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The History of Dragon Quest
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The History of Dragon Quest


February 4, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 10 Next
 

Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome

Super Famicom (1992, Japan only)
PlayStation 2 (2004, Japan only)
DS (later in 2008, Japan)

Dragon Quest V: Tenkuu no Hanayome (The Bride of the Heavens) is the first 16-bit installment in the series, released for the Super Famicom. Much like Final Fantasy IV, it keeps much of the graphical style of the 8-bit games, but adds more color and detail to the graphics. It's definitely an improvement over the original, although it still looks a bit drab, and it lacks any fancy Mode 7 effects. The sound chip of the SNES also allows for high quality instrument samples that sound close to a real orchestra. Some of the music sounds flat compared to later SFC titles, but considering this was released early in the system's life cycle, it's actually pretty impressive. The movement is still clunky, but a bit smoother, and there's now a context sensitive "examine" button (either shoulder button) which will automatically talk to people, open doors, look at objects, and such. It's definitely an improvement, but overall it still feels pretty primitive. But Dragon Quest V's strengths go far beyond the presentation -- it's really about unique storytelling, as it follows on the different stages of the hero's life, from the moment he's born, up through his childhood, until when he raises a family of his own, all while having plenty of daring adventures.

The Story

At the beginning, you're just a precious little kid, adventuring with your dad. Right at the beginning, you wander off onto the world map and start getting your ass kicked by dumpy little slimes. Eventually you grow up and become a powerful beast tamer. You're accompanied by Papas, your loving father, who mourns the loss of his dear Martha. Just as you're getting pummeled by those slimes at the beginning, he steps in, heals you, wipes the floor with the attackers, and saves you from certain death. His motives are a bit mysterious, until he confesses the secret he's hiding.

Dragon Quest V There are also two women central to the plot. Bianca is the young daughter of one of the villagers. You first meet Bianca as a child, and the two of you rapscallions sneak outside at night to have some crazy adventurers. Later, she becomes one of the two girls you can marry. For some reason, the SFC manual refers to her as "The Mysterious Girl". Flora is the other girl you can marry, who's a bit more quiet and reserved than Bianca. She's also generally less interesting, considering you don't meet her until later in the game... at least, in the Super Famicom version. The game heavily tilts the favor towards Bianca, actually -- Flora isn't even mentioned in the manual. However, since she's the daughter of a rich guy, you get lots of bonuses from him, so it's almost easier to choose her. Unlike Bianca, whom you meet right at the beginning and is featured right on the cover.

Dragon Quest V begins as our hero is born to Papas and Martha, a proud young couple. As they decide on a name, Martha falls silent, with only the baby's cry breaking the silence. Fast forward a few years, as you, the hero -- just a kid at this point -- and his father are adventuring together. It's a pretty cool feeling when you first step into the world map and immediately get creamed by some slimes, only to have Papas jump in, give the monsters a good ass-kicking, and save your hide. Although you're just a few years old and can barely read, you still find some time for adventuring, and eventually adopt a little panther cub. During these adventures, you learn that your mother passed away giving birth, and your father still grieves to this day.

Your journey is cut short, however, when you and Papas are ambushed by some evil foes. As you're knocked to the ground, you watch helplessly as Papas tries valiantly to protect you -- and falls in combat. Before being burnt to death by your captors, Papas confesses to our hero that his mother is still alive, and begs for you to find her. You're imprisoned in a slave labor camp for ten long years, during which you mature from a small little boy into a young man. After much hardship, you band together with your one of your fellow slaves and escape to freedom, in hopes of finding your lost mother and carrying out your dying father's request. Along the way, you'll learn of Papas' true quest -- to find the Zenithian Hero, the one who can enter the Demon World and save the land from chaos. In a bit of a shocking twist, you're not the prophesized hero -- but you spend the rest of the game trying to find that hero, in addition to tracking down your mother.

