Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dragon Warrior IV: Chapters of the Chosen - Nintendo NES - 1992

Here is another RPG I have completed, but is not one of my favourite games.  It started off well enough and I enjoyed it but lasted too long and eventually became a chore to play....

Hot on the heels of Dragon Warrior III, we have Dragon Warrior IV: Chapters of the Chosen, also released in 1992 for the ageing NES.  The game first came out in Japan in February 1990 as Dragon Quest IV. It took over two and a half years before it was translated and released in North America.  The original Dragon Quest game first appeared in 1986 and the graphics haven't really improved since then.  With the deIay between respective versions of the game, I can see why the Final Fantasy series became the JRPG of choice in the US, and the Dragon Warrior series was more popular in Japan.  Dogged by poor sales this would be the last Dragon Quest game to be officially translated into English until 1999.

Gameplay, graphics, sound and game mechanics are pretty much the same as Dragon Warrior III so I won't go into details here.  The main change is that you can save your progress at the more numerous Healer rather than tracking down a King.  The story however is very different.  It is divided into chapters, each one focusing on a different character or set of characters...

Chapter 1 - The Royal Soldiers
The King of Burland is concerned that children are going missing in the Kingdom so he sends out soldiers to investigate.  You play as Ragnar, one of these soldiers. On your travels you team up with Healie, a healer monster who wants to be human.  The only place the children can be held is in a tower which can only be reached by using flying shoes found in a dungeon.  Making your way through the tower you come across a dying soldier.  He said he heard some monsters talking about an evil being resurrected and that one of the children was destined to be the hero that would defeat it.  I then went on to kill the bosses of the tower and freed the children.  

Returning to Burland, the King gave Ragnar leave to search the world to root out evil.  Chapter 1 was very short and needed little grinding.

Chapter 2 - Princess Alena's Adventure
The second chapter on the other hand requires a lot of grinding.  This chapter features Princess Alena, the tomboy daughter of the King of Santeem.  Alena wants to go out into the world to prove her strength but the King has forbidden her from leaving the castle.  Alena manages to escape through a badly repaired window and is soon joined by Cristo (a 'Chancellor') and Brey (a wizard) who insist on coming along to protect her.  Alena is the best fighter of this group but cannot cast any spells.  Cristo is almost as good at fighting, can use good weapons and armour, and can cast defensive or non-harmful spells (such as 'Heal' and 'StopSpell').  Brey is a pretty weak fighter but can cast offensive spells.

The first quest is in the village of Tempe, where the townsfolk are having to sacrifice their daughters to prevent monsters destroying the town.  Killing the monsters was fairly straightforward.  This quest allowed us access the town to Frenor where the grinding really started.

In Frenor there was an imposter pretending to be the Princess.  Before we can confront her she is kidnapped and a golden bracelet is demanded as ransom.  

The bracelet was located in a cave south of Frenor and with all the random combats was hard to reach, let alone explore.  I had to grind a lot for money to buy the best equipment for the team.  I eventually found the bracelet to rescue the phoney Princess.  For saving her she gives us the Thief Key.

South of the cave was a travel gate which the guard prevented us from using by orders of the King.  The only way left to go was west where we came to Bazzar.  A messenger there said we should go back to Santeem as something had happened to the King.

The King had been struck dumb so we had to find some Birdsong Nectar to cure him.  Once cured he said he could not speak after dreaming of a great evil coming from the east.  He also gave us his permission to explore the world.

This time we could get through the aforementioned travel gate to arrive in Endor where a tournament was taking place.  The winner would win the hand of the King of Endor's daughter.  To win the tournament the participant would have to defeat five opponents to reach the final.  A fighter called Necrosaro had already defeated his five.  Alena managed to get to the final quite easily but Necrosaro did not appear so she won by default.  This meant Princess of Endor did not have to marry.

Outside the castle another messenger turned up telling us to return to Santeem again.  When we got there the castle was deserted and Chapter 2 ended.

Chapter 3 - Taloon the Arms Merchant
Chapter 3 follows Taloon the Arms Merchant as he sets out to become the best merchant in the world.  He starts out working in a weapon shop in Lakanaba and is advised to go north to a cave where he can collect an iron safe (I later found out this stops half the party's money being lost when they die).  Eventually he ends up in Endor where he opens his own shop and moves in his family.  After fulfilling an arms order for the King of Endor he has enough money to complete a tunnel that links Endor with Branca.  The chapter ends up with him travelling through the tunnel in search of a fabled weapon.

