Dragon Quest IV [$14.99] is one of my favorite games in the entire Dragon Quest series. That also makes it one of my favorite RPGs, and by extension, one of my favorite games. Every time I run through this game, I find myself impressed that a game of this vintage hasn't lost even a bit of its shine. Dragon Quest IV does many interesting things, some of which are rare even today. As a result, while a lot of elements of this game are going to feel familiar to RPG fans, there's still nothing else quite like it, even with nearly 25 years of road behind it. So, you know clearly now where I stand concerning this game, but that's not much use to you without telling you why I think so highly of this game.

First, for the people who already love Dragon Quest IV and simply want to know how the port to iOS worked out, let me assure you that the game got a fine treatment. It's based off of the DS version, which itself was based on the PlayStation 1 remake using Dragon Quest VII's engine. It uses a combination of 3D backgrounds and 2D characters and objects. The 3D backgrounds look better than they ever have, having been bumped up to mobile screen resolution. The sprites do not enjoy such benefits, and are presented as they were designed, at a relatively low resolution. The sprite elements look very pixelated on retina screens, with the sharper backgrounds making them stand out even more. I prefer this route over a filter, but your mileage will vary, of course.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 50 02The game plays in portrait mode, and when outside of battle, the whole screen is filled. The battles are windowed, filling out the blank areas at the top and bottom of the screen with status messages and the UI. This has the pleasant side effect of making the wonderfully-animated enemy sprites look better, since their pixels aren't being blown up any more than they have to be. One annoying change in this version is that when you return from a battle, the background music resets rather than continuing from where it left off. Combined with the somewhat high encounter rate, you're going to be hearing the openings of songs quite frequently, and the whole piece very rarely.

On a positive note, the party chat, cut from the previous Nintendo DS English version, has been fully restored in the iOS version. These are little optional conversations you can have with your party members, and they go a long way towards filling out their personalities. Finally, the game naturally uses touch controls, a similar one-handed style set-up to the iOS version of Dragon Quest VIII [$19.99]. Since the game requires very little movement of the camera, a sticking point for some in DQVIII, the controls should be more agreeable for everyone in this installment. In all other respects, this is the same game as the Nintendo DS version. All of the content is here, including the extra chapter and playable characters, with no added cost. It also runs silky smooth, which ought to be good news for people who had some issues with the last Dragon Quest game on iOS.

As to the game itself, there are a lot of reasons why I think this is a very special adventure. First of all, this game has what is, in my opinion, the strongest cast of party members in the entire series. Dragon Quest usually has somewhat weak characterization among the playable roster, but Dragon Quest IV is a huge exception. By the end of the game, you'll have nine permanent members in your party, with several more temporary members having come and gone. While some of the characters stand out a little bit more than others, such as Torneko Taloon, the merchant, you'll get to know all of them very well thanks to the game's unique structure.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 51 27The subtitle of Dragon Quest IV is Chapters of the Chosen, because the story is broken up into six chapters, each with their own title and ending card. Each of the first four chapters focuses on one or more of the party members, giving them their own story and establishing their reasons for eventually meeting up and joining with the hero. In the original NES version, you didn't even meet the hero until you finished the first four chapters, but in the remakes a very brief prologue was added so that you aren't left wondering why you had to put in a name at the start. These chapters become increasingly complex as they go along, with the first one, centered on the soldier Ragnar McRyan, serving as a fairly basic tutorial for the game. After playing each chapter, you'll move on to the next one, with a whole fresh batch of characters and a new area of the world to explore.

This pays off handsomely in the fifth chapter, where you finally take control of your hero and, one by one, gather up all of the characters you previously played as. Since they're intimately familiar faces to you, the player, it's rather interesting to run into them at first. You'll be happy to see them, like running into an old friend, but of course they don't know the hero from a hole in the wall, so they approach you as a stranger. It's a fun little spin on the usual RPG narrative, where we tend to meet new party members in the middle of their own personal story and get to know them after the fact. Strangely, not many games have opted to borrow this system, and the ones that have, like Final Fantasy IV: The After Years [$15.99], have done it quite poorly and for all the wrong reasons.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 49 48Since your party members are all defined characters with preset job classes, you don't have a lot of choices for individual character customization, much like its rival, Final Fantasy IV [$15.99]. Unlike the vanilla versions of that game, in Dragon Quest IV you can choose your active party members as you like once they've joined. You can even leave your hero off of the active team. While it's certainly more limited than the excellent class systems found in some other Dragon Quest games, the large roster combined with the ability to pick your active team still gives you a lot of choice.

