What's old truly is new again.
I've learned something about myself throughout this review... I can be busy as hell with work, have family fly in from out of state, and even come down with one of those lethargic-as-hell flu bugs, but even still, I can't find a way to let my DS go when a great game is dropped into it.
Thank those silly Japanese developers for DraQue. They simply warm my heart.
[image1]For everyone looking to see (or remember) just why some Super Famicom/Super NES RPGs have been considered the greatest games ever, here's your proof: an easy-to-follow yet deep storyline, ambitious areas to explore across a world (not just a lowly continent, not a small collection of towns... continents), fun spells, worthwhile collecting, a difficulty arc that is perfectly balanced... this is a shining example of a game that “has it all”.
The story is focused and yet, not very complex, which is good because it keeps it easy to remember and follow. Mvoing with the story is easy, too... it moves along at a nice pace, and getting from town to town isn't filled too much with random baddies. Each bad guy is worth a large amount of experience, however, so those of you into heavy, heavy grinding might be disappointed that you don't have to spend three hours killing the low-leveled to survive the next plot point.
And speaking of the baddies... they're collectable! In a brilliant move on Enix's part, they beat Pokémon to the punch of being able to create a unique party made up of former foes.
One massively awesome aspect of Dragon Quest (not just this installment) is its sense of humor; so many traditional RPGs are serious, with maybe the occasional quip or “mistake” (“You spoony bard!” comes to mind), but this game has amusing dialog littered throughout. From the townsfolk to the enemies (c'mon, how serious can you take a fight against a bunch of “Eyepods”?) to your following party, you're bound to find a chuckle nearby. Even the names of the characters you capture are funny - I had a level 15 slime named Gootrude. Corny, perhaps... but it worked for me. It's a really welcome change to find a game that's completely not afraid to poke fun at itself.
[image2]Also, this game is long. As of press time I wasn't able to beat the thing. I've played it a tiny bit before work, some on my lunch break, at night before bed, and when I could on the weekend... and I'm only now reaching half of what the game has to offer. There are enough distractions along the way (especially where I've reached now) to keep this game in your system after you've beaten it. True, none of them are really fleshed-out experiences on their own, but when the opportunity arises to gain a mega-sword and resurrection items by playing five-card draw and a short-yet-amusing board game casino game, dammit I will play! Double or nothing? Bring it! Roll the dice and battle four enemies by myself to get to roll again? Let's rawk!
Now, for the downsides. The camera can be a frustrating experience, especially at first; a lot of possibilities are completely hidden from first glance, and the way the camera moves around is a bit, err, brisk. Coupling that with the design of a few of the towns, it's hard to figure out how to get somewhere that an NPC tells you to go. Overall, this game doesn't necessarily do anything unique (aside from the monster collecting), but what all it does do, it does right.
[image3]It's a real joy to me to have titles like Dragon Quest V released on a system like the DS. There are games that, for one reason or another, will never see the light of day in the US that have enjoyed success overseas, and with a system like the DS, it seems that their day to be viewed by America is here. Early on in the system's lifespan, I remember a few complaints floating around about the DS being just a gimmick and just a way to port over older games... where's the harm in that? With SNES classics like Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger (y'know, if you're into that sort of thing), gems from the following era like Mr. Driller and Super Mario 64, and continuing franchises like Pokémon, it's more and more obviously a classic-capable machine.
Which means, we can see great titles like this come about more often. A dual-screen dream come true.