Dragon Warrior IV
Dragon Warrior IV, the last Dragon Warrior game to reach the US shores, is the best of the first 4. This game starts a new trilogy, the tenkuu (or heaven) trilogy. This trilogy revolves around the Zenithian castle (or the castle in the sky). Dragon Warrior IV introduces the chapter system. Instead of starting the game as the hero, you first have to play through 4 chapters, each dealing with what the other characters did before they met the hero. In Chapter 5 you take control of the Hero (who you get to name), and go recruit all the other characters (and some new ones). Other new features include a Casino, the wagon (for switching characters), and an AI system for your party members. All the features stay through the rest of the trilogy (that would be Dragon Quest V and Dragon Quest VI, for those with a counting problem).
This game is lots of fun to play. I always enjoy going around fighting slimes and stuff, but this game has tones of other things to do as well. As usual it's a standard 2-D overhead view RPG. (As if you expected something different) While you wander around you see the world from a bird's eye view above the main character. (You should probably tell him to watch for bird droppings) Combat is done in the standard 3-D view. Nothing new, but that's good since the old was good.
Again, the same basic menu interface, and still needing to select talk to talk to people (the NES really needs more buttons, apparently Enix was afraid to use the Select button). But I'm not going to complain anymore about the menu, it's really simple and easy to navigate.
As would be expected there are numerous towns and dungeons to explore, and lots of neat items to find. In the first 4 chapters, the game is highly linear as you follow the adventures of your characters. Once you reach Chapter 5 however, you can go many different places, especially once you get a boat. (Boats are famous for increasing the number of places to explore, everyone should have a boat) This game will provides many hours of exploring around looking for new places to visit, and new dungeons to conquer. (fun for the whole family)
Of course you can't have an RPG without battles. (Well I suppose you could, but what fun is a game where you can't bash defenseless slimes?) As I mentioned earlier, once you get into a battle, it displays a 3-D first person view, where you can see the monsters you are fighting, and guess what .... It still has a black background (I see Enix still couldn't take a cue from Phantasy Star). The combat is turn-based with each player and monster being able to do one action per turn. You select the action at the beginning of the turn, and if the monster you wanted to attack is no longer alive (because someone killed it first), then the characters are smart enough to pick a new monster to attack, not like some other games. (*glares at Final Fantasy*)
Time for the new features. First is the AI system. In Chapter 5 you can only control your main hero, the rest of the characters are controlled by the AI. From the menu you can select many different AI choices, like Use no MP, or Offensive. Personally I think it needed an option to allow you to control all the characters (like DQ5, DQ6 and DQ7 have), it can be annoying having to rely on the AI. Ordinarily I'd deduct a point, but I really like this game so I'll let this flaw slide.
Also new is the wagon. Early in Chapter 5 you get a wagon. Since you can only have 4 character in combat at once, and the game has a lot more than 4 characters, the other characters stay in the wagon. You can switch which characters are in the wagon, and which are in combat from the menu (even during combats). A nice feature, especially since characters in the wagon still get 1/2 of the XP for the fights you get into.
Of course the feature that adds the most fun is the Casino. Here you can play blackjack, or Poker, or play slots, or even bet on monsters in the monster tournament. You need to buy coins in order to do anything at the Casino, and you can win coins from the games. With these coins you can buy some really powerful items. (Some that you can't find anywhere else) Of course, I still like the monster arena best, it's fun to watch a metal slime, slime nail, and a normal slime fighting each other.
And just because I feel like complaining, I don't think Enix should have changed the names from the Japanese original. Now nobody can figure out who Torneko is. (in Torneko: The Last Hope) Taloon isn't exactly a more English-like name anyway.
This game can be fairly tough but not overly challenging. The first 4 chapters are relatively easy (although you'll need to spend some time leveling up if you wish to survive). The 5th chapter can be a little harder, but still nothing too hard. Most of the challenge comes from the fact that you can't directly control you characters. But still all the bosses can be beaten without too much trouble, with the right characters, and the right AI strategy selected.
Why wouldn't you want to play through again, the game is just so much fun. (I really mean it, I really do like this game) The main reason to play again is to find all the hidden secrets, especially the Small Medals hidden throughout the land. (You can trade the Small Medals for some totally awesome items.) Well anyway, I personally think it's worth playing through at least twice.
The story in this game is top notch for an NES game. (Heck it's better than the story for most SNES and PSX RPGs) The first 4 chapters introduce you to the characters. You get to learn where they are from, and how they became involved in this adventure. In Chapter 5, the Hero and the other characters must try to stop Saro from Reviving the evil lord Esturk. There are plenty of story advancements and plot twists along the way. I think it's quite interesting, and will keep you playing to find out what's next.
I might have given it a 9/10 for graphics (but I didn't). The graphics are fairly good for an NES game, but there really isn't a large enough improvement over Dragon Warrior II. The combat still has a black background (get with the program Enix!), and no monster animations. (Although Final Fantasy didn't have animated monsters till FF7) But the graphics really aren't that bad, so I give it an 8 out of 10.
I really like Koichi Sugiyama's (the composer of the music in all the Dragon Warrior games) music, it has a nice simple quality to it that fits the mood of the Dragon Warrior games. Even on the NES (yes the NES has pathetic hardware), it sounds pretty decent. The main theme is really catchy. (It' really is one of my favorites) As far as NES games go, it has great music and sound effects, no need to mute your TV while playing (I've seen many SNES and PSX games that should have a mute feature for their music).
(Please note: if you notice any similarities in the sound section of this review, it's because I'm lazy)
Overall Rating: 10/10
I really like this game (I also apparently am using the word really too much again). It's one of my favorite games (and it's on the NES which I think is a terrible system as far as hardware is concerned). You should really get this game (if you like NES RPGs that is), I highly recommend it, because I really like it a lot. (Which explains the 10 out of 10 rating I gave it.)