Friday, April 24, 2009

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS)

I thought I'd do a blog style review of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen for the DS, just to give people an idea of what the game is like, what other games its like, whether you might like it or not, what I like and don't like about it and basically just stuff about the game as I progress through it. 

So I'll start with some info about the game and other DQ games.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS) is a remake of the 1990 Famicom title Dragon Warrior IV, which was later remade for the Playstation in 2001.

The Famicom version of the game, known as Dragon Warrior IV. I love the old school visuals, must try it sometime if I can.

And the PS version of the game, which I dont think ever made it to the NTSC or PAL regions, it was just Japan only for this iteration I think. DQ is a much bigger thing in Japan, they are crazy for the games over there, and get some awesome merchandise. Anyway, this screen looks more like the recent DS remake of the game.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS)

Developer: Arte Piazza

Publisher: Square Enix

The game was released last year and is part of Square Enix's remaking of the Zenithian trilogy of DQ games, namely Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie. So far DQIV and V have been released worldwide on the DS and we are waiting for VI, which doesn't have a release date set yet. VI hasn't been seen outside of Japan yet, so it will be interesting for Western audiences to see what its like. But I'm getting sidetracked...

I'm still playing through DQIV, only got around to playing it recently, and its actually the first of the main Dragon Quest games that I've played aside from little bits of VIII on the PS2. So far, from what I've seen, I really like it. I'm a big fan of old school games and rpgs, and the Dragon Quest series as a whole is really traditional. They don't like to change too much about the games in the series from game to game, so there are lots of shared aspects between games from what I can tell. Firstly, this one is turn based similar to a lot of the Final Fantasy games. Most of the DQ games are turn based, I dont know if there are any action rpgs, but I doubt it in this series. For me personally, I prefer turn based rpgs, or what some people call traditional role playing games. I like to be able to think things through and plan what I am going to do and although I can deal with some fast paced action rpgs I definitely prefer the slower style rpgs, and DQ games are very slow paced compared to other games. There is so much more text in battles than say, early Final Fantasy games or Breath of Fire games and actions are described in a kind of long-winded fashion, but not overly so, or so that it is a negative thing in my opinion, however this kind of gameplay is one thing critics of the series have against the DQ series. 

For those unfamiliar with the games, DQIV is set out is very much like a lot of the other Dragon Warrior games, battle screens are views of the enemy sprites, which used to be static, but now have some frames of movements and are actually seen to attack. I really like this aspect of the game, and always wished the Pokemon games had utilised this simple but effective way of doing things. It just makes you feel more like you are actually in a battle, as opposed to just encountering static 2D sprites, well to an extent. On the other screen are the stats of your party members, as well as nicely drawn and designed portraits of each of your party members. Akira Toriyama, the genius behind Dragonball, Dragonball Z etc designed the characters and monsters in the Dragon Quest games, and his skill really shines through in these. If you like his style, you'll no doubt like the characters he has done for these games even though a lot of the characters look familiar, but thats just his style of drawing, which is awesome by the way. I like the use of the two screens in battles. The DS's screens are pretty small and games that only use one of the screens just really don't feel like they are making the best use of the DS's functions. I mean, there are 2 screens, why not use them? The game uses them even better in dungeons and towns, with the view split over the screens, and the trigger buttons, which allow you to rotate the camera in towns and some dungeons. I only found out about this late on, and it really helped me to find doors or gaps in walls that were obscured previously.

When I talked about the use of the DS's functions previously, that brings me to the touch screen controls, or lack thereof. This would have to be one flaw with the game. For me, I prefer using the buttons to control games on the DS unless stylus and touch screen control is done really well, like in The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass. That game had touch screen and stylus control down to an art. I'd definitely recommend it, I think its one of the best DS games.

DQIV DS doesn't use the touch screens at all, which just feels kind of lazy. All DS games in my opinion should at least have the option for this. Final Fantasy III DS didn't always use both screens, but at least had touch screen control options there for those who like em. When I'm grinding though and going through tonnes of battles I just like to have decent button based controls-those are needed and DQIV is good in that respect, the multitude of menus are easy to negotiate and get whatever info you need and message speed can be turned up really fast, which is always good. If they'd included some form of touch screen stuff in here, this game would have benefited from that, I'm sure.

