Thursday, 16 November 2017

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride - Nintendo SNES - 1992


While gamers in North America were still playing Dragon Warrior III, and a month before Dragon Warrior IV was released there, those lucky Japanese gamers were already getting their teeth into Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride.  Poor sales of the previous games and the cost of localisation meant this game was not released in the US.  I am playing an English version from DeJap Translations.  I started this game soon after finishing Dragon Warrior IV and, whilst the game engine is basically the same, the difference between the graphics and sound quality is staggering.  The archaic graphics have received a 16-bit makeover and the soundtrack has been dramatically improved on the new hardware.

The game begins with an effective in-engine cut scene that sets up the story nicely....



Dragon Quest V starts on a ship with you playing as a six year old boy.  You are heading back to your home town of Santa Rosa with your father Papas, who has been away for five years searching for 'something'Your father is distracted with his research allowing the young Wingnut to get into mischief (and level himself up).  You are soon off to nearby Alcapa to see your father's friend Duncan who has fallen ill.  You are befriended by Bianca, Duncan's daughter, and set off on an adventure together while Papas recovers from the illness he caught from Duncan.  I grew quite fond of Bianca but had to leave Alcapa when Papas recovered. 


Back in Santa Rosa, Papas is summoned by the King of Reinhart and tasked with guarding Henry, heir apparent to the throne.  Henry is subsequently kidnapped but Papas manages to chase down the culprits.  Papas defeats his guards but their leader, Gema, holds a knife to Wingnut's throat and says that if Papas continues to fight, you will be killed.  Papas is attacked again but does not fight back.  Before he dies he tells you your mother is still alive and to find her.



The story continues 10 years later with you and Henry as slaves building the Great Temple.  You manage to escape and return to Reinhart where Henry stays on.  Santa Rosa has been destroyed but you find a scroll from Papas along with the Zenithian sword.  The scroll explains that Papas had been searching for a 'legendary hero' who can wear the Zenithian armour and is capable of wielding the Zenithian sword.  It also says you mother is still alive but has been kidnapped by an evil power.  I also visited Alcapa in search of Bianca, but Duncan had long since sold up and moved on.

I will note my thoughts below... 

  • Maximum party size in Dragon Quest V has been reduced to three characters.  Wingnut is the only permanent member with other NPCs coming and going as the plot progresses.
  • In common with the series, Dragon Quest V contains a wide variety of weird, wonderful and strange monsters.

  • After obtaining a wagon, defeated monsters occasionally offer to join your party.  They can be used to top up the party when there are no NPCs and can be put in a wagon when not needed.  They can also be equipped with weapons and armour and some can use magic.



  • A nice touch are the shops where it shows you who can equip particular weapons and armour and how much difference it will make to their stats.  It saves making pointless purchases.



  • During the game I discovered Baron Ludman possessed the Zenithian shield.  The town had several suitors wanting to marry, Flora, his daughter.  The one who could bring Ludman the Fire and Water rings could win her hand and get the shield.  During the quest for the Water ring we met up with Bianca.  Even though she obviously had feelings for Wingnut she joined the party and helped recover the ring.  In the end I was given the choice of marrying Flora or Bianca and I chose Bianca.  The good baron still funded the wedding and on hearing about the search for the legendary hero from Henry, gave us the Zenithian shield as a wedding present.


  • On our travels I discover Papas was King of Granavia and I am heir to the throne.  On the way there Bianca faints a couple of times, obviously telegraphing the fact she is pregnant.  Sure enough when we reach Granvania she gives birth to a twin boy and girl.  After your coronation the whole castle celebrates but during the festivities Bianca gets kidnapped like your mother.  You eventually find her but after his defeat the boss turns you both to stone.


  • Fast forward another few years during which you are sold as a statue, you are eventually found by your childrenThey have grown up and your son reveals he can use the Zenithian sword and armour.  You now have to find both Bianca and your mother.
  • Up to this point the plot was pretty easy to follow.  I soon became stuck and did not know where to go next and had to consult a walkthrough.  It turns out I had to revisit Ludman.  One of his ancestors had trapped a demon in a jar and now the seals were weak and it was about to escape.  I hadn't needed to do any grinding until this bastard appeared over the horizon...

 
Defeating Buorn took several attempts and a lot of grinding. Once defeated he dropped the Final Key which meant I was able to access areas I couldn't reach before.



  • There was a brief time travel element in the game where you had to retrieve a quest item from your younger self before it was destroyed by Gema.  I remember the scene from earlier in the game but I didn't think any more of it.  You can also warn Papas not to travel to Reinhart but he says he doesn't believe in fortune tellers.


  • Your quest eventually leads you to the Demon World and the Evil Mountain.  In the evil mountain you arrive to find you mother being killed by Mildrath, the Demon Lord.  Her spirit joins Papas and they tell you you must destroy Mildrath.

 
And so we finally meet Mildrath...
Whatever.


As usual the final boss comes in two forms.  The first form was simple enough to defeat but I could not beat the second form.  


He didn't take much damage from physical attacks and he reflected magical attacks back at the caster.  Conversely, Mildrath can do a lot a damage with physical attacks and can cast the most powerful party damaging spells.  Additionally, he clears any buffing effects and heals himself every few rounds.  After several attempts and a lot of grinding I had to admit defeat and resigned myself to leaving this game unfinished.  I didn't feel to bad as I greatly enjoyed the journey up until this point.


After playing the previous two games in the series I was expecting another long slog.  Although it was very long, I found Dragon Quest V much more bearable.  This was helped in part by the more detailed graphics.  The sound was much improved too but I had to mute it long before I finished the game.  What really made the game enjoyable was the fantastic storyline and the fact that Wingnut was kept on as the lead character even after finding the legendary hero.  It made a change from Dragon Warrior IV with the main player character changing after every chapter.  Following Wingnut from childhood through marriage and parenthood made me feel more attached than I normally would to a game character.  I was genuinely interested to see what would happen next as the game progressed.  Overall Dragon Quest V is a brilliant game and I would rate it as my favourite JRPG to date.






Later...


The thought of not completing this game kept niggling away in the back of my mind.  After a few weeks I went back the game a did some grinding in the Evil Mountain every couple of days.  After a few failed attempts and with a lot of grinding in between I eventually defeated Mildrath.  This was done using the Increase and Bikill spells on the party and using the Sage's Seed every round (restores a few hit points to each character including those in the wagon).  I also swapped out party members that were low on hp until they were healed enough to re-enter the fray.  Eventually I managed to defeat Mildrath.
 



The ending was a bit anti-climactic.  You get whisked around the world to visit the main cast of characters which seemed to last an age.  The last place you visit is Granavia....