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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.