Tag Archives: Dragon Quest

December Bonus Review #5 Dragon Quest VII

I’ve reviewed exactly one game before this, Nintendo’s  Miitopia. I was less than impressed with it. To end December’s bonus reviews, I thought I’d go with a game franchise that’s near and dear to my heart, Dragon Quest. We’ll be basing our review on the 3DS remake and not just because it’s the version I was able to buy legally since the Playstation version wasn’t released here. We’re also doing that one because it’ll probably be the easiest for you all to find at a reasonable price.

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Story: 

We open on the small island of Estard. Our protagonist, I named him Lulu, is the son of a fisherman. One day, his father brings home a mysterious map fragment. This leads him and his childhood friend, Prince Kiefer, on a quest to open up the door to a strange shrine. They’re quickly joined by their friend Maribel. The three activate an ancient pedestal that leads them through time and space to an island they’ve never seen. They quickly discover that the world was once populated by a great many islands that were, through various machinations of the demon lord, lost. They also discover that through travelling back to pivotal moments they can restore the islands and reshape the world itself. Which may eventually earn them the strength necessary to defeat the demon king himself.

I have two issues with the story, neither of which is a major deal. They’re more of small annoyances. The first is the lack of player agency on the ending. Throughout the game, they ask Lulu questions about things like his plans for the future and how he feels about Maribel (if you’re me you always answer positively because Maribel is amazing) but, ultimately, your answers don’t matter in the slightest. Honestly, this game would have benefited from multiple endings based on your answers. You see the same basic issue with Sir Lysalot, a fraud who you have no real choice but to cover for because the game won’t let you expose him and believe me, I tried. The second issue is also with the ending. So, you get to the end and your party goes through a long victory tour where you stop at various places and find the people you need to talk to to move on to the next place. It gets pretty tedious and, honestly, this part really doesn’t need to be interactive. It actually gains nothing from having you play through it. They could’ve made it quicker and cleaner by just showing the important conversations and then automatically moving you to the next spot.

In a strange way, this narrative reminds me of Doctor Who back when Doctor Who was good. I suppose it’s the journeying through time and space aspect. Plus there’s always some new problem to face our heroes. I actually really like that story set up. I also appreciate that the various islands you go to provide different kinds of obstacles. It’s not always going through dungeons and fighting the big bad. Sometimes it’s more about information gathering or puzzle solving. Which leads to some nice variety. I also like the way the reborn islands differ. In some, you’ll find that your party has become heroes of lore. In others, you’ll be forgotten. In one case, you’re even vilified. And in all the cases the response tells you something about the culture of the island’s people. It’s actually a really effective way to do some world building.

Characters:

Lulu is pretty much like every silent Dragon Quest protagonist. He’s there as the character you project onto. The antagonist is the same kind of thing. He’s the bad guy who wants to exterminate the Almighty and rule. It’s the other playable characters who keep things compelling. Maribel, Aira, Gabo, Melvin & Kiefer all have a strong sense of personality and some interesting arcs. Even some of the more minor characters like Estard’s king or Sefana have a nicely built sense of character.

Honestly, it’s like a lot of other games in the franchise. Provide the kind of blank slate protagonist you get to make decisions for and the big bad who’s just evil while putting effort into making the rest of the party and a bunch of side characters interesting to compensate.

Gameplay:

if you’ve ever played a Dragon Quest title, you know the basics of how the controls work. You’ve got the usual turn-based combat with the usual interface and menus. It also uses the mechanic that the newer games are fond of where monsters appear on the world map and you get into battle by running into them. There are two things that separate VII from a lot of the other games in the franchise. The first is the mechanic of travelling to the past. Which is used to great effect and there are several instances where you need to go back to a specific place in order to find something or get help from a particular person. The second is the job system.

VII isn’t the only game to give you vocations, but it does execute them in an interesting way. Each vocation has levels of mastery where you earn new abilities, some of which carry over. And you gain that in addition to ordinary levels. So, you don’t have to significantly weaken yourself to start a new path. It also features prestige classes, which require certain conditions to change to. Mastering certain classes or gaining specific skills. Perhaps most interesting are the monster vocations. Throughout the game you find monster heart items that enable your characters to take on the aspects of that monster and these come with their own levels of mastery.

In terms of difficulty, VII is pretty challenging. There are times when you may want to pause in your quest to grind up some levels or just go out exploring and gain some more experience in the process. This game does have a massive map with a lot to do in it.