One of the other famous aspects of the original version of Dragon Quest IV was having the computer AI control your teammates. This was good for giving them a bit of extra personality, especially in the case of the buffoonish Torneko, but a lot of players found it frustrating that they couldn't direct their team as they saw fit. In the remakes, this was walked back quite a bit. While you can choose to put them under AI control, by default all of your permanent party members are under your direct command. Temporary party members are still controlled by the computer, however, so you'll just have to deal with that. Luckily, the AI is pretty smart for the most part, and you can give it broad directions like conserving MP, playing defensively, and so on.

The gameplay is standard Dragon Quest, with an overworld to traverse, towns, dungeons, and castles to explore, and turn-based random encounters aplenty. Since this is the remake, the experience points and gold gain have been tweaked a bit to reduce the need to grind, but you're still going to have to play smart if you don't want to run into any chokepoints. While the opening chapter of the game gives you a strong, hardy knight who doesn't have many options other than bashing things into powder, later chapters will often give you physically weak characters with more magic and skill options, nudging you as hard as it can to learn some strategy. This element of the game also helps to keep things fresh, since until you get to the fifth chapter, you're forced to work with whatever party the game gives you, with no two using quite the same strategy.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 49 05The third chapter is particularly memorable. You play as the portly old merchant Torneko, and you're going to have to toss out many of your RPG preconceptions for the duration of his tale. It's not a terribly long chapter, and for many, it feels like it ends all too soon, but it's exactly the palate cleanser the game needs at that stage of the quest. Just about everyone comes out of Dragon Quest IV loving Torneko, and I expect that rule to hold no matter how much time passes on this story. That's not to say the rest of the quest is a slouch, with an excellent pace and strong world-building, but the third chapter is so unique that it really stands out.

This is all backed by a very bold localization that opts to give every region of the game its own unique accent of English. It's a bit of a shock initially, since Ragnar McRyan's homeland of Burland uses an incredibly thick Scottish dialect that is likely a bit confusing for the average English speaker. Still, I think the intention is to really hammer home the idea that this is a big world with a lot of different cultures in it, and that they all have to work together to build a good future for everyone. The localization also takes great delight in puns, but it generally fits the tone well. Some people will hate the accents and perhaps even the wordplay, while others are going to really get into both. Personally, I love it, but as you all know, my love of terrible puns nearly matches my love of video games, so take that with a grain of salt.

The game has a wonderful soundtrack, and it's a shame the way they've set it up results in barely being able to hear so many tracks. It's worth just chilling out on the map for a minute or two to take in a song completely before moving on. Every chapter has its own spin on the overworld and battle music, offering quite the musical variety. The graphics probably aren't going to please everyone, with their 3D/2D combination that results in a strong feeling of visual inconsistency. At the very least, the enemy sprites have very fluid animation, with a lot of silly little touches that are in there just to add personality. There is also no controller support, so you'll have to learn to like the touch controls. Since I love playing RPGs one-handed, I think the game plays excellently.

Photo 2014-08-07, 22 51 32 Photo 2014-08-07, 22 49 10

Opinions will vary on where this ranks in the series, but I personally feel it's a better game than Dragon Quest VIII, though that game certainly has its strengths over this one. Dragon Quest IV is a more compact quest, running about 40 hours, but I think that's still quite meaty, especially relative to other mobile RPGs. The game's unique style of unrolling its story feels just as pleasantly unusual today as it did 25 years ago, and thanks to the restoration of the inter-party chatter, the memorable characters shine even brighter than they already did. If you like RPGs, this is a game you need to play. It's a fantastic port of one of the true essentials of the genre.

Hey, I wrote all of those words without spelling 'Dragon' incorrectly even once. Do I get a prize?

TouchArcade Rating

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  • PoloBaquerizoH

    Thanks for that perfect review Shawn, DQ IV is a Jewel classic JRPG!

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    Sorry for the mistake; Shaun

  • Pepelutin

    I still hesitate between this and dragon quest VIII...

    • curtneedsaride

      I'm 30 hours into DQVIII and have been thoroughly enjoying it. I'm hoping my wife will gift me this one as well because it looks amazing. But I am satisfied just going through DQVIII right now. If I get this one, though, my time will be split. You really can't go wrong with either.

    • cinnamonandnutmeg

      Get them both! They are totally different games after all. I'd advise getting this one first as it's easier to get into (not necessarily an easier game) and perhaps slightly better suited to mobiles.

      I have completed the main quest of VIII and now playing the post-game stuff and depending on how much I'll want to complete in terms of optional extras, could plough 120+ hours easily.

