The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Dragon Warrior IV: Review

One of the most beloved games of this venerable series.

One of the most beloved games of this venerable series.

My brother and I continue our RPGTrek with Dragon Warrior IV: Chapters of the Chosen.

This game kicks of the Zenethian trilogy in epic fashion. This game allows you to play not one, but eight heroes as you transverse the land in search of the growing Overlord of Darkness before he plunges the entire land into darkness!  Does this game push the series forward, or does it knock it down a few hit points?  Your next RPGTrek review is only a click away!

Journey of a Utahan Polygameist


The original NES cover.  Epic!

The original NES cover. Epic!

Released in North America in October 1992, I received this game as a birthday or Christmas gift the following year.  Broken up into five chapters, the first four represent less than a third of the time spent playing, as it introduces the supporting cast in this epic tale.  The fifth chapter introduces you, as the hero (or heroine) who will not only unite the others, but lead them to save the world from some slumbering evil that will soon awake.

Using chapters to introduce characters feels fresh and original, with each one demonstrating different party dynamics, dungeon types, etc.  The most interesting chapter allows one to play as a merchant, running the very weapon shop that they would normally purchase from, and later on, working large deals between kings.  This approach will help invest players heavily into the characters.  Unfortunately, once chapter 5 begins, introducing the main hero, character development takes a huge back seat to the main plot of saving the world, missing a very valuable RPG opportunity.  (Note: A few have told me that the iOS/Android remakes introduce interparty chat, which does help character development through the final chapter).

Ah, the life of a merchant.

Ah, the life of a merchant.

This epic journey will take players to well over two dozen locations filled with interesting NPCs, vile evil-doers and dangerous monsters.  Similar to Dragon Warrior III, the variety of locations and challenges keeps one interested the entire way.  At one moment, the party will use a magic rod to look like monsters and infiltrate a stronghold as spies!  The next, they will climb the tree of life, fending off vicious fiends to save a fallen angel.  During their journey, they will make dozens of friends, discover hundreds of secrets and claim a myriad of awesome, powerful artifacts and gear.  The game does a great job of starting the adventure small, and building up to an epic conclusion.  Similarly, the party grows in strength with all but one feeling like pillars of power at the end.

The graphics and sound amaze from beginning to end.  DS polygon graphics rarely impress, but the sprite details, especially in combat, more than make up for it.  Monsters attack towards the screen with fluid animation.  And, while the player never sees his party in combat, the spell effects thrown at the monsters work well in keeping one immersed.  Of particular interest, the way the screen moves as the sorceress breathes fire over all the monsters, and the camera work on the final boss, exemplify what can be done with good creative direction.  Much of the music, especially some tunes carried in the towns, is especially memorable and worthy as cell phone ring tones.

Wow, someone's been drinkin' milk

Wow, someone’s been drinkin’ milk

The heart of the Dragon Quest experience, gameplay, receives numerous enhancements in this fourth title, though it remains largely unchanged in structure.  Players will move from town to town, speaking with NPCs to uncover clues about where to go next.  In the final, largest chapter of the game players earn a caravan early on.  Perhaps the largest change, the caravan allows a total of eight party members, instead of the standard four, though only four actively participate in fights at one time.

More dangerous areas invoke turn based combat to resolve conflict with vicious creatures.  The players must leave the caravan outside of most dungeons, requiring a choice as to whom to take.  Larger caves and outdoor areas allow the wagon which, in turn, enables players to swap out party members in combat.  While Dragon Quest games rarely involve deep strategy during fights, this mechanic adds some much appreciated depth.  The final stand-off used this to great effect.

The plot line and direction given to players as they talk with NPCs works better here, rendering use of a FAQ nigh unnecessary for simply completing the game.  The developers made more difficult, hidden objects completely optional, leading to awesome weapons, armor and artifacts of power.  Yet, one can beat the game without any of them.  Combat, monster and boss battles feel better balanced as well.  The leaders of evil will push players without breaking them entirely, provided they found a few hidden artifacts and/or spent minor amounts of time grinding out a few levels.

That's because we are unstoppable!

That’s because we are unstoppable!

Bottom Line: Is it fun today?  In a word, yes.  In two words, “Hell, YES!”  While a bit on the short side (clocking in around 30 hours) with a few missed opportunities, this game kept me glued to my chair from beginning to end.  While I miss the ability the change classes (ala Dragon Warrior III), having eight party members with a variety of unique skills made up for that.  More importantly, developers made directions from NPCs less vague, making it easier to figure out where to go next without resorting to outside assistance.  Combat balance received some love, as well.  Along with the new caravan mechanics, the final fight left me wanting more.  Given its age, this game holds up remarkably well, and the DS remake only enhances the experience with smooth battle animation, 3D visuals and enhanced sound.  I can whole heartedly recommend this RPG classic to all but those who outright abhor turn based JRPGs.  Others who have not yet experienced this adventure should do so without delay.   Heck, even if a few years have passed since your last trip to Burland, you should consider another romp.  It’s that good.

GamePro Tip!  If you load your save game after you beat Dragon Quest IV, you can play a new, sixth chapter added just for the DS remake!


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