give it a chance. After all, you may end up liking it.
Images courtesy of Square Enix