A couple of neat touches is the the weapon shop in Endor was up for sale when I visited it in the previous chapter.  Also a message board outside the castle proclaims Alena as the winner of the tournament.

Going back to controlling one character again was a bit disconcerting as it takes some time getting up to speed and this chapter again required a lot of grinding.  Also, being a merchant, Taloon often finds treasure chests containing additional items after combat.  This is fine but carrying a full set of armour, a weapon and the iron safe leaves only three inventory slots.  Add a couple of healing herbs and an antidote potion means plenty of juggling with the inventory and leaving potentially valuable items.

Chapter 4 - The Sisters of Monbaraba
In Chapter 4 we meet Mara and Nara.  They are on a mission to avenge the murder of their father, Edgar, who had discovered the secret of evolution.  Balzack, Edgar's apprentice, stole the secret and murdered his master.  Aided by Orin, another of Edgar's apprentices, the sisters track down Balzack to his castle.  Using the secret of evolution, Balzack has become powerful but the party manage beat him in combat.  Before Balzack dies, Keeleon, his master steps in and defeats the party.  

They are thrown into prison but soon escape.  Orin holds up the guards while the girls go on the run.  They manage to flee on a ship to Endor with their father unavenged....

Chapter 5 - The Chosen Ones
Chapter 5 begins in a hidden village.  Wingnut and his family are living a peaceful existence when the town is suddenly attacked by monsters.  Wingnut is put into hiding where it is revealed he is the hero prophesied to prevent the resurrection of the Ruler of Evil, but his training is not yet complete.  His best friend Celia takes on Wingnut's form and goes out into the village.  From his hiding place the hero hears a cheer coming from the monsters saying Wingnut has been killed.  When he leaves the hiding place the village is in ruins.

It seems the idea of this chapter is to collect the characters from the previous ones before going off the defeat the big bad.  The hidden village is not far from end of Taloon's completed tunnel.  I travelled through it to Endor where I found Mara and Nara who joined the party.  New recruits can be swapped in an out of the party but cannot be controlled directly in combat.  There are a number of preset combat options....

The only way to go next was through a desert by cart.  In the next town we found a ship commissioned by Taloon but it could not sail as a lighthouse was emitting 'bad light' causing monsters to appear.  We found Taloon at the lighthouse.

After we replace the 'bad light' with the Flame of Serenity, Taloon joins the party and suggests we sail south to Mintos.  

There we find Brey and a seriously ill Cristo.  Brey said Alena had gone to Soretta to find a cure for Cristo and joined us as we headed east.  We found Alena in another party and discovered the cure before her.  We cured Cristo and were told that Ragnar once stayed in the town but had headed to Keeleon Castle.  There we find Healie who is now a human.  He informed us Ragnar had been captured and was being held in the castle.  

We killed Keeleon and rescued Ragnar.

I now had the full complement of eight characters to choose from to place in my party of four (the others remain in a cart).  I had the idea of using the weaker characters in my party to strengthen them up but soon discovered those in the cart still gained experience - at least in the overworld.  The cart can't travel in most of the dungeons so only those in the party are awarded XP.

Next we returned to Santeem Castle where we once again faced Balzack who had used the secret of evolution to become even more powerful.  It felt right that Mara and Nara were in the party for this fight.  After these two boss fights I was hoping we would go on and find Necrosaro on my way to the end of the game, but oh no.  We now had to scour the world to find the famed Zenithian Helm, Armour, Sword and Shield.

At this point I was getting fed up with innumerable random combats and disappointed I had to invest at least several more hours in the game.  I took a month off before I could face the game again.

During my long hunt for the Zenithian items I came across and defeated the prophesied Prince Esturk, the resurrected ruler of evil.  Still the game refused to end....
After retrieving the items I had to spend more hours battling through several more dungeons until we finally reach Necrosaro's Castle.

After lots more battles we finally, finally meet Necrosaro himself.

This resulted in a long battle and despite most of my party dying and running out of MP, I managed to eventually beat Necrosaro and reach the end of the game.

In my last post I bemoaned the fact that Dragon Warrior III took too long to complete.  Dragon Warrior IV was even longer and I lost the willpower to carry on during the last part of the game. One can only put up with so many random combats every few steps and pressing the same button over and over.  The completionist in me won out in the end but I can't say I enjoyed the experience.  Although I appreciate the effort that went into cramming such an epic game into an NES cartridge it could have done with being a lot shorter.  And I must learn to bail quicker than I have been doing. Dragon Quest V is next on my shortlist, but I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't make it onto my blog

The Ending