Review: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (Nintendo DS)

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
Developer: SquareEnix
Publisher: SquareEnix
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 09/16/2008


Originally released in America as Dragon Warrior Iv on the NES in 1992, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen has maintained some of its original charm and gained some new style and challenge in its release for NDS. It seems to be that people are either loving it or hating it, despite whether they’ve played the original or not.

This review comes from a gamer that had to fight her two older brothers for every minute of playtime with the original. Yeah, it was a long time ago, but I remember how captivated I was with the game and its cute storylines, which at the time I was too young to recognize as “cute.” I took it very seriously; quite possibly because according to my brother’s, I wasn’t supposed to play these sorts of games and quite possibly shouldn’t have been playing any games at all. Maybe it’s sheer vindictiveness that led me to want to master the new version, but I think I’ve managed to stay somewhat impartial regardless of my motives.

Story

This is the category where Chapters of the Chosen manages to be at its most unique, so I’ll try to give just a little taste without revealing too much. You start the game by choosing whether the main hero (you) are going to be male or female. It seems to be that the only difference story and gameplay wise is that choosing to be male gives you a slighter lower selection of weapons and armor that can be equipped. Other than that, everything stays the same. The prologue shows you, in your native village training for battle. You get a brief introduction into your life and then it’s time for the game to begin.

There are five chapters in this game, with each of the first four following different characters through their own story and goals. This has various benefits and downfalls. The good part is that you get a new storyline with a new characters to learn and different people/villages to interact with. One character is simply out in search of adventure, while another is set on attaining the title of being the greatest weapons dealers to ever live. The former’s story is focused primarily on battles and various achievements while the latter focuses more on running a shop and attaining merchandise. This at times helps waylay boredom, but the negative is that for each new character that you play, you have to level them up from the beginning all over again. It seemed apparent to me that the different characters also leveled up at varying rates, with some chapters seeming to fly by, while others were spent with hours of mindless grinding. I’m comfortable with admitting that one of the chapters had me seriously wondering whether I really wanted to continue playing.

Another negative is that you don’t actually see your hero character again until you’ve played as each of the other “chosen.” Then, suddenly you’ve grown up and it’s your turn to kick some butt. The thing that sets this off as a negative is that at times you might get so caught up in some of the side-quests and betting at the casino that you completely forget that you even have a character because the intro was so brief. That is where the game starts to pick up some speed.

The story is riddled with silly dialogue and runs rampant with ridiculous enemy names. How can you not be entertained while you’re battling Foo Yung and Chow Mein? Don’t confuse the Thorny Devil with the Horny Devil, or you might find yourself in some serious trouble. The enemies start out rather bland and not too varied, but by the time you get to the fifth chapter you start to battle some increasingly interesting creatures.

Story Rating: Great

Graphics

The graphics are one of the most noticeable changes from the original to the re-release. Navigating through 3D villages where both screens are used to display the buildings and surrounding areas is extremely pleasant. The right and left toggle buttons are used to rotate the scene clockwise or counterclockwise to see the entire area from every perspective. The scenes are very colorful and filled with various characters to interact with, and there are regularly timed intervals between day and night where the scenes will gradually dim with the setting sun.

The enemy battles are now filled with moving characters and new spell effects. You can now have multiple enemies engulfed in flickering flames and large crashing shards of ice. Also, the enemies’ attacks are now in 3D, with each enemy either casting spells or dashing towards you to inflict damage. The background scenery during the battles are varied to your location and quite detailed. The upper screen of the DS is used to display your character stats, so you can be aware of your available magic points or hit points, rather than simply relying on the bar beneath your character’s icon during battle.

Somehow, Arte Piazza, who was in charge of art design, managed to add these new details while maintaining the classic, simple feel of the NES style. This is a wonderful drawing point for me as it brings me a feeling of nostalgia, while at the same time making me feel as if this were a whole new game.