Dragon Quest V Along the way, you'll learn stories of your parents' courtship, which is pretty cute. At one point, you'll get to choose a bride of your own to marry, and have kids. After further adventuring, you and your wife are actually captured and encased in stone -- only to be rescued several years later by your children, now fully-grown heroes in their own right. And you soon learn that your kids may have an important fate cut out for them as well.

The Game

Dragon Quest in general is often derided for its simplistic scenarios, but DQV has one of the most involving -- and emotional -- of almost any RPG out there. There really hasn't been any other game that follows this format -- Sega's Phantasy Star III is about as closest as you can get. Dragon Quest V doesn't offer as many options -- the girl you choose to marry only slightly affects the plot, and your children will have the same stats regardless of who your marry, as it only changes their hair color. But the focus on a single character works much better here, feeling like the equivalent of an epic poem.

Dragon Quest V also introduces monster taming. As soon as you reach adulthood, you can draft enemy monsters to fight in party. There's no trick to it -- just have an open spot in your party lineup, and certain monsters will offer to join, if you're strong enough. Each has their own unique name (you can meet another Healslime named Hoimin, like DQIV) and also level up and gain new abilities as they can experience, just like regular party members. There are a total of 40 monsters to collect in the Super Famicom version, which is pretty sizable, and this is in addition to all of the other human characters that you can play as (your wife, your kids, and various others.) This system would eventually serve as the basis from the Dragon Quest Monsters spinoff, which was primarily created due to the popularity of Nintendo's Pokémon series.

However, you can only take three characters into battle at once, which is a significant downgrade from the previous two games. At least the party AI is much better than DQIV, and you can control all of your party members manually, at least once you've built their intelligence stats up. Additionally, certain weapons, like boomerangs and sickles, can now attack groups of enemies, which makes battles go by much quicker.

At this point, in 1992, Enix has all but given up with RPGs in America, so despite the popularity of Final Fantasy II (in restored numbering, IV) on the SNES, it was never officially translated. Despite its age, it's often remembered as one of the best of the series, and is acknowledged as Yuji Horii's favorite.

Different Versions

Dragon Quest V was later remade for the PlayStation 2 in Japan in 2004, developed by Arte Piazza and Matrix Software. All of the graphics -- characters, monsters, landscapes -- are rendered in polygons, although it's hardly all that fancy looking. The game utilizes a similar overhead camera, so it never zooms too close to show how shoddy the character models are. Still, at least the monster animations in battle are pretty cool -- it's fun to watch the slimes fling themselves right into the TV screen as they attack. And despite feeling pretty low budget, it's not particularly ugly, just simplistic. The interface has been much improved -- doors open automatically, you have access to the Bag and the monster book, and the hero walks significantly faster. It also uses the music with similar arrangements to the Symphonic Suite soundtrack CD, but newly recorded to sound much better. It sounds fantastic and makes it the only Dragon Quest released in Japan to feature real orchestral music.

Dragon Quest V PS2 The battle roster has also been expanded allow four characters, and includes a handful of new playable monsters. As a result, the monster strengths and overall difficulty have been rebalanced to suit the extra party members. The scenario itself is almost exactly the same as the Super Famicom version, although this time you meet Flora as a child at the beginning of the game. This was an attempt to make you feel more attached to her when it comes time to choose a bride, but it's still weighted heavily in Bianca's favor. There's also some special new regional equipment that come across, which can be displayed at a special museum. Compared to Dragon Quest VIII -- which came out a few months after this -- this remake looks pretty pathetic, and it's probably why Square Enix skipped on localizing it for the rest of the world. However, it's preferable to the Super Famicom version and still definitely worth a shot.

Later in 2008, Dragon Quest V will be released for the Nintendo DS. Using the same engine as the DS version of DQIV, this version seems to utilize similar backgrounds as the PS2 version but replaces the 3D character models with sprites. Most of the monster animations and other graphics appear to have been lifted from the DS DQIV as well. There's going to be some extra scenarios, apparently, but nothing's been set in stone. As of this writing, this title has not been released in Japan.

 


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