Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Review
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride box art
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: Feb. 17, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
The Lost Chapter
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

To say that the release of Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride has been a long time coming would be a serious understatement. Dragon Quest V was originally released in Japan in 1992 on the region-specific Super Famicom. Since the series was not yet that popular in North America, the series was initially passed over for localization, and then once again in 2004 when the game was remade on the PlayStation 2.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride screenshot

Needless to say, North American Dragon Quest fans have been waiting quite awhile to play what has long been considered to be the best title in the Dragon Quest series. And after more than 15 years, this game has definitely retained the charm and gravity that made it so popular (and groundbreaking) when it was released.

One of the chief reasons why Dragon Quest V is such a big deal in the RPG world is the story. The story takes place over the course of the main character's lifetime, from his playful childhood, to his marriage, and through the growth of his family. The hero's life is punctuated by tragedy, and all of these unfortunate happenings seem to involve a sinister evil presence that has been guiding the events of his life.

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A lot happens in this game, and if this plot synopsis sounds vague, it is definitely intentional. There are so many facets to the story that it is difficult to put the entire experience into words. There are also a lot of variables that, much like Chrono Trigger, can affect the shape of the overall story. What you do need to know, however, is that there are no quick twenty hour run-throughs with Dragon Quest V. The story elements alone will take you at least 40 hours, and that is being extremely conservative. When I tell you that the story here is "epic" it is definitely not an exaggeration.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride screenshot

Although the story really is the chief reason to play Dragon Quest V, it doesn't hurt that the gameplay is very good either. Dragon Quest V definitely plays like an older RPG, akin to Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy IV, and has a dungeon-like construction that favors random battle encounters and plenty of leveling up. The game's central battle mechanic relies on your hero's capacity to train and gather various monsters and use their abilities during battles. Your character will also have traditional warrior characteristics and will be able to equip weapons and armor as well as cast spells. The two-pronged approach to the battle system really works well and adds some extra strategic elements to the battle. There are plenty of different monsters

In addition to the main battle facets of the gameplay, Dragon Quest V features numerous extra collection missions as well as repayable mini-games. Although these little diversions are completely extraneous to the core gameplay, they are a nice distraction from long grinding sessions that make up the bulk of the experience. The mini-games are fairly straightforward and range from slime-based mini-games to the ever-present Tombola mini-game.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride screenshot

If there was one thing I would caution potential players about Dragon Quest V, it would be the very traditional style of the grinding element in this game. All the maps have random-encounter battles, and the grinding element of Dragon Quest V is punishing. Of the 50-60 hours you will spend with this title, I would say that 70% of this will be spent in random encounter battles, which is considerably higher than most other RPGs. Travelling an inch on screen can take up to an hour because of the sheer density of the random battles. Those who are used to this old-school dungeon-style mechanic will probably not be bothered by it, but if you are a fan of more modern RPGs like Final Fantasy XII, which ditches the random battle system completely, then the density of the random battles might take some getting used to.

Screenshots / Images
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