So far, I've liked what I've seen of the inventory management and item equip screens. Each party member (with the exception of some of the NPC dudes who join) has their own inventory so they can have their own apparel and medicine. Its a nice feature which a lot of other rpg franchises don't bother with. When you look in shops for say armour or weapons, you get indicators as to who can equip each item and how it compares to what they've got equipped. Pretty standard and effective stuff. I like the auto-equip option in there when you buy gear or transfer it from the bag or from party member to party member-it makes things easier. The use of two screens keeps it from ever getting cluttered even though there are lots of menus and status screens throughout the game.

The graphics look nice, definitely in battle as I've said before but also in the field. Nice and colourful, I really like the way you can see when its daytime, when the sun is going down, late at night and even sunrise momentarily when everything on the world map gets a little brighter. Pretty cool attention to detail there. The character sprites look decent enough, as do the many enemies you'll encounter. I'm 19 hours and 20 mins into the game so far and although there are a few palette swaps and reused enemy sprites, they are mostly really cool. One thing I love about the Dragon Quest games has to be the monsters. They have this charm, right down to the names of them, Wiggly, for example just looks like a standard earthworm. I don't know why thats so awesome but it is. I came across a few dinosaur type-looking things called Woolungasaurus when I was travelling about the overworld after getting the boat in Chapter 5. I couldn't figure out why they'd called it that, but I like it for sure lol. The enemies and games themselves have this kind of undeniable eccentric charm throughout. You'll  probably either love it or hate it. 

I forgot to mention one other thing about Dragon Quest IV that I like. The way the game is set out is in chapters. In these different chapters, you play as different main characters through chapters 1 to 5, in which you get to play as the protagonist for who you chose the name and gender at the start. Chapter 1 for example, sees you dealing with the story of a knight(with pink armour for some reason) called Ragnar McRyan and chapters 2-4 see you playing with different characters who are each developed through the dialogue and quests they have to do. In chapter 5 you play as this "chosen one" and travel across the world meeting up with the other characters from earlier in the game. I liked the way each region in the game world is seperated by little things like the dialogue. People in different towns will talk in different accents, for example in chapter 1, most of the towns you will visit people will speak in what is supposed to be scottish, in chapter 2, you follow the story of Princess Alena and everyone talks in this at times hard to understand Russian accent. Little things like this make the game world more effective and memorable for me, even if it seems like they have just got out a thesaurus and tried to find alternate words for things and jumbled the order of words just to make it more like broken english. It definitely sounds like that in the "russian" and "french" speaking places. 

So far I've played about 19 hours and 20 minutes of the game, and I'm in Chapter 5 with just one more of the characters to find (Ragnar from Chapter 1). I've apparantely fought in 660 battles, defeated 1626 monsters, gained 36769 G (the currency) from battle, had 644 victories, been wiped out 7 times, fled from battle 8 times and still to find 127 monsters. This gives me a title of King of Cool. Dunno how they arrive at that, but I like that stats page heheh.

So from what it seems and what I've heard, I'll probably get another 10 or 20 hours play out of the game-there are some sidequests but not too many. I'll update here with some more about the game as I play through. Some spoilers ahead, read on if ya want.

15:05, Fri 24th April

I played some more of DQIV last night before I went to sleep and today to wake up properly lol. I just got this Magic Key from the dungeon hidden under the cave near Aubout du monde or whatever its called. The dungeons in this game so far have been really short and simple. I mean, I'm not necessarily saying every dungeon should be insanely complicated and long like the optional dungeon in Lost Odyssey, the Temple of Enlightenment. That place was pretty brutal, I gave up and used Gamefaqs for that shit. 

So far in DQIV, most of the dungeons take like 5 or 10 minutes, with the most complicated that I've seen being the one where you have to get the herb or root thing to cure Kiryl (I think.) It still isn't long, but it had one of those arrow direction conveyor belt so I wandered around there for a while, so it had a bit more to it. I kinda failed at describing that...its basically like a simpler Team Rocket HQ from Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow. Despite the short dungeons I'm still liking the game. I had something else to say, but I forgot..

