Panzer Dragoon Saga: Review

With its compelling story and cinematic battles, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the most unique RPG’s ever made.

Known in Japan as Azel, Panzer Dragoon RPG, it was released in 1998 on the Sega Saturn by Project Andromeda, it was the latest entry in the popular rail shooter series on the commercially unsuccessful console. Though this time, Andromeda decided to create a very different game, but with a few similarities to its predecessors for some familiarity. Despite being a critical darling, and being considered one of the best RPGS and video games of all time, and earned a spot at #22 on G4’s 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time, this game failed to sell because it was released very late in the Sega Saturn’s lifetime. The game was released in April, and the console was discontinued in August, only 30,000 copies of Panzer Dragoon Saga were sold in the US, and any English copy of the game is rare and can run you at least $300 USD on sites like Ebay, making this a collector’s item.

Story:

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, you play as Edge, a young solder who is in a group charged with protecting an excavation site. All seems well until an evil monster attacks you. While escaping this creature, you then stumble upon what appears to be a girl sticking out of the wall. Before you know what this is, some imperial troops come and attack your group. These troops are led by the evil Craymen and they ruthlessly kill everyone and take the wall containing the girl. In a fit of rage, you try to attack the soldiers and you are then shot off the cliff down into a ravine.

Apparently unharmed, you wander around confused and run into a mysterious dragon who seems that he wants to help you. You have some strange spiritual connection with the dragon and you place your trust in him, and the dragon whisks you out of the ravine and takes you to your captain. As you watch your beloved captain die, you vow to go on a revenge to kill Craymen and you and the dragon go off on your search for Craymen and try to solve the mystery behind that girl.

The game is largely voice acted, but it seems like Team Andromeda cut some corners on the localization by keeping the Japanese voices, instead of dubbing it over. Luckily they have subtitles. The opening cutscene is all done in a made up language for the game. It’s cool, but kind of silly that only the opening cutscene is in that language, but the rest is Japanese.

Gameplay

While the previous Panzer Dragoon games are rail shooters, Saga is an RPG with mostly free-roaming exploration. There are two modes of exploration: flight, and on foot. On foot exploration is where you control Edge, and mostly takes place in towns. Towns serve the typical RPG purpose of collecting information on where to go, and can sometimes buy items. The game carries over some of its rail-shooting roots by having you call up a targeting cursor to select items or people. All of the dialog in the game is voice acted. The opening movie is in a made up language that’s unique for the series, but the rest of the in-game voices are spoken in Japanese with English subtitles, which is sort of confusing with why they’re different.

Flight exploration is basically this game’s version of dungeons. You control the dragon and you fly around full 3D environments and can fly in any direction. Similar to foot exploration, you have the targeting cursor to select item chests, suspicious places, and target the save machines. Many of these dungeons also have some kind of puzzle that allows you to progress further into the dungeon. These dungeons feature the typical random encounters that everyone either hates or tolerates. This is where the game gets even more unique.

The game features a strange, and very unique and very cinematic battle system. The game is sort of in real time, and you have 3 bars that fill up over time, and sort of like the ATB system in Final Fantasy games, when a bar is filled, you are able to perform an action in battle. Having all 3 bars filled means you can perform 3 consecutive actions. While you wait for your bar(s) to fill up, you are able to maneuver around the enemies to avoid attacks and target their weak zones. There is a radar on the bottom that indicates: neutral, hazardous, and safe zones. These are subject to change, either from the monsters also able to rotate their position, or from the monsters changing these zones. Safe zones mean you’re safe from attack, neutral means you either have a chance of attack, or the monsters use their weaker attacks on you. The hazardous zones mean that you’re prone to being heavily attacked by the monster’s special move.

With the action gauges, you have three choices: you can either use a basic attack, use a berserk move, or use an item. With the basic attack, you either have a choice between using the dragon’s attack to target on a single target, or use Edge’s laser to attack several targets. If you have one target, then these lasers will attack the same target multiple times. It’s more wise to use Edge’s laser to attack since it either does more damage, or attacks multiple enemies, making the battles less time consuming. Berserk moves don’t need that much of an explanation, basically it just like your typical RPG magic/special attacks. At the cost of berserk points, you can cast either a really strong attack, or heal yourself. After a battle, it ranks you based on how well you fought and better scores give you more EXP.

