I was chatting with a friend about the Dragon Quest series and he mentioned that Dragon Quest IV is a lot like an entry in the Wild Arms series. This had me curious, so off I went searching for as much information as I could about it. Dragon Quest IV has been around for a long time. The US version was released on the Nintendo in 1990 as Dragon Warrior IV. Over ten years later, a PlayStation version was released only in Japan. In 2008, gamers in North America could experience the PlayStation version with its adaptation on the Nintendo DS. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen takes Dragon Quest’s traditional gameplay and mixes it with a storytelling approach that is indeed very similar to Wild Arms. This, and other reasons, are why it has become my favorite entry in the series.
Dragon Quest IV begins in a quiet village surrounded by mountains. Your character, a silent hero/heroine referred to as The Chosen, lives their life happily and worry free. After a day of sword training, your parents tell you stories of brave warriors that live across the world. There are the twin sisters Meena and Maya that wish to avenge the death of their father. There’s a royal knight named Ragnar McRyan that is investigating the cause of children disappearing in the kingdom of Burland. Your hero doesn’t realize that these brave warriors will band together with him to take on a devilish fiend that wants to create a utopia for demons. It’s a classic story with lots of charm, personality, heart, and drama. There’s a surprising amount of narrative that doesn’t get bogged down by overly long story scenes found in later entries.
The best part of the story is how it’s told. Dragon Quest IV is divided into chapters. Each chapter focuses on one hero or set of heroes. Chapter 1 focuses on Ragnar’s quest to rescue the missing children I mentioned before. Once his chapter ends, you’re immediately taken to Chapter 2. This process continues until you reach Chapter 5. Here, the focus is given to The Chosen and uniting with the brave men and women from the first four chapters. It’s a great formula that gives each character time in the spotlight. But, there are a couple of downsides. Chapter 3 stalls the momentum since the chapter lead is required to farm money and equipment to proceed. Also, when everyone joins with The Chosen, conversation between characters is virtually non-existent. There are lots of personalities that we sadly don’t get to see much of. The Party Chat featured in later installments would have gone a long way here.
Aside from story progression, Dragon Quest IV is your standard Dragon Quest. Characters move from place to place, gathering clues from NPCs and figuring out how to tackle dungeons. Along the way there are shops, inns, and hidden goodies to find. Combat is turn-based. Every character has an area of expertise. On the world map you can swap out your combatants in and out as you please midbattle. Everyone gains experience from battle regardless of their battle participation. Battles are swift and seamless, even when enemies act out of turn or do something that is unfair. Dragon Quest IV isn’t difficult, but there are still times when you’ll have to hike back to town to revive a fallen party member or remove a piece of cursed equipment. There are times when a group of harmless looking goons will constantly summon others or keep putting the entire party to sleep. As usual, saving your game can only be done at a church.
This version Dragon Quest IV is a real looker. The graphics mix 2D sprites with 3D environments that can be fully rotated. Monster animations are stunning. It’s amazing watching these fiends move with such fluidity. The final boss encounter (and its multiple transformations) are worth the price admission alone. I say all of this as someone who isn’t a fan of Akira Toriyama’s art style. The music is standard Dragon Quest stuff – it’s nothing to mention and unmemorable.
Part of the reason why Dragon Quest IV has become my new favorite in the series is because it doesn’t overstay its welcome. I was able to discover a bunch of hidden quests and secrets, level grind as needed, and emerge victorious in the final challenges all within a span of 30 hours. Those that wish to keep the journey going have an extra chapter to play that becomes available after the final boss is defeated. As for me, I was happy closing the DS once the credits finished rolling because the journey had a satisfying conclusion; I ended things on a high note. The interesting thing about Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is that none of its individual pieces do anything exceptionally well. It’s the way that they all come together (and not outstay their welcome) that makes it so memorable. A bit of extra character interaction and the removal of the usual Dragon Quest agitators could have pushed the game to perfection, but the finished project is still one I highly recommend. Note that I still have other entries in the series to experience. They have some competition if there’s a chance of them knocking Dragon Quest IV out from the top spot.
Overall, 9/10: Dragon Quest IV: Chapter of the Chosen is an enjoyable adventure with a familiar method of storytelling. These and other factors come together for a classic and timeless RPG.