Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Arte Piazza
Technically Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is considered to be remake but it's virtually impossible for those of us here in Europe to view the game as anything other than a new release. For years now the Dragon Quest series has been ridiculously popular in Japan with the ninth title in the main series (there have been numerous spin-offs too) due out there later this year. The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is actually the fifth game in the main series and is the second of three 'remakes' that have been planned for the Nintendo DS. We've already looked at Dragon Quest: The Chapters of the Chosen and we were really impressed with both the game as a whole and the effort taken into bringing the game to the DS. Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is just as impressive and another must-own RPG for the system.
The story in The Hand of the Heavenly Bride may not seem like it's going to be a memorable one but it's told in such a way as to make the game difficult to put down. You'll play as a young boy (who you'll get to name when the game begins) who's travelling on board a ship with his father, Pankraz. Our hero was actually born a prince but for reasons unknown at the beginning of the game he has no knowledge of this and is actually raised as a pauper. What's particularly engaging about the storyline is that our hero starts the game as a young boy and you'll get to play through the different stages of his life and he even gets married (you get to make a choice on who he marries) and has children. The story isn't exactly a long one by RPG standards but you're looking at around thirty hours for your first play through and the replay value is high as you're going to want to play through the game a few times and make different choices. The dialogue is humorous at times and the quality of the translation into English deserves high praise as it seems completely natural.
The game plays very much like The Chapters of the Chosen. The game uses random battles and these random encounters can come thick and fast at times. The battles are brisk encounters and there is a good variety of enemies (which you'll recognise if you're familiar with the series) so battles never become bogged down or tedious even though there are plenty of them. You don't really have much control over how your character develops which some may be a little disappointed with but you have to consider that this is a remake of a game that's well over 15 years old so it's not realistic to expect character development to be as elaborate as in more recent titles. You can recruit monsters (once you obtain a wagon) and add them to your party. There are quite a few different types to catch and it's quite an involved process. It's highly likely to have been a key inspiration for Nintendo's Pokémon games that were to follow several years later, after The Hand of the Heavenly Bride's original release in Japan in the early 1990's.
The Hand of the Heavenly Bride provides some rather interesting diversions. There are some casino games to play such as poker and the slot machines. There's a Whack-a-Mole variant entitled Bruise the Ooze which challenges you with tapping the slimes as they appear from their holes. Probably the best one is a game called Treasures & Trapdoors (called T 'n' T for brevity) which puts your character on a life-size board game. You'll roll the dice and travel around the board in an effort to collect the treasures whilst trying to avoid the trapdoors. You'll even have to battle monsters and contend with a variety of unexpected events. It's an enjoyable game and a diversion that's more than capable of keeping you busy for a lot longer than you might imagine. There's a museum where you can place souvenirs, or knick-knacks as they are known, you've collected from around the world which is a nice touch. You can even design your own knick-knacks and trade them with other players using the DS wireless communications.
In regards to the game's presentation, The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is pretty much identical to The Chapters of the Chosen. Once again the character designs are from Akira Toriyama and once again they look excellent. The game plays out on both the top and bottom screens, giving an elongated view of the actions, and you can rotate the camera by pressing the L & R buttons (and you can reset your view by holding the two buttons simultaneously) which makes exploring the various environments feel less restrictive than simply having a fixed camera angle. The environments are in 3D but the character sprites are 2D and it's a combination that works well and looks great. Battles are played out on the bottom screen, using a first-person view, with the top screen being reserved for character portraits and their status.
You'll have no problems with The Hand of the Heavenly Bride as the game is just as deaf gamer friendly as The Chapters of the Chosen. The dialogue in the game is all in text so you'll have no problems being fully aware of how the game's storyline progresses. Once again the developers have decided to use phonetic spelling to make you aware of certain characters' accents which is very much appreciated and gives deaf gamers a fuller picture of the character. You'll receive text descriptions of exactly what's happening in a battle. The game also makes good use of icons to convey information. As with the other Square Enix DS games we've seen recently, the game manual has been well written and is very informative.
Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is another top drawer RPG for the DS and it's a game that no fan of the genre will want to miss out on. There are many reasons to play the game. It's a game, which it could be argued, planted the seed for one of the most popular games of all time, Pokémon, thanks to the monster recruiting you can do, and it's a game that many would argue is the finest Dragon Quest title to date. The mini-games included are actually enjoyable to play too. Yes random battles are present and yes they do seem a little too frequent on occasions but the battles are quick and enjoyable. Above all though it's just a great RPG that tells it's story in a very enjoyable fashion that will keep you hooked from beginning to end.