Another aspect is dragon transformation and dragon morphing. Transformations only happen at key story points, and your dragon changes shape and becomes stronger. With morphing, you have a giant circular gauge with 4 points: attack, spirit, defense, and speed. You move your cursor around to get your dragon’s stats to focus on these various stats, or just have it dead center for balanced stats. These various points also alter how your dragon looks.

Visuals

While they’re pretty good for Sega Saturn standards, they look sort of clunky today. Especially since the Sega Saturn’s graphics uses quadrilaterals for their polygon rendering instead of triangles like the PS1 and N64. The battle scenes are still very nice, and are sort of like the charm point of the game. The battles are very flashy and the attack sequences are pretty well animated, especially the boss scenes. While flight mode is nice, the lack of the use of fog and the short draw distance sometimes makes distant objects sort of pop up out of nowhere instead of fading in so keep that in mind. The on foot scenes are where the game also shows its age with the characters. So if you can deal with blocky characters, you’ll be okay. There are also a few full CGI cutscenes that look very nice compared to the rest of the game.

The environments themselves focus largely on the typical post-apocalyptic scenery, much of the game has a depressing desolate feeling. You venture through hazardous cliffs, vast deserts, and even several ruins that are in the previous environments, and even scattered over a sea. Typical post-apocalyptic signs that a past war has ravaged the entire world.

On foot:

Flight exploration:

Music

The music for it is sort of strange. Unlike other RPG’s where the soundtrack is almost entirely of a symphonic nature, Panzer Dragoon Saga seems to range between the standard symphonic music with other songs that are almost tribal sounding. This makes Panzer Dragoon Saga’s soundtrack one of the most interesting, adding more to the overall unique feel of the game.

Verdict:

Panzer Dragoon Saga is definitely one of the most ambitious RPG’s ever created, and definitely one of the best swan songs for a video game console, it’s a definite must have for anyone who’s a fan of RPG’s. On a whopping 4 discs with its very unique and innovated gameplay, and amazing cinematic battle system, even several years later, this game still has no counterparts and sits in a RPG world where it is the only game that mixes aspects of a rail-shooter into its battle system. Though since this game had a limited print, you’re stuck with three choices: coughing up a few hundred bucks for the game, illegally playing it on a Sega Saturn Emulator (or modding your Saturn to play pirated games), or patiently wait until someone either ports the game and/or remake it, seeing that Team Andromeda is a now defunct company. We all pray that this game will someday see the light of day and get more recognition that it certainly deserves. This isn’t a game that’s hyped up based on its rarity, it’s praised because there is simply no other game like Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Music: 6/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 8/10.

Story: 9/10.

Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 8/10

Final Fantasy 4 Heroes of Light: Review

If you felt that the later Final Fantasies are straying too far from its roots, then this game is for you. It brings back many story and gameplay mechanics from the olden days of RPG’s. The premise of the game is not unheard of for the franchise: four young heroes go out on an adventure to rescue the world from the evils that plague it.

Story:

You begin as the boy Brandt and it is his 14th birthday and you have just been summoned to appear before the King. He mentions how Princess Aire was kidnapped by the Wicked Witch of the North and he wants you to rescue her. You are then joined by your friend Jusqua to go save the princess. Then you meet up with the castle guard Yunita and together, the three of you save Princess Aire by defeating the witch, only to return to your hometown to discover it has turned to stone!

The four of you must search for a way to save the kingdom.

/spoiling the first hour of the game

If you’re expecting an in-depth, or very story driven game, then look far away. This game harbors back to the NES and SNES days where the story is a bit “episodic”. You visit a village, discover there’s a problem, someone in the town tells you where to find the dungeon, slay the boss, save the village, and then be off to the next town. There’s very little connecting the various mini-stories together outside of the main mission of figuring out how to save your hometown.

Characters:

While there is a cast of characters, and have a bit of personality, they’re not really that interesting individually, and don’t display much character growth. They’re mostly just vessels to play through, and it’s kind of struggling to remember a damn thing about any of them.

