Game 11 – Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest V: The Heavenly Bride (ドラゴンクエストV 天空の花嫁)
Released on 9/27/1992, published by ENIX
This is surely the best known game on my list so far. Of course the Dragon Quest series is the pioneer RPG series in Japan, and as far as I know it still outsells Final Fantasy there. The first four games in the series were all localized into English for the NES. They went all out for the first two, improving the graphics and adding a battery save (the Japanese versions of I and II used passwords instead of save files!) They also changed the names to sound more high fantasy (e.g. “Loto” to “Erdrick”) and translated the dialogue in a pseudo-archaic style, whereas the original Japanese is standard colloquial language.
Unfortunately after IV, it was 9 years until the next game came out in English. V and VI, the Super Famicom titles, were skipped, along with the remakes of the first three games. However, complete or nearly complete fan translations of both games were done in the early 2000s, letting Western players experience them. Subsequently the DS remakes of both games were localized.
So this game is pretty well known and can be experienced in English both in original and remake form. If the only purpose of this blog was to document unknown games, I would skip this, but I also just want to have fun playing good Super Famicom games.
Anyone who has played the first 4 games will feel right at home here; Dragon Quest has always kept a more consistent gameplay style than Final Fantasy. The sound effects are all the classic ones, and Sugiyama’s music and Toriyama’s character and monster designs are familiar. Of course there are new elements as well.
|Kurisu is born|
The game starts out with a short prologue featuring the birth of the hero (and death of his mother). We then jump 8 years later, with Papas (the main character’s father) returning to his hometown with Kurisu. While Papas catches up at the port with old friends, Kurisu wanders out of town and gets in the first battle:
|Aren’t they cute?|
The slime is the iconic enemy of Dragon Quest, so it’s almost always among the first monsters you encounter. Three slimes is a bit much for 8 year old Kurisu, but Papas quickly comes in to support and make quick work of the enemies. Then we continue on to Papas’ hometown. While Papas is engaged with other stuff, Kurisu is able to wander off into the first quest — finding a medicine maker who has been trapped in a cave in the town. Fortunately the merchants are willing to sell weapons and armor to an 8 year old. By the way, you can finally see the stats of equipment and who can equip it before you buy it. I think maybe Heracles III had this too, but none of the other games.
|Youngest RPG protagonist?|
One thing I’ve always liked about DQ is how dying takes you back to the last place you saved with half your money, but everything else intact. Coupled with the ability to store money in a bank (or just buy equipment with it), this usually means that you don’t have to grind before you can even attempt a dungeon. You can always try your best and then just accept the death, and next time you try you’ll be stronger. Once you get the “leave dungeon” and “return to town” spells it’s even better.
|Bianca and Kurisu, kid power|
The castle is a little harder than the caves. It has a delightfully creepy atmosphere, with ghosts everywhere, things moving on their own, and such.
|Skeletons in beds|
|Skeletons ready to eat you for dinner|
|The boss ghost|
Once you beat the boss ghost, the ghosts of the king and queen can re-enter their graves, thus calming the castle down. The kids then agree to give you the cat, who is actually a baby panther. One of the new features of this game is that you can recruit monsters. DQ4 had some monsters you could get on your team but they were set by the plot; this game lets monsters join you after battle. Here’s some nice fan art of Kurisu, Bianca, and the panther.
|Bolongo the baby panther, of indeterminate gender|
Papas then recovers and we head back home, leaving Bianca behind. Now it’s time for Kurisu’s third secret adventure. A wispy elf, who only Kurisu can see, appears and leads Kurisu up some stairs to a secret land of elves. The head elf needs a wind flute to restore spring to the land.
|Are you sure this isn’t just a dream?|
An elf, Bera, joins you as well, although you can’t change her equipment. I was finally able to buy the Boomerang for Kurisu. This is a nice weapon that’s new to the series with DQ5; it can hit all the enemies. There are also whips that can hit a group. The damage goes down after the first target but they’re still pretty good.
|Slimes, humans, and elves living together. How nice.|
The elf quest involves two parts. First you have to go learn the technique of the thieves’ key from a dwarf in a cave. Then once you have that, you can open the door to the ice cave up north. The ice cave is interesting because you have to plan your movements. You go sliding around when you walk a direction so it takes some experimentation to get everywhere and recover all the chests.
Finally we confront the boy who stole the flute, and it turns out he was being tricked by an evil magician.
|Fortunately Bera also has the lower defense spell|
This completes the elf quest, and the elf leader is able to restore spring to the land. He promises that when Kurisu becomes an adult, he’ll repay the favor.
|Give him back!|
|Jami and Gonz, the minions|
|“Gonz’s attack! Papas takes 18 points of damage! Papas dies!”|
So Kurisu gets to watch his father beaten up and killed. Gema then attacks, and easily wipes the floor with both Kurisu and the panther.
Once Kurisu is knocked out, Gema decides to sell both Henry and Kurisu into slavery, and throw Bolongo out in the wild where he’ll revert back to being a normal wild panther. This is the end of the first section of the game, and the story moves ahead 10 years — Kurisu and Henry are still slaves.
|Grown up Kurisu, pushing rocks|
That’s a remarkably dark turn of the story. There are a lot of parent deaths in video games but here they actually let you travel around with your dad and do stuff with him, so it’s a lot more emotional when he dies, especially since you have to watch the enemies chip him down with attacks, while he just sits there and skips his turns. Not only that, but then Kurisu spends more than half his life as a slave.
While some of the Final Fantasies are among my favourite RPGs of all time, Dragon Quest is easily my favourite series. I played through I-IX in succession a few years ago and had a blast pretty much all the way. As interesting as it was to experience those kusoge through your blog, I'm happy you get to actually enjoy a game for a change! I almost feel like replaying the series myself…
I've played 1-7 and 9, but only ever beaten 1 and 4. This time I should actually be able to finish one.