Graphics Rating: Classic

Sound

Each chapter has its own unique score that’s upbeat and somewhat soothing. The boss battles have their own, more intense versions, of the score to help add drama to your fight. Battles are now filled with sounds of slashing swords and more creative and intriguing spell casting variations. The DS is rather limited to its sound capabilities, and I feel that while being unique and entertaining, the score doesn’t really stretch those limits and the game is just as easily played with the sound off as it is on. You do have the options of changing the sound levels of the score and sound effects so that you can choose to play while predominantly hearing the battle effects and less background music, or change it to the opposite and choose to play with minimal sound effects. I prefer to enhance the sound effects as at times there will be sound cues to alert you of changes in the battle or scenery.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

Control/Gameplay

Although usage of the stylus sets the DS apart, there is absolutely no time while playing Chapters of the Chosen when you use it. There are certain menus that might have been more easily navigable with the stylus, but at the same time the lack of its necessity aids in the more nostalgic feel of old-school NES controls.

While in a village, the Y button will bring up a map in the upper screen that tells you where you can go for weapons, armor, items, rest points (Inns,) and save points (churches). You can also use this menu to see the stock lists of various stores in the village. This is useful as it can save you time when you are looking for a specific item. Why waste time in a town that doesn’t have what you need?

While out in the field exploring, the upper screen has a map of the world. With this map, each area that you’ve explored already highlighted, and each town marked by a dot that changes from orange to yellow as you wander. A feather quill marks your current position.

As mentioned before, the L and R toggle buttons are used to rotate the 3D screens for easy viewing of the area. While you can choose to use the menu for speaking to characters, or examining areas, it’s more easily done by simply moving your character to the desired area/character and pressing the A button. The menu can be accessed with the X button, and there are six options to choose from: Talk, Magic, Items, Examine, Attributes, and Misc. Talk and Examine are pretty self-explainable, while the Items and Magic menus show you your available spells and items.

The Misc. menu is your wagon, where you can change your character line-up, heal all, sort the items in your bag or via character, access your battle records, change your settings, equip items, and Quick Save option. While you have your wagon with you the inactive members of your party continue to level up as your own does so that you can easily change characters at any given point without having to worry about using a low-level character at a higher level point in the game. Quick Save can at times be your best friend, as saving into your adventure log is only allowed at churches, which can be few and far between. Quick Save won’t save into your adventure log, but it will act as a backup for you in the event you have to suddenly stop playing. When you resume play you can choose to start from that point, or the last save in your adventure log. The Battle Records log can be a useful tool in tracking your achievements and failures.

The churches aren’t only used for saving (giving confession), but can also be used to resurrect any fallen member of your party, give Benediction (lift curses), divine how many experience points each member of your team is from leveling up, or purify (lift poison) from any of your members. Unfortunately, each action is preceded by a blessing and followed by a blessing as well. This feels rather redundant and gets old really quickly.

Sometimes while playing, I chose not to resurrect a deceased party member, because it’s just much too cute to move your lead character around the various areas while followed by a little coffin, but maybe I’m a tad bit morbid.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Incredible

Replayability

As with any RPG, once you win the game there just aren’t any surprises left with the storyline. For most people, this means there really isn’t any reason to play the game again.

Fortunately, this game can run as long as you’d like it to. There are many items to attain from various areas and villages that you have to go back to later as you reach higher levels, or attain other items that can give you access to those wondrous prizes. There are also a number of mini-games that you can play in the casino, such as Poker, and gambling on monster battles. This can be fun for a while, though tokens go up drastically in price as you go through chapters. This can either be seen as a challenge or a waste of time depending on preference. There are a few more secrets in store for the gamer that chooses to look, but I can’t give it all away.

Replayability Rating: Decent

Balance

At the beginning of each chapter, the enemies can seem rather easy to beat. As you discover new areas of the map, you start to encounter more and more difficult enemies and there can be some bosses that really flex your skill.

The starting from scratch in chapters 1-4 can seem like a chore, but once you get each new character’s story rolling, it gets more interesting and the leveling up doesn’t seem like so much redundancy. Once you get to chapter 5 though, all bets are off. There are numerous new enemies and bosses to defeat and nothing comes easily.

As the stories advance, there are very few clues as to where to go next, or what your character needs to achieve to move forward. The clues you do find can be very subtle and you generally have to wander around talking to darn near everyone you encounter before you figure it out. Most of the time you just wander the map until you encounter another village nearby where you might find a clue or another challenge. Trying to piece together your objective or final destination, rather than being given blatant direction, gives me a stronger sense of challenge. Sure spending hours wandering and leveling aimlessly can seem like a waste when you get to a point just to realize you should’ve gone the other way, but once you get to where you need to be it just feels like more of an achievement.

