RETRO REVIEW: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

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Dragon Quest IV Box Art | oprainfall Title Dragon Quest IV: Chapter of the Chosen
Publisher Square Enix
Developer Chunsoft (NES), ArtePiazza, Cattle Call
Release Date NA: September 16, 2008
EU: September 12, 2008
AUS: September 11, 2008
Genre RPG
Platforms NES, Nintendo DS
Age Rating ESRB: E10+
PEGI: 12
Official Website

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.

Dragon Warrior IV

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.

Dragon Quest IV - In Town | oprainfallI 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.

Dragon Quest IV - Maya and Meena's Story | oprainfallThis 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.

Dragon Quest IV - Ragnar's Story | oprainfallAnd 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.

Click here for Page 2.

About Jeff Neuenschwander

Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.

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  • Magnumsally

    I love this game

  • Vinicius

    When this game was released, I had never played a Dragon quest game, one day I picked a Copy of DQVI and fell in love with the franchise, since then I played V, VIII, IX, DQ Swords, 1&2 on the GBC, amng others, my only gripe is that I can’t find IV anywhere. V is my favorite DQ game and can’t wait for the review.
    By the way, since you mentioned your love for Oppona, how long until whe get a review of that awesome game?

    • Pyrotek85

      There’s a bunch of copies of IV on ebay, though if you want brand new they’ll cost a bit. Plenty of good condition ones though.

  • Tara

    “with only the GBC version of Dragon Warrior I & II coming to North America.”

    Actually, Dragon Warrior III on GBC also came to North America. I also have a copy of it in my GBC right now, since Wikipedia isn’t always accurate. We also got 3 Dragon Warrior: Monsters spinoffs around 2000/2001. (DW Monsters, and both DW Monsters 2 games. I presume these were not mentioned since they were spinoffs.)

    • vitalemrecords

      they were saying that despite the fact that a bunch of Dragon Quest 1 and 2 re makes were made, the only ones that came to the US were the GBC version.

    • Jeff Neuenschwander

      Actually, I was just focusing on Dragon Quest I as an example of how they would remake games over and over. And I also wanted to focus on main series titles with when we in North America got games.

    • Tara

      Ah, yeah, I see that now. You mentioned the “original Dragon Quest” and not multiple entries. My mistake.

    • Jeff Neuenschwander

      Actually, you weren’t completely mistaken. I had gone in and edited the piece so that it was less confusing.

  • Iyamtebist

    Overall nice review, although I have to disagree with what was said about the graphics.

    I really do not get the comparison to older Zelda games. The sprites in Dragon Quest IV are far more detailed and the game allows you to turn the camera which basically does give a 3D view of the environment, also looks a lot better than a lot of other 2D sprite based DS RPGs like Glory of Heracles or Radiant Historia, and it is just better looking artistically than the remakes of Final Fantasy 3 or 4, which look only slightly above Final Fantasy VII’s graphical style.

    As for it being considered disrespectful to have another team work on them, you should remember that neither Squaresoft nor Enix ever developed any Dragon Quest games themselves in the first place. Enix was always just a publisher and it was Chunsoft that developed Dragon Quest 1-5.

  • smacd

    I picked up this game on the original NES. Sure it didn’t have great sales, but it was also nearly impossible to find in the first place.

    It’s long been my absolute favorite DQ game, and one of my favorite games of all time. I loved the structure of the chapters, and the way they developed the story. I remember the enemy charts, and my young self being giddy every time I found enemies that weren’t on there (there are a few I KNOW I found that are still just rumored to exist). The DS remake was amazing, though I am disappointed that they dropped the party chat. I am glad they added manual control in Chapter 5 though- as great as that new thing called AI was when DW4 came out, I prefer the option to control everyone myself.

    I skimmed most of the review, and for the most part my only comments are that 4-6 ARE an official trilogy, loose but still connected (and there are ties to the tighter 1-3 trilogy as well). And that Dragon Quest games are always made by other developers and published by Enix.