22:45, Fri, 24th April

Played a bit more of this on the bus and when I got back to the house after I went to my friend's for some Halo 3. I've just really been grinding up my levels getting my team members to similar levels and to the stage where they don't get pwned by the enemies in that dungeon with the switch hidden in a chest. They are quite tough but I think I'm getting strong enough to not have problems on them now. My team is Hero lv17, Meena lv18, Maya lv19 and Kiryl lv15. I'm using them because 3 of em can use healing spells, Kiryl can use buff magic, Maya can use offensive magic and they are all quite good in combat too, well Maya maybe not so much, but I like her spell Bang, that is pretty good. I think Borya could have good spells if I get his levels up enough, seems a pretty good spellcaster. I'm liking this game more and more, I cant put it down!

02:04, Sat, 25th April

A few things about this game that just occurred to me. Firstly, what is the point in the wagon? It allows you to cross the desert somehow and I'm guessing has the party members you aren't using in it. The fact that you have to save at churches only, and can only resurrect fallen characters at churches. It hasn't really been a problem at all, but it slightly bugs me when there isn't one near the dungeon I am grinding in, or wherever I am meant to be going. 

Also, the quicksave function is kind of broken. It doesn't delete itself after you load it so if the dungeon you are in allows you to use it (not all do) then you can just save before a boss battle and keep reloading it. Early on, this unusual quicksave function led to some problems for me. When I picked up the game and could'nt remember where I left of, I loaded the quicksave (it doesn't tell you your progress before you choose to load it or not), continued on with the game and eventually saved the game at a church, not knowing that I had loaded an older quicksave, so I lost a bit of progress and a level or two. So to avoid that happening, I try to keep clear of the quicksave in this game. Could be useful though. Its always a good thing to have on a portable rpg. I just find myself closing the ds over whenever I need to get off the bus or whatever.

16:28, Sun, 26th April

Play time on DQIV: 23:38

Yesterday I grinded some more on the train and then easily beat Marquis de Leon and got Ragnar in my party. At first I thought that they werent going to tell me where to go, but I went back in to the Castle thing and asked the NPCs in there, one of whom told me where to go next. Balzack or whatever his name is would be my next target. 

Made my way over there and I was keeping up with him in battle for a while, but the fact he could attack twice was really hurting me, and one of his moves was hitting me for about 40ish on all my characters, so he eventually beat me. 

Loaded it up today and started grinding on an island north of where he is. Got my guys to Lv20-22 now, not sure if that will be enough. Just about to go face him again and find out.

Jesus...I went in the castle which is now inhabited by monsters and the boss I was going for, and these Hoodoo Gooroos kept casting whack on me...essentially the Death spell of this seemed to work every time on me, but never when I do it. So I nearly got wiped out there again. Gotta grind some more I think.

00:25, Mon, 27th April

I think at this stage in the game, when you are looking for the Zenithian gear, the game seems to attempt to drag itself out a bit, telling me to go to areas I've been to and to other far away places and find stuff with little what could be considered a flowing story. Seems a bit tacked on, but I am still liking it. So the story doesn't seem to flow too well, but the dialogue still seems good to me. When I went to the town of Femiscyra, which was apparantely isolated by the eruption of a volcano which blocked off the route to the town, the people in town sounded like they actually had been in a town which had been in a town blocked off from the world from a while, based on the stuff they say, well its good for an 18 year old game, although its not amazing, it works. Some bits of the game do feel dated.

Anyways, I played some more of the game today, got quite a bit further now I have half of the Zenithian gear I have to collect for some reason that wasnt explained too well. If I ascend to Zenithia, the God of Dragons will help me in my quest to stop Psaro. Maybe...

15:00, Wed, 29th April

I finally beat the game yesterday, got through the final dungeon and the 4 minibosses you have to beat first. The final dungeon wasnt that long, but the hard thing was being a high enough level and having enough MP on my team to take on the endboss (who has forms...) The first few times I tried, I got pretty close(to the 2nd last or last form), but died in the end, so I went back and grinded out some more levels to around lv36-38, healed, put the Goddess Ring on my guys one by one to get their MP back, quicksaved just before and fought him. It was still a close battle, his last form is pretty nasty but I managed it in the end. I think there is some sort of post game content, but I'll leave that for now.

Wanted a fresh game to play so started Digital Devil Saga on the PS2 now.

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