But is it worth spending $40? I’m almost positive that the game will take the average gamer at least 40 hours to complete, so the real question should be, “Is this game worth a dollar an hour of my time?” My answer would be yes, but this is a genre that I happen to rather enjoy. Not everyone would feel the same.

Balance Rating: Classic

Originality

Most RPG’s follow just one character on their voyage through life, and maybe they’ll pick up some random party members here or there who might stick with them for a little while or for the rest of their travels. This game gives you five separate storylines, with five separate main characters and a bevy of extra party members and random characters that come in and out of play. It’s nice to have the option to buy the services of other adventurer’s to help you on your quest, if only for a few days. That’s a nice feature as well, if you choose not to hire or accept help when you can, it allows for the option of more challenging play, and in the event of an untimely death, sad regret for not taking it.

In addition to this, you explore varying regions of the map depending on which characters story you happen to be playing at the time. Each new region happens to have its own dialect and unique accents. Stop by every time you run across a dog or cat to see what it has to say other than “meow” or “bark,” you’ll be surprised each time. I find it rather silly and cute that they not only give each village its own language, but they share it with the animals as well. I still don’t get why a dog would be heard saying, “va… va…” But, that just adds to the cutesy charm that Chapters of the Chosen holds.

Originality Rating: Amazing

Addictiveness

Each storyline has it’s own quirks and difficulty styles, and knowing that you don’t know what the next chapter is going to bring has the effect of driving you to complete the one you’re on, if only just to appease your curiosity. At times I got tired of constantly running around the map grinding my way through levels, but the need to see what was in store for the final chapter was enough to encourage me to continue. Seriously, don’t you want to know what happens when all five adventurers gather together with their followers? And to be honest, not every chapter was a grind-fest, and some parts of individual chapters seemed to move at varying rates than others. I felt that this variation was enough to keep me interested and motivated to the finish.

Addictiveness Rating: Very Good

Appeal Factor

Anyone who played the original in its NES form, or its remake on the PlayStation is going to be interested in seeing what this new version has in store. The nostalgic fascination alone is a massive appeal factor for older gamers who have a desire to see new features and better graphics on their past game favorites. There is also a ginormous fan base that follows the RPG’s of SquareEnix, no matter what release they come out with or how much relentless grinding is involved. Fans of the Final Fantasy series are going to enjoy this, if only because of the similar fighting and adventuring style. On the other hand, there’s a family of gamers who wouldn’t go near this simply because it’s made by SquareEnix, even though they’ve come up with more unique gems like The World Ends with You, in more recent days, rather than sticking to their usual style. Another great factor is that Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VI are going to be released in the near future as well and playing through the entire trilogy is going to be very enticing.

Appeal Factor Rating: Amazing

Miscellaneous

There are quite a few mini-games and side quests that deserve a mention. The Endor Casino can be visited during a few chapters, each successful chapter that it is available the differing the cost of the tokens, starting at 10 gold/token and rising as high as 200 gold/token. The mini-games available in the casino include Slot Machines, Poker, and the Monster Arena where you bid on varying monsters in battles to the death. Attaining huge winnings can get you equipment, armor, and items from the prize table that you can’t find in any of the shops in the villages. These items aren’t necessary to win the game, but they definitely can make it more fun.

There’s also a side quest that has you collecting “mini-medals” from places all over the map. As you collect them, you bring them to King Minikin, who will give you rewards for the number of medals you retrieve. There are at least 60 of these buggers hidden in random clay pots, and private cupboards in all sorts of villages, caves, and dungeons around the map.

After attaining a certain prize item, a new town appears whose founder is looking to develop the town. You can spend quite some time here building up the population and leveling up the town. Each level brings in new shops, inns, and achievements to master.

Miscellaneous Rating: Amazing

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Incredible
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Classic
Originality: Amazing
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Amazing
Miscellaneous: Amazing
FINAL SCORE: GREAT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is a delightful remake of a classic original. The updated graphics, increased storylines, updated sound effects, and extensive character development is enough to get classic gamers hooked. Multiple storylines with differing characters for each chapter is a factor that will give RPG lovers a unique reason to enjoy this newer version.

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