Brandt: He’s the first character you play as, and is the typical adventurous hero character. He has a bright personality and is loyal to his friends, yadda yadda.

Jusqua: He’s primarily the opposite of Brandt. The king sent Jusqua to check up on Brandt, but his job in the castle is never really explained.

Yunita: she’s a knight of Horne. She’s Aire’s bodyguard and is a great fighter, but she lacks confidence in difficult situations.

Aire: The youngest princess of Horne. She’s the typical spoiled princess, and has little knowledge of the outside world.

Gameplay:
The game largely follows a basic template for JRPG’s, from the overworld, and random encounters, but it does add a bit of a twist for the battle system. While the battle system is largely a traditional turn based system, it has a system of action points. There are no magic points in this game, and any action uses these points. Everybody in your party has 5 action points, you never gain any more. Each action takes up one or more AP, and you regain a single point each time it is the character’s turn. So if you use a move that takes up several AP, then you must plot out how to conduct your next moves, or risk getting in trouble. A faster way to regain your AP is to use the Boost option, as you can regain two points, but at the cost of not doing anything on your turn.

One aspect of the battle system that many would find a bit cumbersome, is that there is no targeting system. You are unable to target any of your opponents or your party members. This is a bit annoying at first, but if you have a party member low on HP, the cure spell will automatically target the member with the lowest HP, so luckily it won’t just randomly select any character.

Next is the return of the popular job system (called crowns) from classic Final Fantasy games. With this there are a few familiar faces, like the white and black mages, monk, and paladin. There are a few that are fairly pointless, like the party host, and musician crowns… Some crowns are more helpful than others, especially when it comes to magic, as casting fire 1 as any other class takes two AP, but casting fire as a black mage now only costs 1 AP. So if you want to be a magic user, then it’s highly advised to equip a mage crown.

Unlike Final Fantasy III, where you had to have a certain number of points to change jobs, this one allows you to change them on the fly with largely no penalties. This is quite helpful, as you spend the first half of the game with your party split up. So you don’t have to relegate one character to be the healer, and one to be the magic user. Also unlike the other Final Fantasies, the jobs don’t level up from battle like your character does, you level them up by filling their slots with the respectively shaped gems, and the max level for a job is level 3.

Speaking of gems, they are very valuable items, and you need them for basically EVERYTHING. At the beginning of the game they seem pointless. You grind your characters and you collect these gems, and they don’t do anything, but you can sell them at the stores for money, as they’re basically the only way to earn money, as you don’t earn gil in battle like normal FF games.

As the game progresses, and you gain more crowns, you discover that you can use these gems to not only level up your crowns, you will also gain access to a shop that allows you to use gems to upgrade your weapons and armor. So now these gems are more valuable than ever. You now must figure out which is more important, buying new equipment, or leveling up your equipment. Luckily the game makes you change your equipment to something that is strong against the upcoming area boss, so you at least are forced to buy equipment instead. Only near the end of the game is leveling up your armor important.

One minor gameplay issue, is limited inventory space. In this day and age, it seems a bit silly that there isn’t a party inventory, and your inventory is limited to a certain number of slots the characters hold, and that includes your equipment. This isn’t too huge of an issue, and is only a problem when your party is relegated to a single person, but of all the modern conveniences, did they have to revert the inventory down? Luckily your key item inventory is separate from your characters’ individual inventory, so at least that issue is taken care of.

Visuals:
The visuals are pretty fantastic for a DS game. Instead of using Final Fantasy III and IV’s engine, they use a different engine, and a drastically different artstyle. It has a nice chibi storybook aspect of it, and gives you a nice nostalgic feeling of reading a children’s storybook.

For a game on the DS, it does an okay job utilizing both screens. Most of the gameplay is on the touch screen, and you can use the stylus to control your character, but the D-Pad works just fine, and in battle, the menus are also on the touch screen. Outside of battle, the top screen really only shows your party’s HP and AP, and is really only useful when you go to the world map, and the map is viewable on the top screen. It would have been nice to have a dungeon and town map on the top screen, but it’s not a necessity, it does use both screens better than Final Fantasy III.

Music:

For the soundtrack, it’s fantastic. It’s like your typical old school RPG soundtrack except they mix between the bleeps and bloops of the NES days and with the modern midi sounds of the DS. The end result is a unique experience.