Art:

The designs are what you expect from Toriyama. They look pretty damn good. The 3DS version also updates the sprites when moving across the world map so that they look considerably better than the old school PS versions. One unfortunate side effect of that, however, is that the map itself and the boats you encounter look a bit blocky. The special attacks are also a bit lacklustre. Overall, though, the game does use the 3DS hardware pretty effectively.

Sound:

You’ve gotta give Sugiyama Koichi credit. He’s pretty much done the musical score for every Dragon Quest game and they’ve always been excellent at complementing the atmosphere and just being really good. The sound effects are pretty standard fare.

Final Thoughts:

Dragon Quest VII isn’t the best game in the franchise. It has some things that could definitely be done better. That being said, it’s still an excellent game. If you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, like I am, then you’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit. The mechanic of going through time and space is really good. The characters have strong senses of personality. The soundtrack and designs are oh so good. My final rating is an enthusiastic 9/10.

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Combining games for fun and profit

Lately, we’ve seen quite a few games released that combine the mechanics of two different games. Dynasty Warriors with both Zelda & Dragon Quest. Etrian Odyssey with Mystery Dungeon & Persona. Tekken with Pokémon. And that’s just to name a few. On one hand, it’s easy to understand why this happens. It’s an easy way to do something new with a franchise while also using game mechanics that are tried and true, even if they are such for a completely different game franchise. It’s also undoubtedly true that some of these combination games have been really good, melding elements of the two games for something that manages to be, strangely enough, unique.

Yeah, I’m not going to slag off the practice itself. Instead, I’m going to give you a list of five game combinations I’d like to see. Sorted by the one I’d like to see the least to the one I’d like the most.

5. Pokémon & Endless Ocean.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Endless Ocean, the idea is that you’re a diver mucking about underwater in various areas, interacting with marine life to learn about them including feeding and petting them. You even get dolphin friends to swim around with you. It’s a very relaxing game. Imagine how perfect that format would be for a game where you take the role of a Pokémon professor. You could explore various environments, not just the ocean but the forest, mountains and such, while studying wild Pokémon and gaining information for your Pokédex in the most world-building Pokémon game to date with an emphasis on exploration and environment rather than on battling. It wouldn’t be for every Pokémon fan but I’d certainly buy and sink hours of time into it.

4. Metroid & Borderlands

It’s no secret that I love most of the Metroid franchise, except that one game that basically nobody liked where Samus had Daddy issues for some reason. The games are about exploration and making your way through hostile worlds. However, one thing they haven’t really taken advantage of is the fact that Samus is a bounty hunter. Which is why I think it could benefit from taking some cues from Borderlands. Giving us a Metroid game with city hubs and quests. They could even adapt the gold rewards system to have Samus unlock armour, missile and weapon upgrades instead of just having her lose her power-ups and have to relocate them, usually attached to random statues.

3. Dragon Quest & Dissidia

Having a Final Fantasy based fighting game, that isn’t Ehrgeiz or anything like Ehrgeiz, was a brilliant move on Square-Enix’s part. And I’d love to see the same kind of treatment given to their other big RPG franchise, Dragon Quest. just tweak the mechanics a bit to be more suitable for the franchise and you’d almost certainly have a hit.

2. Persona & X-men Legends

The great thing about this combination is that it would work either way. You could have a more action-oriented Persona game where you can switch between characters readily and summon your personae for special attacks or a more traditional X-men RPG with an emphasis on the character dynamics. Which would also have the benefit of letting characters who don’t really work with the Legends style of gameplay, characters like Shadowcat, Mirage & Karma, take active roles in the party.

1. Fire Emblem & Neptunia

I know, I’m weird. That being said, I would love to see a more action-RPG style Fire Emblem game  where enemy soldiers are scattered throughout a map and you can avoid or engage them while making your way through the map. Where scavenging for materials is a big deal. With a female cast and where the Support conversation system is combined with Neptunia’s Lily rank system for a bit more of an involved dynamic when your ladies reach C, B, A or S-rank. Honestly, it could easily replace Blazing Sword as my favourite Fire Emblem title if it had characters and a narrative on par with it. Even if it couldn’t really include perma-death with a more Neptunia style battle system.

There you have it, some game combinations I, in all my eccentricity, would personally like to see. Feel free to leave your own ideas for cool combinations that haven’t been done yet in the comments.

Five third party characters who won’t be in Smash, but would be awesome in it.

