It's no secret that Dragon Quest is a veritable phenomenon in Japan, where almost anything with the DraQue name attached is a guaranteed moneymaker. With this in mind, Enix could easily release straight ports of the past games and still rack up sales in the hundreds of thousands. Thankfully, the company has chosen to go above and beyond with its Dragon Quest remakes, each time using the latest series engine, adding in new features, and balancing the gameplay for a modern audience. Dragon Quest IV, originally released in 1990 in Japan and 1992 in the U.S. (as Dragon Warrior IV), is the next in line to receive the remake treatment. Far from a simple port, Dragon Quest IV will be completely remade with the engine from Dragon Quest VII using new art and 3D graphics, as well as a host of other improvements.

Frightnin' dungeons

   At its heart, Dragon Quest IV is still the same game you played almost a decade ago, and retains its unique form of storytelling. The story is split into five separate chapters, each with a different lead and goal: Ragnar, a royal soldier in search of the children missing from his kingdom; Alena, a tomboyish princess looking for adventure; Torneko (Taloon in the original U.S. release), a small-time merchant who dreams of his own shop; and Mara and Nara, two sisters attempting to solve their father's murder. The four initial chapters develop on their own, but they converge in a much larger fifth quest when the earlier leads meet up with the traditionally player-named Dragon Quest hero.

   Like the story, the battle system remains relatively unchanged. Dragon Quest IV uses the basic combat system that dates all the way back to the first game, and has none of the class elements seen in other installments. The game was, however, the first in the series to use an A.I. system for the other characters. Though the player is given direct control over all party members in the first four chapters, all the characters except for the hero follow AI strategies in the fifth section. This was adopted as an optional setting in the latter games, however, so there is a chance that it may show up in this form in the remake. The spells, attacks, and abilities of the game should all remain unchanged, but if the past remakes are any indication, Enix will be rebalancing the game to be less frustrating and less dependent on level building.

Casino brawl

   Despite the fact that the core game remains relatively unchanged, Dragon Quest IV featured a few other innovations that should help keep it a fresh experience to newcomers. For example, Taloon gains the ability to run his own shop, and a helpful carriage allows player to swap party members. The night and day cycle from Dragon Quest III returns, and most locations offer an entirely different experience once the sun goes down. Dragon Quest IV was the first game in the series to feature extensive mini-games, and naturally all of those -- such as the casino, the fighting tournament, and the tiny medal hunt -- will all be returning. The remake also adds a system for tracking game statistics. The record will log everything from the total number of battles to the largest amount of damage the characters have dealt, and unique "titles" will be assigned when players reach certain conditions. There's no word whether these titles have any real use in the game, but considering the series past, there is probably some reward for those who manage to find all 150.

   The big change, of course, is the graphics. The Dragon Quest VII engine may not be much in comparison with modern games, but it's a vast improvement over the Dragon Quest IV's blocky NES visuals. All the towns and dungeons will receive a 3D facelift and the monsters will be given detailed, hand-drawn animations in keeping with the style of Dragon Warrior VII. While some of the art from the latest game in the series is being reused for the remake, much more of it is brand new and, hopefully, a few improvements will be made to the basic engine. At the very least, early footage of the remake shows off more intricate spell effects in battle and slightly more detailed sprites. Moreover, it seems one of Dragon Quest VII's weakest points, the FMV, is being skipped altogether.

En route to the castle

   With the series making a quick comeback in America, Enix of America has already announced Dragon Quest IV for localization (as Dragon Warrior IV, naturally). The company's U.S. branch has yet to comment on it, but the translation of the game should receive an overhaul similar to what was seen in the GBC remakes of the first three games. For each of those, Enix modernized the dialog, ditching the medieval dialect of the NES originals, and changing the character names to be consistent across the series. It's hard to say how extensive the changes will be for Dragon Quest IV, but at the very least, expect a much-improved translation and a merchant named Torneko, rather than Taloon. Beyond this, Enix will also have a great deal more to translate. Dragon Quest IV will use the same inter-party Talk command that debuted in Dragon Quest VII, which allows player to speak with their companions both in and out of battle. In Dragon Quest VII, the characters have unique dialog for almost every combat situation and a comment or two about almost every townsperson. If the system is implemented to the same extent in Dragon Quest IV it will mean a huge amount of new dialog, which should help add personality to the game's somewhat static characters.

   Dragon Quest IV marked a turning point for the series by focusing on a stronger story and more varied gameplay. Considering the updates being made for the remake, it should have no trouble finding a ready audience of old fans and newcomers alike. Dragon Quest IV is already set for a release on November 22 in Japan and has already been announced for the U.S. sometime in 2002.

Preview by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Dragon Quest IV
Developer Enix
Publisher Enix
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium CD (?)
Platform Sony PlayStation
Release Date  11.22.01
Dragon Quest IV Gets Japanese Release Date
47 screenshots
7 character designs
Japanese box art