So if you’re looking for a game that caters to your nostalgia needs, but with a new twist, Final Fantasy 4 Heroes of Light is the game for you. Just don’t let its cute exterior fool you into thinking this is a stroll through the park

Music: 9/10.

Visuals: 9/10.

Story: 7/10.

Content 8/10.

Overall score: 8/10

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation Review

The third and final installment of the Zenethian trilogy, Dragon Quest VI was originally released on the SNES in 1995 and became renowned not only for the quality of the game, but for pushing the limits of the SNES with its graphics and scale of the game world. This is one of the largest SNES games in storage size. This was part of the main why it never made a foreign release, and also due to Enix closing their doors on their North American sector. Though in 2010 it was remade for the first time on the DS, and released in the US and Europe a year later, to complete any hardcore DQ fan’s collection with finally having all 9 games released, as this was the last Dragon Quest game that never saw the light of day outside of Japan.

Dragon Quest VI is known for its exploration of two large worlds, the real world and the dream world; similar to the Dark and Light worlds from Zelda’s Link to the Past. Both of these worlds are full sized and essentially double the scale of your adventure. Though this grand adventure, you are followed in your quest for your past by a growing cast of characters who are also on a search for their lost memories of their past.

Story:

You play the game as the hero, which has no default name, as you awaken from an alleged nightmare by your little sister. You are then instructed by the village elder the annual festival is coming up and you must go and collect the crown that the elder has ordered from a nearby town. Upon entering the town, you discover the crown maker is missing and you go off to find him, only to discover he is hanging on the edge above a giant hole. In the process of saving him, you fall into the hole and find yourself in a strange world where nobody can see you, but you quickly find a way back through a mysterious well. Afterwards you return and finish your task of getting the crown and return home. During the festival the mountain spirit appears and tells you that you must leave the village once again, as you are the only one to defeat the evil that plagues this world. And so your quest begins.

Gameplay:

As with the other Dragon Quest games, the gameplay in VI is your incredibly traditional JRPG with random encounters and a simple turn based battle system, all done in first person. As you gain more party members, you can employ tactics to your battle to let the AI do the work for you. While largely untouched from the previous entrees, they do introduce a diverse class system to create some variety to aid your strategies in battle. While the class system was first introduced and only used in DQ3, 6 has made many improvements to it. Unlike in 3, your class levels up separately, and at a faster rate. This is because once you max out the level of two classes, you can unlock a hybrid class to gain much stronger abilities. The slight downfall for some people is that only certain combinations unlock hybrid classes. A plus side to the class system is that once you change your class, all of your abilities transfer over, thus increasing your movepool which comes in handy the farther you get in the game. One aspect of the class system some might find tedious, is that you can only change your classes by going to Alltrades Abbey and talking to Jack of Alltrades (good God, what a terrible pun, is that supposed to be funny?), and there is only one in the game. So every time you want to change your classes, you must trek back to it. Luckily by this point you have the Return spell which you can warp travel.

Visuals:
The character and monsters are once again designed by Akira Toriyama. The game also has the typical DQ trope of having a few reoccurring monsters and doing the color swapping after certain points in the game, so nothing new for veteran DQ fans, but may be seen as a bit lazy for newbies to the series.

Another lazy aspect of this remake, is that it uses the same engine as the previous Zenithian DS games. Though luckily unlike DQ5, they at least updated the engine a bit, so the graphics actually look a bit nicer. The trees aren’t 2D and are fixed when you rotate the camera, and also things like water graphics in towns also look nicer.

Music:
Koichi Sugiyama once again composes the music for this game. While personally some of the town and overworld music may not be as great as DQ5, there are still some fantastic tracks. The music for the towns are bright and cheerful and vary with the dark and gloomy dungeon sounds. A staple of the DQ series is that there is a fully orchestrated OST available for the fans of the soundtrack, and even the opening title sequence of the Dragon Quest theme is performed by an orchestra.

Conclusion:
So if you were a fan of SNES classics like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and looking for a great lengthy RPG to your DS collection, Dragon Quest VI will gladly satisfy your RPG needs. While the story may not be as dramatic of an experience as DQ5, the darker, grittier nature of DQ6 will still not disappoint you.

