Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen - Reader Review  

The New Chosen
by Jeremy Michael Gallen

Less than 20 Hours
+ Simple but enjoyable battle system.
+ Solid soundtrack.
+ Good graphics.
- Some usability issues.
- Party conversations removed from U.S. version.
- Plot somewhat drags late in the game.
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   Before the merger of Squaresoft and Enix, the latter's Dragon Quest franchise didn't exactly have the best of luck outside Japan: when the company announced a remake of the fourth installment for the Playstation, its North American branch originally intended to localize it, although its developer's shutting down ultimately aborted the remake's localization prospects. Years later, Square-Enix announced remakes of the Zenithian trilogy for the Nintendo DS, among them being Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, which one could consider an enhanced version of the Playstation remake, and succeeds in reviving a classic for a new generation of gamers to enjoy, in spite of a few flaws.

   As with the original, Dragon Quest IV features randomly-encountered turn-based battles, where, as with most other turn-based RPGs, the player inputs all commands for the party and lets them and the enemy beat each other up in a round. New to the DS port is the ability to input specific commands for the hero's party instead of having to rely on the A.I. to do so, though various A.I. options still exist for the player's party. Odds are, however, that the player will actually want to have manual control over each ally, so said A.I. likely won't go to use, although players still don't have actual control over occasional guest allies that only temporarily join. As with most traditional RPGs, the player gains experience and money from winning battles, with characters occasionally leveling after obtaining enough of the former.

   As most RPGs should, moreover, Dragon Quest IV has a continue system in the form of resurrection of the hero (or protagonist of chapters before his) at the church where the player last saved, along with a loss of half the party's money. The player still must pay to revive the hero's allies, and admittedly, money can be tight early in the game, but eventually, characters will gain revival magic that will ultimately spare the player the expense of church revival. A bank where the player can store money, furthermore, will mostly nullify the penalty of death in battle. All in all, combat is simple, enjoyable, and even fast-paced, with the only real shortcoming being inconsistent and unpredictable turn order during each round of combat, as seems to be the case with pretty much every traditional turn-based RPG.

Or gifts bearing Greeks Beware of Greeks bearing gifts

   Interaction has never been a strong point in the Dragon Quest franchise, and Chapters of the Chosen continues that trend. The general game menus aren't that bad, and conveniences such as warp magic (for towns, at least) and dungeon exit magic are available, but there are still a number of questionable design decisions, such as endless dialogue when performing tasks such as saving at a church and shopping for new equipment and items, and weak direction at times on where to go next. Questionable design also plagues the fourth installment's quicksave feature, surprisingly unusable in most (but not all) dungeons, but since there is no Game Over screen, odds are players won't be saving that much, anyway. All in all, the interface is by no means bad, although it could have used more polish.

   The original Dragon Quest IV was definitely high in the creativity department, with its unique method of chapter-based storytelling (which a few other RPGs would imitate) and controlling several different protagonists and their allies before the one the player names when starting a new game, along with A.I. in a turn-based battle system. The fourth installment does bear superficial similarities to other Dragon Quests, but was still a unique entry into the franchise, and, in the original version's time, a distinct RPG.

   As mentioned, the fourth installment's method of storytelling differs from that of other RPGs, and even other entries of the Dragon Quest franchise. While the player does name a male or female protagonist when starting a new game, he/she only gets to control them briefly in a prologue chapter (new to the remake) before having to play as several different heroes and their companions, each with their own unique stories that ultimately intertwine when the player does officially control the main hero or heroine. Though the way in which the game's story unfolds is interesting, it's only slightly deeper than in the original, with a considerable lag towards the end during the hero's chapter, although a new post-game chapter adds a new twist on the ending.

   The remake also sports a new translation from the original, where most places in the world have regional dialects. For instance, the residents of Burland such as Ragnar McRyan (originally just Ragnar) now speak Scots (Scottish English), and Alena is now a Tsarevna (a Russian princess) with her land's people, now more Russian-influenced, speaking much like Chekov in Star Trek, with v's in words, for instance, replaced with w's. The translation is generally above-average, though either Nintendo America's lust for censorship or the localization team's laziness completely deprived Anglophone players of the party conversation feature present in the Japanese version. Still, the plot is half-decent, yet tends to tell more than show.

Termino...something Try saying that three times in a row

   The soundtrack's presentation could have been better, too, but is still one of the game's high points. Koichi Sugiyama provides the music, remixed for the remake and generally sounding pleasant, although it is somewhat annoying that after the player fights a random encounter, the music in the area of encounter resets to the beginning, decreasing the chance of the player hearing that place's track to completion. The sound effects in battle also consist of the primitive fare familiar to the franchise, but still, the aurals help the remake far more than hurt.

   The DS remake of Dragon Quest IV features a touched-up version of the Playstation remake's visuals, with town and dungeon scenery consisting of chibi character sprites and 3-D scenery, with the camera in some instances being fully or partially-rotatable, and the town or dungeon environs filling both screens, a nice touch. Battles are strictly first-person like in most Dragon Quests, although enemies are far, far more animate than in most other first-person RPG battle systems, with Akira Toriyama's monster designs (with playable character portraits visible as well in the game menus and in battle) shining, too. Overall, a decent-looking game.

   Finally, the fourth installment is surprisingly short, with a straightforward playthrough of the main quest taking as little as fifteen hours, though the post-game content can add anywhere from five to ten hours. In the end, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is an ideal example of a remake, improving upon just about every aspect of the original such as the battle system, music, and graphics while featuring some new content that luckily doesn't pervert the sprit of the original. There are admittedly some aspects that could have used improvement as well such as interaction and the story, although the remake is nonetheless worth a look from series fans and those new to the franchise, and a worthy start to the Zenithian trilogy.

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