(www.plasticpals.com) The original Japanese Dragon Quest 5 is now 18 years old, and has finally received its official English translation. Yuji Horii, the series creator, considers it his favourite chapter in the series, and in 2006 fans ranked it 11th in Famitsu magazine's Top 100 Games of All Time. So what is so special about this game?
One of the main reasons for its longstanding reputation as one of the best games in the series is its storyline, which is fairly unique to the medium. The game centres around the adventures of a family across three generations, beginning with the hero in his early childhood accompanying his father. Over the course of the game the hero grows up and gets married (hence the game's subtitle) and eventually has children of his own. There are three potential brides to choose from, each with their unique personality and abilities. The friends that are made along the way change and grow over time, and strange developments happening in the world are key to the events of the plot.
Very few games have what I would call "heart"; the Dragon Quest games are among those few. Other RPG series such as Final Fantasy have placed great importance on spectacular visuals and movie scenes to the detriment of substance and character development. In sharp contrast the Dragon Quest series has remained low key and fairly lighthearted, opting to craft entertaining scenarios and charming characters. It is this invisible quality which reveals itself slowly over the course of each game that has converted me into a real fan of the series.
Dragon Quest V's primary innovation allowed players to recruit monsters to the party for the first time. It's not common, but randomly after battle a defeated monster will offer to join you. Monsters aren't quite as good as the main characters, but they can be useful during parts of the game where the hero would otherwise have to fight all the battles alone. A cureslime, for example, has useful healing spells which can make all the difference when you find yourself between a rock and a hard place. Monsters gain levels just like real characters and can even be equipped with a variety of weapons and armour. You can bring a total of 8 characters with you at a time, 4 of which will be active in battle.
Like Dragon Quest IV's remake on the DS, this game has relatively simple graphics and music. There are no elaborate CG movies to watch, and the soundtrack is fairly limited which results in slightly annoying repetition. That said, I like the way this game looks. The 3D backgrounds are simple but look handmade, and the often comical monsters are wonderfully animated during the battle scenes. In general, it has a decidedly old-school look which is fitting for a remake of a 17 year old game.
It's easy to see why the Dragon Quest series is so revered in Japan (more than 50 million units have been sold there over the years). Dragon Quest V stands out as a particularly great chapter due to its strong storyline, which tells the life story of the main hero and his family. You will grow to care for these characters, and the many twists and turns can be astonishing. Above all the game is simply a joy to play the battles (while quite frequent) are over in the blink of an eye, and exploring the world across both of the DS screens means you can often avoid dead ends or spot treasures from afar. Handy spells allow you to warp instantaneously around the world and out of dungeons. Finally, the game provides at least 30 hours of questing, with the potential for many more.
It's baffling that more gamers haven't taken advantage of this rare opportunity to experience such a fantastic game now that it is finally available in English.
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