Music: 8/10.

Visuals: 7/10.

Story: 9/10.

Content: 8/10.

Conclusion: 8/10

And that concludes the Zenethian Trilogy of Dragon Quest games.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Review

Part 2 of the very loosely connected Zenethian trilogy (read the DQ4 review to know why) in the Dragon Quest series, and the first of the two “lost epics” to be released outside of Japan (with the other one being DQ6). Dragon Quest V is a game that has quite a legacy in its home country but is largely unknown to the rest of the world. For over a decade, it has delved in relative obscurity and was only known to the hardest of the hardcore fans who either had to learn Japanese to play the game, run through the game without knowing Japanese, or downloaded fan translated patched roms, but as of 2008, Dragon Quest V was remade on the DS and got its long awaited worldwide release, so we finally get to see what the fuss over the game is about.

Released in 1992 on the SNES (Super Famicon for the purists) DQ5 was the first game in the series to be released on the new console. It was later remade as a PS2 game featuring 3D graphics, and a live orchestra soundtrack, and remade again for the DS. Some might feel that we got short-handed with the DS version, but either way it’s still makes a solid DS game.

Story:
Despite being released about 15 years too late, the game is still praised in its unique storytelling, which spans several generations of the hero’s life. In typical Dragon Quest fashion, you play as the silent protagonist who has no default name. In the early parts of the game, you play at a young 6 year old boy who is on a journey around the world with his father Pankraz. The early stages involve you exploring a cave by yourself, ghost-busting with your old friend Bianca, save the Fairy Kingdom and playing with the bratty Prince Harry.

Though through a series of events, the game fast-forwards several years until your adult age. With this, things change a bit and you are now able to enlist monsters into your party to aid you in your journey. Also in this section, you even go through the dramatic event of getting married. This is where the DS version changes up from the original version. In the other two versions, you had two choices for wives, this one adds a third. You can select between your childhood friend Bianca, Nera, the daughter of a rich entrepreneur, or Nera’s older sister Deborah, who is special to this version of the game.

This section is very unique, as it’s supposedly the first video game to depict a pregnancy. Regardless of who you pick, she joins you in your party as a fighter, though this is where the similarity ends. One of the more petty results, is that your children’s hair color matches the hair color of the mother. The more important reason, is the overall stats and skills of the three women. Bianca is the heavy magic user, Nera is more of the healer, and Deborah is the physical attacker. There’s ongoing flamewars over which girl you should pick, but the two biggest camps is for Bianca or Nera. Deborah gets the low end of the flamewar as she’s not an original character, so you can see how she’s kind of thrown in. The Bianca haters are against her, because the game sort of guilt trips you into marrying your childhood friend, but it’s not like there’s any real consequences of not picking her, but we all know how dumb fans can be…

The last section takes place 8 years after the last section, and this is where your children become important characters. They also don’t have default names, and you name them yourself. The son is the physical attacker, and your daughter is the magic user.

Throughout the course of the game, you go through a revolving door of party members. So the only static character in the game is you. Later on in the game, your monster party does stay static (well depending on how often you switch around monsters you recruit), but all the human characters do pop in and out various times in the game. This is definitely a plus for those who are big on switching around their members to prevent getting bored, but the ones who go OCD and want their party to be static, this is a big no-no for you.

Gameplay:
For the main gameplay, it’s your typical Dragon Quest game which means it’s very traditional. So there isn’t much that needs to be talked about. What we do need to talk about that’s unique for this game in the series, is the monster recruiting.

Allegedly the game that inspired Pokémon, Dragon Quest V introduced the ability to recruit monsters into your party. Despite Megami Tensei doing it in 1987, Dragon Quest is a bigger hit, and was a much more “family friendly” adventure. Unlike Pokémon where there’s a strategy to recruiting, and you can recruit any monster, Dragon Quest V just has a limited number, and they randomly join you when you defeat them. Basically you just fight them and if you’re lucky enough, they’ll ask to join your party.

Monsters, like your human party members, level up, and can equip weapons and armor. Each monster is unique to what it can equip and what types of moves it can know. If your party gets full, the monsters get sent to a “Monster Gramps”, which is an old man who takes care of your other monsters. Think of him like the PC’s in Pokémon.

