• Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (Late Review)

    In 2005 or perhaps early 2006, I played my first Dragon Quest game. I had previously played the demo of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King and the classic JRPG gameplay entertained me enough so when Square Enix announced the American release and that it was coming with a demo of Final Fantasy XII, it was without question that I was going to buy it.

    DQVIII was a bit different from what I used to primarily playing the Final Fantasy series with its slower paced battles, faith themes, and game overs resulting in loss of currency, but also familiar with its vast over-world, silliness, and charm. This was also my first experience with Akira Toriyama's art outside of the Dragonball series. I found the game massively enjoyable and it had remained my only experience with Dragon Quest until now.

    Fanart by Darkness and Twilight

    I have been exclusively playing older games over the past year so when the memory of the release of Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly for the Nintendo DS hit my mind I decided to give this game a try. Hearing the title screen theme, I was immediately swept with nostalgia and felt that a memorable experience was coming. The game opens with a king waiting for his child to be born. His child is a son and christens him having a significant future. You then wake up on a boat as a child. One of the crewman informs you that your father is looking for you and you're introduced to the basic concept of the beginning of the game. You and your father have journeyed the world together and are making their way back home.

    The beginning of Dragon Quest V is like a children's fantasy book. You're traveling with your father slaying beasts and also sneak away from the adults to explore a haunted castle and explore caves. It's a smooth introduction that makes it stand out among other rpgs and has a child-like wonder to it. Akira Toriyama's designs are as strong as ever in this game, His style is instantly recognizable and instantly tells you about the personality of the character or monster. The hero of the game's purple turban and robes tells you that he is humble, but also brave, and young Bianca pig tails insinuate her innocence and carefree nature. I recognized many of the monsters in this game that also appeared in Dragon Quest VIII. While his character designs are good, I find his monsters to be amazing. You have the iconic and quirky slimes, the goofy fat rats, fierce dragons, and demonic Hyperanemons.
    This remake uses 3D models and while they work I feel they could look better. On my screen the backgrounds often look slightly blurry in motion, but it's something you quickly get used to. Other than that the game looks good.

    As far as the gameplay this is the Dragon Quest gameplay I'm used to. Battles are entirely in first person which is different from VIII in which it is when you're going through menus to choose your actions, but when performing those actions it switches to third-person. The battles feel to move faster than they did in Dragon Quest VIII. Simplified animations make the battles move pretty quickly. The battles in this game can get pretty difficult even in the beginning of the game and this is due to both the random encounter rate which is very high and the random chance of encountering a large horde of enemies in a given battle.
    At any point the game could just give you a random battle where six or seven strong monsters ambush your party of two. This doesn't happen often, but it happens enough for you to feel the weight of it and you're better off fighting them than running the risk of trying to run away only for the enemy to block your path and get free hits on your party. As I mentioned, the encounter rate in this game is pretty high, especially in dungeons which can make tackling those levels a bit annoying. You have the item Holy Water and the spells Holy Protection and Padfoot to lower encounter rates, but the first two only work on the over world which you would spend less time on and it only works on lower level enemies, while Padfoot you'll likely get by the end of the game and it too only staves off weaker enemies. These items and spells are basically useless in that regard and so you'll have to endure the abundant mobs in dungeons when you're only trying to just take a few steps to that treasure chest or when you're weak and want to run out, or backtracking after leaving said dungeon. Boss battles in this game range from hard to average in difficulty. You'll likely have to grind a couple levels to beat the first boss in the game as the fight seems to be designed for having a certain ability in mind which you can only get via level up. There is only one other boss in the game that requires grinding like this and that one is optional, though I would recommend beating it. Defeating any boss in this game feels like a real accomplishment most of the time, though I felt when I landed the final blow on the game's final boss to be anticlimactic.

    Part way through the game you'll also be able to recruit monsters to your party. This was an interesting surprise to me. In Dragon Quest VIII you could recruit monsters as well, but they functioned more like summons in Final Fantasy rather than being a part of your core team. There are dozens you can recruit and they all have their own strengths and abilities.

    Aside from the combat, the game has some mini games for you to play. You'll reach a few casinos through your journey and they all have luck based games for you to play. Most of them I don't find interesting, but the board game T 'N' T I found to be fun and it has rewards separate from the rest of the casino games that are token based. You have many other ways of interacting the world. My favorite is exploring towns for the first time. Buying items, talking to townsfolk, finding items in pots, chests, and reading text from bookshelves feel cathartic. Each town is interesting to explore and you have reason for revisiting them after certain events in the game come to pass.

    The music in this game serviceable. Like DQVIII I find that it works, but most of it isn't really memorable. Most of the music is live orchestrated giving a more grandiose feel. I found to enjoy the music more when I listened to it outside of the game on YouTube. There aren't any tunes that stood out from the rest other than the title theme, but I will say that this game's battle theme is better than VIII's which I found to get old after a while. It's a decent soundtrack.

    As for the game's story, it's okay for video game standards. There are cliche dialogue to be found throughout, but you still find yourself engaged at points because the game does a great job in presenting it to you. The scenes flow tightly and the music and sound effects fit the mood appropriately to let the emotional impact of that moment hit. There were a couple moments that involved characters I journeyed with for a while pull my heartstrings. These moments happen less often when the game gets closer to its conclusion, but some optional dialog that you can partake in with your party members got to me. The ending moments of this game does bring the feelings back up again and you feel how the impact of your actions affect the whole world.

    The game is a about 30 hours long, but the journey feels a lot longer than that due to passage of certain events in the game. The game has a lot of replayability due to an extra dungeon available after you beat the game, the monster recruiting system, and three party members that you only have choice of one in each playthrough. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride is a great recommendation for fans of the JRPG genre, but its high encounter rates and useless items to help reduce them prevent the game from reaching legendary status.

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (Late Review) started by Depression Moon View original post
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