Recently Nintendo announced that they would be taking ballots for a new DLC character. Even more recently, they stated that they would be okay with any nominations whatsoever. Third party or otherwise. As such, I’ve compiled a list of five third party characters who I would love to see make it into Smash, but who stand virtually no chance of doing so. The list isn’t going to be in any particular order. For each character I’ll describe what a trailer for them might look like, talk about why I think they’d be an awesome addition and why they almost certainly won’t make it.

5. 

Link, Samus, Mario and Pikachu make their way across a grassy meadow. A draconic shadow flits over them. Pikachu sees it and looks up, shocked and cries out in warning. The shadow grows larger and the group turns to face it. Bleu swoops into Battle. 

Yes, the first choice is Bleu from Shining Force. A little dragon who walks like a person. He could use a wide variety of breath attacks and his final smash could be him upgrading to his great dragon form and hurling lightning on everything. A character like Bleu would be awesome because you’d be playing as a freaking dragon and, unlike Ridley, he’s not such a massive dragon that the size scale would be an issue. Plus he’s just a great character who has to grow up quickly under harsh conditions and transforms into a character of great strength, and not just in terms of physical power.

Why he almost certainly won’t be in Smash:

Let’s face it, Shining Force probably isn’t going to have a character appear in Smash. It may very well be a cult classic, but it’s not as well known in that regard as Earthbound. Even assuming that the fanbase got together to pull for a character from the franchise, the likely candidates would be Max, Narsha, Bowie or one of the other major characters. Not one of the many awesome side characters like Zylo, Mae, Tao, or Bleu.

4:

A solitary raven sits on a stump. The animal crossing villager creeps up on it, net in hands. It looks at him but appears unafraid. The villager stands poised to capture it, but is interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. He looks back and a burst of lightning sends him flying. The raven moves onto the shoulder of the woman who zapped the villager. Alisia joins the battle. 

Alisia from the classic Mega Drive title, Alisia Dragoon. Not only would she be cool to play as on account of her lightning powers, but she has four diverse animal companions who could be used to great effect for her special attacks. All in all, a great character with a great range of abilities.

Why she almost certainly won’t be in Smash:

It’s simple enough, Alisia Dragoon was not one of the Mega Drive’s great successes. It received critical acclaim, but didn’t enjoy good sales. In fact, I’m betting most of you are only vaguely familiar with it if even that. As such, the game never got a sequel nor has it been remade or even released on the Virtual Console. It’s too far outside of popular consciousness for Alisia to stand much chance of appearing in any modern game, especially one like Smash. 

3. 

Sonic races across the open plains, past several other smash competitors. He glances to the side for a moment and slams right into a speed bump, tumbling to the ground. Bowser and Ganondorf advance towards him. Things look grim when a massive boomerang flies through the air and slams into them. We follow it as it moves backwards, towards a red-haired girl with goggles atop her head. She smiles and catches it. Aika enters the fray. 

Aika, from the classic Skies of Arcadia would make a great entry into the Smash roster. Even if you put aside the fact that she’s a great character she’s got a great design and has a lot of abilities that would be interesting to see in something like Smash. Seriously, how awesome would it be to have a sky pirate with a giant boomerang weapon and fiery special attacks?

Why she probably won’t make it:

Skies of Arcadia is another title I don’t anticipate seeing characters from in Smash. While it was fairly popular, both on the Dreamcast and when it was remade for the Gamecube, it’s been quite a while since it came out and I don’t think the fanbase is going to rally around it for something like this. Even if they did I’d anticipate seeing Vyse over Aika.

2. 

Bowser enters his castle, his servants are in a bustle, ignoring him completely. Annoyance is apparent on his face. He follows a koopa who delivers a drink to a figure underneath a parasol sitting on his throne. He looks up, baring his claws. His rage is replaced by surprise and a surge of flames slams into him. We finally get a glimpse of the smirking face beneath the parasol. Debora Briscoletti joins the battle. 

I’m sure a lot of you think I’m crazy for this one. After all, out of all the characters in the Dragon Quest franchise why would I pick Deborah? Because she’s awesome! I’m not exaggerating when I say that V is my favourite Dragon Quest title and Deborah is my favourite character in the franchise. She’s delightfully snarky and I personally adore most of her dialogue. As a character in Smash she would offer a highly physical play style with some strong ranged attacks.

Why she almost certainly won’t make it:

Honestly, I think Dragon Quest VIII is the most likely to get a character into Smash simply because it was a highly acclaimed release worldwide Even assuming that Dragon Quest V was the big choice, I’d anticipate The Hero or Bianca being the ones to get votes. Personally, I can’t stand Bianca and find her incessantly annoying, but she is the popular choice which is why I highly doubt that Deborah would stand a chance.