Graphics:
For the graphics, there isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said, as it uses the exact same engine as Dragon Quest IV’s DS remake. This is definitely kind of a lazy thing to do when you’re releasing separate games, though it’s possible they did this because the developers were producing them at the same time, but they should do some changing up like they did in the DS version of Dragon Quest VI (more on that in a different review). So if you want to read about the graphics, look at the DQ4 review.

Music:
Once again series veteran Koichi Sugiyama has composed the soundtrack, as he has every other DQ game, and he once again hasn’t failed us (will he ever?). There’s a multitude of wonderful tracks on here that change for the given mood. While not as awe inspiring as the soundtrack of the PS2 version, but that’s kind of hard to compare when you’re using a real orchestra, but this is nicer quality than the SNES version. We do get a full orchestra for the Dragon Quest fanfare at the opening sequence. There’s several heartwarming tracks, and several beautiful tracks. If you’re a big fan of the soundtrack, it’s highly recommended to check out the Symphonic Suite renditions of the soundtrack, as that’s all the orchestrated versions of the songs.

Verdict:
Dragon Quest V, despite getting a 15+ year late release, it’s still a timeless classic that any RPG fan should sink their claws into at least once. With its unique and engaging storyline, it’s difficult to put the DS down to see what happens next.

Music: 9/10.
Visuals: 6/10.
Story: 10/10.
Content: 8/10.
Conclusion: 9/10

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen Review

The Dragon Quest series is a household  name in Japan, but in the US, hardly anyone that isn’t an RPG fanatic know of this series. This game is the first in the loosely connected Zenethian trilogy of Dragon Quest games. When I mean loosely, I mean very loosely, as the only real connection between these games is that there is a castle Zenethia, and the dark world of Nadiria as the demon world. Other than that, they really have fuckall to do with each other.

The original version of this game was released in 1992 in the US as Dragon Warrior IV. While a very late release for the NES in the US, its impact in the realm of RPG’s with its innovative storytelling, and the final boss Psaro with its multiple form boss fight. The game was remade for the PS1 using Dragon Quest VII’s engine, and was planned for a US release as entailed in the back of the DQ7 manual, but it never came to be. The game was again remade for the DS, but is more like an enhanced  port, rather than a full on remake, as it’s just an updated engine.

Story:
The first part of the loosely connected Zenethian Trilogy in the series, IV decides to split up the game into 5 chapters, with the first four chapters focusing on a different character, or group of characters, that all come together to join you in the final chapter where you finally get to play as the hero you named before you started your adventure. Each chapter has a miniature story that you go through that, like the characters, all come together in the final chapter.

You have:
Chapter 1 – Ragnar: a soldier in the castle town of Burland. He discovers that the children of a nearby village have been disappearing and he must go and rescue them.

Chapter 2 – Alena: Alena is the tomboyish Tsarevna (princess) of the Russian speaking land of Zamoksva, she sneaks out of the castle to go on an adventure to test her strength. She is followed by her tutor Borya and her priestly friend Kiryl.

Chapter 3 – Torneko: Torneko is a merchant from a small town with a dream to run a thriving business with his family in the castle town of Endor. Out of all the chapters, this one is quite strange as it’s not as very action oriented as the rest of the game. You spend a large chunk of the game either running stores, and even running around raising money to have items for your store.

Chapter 4 – Maya and Meena: Maya and Meena are two dancers who go out on a quest to exact revenge on the man who killed their father.

Chapter 5 – Hero: You, the Hero’s, peaceful hometown has just been attacked by monsters and during this, your dying friend reveals that you are really the Legendary Hero and you must follow your destiny to rid the world of evil.

The PS1 and DS remakes also contain a prologue and a Chapter 6. The prologue consists as an intro for the hero, and Chapter 6 is the aftermath of defeating the evil Psaro the Manslayer.

Unlike many of the Final Fantasy games, Dragon Quest as a series isn’t necessarily renowned for its rich storytelling, the series largely focuses mostly on the quest. That’s not to say the story is bad, it’s just not a story driven game. You should also keep in mind that this was originally an NES game, so the storytelling can feel archaic to those who aren’t familiar with the style of retro RPGs.