      I've played 1+2 on the Japanese versions for iOS but by general consensus, though worth playing for nostalgia and/or formative understanding of the game within context of whole series, I wouldn't advise playing them first even if they were released today (though they can be completed pretty much in a day or two).

      • visualplayer

        which came first, iv or viii?

      • visualplayer

        and I do know Roman numerals-but FF had some order issues so I thought best to clarify.

      • Barrylocke89

        Dragon Quest never had these number issues. IV is much older than VIII.

      • Матт Реякіпѕ

        This is because before Final Fantasy VII came out only 3 of the 6 Final Fantasies came to US. Final Fantasy II, III and V didn't come to the US until after Final Fantasy VII was released. So to avoid confusion they numbered the 3 that came to the US as Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy II (officially Final Fantasy IV) and Finally III (Officially Final Fantasy VI). Now Dragon Quest series was referred to Dragon Warrior in the US until Dragon Quest VII was released. But the numbers are the same.

  • spader623

    Shaun, you have a big mistake: it's dargon quest, not dragon. Gosh, get it right. (Seriously though, why is the typo in the App Store stil there?

    • Dragontears969

      Yeah haven't you heard. King has also reserved "dragon" on its copyright list so no one can use that in an app. That's why it's dargon quest. :)

  • worldcitizen1919

    Shaun for spelling 'Dargon' correctly you are given the award of the best Dragon Quest IV review ever by Touch Arcade. Loved the review although what happened to the rest? You said it would be long.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      No lie, I chopped 400 words out of this.

      • Anotherkellydown

        Lol!!!

  • Duranki

    Is there voice in this or just straight text? I assume the latter?

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Just text. DQ4 has never had voice.

      • Duranki

        Cool, thanks. I thought someone in the SA games thread said the DS remake had voicework, but I must've misread. This sounds like the definitive version of the game!

      • PoloBaquerizoH

        Shaun you should twitch some Rpg games, that would be great!

      • Shaun Musgrave

        It's something I'd like to do, but the time zone issues combined with my other responsibilities make it hard. I'll keep thinking about ways to make it work, though.

  • Hottar

    Great review! Never played this before, now ive HAVE to!

  • zergslayer69

    I've never played any dragon quest game ever. Is this one in the series comparable to like final fantasy 6 within the final fantasy series? (for those that played the older ff games and not just the newer ones).

    • Maroš Goč

      no, dragon quest IV aint focused on story, it hasnt such strong characters like Kefka or Terra ..it has not memorable scenes like Opera Scene in FF IV :) the Dragon Quest series is mainly focused on gameplay than story and characters :)

      • zergslayer69

        Thanks. That's...a shame. Figured these older RPGs would be more story heavy.

      • WrenDavey

        Dragon Quest series are excellent games. It's just a different style of game than Final Fantasy. The story is revealed through gameplay, side quests and talking with villagers. There is a good story there, but it's possible to go through the entire game without realizing all of it. Much of the story is optional.

        It's good if you don't like having to scroll through pages and pages of endless dialog, bad if you don't like having to talk to every villager in the game to get the info you want.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      It's more contemporary with FF4, but the approach to storytelling is very different from FF. While the Final Fantasy games tend to focus on party member drama and set pieces, DQ games tend to focus more on the people you meet and telling their mini-stories. It's got a very different tempo to it, but I think it would be short selling DQ to say it doesn't focus on story. I can't think of many game stories that have affected me as deeply as DQ5's, for example. DQ4 isn't quite there, but I think it has a very strong story for its period, and I'd put Torneko up against any other character of the time.

  • Inaba-kun

    Square really need to add a landscape mode. Japanese commuters may love playing games one handed with a ludicrously narrow screen, but most of us don't. Also, iCloud support is a must

    • curtisrshideler

      There is icloud support, isn't there? Just like in DQVIII

      • Morgan01

        Since this is a remake of the DS version, it would be rather difficult to convert to landscape mode. Portrait mode falls more in line with the DS's dual screen layout.

      • Inaba-kun

        Nonsense. The camera ratio in a game like this is irrelevant.

      • WrenDavey

        That's nonsense. The DS version is a port of the PlayStation version, which is a remake of the NES version. It works in well in landscape and having that option would be nice.

      • curtisrshideler

        But if we played the NES or PSX roms, then we could play in landscape in the aspect ratio that they were released at... Which means huge black bars on both sides of a widescreen display. I'd take full screen portrait mode over that any day!

