Ah, nostalgic comforts. I remember the old days, sitting on my pa’s chair as he searched the nearby forest for firewood. Our old dog sleeping at my feet as I ate cabbage stew and played Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen on my NES. That was before pa got his dysentery.
Of course, sometimes nostalgia is utter and total malarkey. Like, my “beautiful” hometown, which is actually 15 Bed, Baths & Beyonds and Boston Markets pasted together with stucco. Sometimes, however, a nostalgic item lives up to the impossible hype that our brains and the passage of time have placed upon it. Such is the case — mostly — with Dragon Quest IV for the Nintendo DS.
Dragon Quest IV originally came out for the NES in 1990 (in Japan) and in 1992 (in America. It came out again on the PlayStation in 2001. Now, in 2008, it comes home to roost on the Nintendo DS.
Let me get some bad things out of the way first. Other than the quicksave feature, which has become synonymous with portable RPGing, there’s really nothing else portable centric in the title. Real save points are few and far between. It has that bizarre feature started with Nintendogs where if you leave your system on while you walk around town and walk by someone else with their system on, you’ll trade items or something. Has this ever happened to anyone, ever? I live in New York City, a city of 10 million people, and it has never happened to me.
Also, not much update work was put into this remake. The graphics look almost identical to the PlayStation version, although allowing you to use the shoulder buttons to spin the 3D world around to find items, doors etc. There is absolutely no touchscreen implementation, which may be a relief to some. I find, however, that using the touchscreen to navigate through menus helps a lot, particularly when the game is old enough to have missed out on some of the time-saving elements that newer RPGs offer. In short, this is an old game; pretty much the same game that came out in 1992, warts and all. It’s also $40.
You will find it easy to forgive these minor flaws, though, because the game is seriously fun. Modern RPGs can stand to learn a lot from Dragon Quest IV. It’s hard, but not unforgiving. It has main characters who aren’t spiky-haired teenage brats. The world is huge, the game is long, and the gameplay is constantly changing and evolving. Not bad for a title that was made almost 20 years ago.
Case in point, there are whole chapters where fighting monsters isn’t even the main thrust. There are chapters where you’ll participate in tournaments, run a business and of course complete your typical “fight monster to receive important item” quests. These chapters make up the narrative of the game, each one telling the story of how the game’s main party managed to find each other to start kicking some blue slime butt. It’s an extremely compelling way to tell a story and certainly does make you care about each member of your party. This is the first time in an RPG where I didn’t mind that the game was not letting me rename my characters to members of my middle school rap group. That’s how much I cared about my party.
One thing Square Enix did update is the game’s dialog. Each region sports its own dialect, and although some are hard to read, most of the characters are so funny you won’t even mind. Yes, this game is funny. Why not have a few laughs while trying to save the world from demons? No, that wasn’t a spoiler. They are actually archfiends.
There really are so many neat little parts that help break up the usual RPG monotony of grind, baby, grind. It would be a shame to spoil them for you here, but suffice it to say they exist, and you’ll probably smile. If you haven’t played it before, you are in for a treat — providing you can deal with some old-school quirkiness. If you have played it and are wondering whether it’s as good as you remember, it is. It may even be better than you remember. You had better get it and beat it fast, too, because the Dragon Quest V and VI remakes are just around the corner.
- Score: 8.5
— Lawrence Bonk