Gameplay:
For the gameplay, it’s largely the same from the NES original, but there are a couple of archaic features that have been updated from the original. They added in auto-target, which is where if two party members target the same monster and one kills it before the other, the second one will attack a different monster. In the original, the second character would just miss, which would mean a lost turn. They also gave you a bag which gives you a limitless inventory. Also in the original, in Chapter 5, your party members were on auto-pilot, which they removed so you can choose to manually control your party.

For the unaltered gameplay, it’s your typical JRPG, so there isn’t much to explain that people don’t already know since the series is known for its very traditional gameplay. The series is largely the standard model other RPG’s based themselves off of. Everything down to the exploration and battle system is very standard. For the very standard turn based battle system, you can either manually control your characters, or pick between different tactics where your everyone but the leader is on auto-pilot. This is all done in a first person view, so all you see is the monsters and the portraits of your character above your stats. So if you were looking for a unique gameplay experience, then you’ll probably be very disappointed.

Graphics:
The graphics may be loads better than the NES version, but if you’re expecting fancy graphics for the DS, then you should look away. The game looks like a souped up SNES game, but it’s detailed enough to make you not really worry about it. Despite looking like a fancy SNES game, the towns and dungeons are in a somewhat 3D environment. While still keeping a top down view, you can rotate the camera a full 360 degrees around in villages and in certain dungeons. With this, you can notice that the buildings and trees are actually made of polygons that add more depth to your environment. While the PS1 version has a more isometric town with 2D sprites with the houses looking more three dimensional, the DS version looks more smooth and the houses blend with the sprites better than the PS1 version.

The game utilizes both screens in an interesting fashion. Much of the game takes place on the lower screen, but when you’re in towns and in large dungeons, the visuals extend into the top screen, giving you more to see. This is a pretty neat feature, and adds more depth to your world, allowing you to see how large the castles and such are. In the overworld, the top screen shows you the world map. It’s interesting how accustomed you get to this when you decide to play the NES version, and you’re having to search for a map to figure out where you’re supposed to go.

A complaint that some people have with the game is that there is a lot of cookie cutter graphics that they have throughout the game. They have sprites for the same generic townspeople, down to the trees and houses in the towns. Despite the fact that each town has a unique layout to it, some people are not satisfied that the various towns themselves feel too copy and pasted. Though if you’re familiar with the franchise, this isn’t anything new, but if you’re a newbie to the series, this is something to consider.

The artwork is where Dragon Quest is known for. Returning to the series, the famed manga artist Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame once again has come to design the characters in your party and the monsters. While he designed them for the NES game, the DS game does more justice to his art. The monster sprites in battle, while two dimensional, are animated and the animation for the spells are nice enough to get the job done. Another minor complaint newbies to the series will find is that as you get farther in the game, they’ll start color swapping some of the monsters. If you’re a veteran to the series, or to other RPG’s from that era, it’s not that unusual (even Final Fantasy is still guilty of it), but it feels a bit lazy for modern gamers, so you should keep in mind that this is a game from 1992.

Music:

For the music, series composer Koichi Sugiyama returns to compose the music. While a massive step up from the simple NES soundtrack, it still sounds massively similar to the PS1 version, but the opening Dragon Quest theme is performed by a real orchestra which is always better than a midi track. The interesting aspect of the soundtrack is that they have different overworld themes for each chapter, and they even change it in the middle of the 5th chapter when you gather all of your party members from the first four chapters.

The music itself is very well composed and sounds fantastic when performed live in a full orchestra, so if you really enjoyed the soundtrack, each DQ game has a full orchestral album. The town music itself is very bright and cheerful and you’ll end up humming the theme when you’re visiting in and out of town. While there are several tracks on the OST, it’s not as diverse as modern RPG’s, so you’re going to end up hearing the same town music in pretty much every town that doesn’t have a castle and the same cave music over and over. So if you’re looking for a diverse soundtrack, this might be a concern for you if you easily get sick of hearing the same songs over and over.