    • http://www.fathernerdsbest.com Scott Posey

      I hope they never change it. I hate playing in landscape mode and the dragon quest games are my favorite on the iPhone because of it.

      • Inaba-kun

        Charming. I ask for an option for landscape and you say you want them to never change it.

        Choice is a wonderful thing, to most people anyway.

      • LarryWP

        Landscape +1.

    • cinnamonandnutmeg

      I personally prefer the handed control on the mobiles but I agree for a premium game, SE could have included the option.

      In regards to cloud save, they do have it.

  • sdefranco1

    Yea, I'll definitely plonk down a Hamilton and a Lincoln for a company who can't even spell DRAGON properly. What else is broken Enix?

    • icy1007

      I think the App Store just messed up when they put it up. They'll fix it soon hopefully.

  • Darkenroll

    I'll admit I was a little turned off that "Dargon Quest" made it past whatever quality checks they gave this game, but I'm stoked about the translated party chat. Squeenix was churning out some pretty poor quality ports for a while, but they seem to have stepped it up a bit lately.

  • Billy Ocean

    There are too many good, big games available now.

  • Psac42

    How do you think the one handed controls would work on an iPad mini? Good review, thanks!

    • Shaun Musgrave

      I expect it would be uncomfortable to just use one hand, but you can move the control wheel around to different preset locations, including the sides of the screen, so I think it would be okay two-handed. No guarantees on three-handed controls.

      • Psac42

        Thanks!

  • B-Rabbit

    Love the review, very detailed and full of DQ appreciation while still being straight about it. Can't wait to give it a shot since I still haven't tried DQ VIII on ios. Of course I LOVE my console version. =^_^=

  • Jak Constantine

    Only thing what puts me off is that it doesn't have landscape mode. Price maybe also, but it looks like it's worth it. Wish they had a landscape option and learned from the last Dragon Quest they released before.

    • LarryWP

      Agreed!

  • Poo

    Is it worth 15 bucks?

  • Ryskim

    This is an amazing game... But I'm not getting it because of portrait mode. I will buy it when I can play in landscape mode.

    • curtneedsaride

      Yeah, it is too bad they don't give us the option. Personally, being able to play in portrait mode is one of the biggest things convincing me to get these games. I've been wanting a proper RPG in portrait since my first iPhone. But because the market began with RPGs in landscape most of us got used to that and making the change or experiencing a favorite in a new view might ruin the experience. For me, though, it makes it way easier for people in meetings and at the store to not think I'm killing a slime or two! All with one hand.

  • clompah

    Don't you mean dargons quest?

  • nreyes

    I couldn't find this game on the App Store. Everytime I type dragon or dargon my iPad bursts into flames. Please help.

  • retrogiant

    Seeing all these classic RPGs coming out makes me sad we have still yet and probably won't ever see Shining Force 2. I'd buy that in a heartbeat.

  • riChchestMat

    Patch just out for the name. 180MB to correct Dargon Quest to Dragon Quest.
    Technically it should be 1 byte and a GIGANTIC wrapper.

  • Justin Merithew

    This looks pretty great, but I have trouble convincing myself to buy Square-Enix games on mobile. It's not the price, at least on its own, but the lack of updates for what you pay. Older Square-Enix games still haven't been updated for the 4" display of the newer iPhones. That means those older games, and most likely this, won't be updated for the larger display(s) of the iPhone 6('s)

    • curtisrshideler

      Well they recently updated Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana. But thankfully they didn't change the aspect ratio by stretching the frame or zooming in. That would have bugged me. But as far as FF I & II, I don't know if they've touched those yet. You can stretch FF III & IV in the settings menu I think. Makes it fit, but everyone looks shorter and fatter.

  • Dom

    Probably a dumb question as the store only lists the language as English, but is Japanese supported if purchased on the US store? Want to get it for my wife, and while she can do English, she'd much prefer reading Japanese. Don't want to have to buy it twice if it's not supported.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      It's English only, sorry. If you want it in Japanese, you'll probably have to get it with a JP App Store account.

      • Dom

        Darn, oh well. Thanks for letting me know, though. I have a JP account, but I'm out of money there, so this will have to wait a bit longer. This was definitely our fave DQ, though we haven't finished 8 yet... the controls + portrait + 3D world makes it trying sometimes to play.

    • cinnamonandnutmeg

      If bought in the Japanese version, all DQ games are accessible via a 'Portal' app which itself serves a news app. Every now and again there are some great items codes that appear for DQVIII and a spin off game of DQ Monsters called 'Super Light' (in the vein of puzzle and dragons but within the DQ world).

