Throughout gaming’s long, interesting history, Nintendo has made two valiant efforts to make Square-Enix’s Dragon Quest RPG series as head-poppingly popular in North America as it is in Japan. The first attempt happened with the original Dragon Quest, which was released to English-speaking audiences on the NES as Dragon Warrior. The second attempt was a run of Nintendo DS remakes of old titles, including Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, and Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation.
Neither effort gifted Dragon Quest with the popularity it enjoys in its home country, but neither has the series gone ignored. Either way, Square-Enix seems intent on casting another round of “Kazing” on the localized games. The excellent Dragon Quest VIII, originally released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, recently received a surprisingly good mobile port. Now, working backwards a bit, we have a mobile port of Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, which first hit the Nintendo DS in 2008.
Dragon Quest IV was an excellent RPG when its first iteration hit the Famicom / NES in the early ’90s. It was an excellent RPG when it was remade for the PlayStation and the Nintendo DS. And it’s an excellent RPG on mobile – a platform that needs whatever classic JRPGs it can grab.
Dragon Quest IV may not look or sound as fancy as Dragon Quest VIII, but its basic aesthetics arguably make it a better fit for mobile platforms anyway. The gameplay is classic role-playing through and through. Players encounter enemies randomly on the field and in dungeons. They exchange attacks and sling spells. When the enemy falls, the player wins experience points and gold.
However, Chapters of the Chosen has a small twist: You work through separate chapters as supplementary party members before finally meeting the big hero (played by you!) and engaging on the main quest. These diversions teach you the game’s basics, let you test the characters’ strength, and set the stage for the game’s story (spoilers: A bad demon is running amok).
Dragon Quest IV’s multi-chapter concept was ambitious in the ’90s, and it’s still a good way to keep things interesting. Ever wondered what it’s like to live and work as a merchant in a weapons and armor shop? You’ll find out.
But what really helps keep Dragon Quest IV lovable are its character and monster designs, which come courtesy of famous Dragon Ball manga author Akira Toriyama. Enemies are fluidly animated, packed with personality, and bust out tons of bizarre attacks. The show helps make the game’s random encounters much more palatable.
The writing in Chapters of the Chosen is also engaging, though the dialects can get distracting. Older players might have a problem working through the characters’ English, Irish, and “Russian” accents, and younger players may not stand a chance.
Dragon Quest IV’s thick text doesn’t detract from the overall experience, however. There’s so much to find and fight that you won’t have time to grouse over the game’s accents (though you may have issues with the forced portrait mode, despite the fact it works well). This is one long quest, but it will never drag on.