When you think of Dragon Quest, you think turn-based battles and a very traditional but polished JRPG experience. The last few years has seen the franchise branch out a bit more, both in its native Japan and overseas, with Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker and Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime for the Nintendo DS, as well as Dragon Quest Swords on the Wii. It’s becoming a Nintendo staple, much like brand new, main series Final Fantasy titles are to Sony and Microsoft, so it’s no surprise that we’ve got another new genre featuring Dragon Quest properties, this time on an exclusive for the Nintendo DSi via its DSiWare service.
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Sep. 28, 2009
Dragon Quest Wars is half tactical RPG, half board game. Think of your characters as pieces with their own distinctive moves, weaknesses and strengths, much like chess pieces. You’re on a grid, and you get four characters to choose out of the six available. In a nutshell, you have attacks, offensive and defensive boosts, and healing spells.You set your team’s moves, one member at a time, and then select their attack, spell or boost, or choose to do nothing. It’s entirely stylus-based, and though you may hit a snag early learning just how the game wants you to place characters and cancel attacks you’ve entered–you don’t ever have to cancel, just select the character again and choose again–overall the controls work well. A little more information on the how-to portion of things would have been nice, but you can figure it out easy enough.
Each character has their own set of these, and you have to mix and match them from the character select screen in order to create the time that’s perfect for your play style.
The Slime is a balanced character, with a basic attack and a spell, along with two hearts worth of health (health ranges from one to three hearts, depending on the character). A solid unit, but there’s nothing particularly special about them, except that they can get through defenses meant to impede physical attacks with their spells.
The Dracky has only one heart, but their attack is capable of knocking enemies backward. They can also use magic, but just to attack enemies on their diagonal sides. They’re faster characters since they are airborne and small, but again, low health means you need to be careful with them–you will want them though, because they can also increase the damage of your other characters, making them a great support piece.
The Golem is your tank, with his three hearts. He can do two hearts worth of damage per hit–enough to defeat everyone except for another Golem–but loses a heart by doing so. Hammerhoods can counter attacks and avoid damage, and can also swing at three enemies in a line. They have two hearts of health, and can use an spell to heal themselves before the beginning of the next round.
Chimera’s can cast their magic from a distance and attack two enemies at once, and have two hearts. This will prove more useful than you know until you get your hands on the game. Last, we have the Heal Slimes; you can probably figure out what their main feature is, but they can also setup magic and attack barriers to prevent casting or damage to an area or character. They have no attack of their own though.
Assembling the right team is important, because you are either going to be going up against another person, or you’ll be outnumbered by computer units. Besides the 10 level tutorial, which teaches you the basics and a few tricks to get you started, the game is essentially all multiplayer. You can play matches single player, choosing from six different maps of different grid sizes, but the meat of the experience is going to come from battling friends and strangers using the DSi’s wireless features and the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. You can play against one other person or computer, or go all out in a four-on-four match for ultimate Dragon Quest Wars supremacy.
You can win by defeating all of the enemies or entering your opponent’s safe zone before they can invade yours. When more than two players are involved, scores matter a bit more, as they are used to rank you. You get points for defeating enemies, so don’t by shy in the corner in a four-way deathmatch. You’ll also be happy to know that you have a 60-second time limit to plan your moves online, which will keep matches from taking forever. The best part may be that online play is worldwide though–even if everyone else in North America is snoozing, you can rely on those DQ loving folks on the other side of the Pacific to match up with you.
Blast Factor: It may seem odd to get a tactical RPG from Intelligent Systems and Square Enix–two companies known for making strategy games–and end up with something that’s more like a board game, but that’s just what happened, and the result is a surprisingly deep and engaging experience. For $5, you can forgive the lack of a true single-player mode, and embrace the fact you can play online against anyone else in the world anytime you would like.
Dragon Quest Wars is available exclusively on the Nintendo DSi through its DSiWare service, and is priced at 500 Nintendo Points.
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