I’m still working through the video game reviews our readers voted on. Today, the last 8 bit Dragon Quest game. Next up: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years.

Company Credits

Title: Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (originally released as Dragon Warrior IV in NOrth America)
Developer: Enix, now Square Enix
System: Reviewed on iOS, also available for Android, NES, and Nintendo DS
Release Date: February 11, 1990
Game Type: jRPG

Premise

The Lord of the Underworld is prophesized to return, and a Hero is prophesized to prevent his rule.

High Point

The story structure is intriguing. We get a prologue, and then 5 or 6 chapters (depending on the edition played) which tell different parts of the story. The prologue introduces the Hero (whose name and gender are chosen by the player) who is living in what seems to be a Truman Show-like village, where everyone is there for the Hero’s sake and the Hero doesn’t catch on. In Chapter 1, we meet Ragnar McRyan, a knight who learns of the prophecy and sets out to find and save the Hero before the minions of the Lord of the Underworld kill said Hero to subvert the prophecy. In Chapter 2, we meet Tsarvena Alena, her tutor Borya, and her priest Kiryl. Alena leaves seeking adventure, despite her father’s orders. The others go with her to support her, and she proves her value as an adventuress. In Chapter 3, Torneko Taloon sets out to start a business as a weapons merchant. In Chapter 4, sisters Maya and Meena seek revenge against the man who killed their father. In Chapter 5, the villains find the town that has been hiding the Hero, and that sets off a chain of events where said Hero meets our previous characters and they fulfill the prophecy well before the story ends. Chapter 6 was created for the DS remake and was not present in the 8 bit original, and it is like the “How It Should Have Ended” for this game, allowing you to recruit the original villain as a party member and face off against another evil character who made all of this happen in the background.

Low Point

I’m no stranger to grinding for EXP, but this feels somewhat lopsided, with each chapter starting with characters at level 1, and long segments of story that need no explicit EXP grinding followed by sudden chunks that need a huge amount, particularly in chapter 6. That final chapter has very little story, but one huge dungeon.

The Scores

This is an original game. Keep in mind that this is from the 8 bit Nintendo era, released before Final Fantasy III, but after Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy Legend, and in the same year as Ultima VI: The False Prophet and Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire. The inclusion of day/night cycles was new to the console RPG, although it was already part of the Ultima series, but I am unaware of anything earlier with this story structure or some of the other mechanics. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is very engaging, and holds together quite logically. Unlike some other entries in the genre, you often have to revisit past locations, and they frequently change. (This is especially true of the desert bazaar.) The characters all have realistic motivations, and the use of different accents for each country gives a feeling of size and scope to this world that can be lacking in the genres. The choice to have the prophecy fulfilled well before the end of chapter 5 also gives a feeling of unpredictability. I give it 5 out of 6.

The graphics are what we’d expect from a good Nintendo DS title, ported to iOS from that source material. I honestly don’t understand how some of the dungeons would have worked in the 8 bit incarnation. I give it 4 out of 6.

The sound is definitely consistent with the 8 bit incarnation. Sure, the sample rates are higher, but it definitely feels like a retro game that has been upgraded rather than a new game. I give it 4 out of 6.

The playability is great. The turn based jRPG, menu driven, works well on modern touch screens, where precision controls can be more difficult to manage. The on screen control pad takes some adjustment, but it’s the same control pad in several Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy ports I’ve played, so the adjustment period was over long before I started playing this version. I give it 4 out of 6.

The immersion is great, largely due to the compelling story. We have a wide variety of motivations for our lead characters, all plausible, and a lead villain with reasonable motivations who doesn’t even realize how badly he is being manipulated, or by whom, until you get to chapter 5. It’s easily one of the most entertaining and engaging games of the genre, particularly for its generation. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is easy to recommend, and can well serve as someone’s first Dragon Quest game. (It’s my second, after “the original.) The flaws are all due to age; had I played this on the NES, it could easily have become my all time favorite game on the console. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen receives 33 out of 42.