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Dragon Quest IV

by Jonathan Metts - October 5, 2008, 12:07 am EDT
Total comments: 12


Square Enix's latest RPG remake is a charming relic.

Fans of the Dragon Quest series always know what they're getting – there's very little gameplay variation from one game to the next, and story has never been the franchise's strong point, so it's more about having a new world to explore. As with equally stubborn series like Mega Man and Pokemon, the appeal is less about what's new and more about what's old and familiar. Or, to put it another way: Dragon Quest IV is an old game built on nostalgia for an even older game that has been remade for new hardware but still feels very old in spirit and design. This could either be a major turn-off or glowing recommendation, depending on your point of view.

The good news for fans is that DQIV hits all the notes you expect. The adventure is very long and generally satisfying. The DS version features attractive 3D environments and a rotating camera, made all the more impressive by spanning both screens. All of the classic monster designs are intact, and they are brought to life with excellent animations during battle. If all you want is a shiny, portable rendition of the well-worn Dragon Quest memes, this production delivers. Like the pre-reboot James Bond films, you know exactly what to expect, and you'll be mildly satisfied as each one of the boxes is checked off.

For players with less nostalgia and more curiosity about this legendary series, it's worth turning a more critical eye towards this edition. The relatively snazzy new graphics and resampled music do more to spotlight the archaic gameplay than they do to bring Dragon Quest IV up to modern standards of presentation. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing for fans of the series or similar RPGs of the era. Where the game does start to look crusty in an unquestionably negative way is when you compare it to Final Fantasy IV. Both were originally released around the same time (though on different systems), and both are now available in revamped forms on the DS. Having now played through these games back to back, it's abundantly clear that the revolutionary aspects of FFIV have aged far better than the conservative approach of DQIV.

That's not so say that the latter is totally predictable. It features an unusual structure in which you play as several supporting characters before finally taking over as the main hero (or heroine) of the story, which happens 15-20 hours into the game. Although their paths don't intertwine much through these chapters, the approach is effective in providing more background narrative for support characters who would be reduced to stereotypes in most other RPGs. Unfortunately, DQIV's story is so simple that the characters are presented as stereotypes anyway; the opportunity to break new ground (either in the original script or this new translation) is completely wasted. The other regrettable consequence of the prologue chapters is that each one has you starting at level one with the same junk equipment. Just when the tomboy princess or ambitious merchant starts to develop unique abilities and find cool weapons, the chapter ends and you have to start over again with someone else. By the time you finally get to play as the main character, you'll already be sick of fighting slimes with oaken clubs because you've been doing it for the past dozen or so hours with every other playable character.

Both in the early chapters and throughout the game, Dragon Quest IV requires heavy grinding for experience points and gold. There's little strategy required even against bosses, so the game never enters the same realm of difficulty as Final Fantasy IV; you just have to invest enough time and purchase equipment wisely. Thus, the game is never truly frustrating, making it a good choice for inexperienced RPG players or any gamer looking for a more laid-back quest. On the other hand, the grind for stronger characters may prove insufferable to players who don't have the patience to spend an hour or more getting ready for the next dungeon. Grinding is an element that always comes down to personal preference; I find it weirdly fulfilling, but I also understand why many people can't stand it. Just be aware that DQIV relies heavily on grinding, much more so than FFIV or even the more recent Dragon Quest VIII on PlayStation 2.

Ultimately, Dragon Quest IV is so steeped in retro gaming culture that it's bound to be polarizing. While it is certainly a well-made game in the traditional Japanese RPG mold, I can't recommend it to everyone. Hopefully, you've learned enough in this review to decide whether it's right for you. If it is, you'll find dozens of hours of entertainment and a continuous drip of nostalgia to make DQIV worthwhile.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 8 8 7 9 8

Other than some occasional slowdown when too many characters are displayed at once, the visual presentation is impeccable. Characters are distinctive, the 3D environments look great on both screens, and even the 2D world map looks decent.


The soundtrack and sound effects are classic Dragon Quest fare, but the string-heavy world map music isn't the standard track, and it feels a bit out of place.


Controls are simple and effective, with a couple of odd caveats. There is no touch screen support whatsoever, not even for battle menus. The camera can be rotated in towns and towers, but for no apparent reason, it cannot be adjusted in caves or on the world map.


As RPGs go, this one is pretty simple. There isn't much strategy to the battles except to grind patiently in preparation for difficult areas and bosses. The exploration aspects are more intriguing; most towers and caves are small but interesting.