      Fortunately my wife still has her Japanese account and so I've been able to buy from there but like the sad individual that I am, I bought the English versions of DQIV and VIII too (I do kind of get value for money as basically with my account I can sync games over to my little 3 little nephews who I'm introducing the series to).

      For anyone who has both the JP and Eng versions and may be interested, a cloud save game on the Japanese version will NOT be accessible by the English version.

      However, the save file from the game can be dragged and dropped manually via PC from the documents folder from each game to the other and that does enable it to work!

  • unexpect3rd

    I just want to hear some opinion, I'd played DQ3,5,9 as well as DQMJ, and Rocket Slime, but I'd played more Final Fantasy title. I would be one of the guys who thinks FF6 is the best RPG of that gen (maybe on par with Chrono Trigger).

    So my question is, especially for those who had played FF6, how does DQ4 compare to FF6?

    • Shaun Musgrave

      In my opinion, it's not as good as FF6. It feels a generation apart from FF6, which makes sense, because it is. I'd easily put DQ5 in the same tier as CT and FF6, but DQ4 is more analogous in quality and ambition to FF4.

      • unexpect3rd

        ahh.. when you put it that way, its much easier to understand. I'll eventually give DQ4 a try, just to see how the story plays out, seems like many are impressed by this title's story progression rather than innovations in gameplay.

  • cinnamonandnutmeg

    My personal favourite DQ game is without doubt DQIII and I hope and pray they'll remake it someday in the manner of 4-6 & 9 a la the DS remakes as it is simply an outstanding game in terms of story and soundtrack.

    In terms of rank, DQIV would be my third favourite - that is purely a consequence of how much I loved my 2nd choice - DQV, for the record :)

    That said, I think this iteration of the series is one of the most easiest for first time Dragon Quest players to get into. The chronicling nature of the story means, like Shaun alluded to, there is a great learning curve in each chapter to absorb the gameplay world, characters, battle styles and strategy etc; All culminating into the final chapter that allows the user to know how best to utilise the characters or strategies based on what will be by then their well paced understanding - or even loyalty to a particular character to produce a truly immersive experience.

    This immersive experience is really what makes the whole DQ series so loved. For regular RPG fans, the game wins by virtue of great balance in marrying conventional tropes with humour, loveable characters and a story that though not unique in a synoptical sense (evil being overthrown by band of merry civilians) delivers a well executed and extremely satisfying experience with surprisingly emotional turns that are not too cheesy.

    The controls and UI are intuitive and the game plays seamlessly on a mobile.

    This is a game you must have if you're an RPG fan and if you're not, it's a game that may well make you one!

  • cinnamonandnutmeg

    I think that many of the earlier entries in the series are not going to be groundbreaking in terms of gameplay or mechanics etc and may in fact seem outdated in some areas. This however shouldn't detract from the fact that they are just downright enjoyable.

    You could pick at the individual parts of something but the sum of those parts may belie the overall experience. I think this applies to all the DQ games in the series.

    I'm not trying to stir up controversy or debate and respect that ultimately we all have differing opinions on things. But for me, DQ in a clinical review of it's components, may churn out less 'criteria marks' thus it's cumulative scores in comparison to say, Final Fantasy, but I have always found the DQ series as a whole infinitely more enjoyable as a game. You even love the 'flaws' and adds to sense of achievement. It seems so much more naturally emotive and in turn cherished by fans.

    I of course do enjoy FF games so don't get me wrong. It's would be a mistake to say this or that but my purpose of this comment is not to read too much into things criteria points such as graphics, battle system etc.

  • jesse_dylan

    DQIV and FFIV were not rivals. They were more than a year apart. DQIV was out around the same time as FFIII rather and makes more sense as a rival (though it borrowed heavily from DQIII actually).

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Yeah, I agree they weren't chronological rivals. Still, I think you agree that FF was basically replying to DQ at this particular point in both series' span. As you noted, FF3 felt very much like a response to DQ3, and I feel similarly that FF4 was an answer to DQ4. So, if someone with FF experience and no DQ experience is looking for a reference point, I feel it's more helpful to compare the games in terms of their design contemporaries rather than by release date. Granted, it stops being an issue after DQ4, since FF4 ended up being a big hit that helped shape the future direction of the series as its own entity, while DQ would soon see the departure of Chunsoft and the start of the Heartbeat era of glacial releases. But for this game, telling someone to think of FF3 is doing a disservice to how far ahead DQ4's ideas were, I think.

DRAGON QUEST IV Chapters of the Chosen Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 5