1. 

Peach and Zelda stand back to back, the menacing figures of Bowser and Ganondorf advancing on them. A cry rings out and the to villains turn their heads, a yo-yo hits Ganondorf in the face. Bowser lunges at their unseen assailant, a blur is seen and he too collapses. Peach and Zelda look down at their rescuer who grabs each of them by the hand and gazes into their eyes with hearts appearing in hers. In her quest for a wifey, Red has entered the battle. 

After playing the Vita remakes of Neptunia 1 & 2, Red has become one of my favourite video game characters of all time. She’s just so incessantly endearing that virtually every time she gets a line it’s something amazing. I would dearly love to see the young yuri girl appear in more games, including Smash.

Why she almost certainly won’t make it:

Yeah, the Neptunia franchise is pretty big. However, Red only appears in two titles in it and she’s a secondary character. If anyone from the franchise stands a chance at getting into Smash, I’d bet on Neptune herself. Possibly Blanc since she represents the Nintendo analog. As awesome as Red is, I’m not counting on her joining the Smash roster ever.

So, there’s my list of third party characters who I’d love to see in Smash, but who almost certainly won’t ever be. Feel free to leave a comment with who you’d like to see, whether you think they stand a chance or not, or just to tell me I’m crazy. Or you could leave a comment agreeing with me on one of these, we can be crazy together. I’m putting in a poll as well to gauge whether or not you’d like to see me do more posts like this in addition to the weekly reviews. So, be sure to vote on that.

Film Festival Week: Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshou

Let’s talk about Dragon Quest. For a time, this was the big series of JRPGs competing with Final Fantasy in North America and Japan. It was also possible to get it in Europe, although we had to settle for the North American version since we didn’t have an official release until Dragon Quest VIII and the DS remakes. Try being the five year old whose trying to play the original game in a language you don’t know a word of. It is actually possible to beat through trial and error but you won’t know what the plot is in the slightest. Naturally, a franchise that competed with Final Fantasy in Japan got several anime and manga adaptations including today’s film, Dragon Quest Retsuden: Roto no Monshou. The work for this was handled by Enix, Pony Canyon, Shochiku film and Nippon animation. Let’s delve into the movie and see just where they went with it.

Story:

The story takes place between Dragon Quest III and the original. We open with a young boy named Arus being trained in swordplay by his… mother… sister… guardian… teacher? It never really says who she is to him. There’s a problem with his training, however. He seems unwilling or unable to use the sword as she’s trying to teach him or the magic that his elderly mentor is trying to teach him. To make things worse for this kid, the other children think he’s a coward. This leads to a competition between him and another boy named Kira to go into a potentially dangerous situation.

Honestly, the story is not bad but it’s not good either. The main plot is a pretty cliché coming of age story. Just in a fantasy setting, which has been done plenty of times. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it but it does nothing new. As a result, it’s pretty predictable.

Characters:

The characters in this are kind of bland. We’ve got the hesitant hero. The abrasive guy who isn’t really a bad person but comes across as kind of a jerk. The older mentor figure and so on. The film never bothers to establish anything about them aside from their archetypal traits. Although, to be fair, the film is less than an hour long and Arus’s story arc isn’t badly handled. Even though he never really develops beyond the trope.

Art:

The art in this isn’t very good. To a degree, it’s understandable since this is a film from ’96 and they didn’t exactly have access to all of the animation technology we do today. However, it isn’t even good by the standards of the day. When you compare it to The Slayers, Gundam Wing or Sailor Moon, all of which started earlier but had installments airing at roughly the same time,the art and animation just look lazy. Almost as though they weren’t trying.

Sound:

The vocal cast in this is decent. Everyone does competently, although no one gives their best performance. This is a film with Hiramatsu Akiko, Shiozawa Kaneto and Han Keiko, just to name a few. They all do fine, but they don’t really have much emotional range to work with so their performances, though competent, are a bit underwhelming. The music is genuinely good. Beinghandled by Wada Kaoru, who also did the music for 3×3 Eyes, and Arai Akino.

Ho-yay:

Most of the characters in this are little kids. So, no ho-yay.

Final Thoughts:

There’s not much to say about this one. We have a standard plot with standard characters and standard acting. The movie isn’t bad, but it’s nothing special or good either. If you don’t mind the cliches and you’re a huge Dragon Quest fan you might want to consider it. Otherwise, you’ll probably just find it dull. My final rating is going to be a 5/10, and I am a fan of the franchise with the 5th game being my favourite. Tomorrow, a different kind of film. In the name of the moon.