This is a very long game that can last for 50+ hours. Just keep in mind that a large portion of that will be spent building levels and earning gold.


Nostalgic RPG fans should find Dragon Quest IV to be a high-quality, engaging example of the genre. It's not the greatest adventure around, nor even the best in its own series, but it will keep your DS happy for several weeks.


  • Big world with lots to explore
  • Solid, traditional RPG gameplay
  • Updated graphics and music
  • Character dialects are hard to read
  • Forgettable story
  • Requires heavy grinding
Review Page 2: Conclusion


AVOctober 05, 2008

Great review Johnny, you clearly had a respect for the game yet seem frustrated for them keeping to its OLD ways.

My friend Tom he told me back in SNES days he would get an RPG and loved to grind.  He told me that he could stay in the same spot and go into random battle and grind for Several Hours at a time . I can grind for maybe 15 minutes before I get bored and when I just want to go to the cave or town and lots of stupid easy animals randomly appear in my way I grow annoyed by that type of RPG.

I never really planned on getting this game but because of heavy grinding mentioned in this I'll avoid it at all costs. Videogames are supposed to be FUN ENTERTAINMENT and I find grinding BUSY WORK and CHEAP WAY TO EXTEND THE GAME.

And it doesn't have a unique and fun story umm No thanks. If I'm going to invest hours and hours of my free time it better be worth it.

Is it safe to say Johnny that allot of things they advanced in FFIV DS they forgot to fix in this game ?
I bought the original FFIV on GBA 2 years ago so I don't want to rebuy that game, but I did read everything about it and it seemed like a worthy upgrade and update to a great game, this seems like new coat of paint for a game that was great for its time.

I enjoyed DQ8 in spite of the grinding. I had only played 1&2 on GBC before.

This sounds like a DQ8 wannabe without the interesting world and characters.

KhushrenadaOctober 05, 2008

To Mr. Vega,

It's a review for Dragon Quest IV not Final Fantasy IV like you are asking. So, that may change your view on the game though if you don't like grinding probably not. It should just be noted that it is a different game.

SchadenfreudeOctober 05, 2008

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

I enjoyed DQ8 in spite of the grinding. I had only played 1&2 on GBC before.

This sounds like a DQ8 wannabe without the interesting world and characters.

Well DQIV came out over 10 years before DQVIII...

I'm surprised you say it requires heavy grinding. A user at NeoGAF advocates that no grinding is necessary. I don't mind grinding personally; I've played plenty of RPGs, I'm use to it.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusOctober 05, 2008

This is a perfect review for me Jonny. As someone on the fence with getting DQ IV vs. FF IV, I think it clearly highlights why I'd prefer FF to DQ in this instance.

I enjoyed DQ VIII, but the grinding eventually got to me and I never finished the game. If this is worse than that, I'd say it's worth passing on in favor of FF IV.

Moto YugotaOctober 05, 2008


Both were originally released around the same time

Sorry, but no.  DQIV was released in early 1990.  FFIV was released in mid to late 1991.  A year and a half is a HUGE difference in development time.  And this is a fact that is VERY easily checked out, ever since this new, fancy thing called the internet has taken off.

DrStilesOctober 05, 2008

Jonny is really on the ball with getting reviews out, and he is supposedly semi-retired!  Kind-of wish more staff would put out reviews more often - they are my favorite part of the site besides the podcasts...

Please refrain from personal attacks.

First, DQ4 was for the NES. FF4 was for the SNES. I don't see how you can claim FF4 had 1.5 more years of dev time...Not that dev time is all that relevant a defense here.

Second, 1.5 years is hardly a long period of time in the grand scheme of gaming and game design.

If you had cried foul on comparing an NES game to an SNES game you might have had a point...except we are talking about two DS remakes released months from each other...by the same publisher. Not the originals.

Moto YugotaOctober 05, 2008

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

Please refrain from personal attacks.

First, DQ4 was for the NES. FF4 was for the SNES. I don't see how you can claim FF4 had 1.5 more years of dev time...Not that dev time is all that relevant a defense here.

Second, 1.5 years is hardly a long period of time in the grand scheme of gaming and game design.

If you had cried foul on comparing an NES game to an SNES game you might have had a point...except we are talking about two DS remakes released months from each other...by the same publisher. Not the originals.

Nothing personal in the comment at all, and it was hardly an attack.  Just simple facts.

