Friday, July 10, 2009

So Japanese! featuring Dragon Quest V

While the world gets shuffled like a worn pack of cards I am trying to keep track of the card I picked. A fixation that has kept me busy for quite a while.

But in between chaos and pandemonium I have been playing quite a bit of games.
So let's start with the beginning. Otherwise we risk upsetting the delicate balance between time and space. I had been playing a fair amount of western RPGs lately, and I have been for a great part of my life. All the while pretty much ignoring the existence of Eastern RPGs. Which is odd, since that must make it the only eastern thing I have not had the joy to experience.
No more.

I knew Dragon Quest has been kind of a big deal. So that's what I got. "Dragon Quest V: Hand Of The Heavenly Bride" for DS to be precise. Few words could describe what happiness was in store for me. So there's finally a chance this could be a short blogpost.

It's a charming game. Objectives are laid out as if they were lighthouses on a clear summernight. There's humour that strikes me as being "So Japanese!". DQ5, however, does have its emotional moments. Soppy as it sounds, the game is actually quite humble (but do keep in mind the DS is humble technology as well) about this. It misses all the pretentious melodrama that is so typically associated with Japanese RPGs, wich makes it all the more absorbing.

My biggest gripe though is perhapse not with DQ, but with Eastern RPGs in general. And that is that the game is padded with grinding. And without a combat system that isn't engaging or a class system that supports it, the experience can get old rather fast. I understand that later DQ games have mended this ailment. And to be fair, there are games with more grinding. Furthermore, DQ mixes up the grind with the ability to go out and try to pursuade monsters to join your side. After which they become party members. Yet, while bringing more complexity, it Unfortinatly creates more grinding and more tedious inventory management.
And there really isn't that much incentive to grind exept to get your character level up. Which brings about another questionable gameplay mechanic. As you level up, so do the enemies. Meaning the game's relative difficulty remains about the same from start to finish. Each area having you playing catch-up on character levels. Thus encouraging the grind rather then make you think about how to get trough an area by combining skills, spells or party members. But that's just the way these games are made.

For a game that was originally released in 1992, DQ5 remade for DS holds up. I don't know if I'd spend the time to play it in my spare time, maybe in small chunks, but it's been a great companion on the daily commute.

1 comment:

vdeogmer said...

I generally have the same complaint with Japanese RPGs, having played a few of them, their combat systems all seem to blend together and it feels like I wind up playing the same game over and over, albeit with a different(usually outrageous) storyline.

That's not to say that a good storyline can't carry a game past being a rehash of traditional gameplay mechanics, having just recently finished Earthbound for the first time, whose mechanics might as well have been identical to Dragon Quest's. The wacky, modern day setting carried me through it, as well as nostalgia, as I played it nearly to completion once a very long time ago.

I've heard from a few people that DQ5 has legs to stand on other than the gameplay, so I'll definitely be checking it out.