Dragon Quest IV is a fantastic game and is highly recommended for those into the classics, but if you’re a fan of modern RPG’s, this game as a whole will probably feel too archaic for you. So if you’re not a hardcore RPG fan, or looking to bask in classic gaming, Dragon Quest IV is not the game for you.

Music: 8/10.
Visuals: 6/10.
Story: 7/10.
Content: 7/10

Conclusion: 7/10

Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne – First Impressions

Like many people, I was introduced to the Shin Megami Tensei franchise through Persona, namely Persona 2 Eternal Punishment, so I was always interested in the main series. I was excited when I finally found it available on the PSN for $9.99, because I had difficulty scouting a copy on the PS2, and even then it was still kind of pricey (though I shouldn’t talk as I paid for Persona 4 before the price drop). This was the first game in the main series to come to the US.

Even though this is SMT 3, there were three previous games, none of which ever came to the US… unless you want to count the iOS version of SMT1, but I don’t know if I should consider that or not. Reminds me of how there’s two Persona 2’s… now I’m just getting off track here.

So like the previous games, Nocturne follows the same formula of recruiting demons to form your party, but this is also the first game that’s 3D. The previous games were all first person. It’s also full 3D, none of that 3D, yet fixed camera angle bullshit. For a PS2 game, it still holds up to this day, maybe it’s the unique artstyle that keeps it unique, but hey whatever works.

At its core, it’s still mostly a traditional turn-based RPG with random encounters. Fighting with demons you’ve recruited is reminiscent of Pokemon, but with evil demons instead of cuddly Pokemanz. Also the recruiting business is also more complicated than capturing Pokemon. You just talk to them and hopefully make the correct dialog choices and they’ll join you, but sometimes you’ll never recruit them. Maybe my level isn’t high enough?

With the demon aspect, it’s not that much different from Persona 3/4, also like those two games, you can fuse demons together to make more powerful demons. Huh, maybe there should be arcana? Though what am I saying, this is the original series and Persona is the spinoff.

So far with the story, the premise is interesting, but I’m currently not sure what the hell the story is so far. The premise makes it seem like there’s more of a story heavy plot, but it isn’t. I’m not very far, so hopefully that’s the case. I’m about 9 hours into the game, and still don’t know what the hell is going on. I’m not too worried, Atlus has never let me down.

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland Plus – First Impressions

Ah, the Atelier series. I remember having a blast writing the review for Atelier Totori, and I while I did enjoy the game, I wasn’t sure if the series was for me and told myself I probably shouldn’t buy another game in the series. Well I ended up lying to myself and couldn’t resist buying Atelier Rorona Plus when I saw it for $20 at my local Gamestop.

Atelier Totori was my first game in the series, so in the back of my mind I was always curious about buying the first game, as I wanted to understand the references to the characters they were making. Well it seems like so far this game also doesn’t explain super much, as it kind of throws you into the game saying, “oh, that’s so-and-so”, and just has you go with it. It’s not a bad thing, but I was kind of hoping I could have some explanations. It’s not the only game series that does this, so it’s not that big of a deal.

So like Atelier Totori, this game is nothing short of adorable blushing anime girls and fetch quest after fetch quest. The plus version of the game is a remastered version with better character models, as I did think the chibi characters kind of made it look disjointed from the anime artwork. I saw the character models from the original version, and thought Rorona was 12, but found out she was a lot older than that during the dialog scenes. Now all the characters match the way they look.

I was surprised, yet glad that some of the gameplay is different from Totori. I was expecting Totori to be largely copied and pasted from Rorona, just a different place. Luckily there’s differences with things like how exploring works, and even with picking up jobs/advancing progress. Instead of having all the gathering places as separate spots, this game has you visit a location that has sub-sections in it to explore. Theoretically it’s not much different from the sequel, but hey, at least I don’t feel like I’m playing the same exact game. Also getting jobs are also slightly different. They aren’t always available, and you can still turn in the job when you’re late on it. You just won’t get the full reward.

So far Atelier Rorona hasn’t disappointed, though the dialog is just as ridiculous as the sequel, and the story is kind of crappier, it’s still just as fun of a way to kill time. It’s still adorbs as fuck, and finding stuff isn’t so bad. I’ll most likely end up picking up Atelier Meruru to complete the Arland trilogy.