Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

A Questing We Will Go

Despite the prevalence of increasingly epic games with bigger budgets and better graphics, classic RPGs of days long past are finding an extra life on current-generation hardware. Remakes are nothing new to players. Getting them to bite often requires a proper balance between leaving enough of the nostalgia factor intact and providing enough of an update to appeal to newer generations. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen proudly wears its age on its sleeve.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen screenshot

Even with a strikingly more advanced design in comparison to the NES original – instead titled Dragon Warrior IV in North America – this updated port of the 2001 PlayStation remake still lovingly embraces many of the outdated tenets of RPG tradition. It may be faulted by some for not bring anything substantially new to the table, but Chapters of the Chosen proves antiquity has a welcome place in the present.

By choosing not to buck time-worn RPG conventions – both in general and those specific to the Dragon Quest series – this remake feels very much like visiting with an old friend. Those who grew to love the series will likely find comfort in the traditional turn-based combat, text menus that describe every action as it happens, colorful towns populated with conversational 2D folk, and the game’s overall nostalgia-inducing demeanor. Many of these elements ring with an air of familiarity, since the underlying mechanics have changed very little since the beginning of the series. At the same time, Chapters of the Chosen’s unusual approach to storytelling makes this epic-length quest a real treasure to trek through.

The tale itself is yet another similar take on a classic RPG theme – one that’s been repeatedly run into the ground yet still manages to endure timelessly. When an ancient evil awakens, an unlikely band of adventurers must rally around the chosen one to put an end to the malevolence sweeping across the land. The unusual thing is you won’t be controlling the main character until you’ve logged around 15 hours in the early portion of the quest. True to its name, the game unfolds in a series of five chapters that follow different characters whose paths will fatefully entwine. The first four chapters provide the back story for the various individuals who will eventually make up your adventuring party in the final lengthy chapter. Each mini-adventure is craftily structured and the characters are widely unique. Though the overall story falls on familiar turf, it’s lively and full of frequently amusing dialogue.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen screenshot

Taking another page out of the history book, combat encounters are of the turn-based, menu-heavy sort. They’re triggered randomly, while traversing a bright and expansive overworld map. At the start of battle, you’ll hand-pick actions for each character before letting them loose to lay waste to your foes. The start of each round presents another opportunity to assess the situation, cast healing magic, strategize, send forth another volley of attacks, or even flee if necessary. Blows are traded with a mixture of rudimentary weapon sounds and the well-known screech from past games. The visual representations of your own actions are dull at best, but each enemy is nicely animated in battle.

The array of enemies encountered is limited in the earlier stretches of the game. As a result, it doesn’t take long for encounters to begin feeling repetitive, since each chapter requires you to level up your characters from scratch – forcing you to equip them with the same range of weapon and armor, learn the same spells, and fight the same monsters each time. Story-wise, these vignettes are integral to breathing personality into the characters and enhancing the story. The frequent change-ups in location, plot, and characters keep the game moving steadily enough to make it through bouts of repetition.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen screenshot

By the time you reach the final chapter, the situation improves substantially as the adventure opens up full-throttle. You can assign specific tasks and behaviors to party members, which they’ll follow until prompted otherwise. Characters can be switched in and out of your party, though those in storage will continue to gain experience. There are plenty of new equipment, items, and spells to obtain. New modes of transportation eventually open up, allowing you to explore additional locations. Essentially, early chapters whet your palette for the main course, which continues the grand journey to a satisfying length.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen screenshot

As a nice surprise, the dual screens come into play more frequently than you’d expect from a typical retro remake. In battle, the top screen tracks your vitals for each party member, while the lower screen holds all the excitement. Both screens are used to display a broader expanse of land, when you’re roaming around dungeons and towns. The top screen also provides a helpful geographic display that auto-maps as you travel to different regions in the overworld map on the touch screen. In either case, it’s a great use of the visual real estate. The rest of the graphics do little to push any boundaries; they balance delicately between being a little outmoded for present times and a fitting match for the old school vibe. They’re definitely a tad crisper than the PlayStation version.

In contrast to the smart use of the dual screens, the controls are functionally basic. The lack of any touch control implementation is glaring. It feels like a missed opportunity. Instead, the game utilizes a ho-hum D-Pad and face button setup that works well but lacks innovation. It’s an area where some creativity and well thought-out changes could have gone a long way toward modernizing the gameplay. The one neat trick here is the ability to use the L and R buttons to rotate the entire view in 3D to locate secret doors in some areas and gain a different perspective. That’s about it.

Chapters of the Chosen serves as a strong reminder of just how good some of the old times really were. It’s a lengthy and deep RPG that offers a solid challenge without crushing the spirits of the non-hardcore RPG enthusiast. Those who haven’t played a Dragon Quest game would do well to pick this one up; current fans may find themselves hard-pressed to put it back down.

A nice visual update from the original, but it doesn’t go above and beyond. 3.7 Control
Reasonable controls that don’t do anything new. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Fun sound effects and good audio. 4.3

Play Value
A fun RPG with tons of hours worth clocking-in on it.

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Embark on a journey to explore the land, seas, and skies of the Dragon Quest universe in this grand entry from the Zenithia Trilogy.
  • Indulge in the colorful Dragon Quest world created by Yuji Horii, combined with the charming characters and monsters designed by Akira Toriyama and memorable soundtrack from famed composer Koichi Sugiyama to create an unforgettable gaming experience.
  • Experience the world of Dragon Quest through the perspectives of multiple characters with a unique, chapter-driven storyline.
  • Journey through a beautifully rendered 3D world, with dynamic dual screen presentation and newly animated monsters.

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