The Dragon Quest games have always been in the shadow of other RPG’s in the West due to rarely being released outside of their homeland. Dragon Quest VIII did make it across on the PS2 and garnered enough interest for Square-Enix to consider releasing their back catalogue. From 2008 to 2011 Dragon Quest IV, V and VI were remade for the Nintendo DS. Collectively known as the ‘Zenithia Trilogy’ (The name of the castle in the sky found in each game), they were renamed as ‘The Chapters of the Chosen’, ‘The Hand of the Heavenly Bride’ and ‘Realms of Reverie’ respectively.
Each of the three games is fairly similar in terms of core mechanics. Combat is turn based with party members having the option to attack, defend, use items or flee. Four party members can be used at once with others being able to be swapped in and out to allow the player to configure different types of configuration. Combat is initiated through random encounters as your party travels around dungeons and the world map
There’s nothing particularly complex to learn and the games represent a good starting point for gamers who want to get into RPG’s for the first time. They are also quite forgiving with death as players will find themselves back at the last save point they visited when they die with any experience points they have earned intact – though your gold will be halved. This means that you are never really losing any progress and if you stick at it long enough you will eventually overcome any obstacles. It’s a system that works well as it never punishes the player severely for pushing forward or exploring.
The stories of the games are based around the idea that a great evil is awakening and a nameless hero will eventually vanquish it. This involves traveling the world and finding sacred weapons and armour which allows entry to Zenithia. You will then be able to access the underworld where the evil awaits to be defeated.
There are of course differences between the games and they each have their own way of telling the tale and offer up different gimmicks to keep things interesting. ‘Chapters of the Chosen’ is split into five chapters with the player experiencing the story of different party members as they find their way to the hero. The fifth chapter then puts the group together for the final battle. An extra chapter becomes available after completion which furthers the story and allows a new character to join the party. There is also a town building sub-game where players can persuade villagers to move to their town. However, this requires some input from other players via sharing which will be difficult now.
‘Then Hand of the Heavenly Bride’ follows the Hero through three stages of his life as he grows up. You will also pick a wife and your eventual child will also join the quest. Monsters can also be recruited to the party and players can find and display various knick-knacks that have been collected from around the world.
‘Realms of Reverie’ changes things up a bit by giving players the ability to train their party in a wide range of different roles. It’s a similar job system to something like Final Fantasy III and alters the characters core stats and gives the unique learned abilities to them. Once a certain job has been completed more advanced vocations can be taken on which lead to some very useful tools for players to play with. Monsters can no longer be recruited at random by there are a host of slimes to be found in the world who you can talk to and get to join your party. There’s a dragon hidden away somewhere as well. There’s also a slim combat arena and fashion parade to get involved with if you so wish.
All the games contain the same visual style, shops and enemies. There is a church to save your game and resurrect party members, the inn, casino and various shops which serve the same purpose throughout the series. There are also wells which can be looked into and the mini-medals to be found which can be taken to a specific castle and exchanged for rare prizes.
Each of the games is focused on its main story and though there are things like building the town and slime arena there isn’t much out in the world in terms of real side quests. This is generally ok as each town you visit tends to be different from the last and the games move along at a pretty good pace. Each game takes around forty hours to complete and each then gives extra content like dungeons after completions for players to dive back into.
Overall, the three games in the series are pretty much all on a par in terms of their quality. They each offer up a solid adventure which has some good and bad moments as you go along. All the games are great for both newcomers and hard-core RPG fans and they all have great localisations with accents and humour coming through perfectly. If it’s a traditional RPG that you want then the three games here should offer up more than enough to keep you interested.
Dragon Quest IV: The Chapters of the Chosen 8/10
Dragon Quest V: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride 8/10
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie 8/10