In 1990, Enix released Dragon Quest IV in Japan to critical acclaim and would also be a success as it would sell over 3 million units–a mark that was eclipsed by Dragon Quest III two years before it. Two years later, Dragon Warrior IV would come to North America, also receiving critical acclaim. However, the game would fail to sell well in the region, not even hitting the 100,000 mark. Because of the poor sales, the main series Dragon Quest games would remain in Japan until 2001 when Dragon Warrior VII would release on the PlayStation.
Throughout the years, Enix–and later Square Enix–would make remakes of the previous Dragon Quest games. For instance, the original Dragon Quest would be remade several times over for SNES, Game Boy Color, MSX, and mobile devices (twice; 2004 and 2013) with only the GBC version of Dragon Warrior I & II coming to North America. As for Dragon Quest IV, the game would be remade for PlayStation–which stayed in Japan–and the Nintendo DS–which is the version we’ll be covering in this review.
As a matter of fact, IV, V, and IV would all be remade for the Nintendo DS. And in addition, all three would be localized for North America and the PAL regions. This would not only mark the first time that PAL gamers would be able to play the game but the first time the West would be playing the entire Zenithian trilogy.
I better get this out of the way first. While technically not an official trilogy, Dragon Quest IV, V, and VI have important plot points in common with each other. These would be Zenithia, a castle that floats over the world, and the legendary sword and armor–these not only serve as powerful battle gear but a major plot point in the games. In Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, the legendary hero can equip the legendary items and needs them to access Zenithia. In addition, Zenithia appears above the entrance to the world of darkness. Each point will change a bit in the later games but we’ll talk about those games in later Retro Reviews.
So, what is Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen like? Well, it is a unique game—particularly for the Dragon Quest franchise—in that it splits the game into six different chapters along with a prologue. The prologue and the first four chapters introduce all the characters while the fifth and bonus sixth chapter (added in the remakes) show how they defend the world from the evils of the world, all wrapped up in a 35-40 hour adventure.
This element really makes the game stand out. There aren’t many games that really take this approach in having you get firsthand knowledge of backstories for all the characters that join the main hero to show how they got to that point and why they have the same enemy. While I’m sure there are more games like that now, the only game I can think of that does something like that is Unchained Blades (published 21 years after this game’s NES release) where you have to battle through the game as each of the three protagonists before teaming up in the final hours of the game.
But this aspect can only work if the story is strong. Thankfully, that is the case for Chapters of the Chosen. I won’t say that the game has the strongest story, even for the Zenithian games, but it does have strength and it is the most unique. For that, the game does stand out for Dragon Quest games.
And each main character has their own motivations going forward. Torneko Taloon wants to be a well respected merchant, Ragnar McRyan wants to find the Hero that will save the world, Tsarevna Alena wants to have some freedom outside of her father’s castle, and Maya and Meena want to avenge their father. However, these plot points take a back seat to the main plot point of saving the world in the final chapter, although most of those points are either wrapped up before teaming up with the Hero or by teaming up with the Hero (in the case of Ragnar).
And for all the work that went into the story, it seems that there was just as much work into the characterization of each major area. You see this right off the bat with the soldier Ragnar from the Scottish-esque land of Burland and continues to other places like the Russian-like Zemoksva (homeland of Alena) and the Irish Lakanaba (homeland of Torneko). Overall, the translation team tried to incorporate as many as 13 English dialects into the game. While some are more obvious than others, it definitely helps in making the world feel more colorful and the NPCs less bothersome.
It is apparent that the story and characterization was the focal point of this game. Both aspects come through very well and are definitely the strongest points of the game. That’s not to say that the rest is weak; it’s just not as strong as the rest of it.
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