Dragon Quest: The Chapters of the Chosen DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Arte Piazza
Release Date: Out Now
Whilst it's great to have classic RPG games (especially when they are the calibre of Final Fantasy IV) remade for the DS, it's even better to play games we haven't been able to before. That's certainly the case with Dragon Quest: The Chapters of the Chosen. The Dragon Quest series is phenomenally popular in Japan but here in the Western World, we haven't see much of the series at all and that's a real shame. In fact the only Dragon Quest game I had played before was Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King on the PlayStation 2, a game which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thankfully it appears as though we are going to have the chance to play some of the earlier Dragon Quest titles on the DS with Dragon Quest V and VI due to be released sometime in the future.
Dragon Quest: The Chapters of the Chosen, the fourth game in the Dragon Quest series, has been reworked both in terms of its graphical presentation and its translation. The game is spread over five chapters (although there is a short prologue too) with the first four brief chapters focusing on different characters, with them all coming together for the much larger final chapter to join with the main hero in the game. That's an unusual way of going about things but it's an effective one and it's certainly a refreshing way of telling a story. The characters, ranging from the curly moustachioed Ragnar McRyan to the portly Torneko, are colourful and quite different from what you'd find in other RPG series. We don't want to give anything away regarding the storyline but whilst it may not be as deep or serious as those found in the Final Fantasy games, it's enjoyable.
Initially you'll think the game is going to be too easy as the enemies you'll face in the early part of the game aren't very challenging at all. The game uses random battles but whilst this can be irritating in some RPGs, it's certainly not much of a problem in the early part of the game because of how easy the battles are. When the game does become more challenging however it doesn't become frustrating. Should any of your party fall in battle, you'll have to take them to a church to be revived. Should all of your party fall then you will simply be returned to the last church (which are effectively the save points in the game) you visited. Thankfully you won't lose any of your progress and your characters won't lose any of the experience they've gained since your last save. You do lose half of your gold if your party is wiped out but you can bank your money (in units of 1,000 gold coins) and money you bank isn't taken from you when you are defeated.
If you haven't played a Dragon Quest game before you may find some aspects of the game a little strange. You have to enter a church to be able to save your game for instance. You can quicksave on the world map but you can't actually perform a proper save there. This of course means that you'll have to find your way to a town and then a church in order to save your game (there are three save slots incidentally). Whilst this may seem peculiar it's another one of those things that gives the series its personality. The game has its own day and night cycle and you'll encounter different enemy types on the world map when it's dark. Four characters can fight in battles but up to ten companions can accompany you on your travels in a wagon. Characters in the wagon also gain experience from your battles and they can also replace your fallen comrades during a battle. Items you purchase can either be allocated to a character's personal inventory or to the bag. The bag has a limitless capacity but you can only access your character's inventory during the course of a battle. The various people you'll encounter in the game have their own regional accents. For instance in the kingdom of Burland it's all very Scottish like. "If ye want stronger equipment, ye hae tae save yer cash an' buy it for yerself" is just one example of this accent.
The Chapters of the Chosen is a stylish looking game. The game contains the artwork of Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball Z, and his character designs are once again stunning (as they were in The Journey of the Cursed King). The superb artwork from Toriyama-san isn't actually the most impressive aspect of the game's visuals. Rather than simply using one of the screens to display a map or inventory or party information, the game plays out across both screens. The characters are 2D sprites but the environments are in 3D and you can even rotate the camera using the L & R buttons (pressing them both together will return the camera to its default angle). This elongated view of the game world really works well and I hope it's something that we see again in future DS RPGs. In battles you're given a first-person perspective of the action with icons being displayed on the top screen for your characters.
All of the dialogue in the game is in text so you'll have no problem in following the game's storyline. Thanks to the phonetic spelling used to show the character's regional accents, deaf gamers will also be more aware of a character's personality then they usually would. You're given text descriptions of what's happening during a battle. There's a fanfare sound when your character levels up (for which there are no captions), however immediately after it you are told in text that your character has levelled up so it's not a problem. In general the game makes good use of icons and text to provide important feedback and deaf gamers will have no problems with the game. The game manual has been well written and answered any questions I had about the game.
Dragon Quest: The Chapters of the Chosen is the first of three Dragon Quest remakes (although it's debateable if we can call it a remake since it's the first time the game has been released here in Europe) to arrive on the DS and it's without a doubt one of the best RPGs on the handheld. I should also point out that whilst the game is a single-player RPG there is some multiplayer content here too, for two players. I didn't get to experience it however (as both players need to have a copy of the game) which is why we haven't elaborated on it. The single-player content alone is impressive and with around 40 hours of play time on offer it's a game that any RPG enthusiast is going to want to play.