You have multiple options for a wife: there is Bianca, your childhood friend who is capable of using magic and, equipped with the right item, is useful for their regular attacks as well. There’s also Nera Briscoletti, the daughter of the wealthy Rodrigo Briscoletti; she becomes a powerful sorceress were you to marry her. Then, there’s Debora Briscolleti, Nera’s sister. Marrying her is an option that’s new to the DS version of the game, and though she can be as useful in battle as the other two, she’s there for the humor she brings, as she often refers to your character as her servant, and is mostly interested in you at first because of how popular and strong everyone thinks you are. Even her father thinks your crazy for wanting to marry her, and the town’s folk fear for anyone with interest in that endeavor.

Having the different wives gives you reason to replay the game multiple times, and with multiple save slots on the DS cartridge, you can just save right before the decision for marriage if that’s your preference, giving you a shortcut to try out all of the brides.

This is not the only game mechanic worth mentioning, as this is the first Dragon Quest game to feature monster catching. The Dragon Quest Monster series, which has seen a Game Boy Advance entry and the more recent Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker on DS, is a direct spin-off of this game; though the monster-catching mechanics are obviously more refined there, given it’s the central focus of the gameplay, it is workable here, despite being somewhat random. Once you buy a wagon, some of the monsters you defeat in battle will offer to join you. There are times when you will not have any other party members, or are in need of a few others to round out your roster, and that is when monsters come in handy. Some monsters cap out at a certain level, while others continue to grow for a long time, learning new spells and abilities while increasing their statistics with each level up.

You can carry a different number of monsters with you depending on how many storyline party members are in your group at a time, but there’s no need to worry about having too many, as you can store the extras in what is essentially a monster bank. Monsters generally do what you tell them to in battle, though this is less true until their wisdom hits 20. The game tells you as much when you first discover one of these monster banks, so it’s not a secret as to why you told your slime to fight and he decided he would rather be lost in thought. It doesn’t take very long for a monster’s wisdom level to hit 20-very shortly after catching each one, a few quick levels would bring them there-but it’s the kind of thing you want to know before you bring that shiny new monster into a boss fight and he refuses to heal your characters for you because he isn’t leveled enough.

If you want to take a break from the story or level grinding, there are plenty of diversions for you. There are a few casinos spread throughout the world, full of slot machines, slime racing (basically horse racing, bets included), coliseum-style monster fights (again, you can gamble to your heart’s content) and real-life board games that bring you treasures, fights, coins and prizes. Tokens are the currency in casinos, and they cost 20 coins a piece. Though you can’t exchange tokens for coins once you are done, you can exchange tokens for prizes, some of which are incredibly powerful items, weapons and armor that would make things easier for you on your quest. Put in enough time at the casino refining your techniques, and you will be able to afford these items. The games are fun, which makes it even more worthwhile; I lost a lot of time (and tokens) betting on the long-shot slimes to win, because they payout for them was massive.

Once you are married and have a ship, the game is a bit more open-ended as well. You still need to follow the storyline, but you are no longer restricted to certain paths or continents. You can get lost for hours just exploring and finding new places to visit before you ever dive back into the story once you get the ship, which is both surprising given when and where the game was designed and a nice change of pace from the previous 10-15 hours.

There are very few complaints to make about this game. Like Dragon Quest IV before it, Hand of the Heavenly Bride makes minimal use of the DS’ functions. You can’t use the stylus in battles (just the option would have been nice), but at the same time, Square Enix did not try to shoehorn any extra features in, like a monster trading mechanic over the Nintendo Wi-Fi. While not overly difficult, it is a grind fest, which may turn off some gamers who aren’t into that sort of thing. These are minor complaints though, especially when compared to the high points that Dragon Quest V has to offer.

With Hand of the Heavenly Bride, you have yourself a slew of wonderful game mechanics with the multiple generations, the three different brides to choose from, and the ability to catch monsters. Between the excellent main quest and the hours you can lose on the side just battling, exploring or hanging out in casinos, it’s also a title with plenty of replay value, and one that we recommend to fans of the series or RPGs in general.

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About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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