My Review- Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)
In my opinion, a remake or release of an old game can be a good thing if done properly. Revitalizing an aging classic with a fresh coat of paint can bring great experiences to gamers who might have missed them the first time around. Square Enix decided to remake the ‘Zenithia Trilogy’ of Dragon Quest games- IV, V, and VI- for the Nintendo DS. Dragon Quest V, the personal favorite in the series by it’s creator, is one of the two in the series never released in North America until the remake. Combining the series’ classic formula with a moving story, Dragon Quest V stands as not only the crown jewel of the Zenithia games, but perhaps the entire Dragon Quest series as well.
Each title in the Zenithia trilogy is know primarily for a major twist on the Dragon Quest series tradition, making each game a noteworthy installment. For Dragon Quest V, the traditional ‘Hero’s Quest’ of the story is split into several generations. Your hero begins the game as a child, traveling the world with his father, Pankraz, who is on an important mission. Some small adventures with his friends fill the early hours of the game, but our hero’s happy childhood does not last very long, when he discovers that his father’s mission is to rescue the hero’s mother, who was kidnapped shortly after her son’s birth. Forced into slavery for ten years, our hero becomes a man in the captivity of the same people who stole his family from him. From there, the true Dragon Quest V experience begins. Your hero will travel the world, choose a wife, and even father children over the course of this epic journey, all while seeking to end what his father started, and put an end to the evil force that has plagued his family since his birth.
Dragon Quest games are known for lighthearted adventures, with the grander or darker moments made all the more potent by the usually pleasant atmosphere. This is especially true of Dragon Quest V- the small character moments, the laughter and jokes of the journey, all make the darker moments hit harder, and allow a deep sense of attachment to the characters.
At a certain point of the game, you choose a bride from three different prospects, and the choice is made especially personal, as this is very much your choose- you have taken this character from birth to adulthood, and the weight of the decision is made more potent by this.
Dragon Quest V’s story is grand, epic, yet personal. This is top-notch stuff.
The traditional formula of Dragon Quest has barely changed since it’s inception. It’s a traditional-to-the-bone turn based RPG, with random encounters, an overworld, towns, and monsters aplenty. Being an older game in the series, never additions, such as alchemy and tension, have yet to be introduced. However, Dragon Quest V is innovative in more than just it’s story.
Because, for large chunks of the game, you will not be traveling with a full party’s worth of human characters, Dragon Quest V allows you to fill your ranks with monsters. By defeating monsters in battle, some of them may ask you to let them travel with you. There are more than a hundred recruitable monsters in the game, and each one has their own unique abilities and skills. Many enemies can unlock new talents by traveling with you, including ones that you may be surprised by. Who knew that Slimes could wield boomerangs? Or that Jailcats were such versatile spellcasters? Experimenting with different party combinations can immerse you for hours, and no monster is entirely useless. My final party consisted of my Wife, my son, my daughter, a sabercat, a Slime Knight, a Slime, and a Healslime. Never rule anything out.
Dragon Quest V suffers from a few minor problems, but these are more pet peeves I have with the Dragon Quest series than a real problem with the game. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell where to go next, as people in town may not tell you everything you need. Your party members can sometimes drop hints, but there are many times where you’ll only accidentally find where you’re supposed to go. In addition, the amount of mandatory grinding to afford new weapons and armor borders on horrendous, especially late in the game, but again, that’s Dragon Quest. Minor flaws aside, Dragon Quest V is a solidly designed adventure.
The Zenithia remakes all sport a similar visual theme, combining 2D sprites and art with 3D backgrounds to create a simply gorgeous effect. In particular, the animation of enemy sprites during combat is astounding, easily some of the best 2D animation you’ll see. Many of the backgrounds are stellar as well, filling both screens at times. The camera can be manipulated with the shoulder buttons as well, improving the view even more. The many monsters you’ll encounter are as varied as ever, of course.
I’ve never been a fan of Sugiyama’s music, but Dragon Quest V still has a great score. Many classic tunes appear here, but the original songs are great too. The final boss theme is rather disappointing- after the build up to the boss, I’d have expected a more dramatic theme. However, most of the songs are fitting to their situation and are well composed.
While not perfect, Dragon Quest V is barely short of it. The game’s great visuals and timeless gameplay are backed by one of the best tales the series has told, with memorable characters and moments filling out the thirty hour adventure. Dragon Quest V is a superb RPG, and if you have a DS, you shouldn’t miss this one.