Now as for what you have said:

You obviously did not read what I quoted or what he actually said.  He was talking about the original releases, NOT the DS remakes.  He was also talking about the gameplay of the games, which did not really change in EITHER remake.  I also never said that one had 1.5 more years of dev time.  You really need to read something before you comment on it.  I said that FFIV was RELEASED 1.5 years later than DQIV.  That means that its development started well after DQIV.  That also means that it's gameplay was based on significant advances in overall game design during that time period.  And if you honestly believe that 1.5 years is "hardly a long period of time in the grand scheme of gaming and game design," then you really don't know much about video games or software development.  That amount of time is absolutely HUGE.

Also, thanks for saying at the end there that I have a point.  Since we were not talking about two remakes, and were, in fact, talking about the comparison between an NES game and an SNES game, I'm glad you're willing to admit that I was completely right.

I did check the original release dates.  They were contemporary games.  I generally don't think it's useful to compare DQ and FF in terms of the entire series.  They are obviously very different and each have their own dedicated audiences.  However, I did think it pertinent to draw a few comparisons in this case, since both of these remakes were released (by the same company) within a couple months of each other.

Schadenfreude, the thought of someone playing this game without any grinding is pretty humorous.  It would be akin to playing the original Final Fantasy with four white mages -- a masochistic meta-challenge.  One reason it would be almost impossible is that DQ tends to favor luck (or probability) over strategy, as the battle system is quite simple.

To give an idea of the grinding required in DQIV, I'll tell you about where I'm currently at in the game.  My next main objective is to kill a boss who attacks twice every turn, sometimes with a spell that can hit my entire party for about 25% of their max HP each time.  I can't beat him because of the high probability that he will use this spell three or four times over the course of two turns -- I'm healing as fast as possible, but I don't know any multi-target healing spells.  I can't cast any magic, support nor attack types, against the boss.  I've already spent about two hours exploring the world for good items and leveling up my dudes (since the last boss), but apparently that's not enough.  GameFAQs recommends that I gain at least two or three more levels per character before taking on this boss.  There is literally nothing else I can do in the whole game to deal with this guy except grind, grind, grind.  Now I have a high tolerance for that, so I'll deal with it.  But maybe this will help you see why the notion of playing this game without any grinding is so ridiculous.

SchadenfreudeOctober 05, 2008

That sounds more like what I was expecting.

SundoulosOctober 07, 2008

To be fair, in terms of the original game design, it would be more fair to compare DQ IV, released in Japan in Feb. 1990, with the Final Fantasy III, released in Japan in April 1990.  In terms of storytelling, yes, DQ IV is pretty far behind Final Fantasy IV, but I'd say it's light years ahead of what was in the original Final Fantasy III.  Fo the time, the chapter-based story telling was what made Dragon Quest IV unique.  It's also what made the original game a fan-favorite.  Now, in terms of game design, it's argueable Final Fantasy III is superior because of the job system implementation.  Just IMHO.

Now, given the massive facelift Square Enix gave even to Final Fantasy III DS, it's a shame they didn't go to the same level of effort for Dragon Quest IV, especially since the stories and characters were already defined, even if they are really stereotypes.  I'm still disappointed and gobsmacked that Square Enix apparently eliminated the party talk feature from the English translation of the game, especially when the translation was apparently already present in the code in the Japanese version.

I'd agree with Jonny and TYP on this: after the early games,  comparing Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest gets a little pointless because, after the NES era, they design choices in both series divereged dramatically.  Final Fantasy typically implemented some significant gameplay or design changes with every installment; Dragon Quest's core elements have intentionally  remained the same as a design choice.  It's one of the reasons DQ hasn't aged all that well, for the most part.  By the time that DQ VI and VII rolled around, it was painfully obvious. 

Still, to those that love it, especially in Japan, the retro RPG style seems to be just part of what fans appreciate about the experience.  It's like having an old favorite, comfortable shirt.  Or maybe it's more like having a favorite band that keeps releasing new albums: they may not be very cutting edge anymore, but you sort of still have a soft spot for them. 
Perhaps Square Enix didn't want to implement too much change to a classic DQ game; I wonder if they would risk polarizing their Japanese audience if they did. 

At any rate, I'm still looking foward to playing this, as well as DQ V and VI (hopefully), which I've never had the chance to play.

P.S. - Thanks, Jonny.  I enjoyed the review!

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Genre RPG
Developer Square Enix

Worldwide Releases

na: Dragon Quest IV
Release Sep 16, 2008
PublisherSquare Enix
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Dragon Quest IV
Release Nov 22, 2007
PublisherSquare Enix

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