|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: ArtePiazza||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
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.
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Warrior IV in North America - this updated port of the 2001 PlayStation remake still lovingly embraces many of the outdated tenets of RPG tradition.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.
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.