Dragon Quest V
is one of the most important role playing games to ever be released. Despite this, it has been a near unknown outside of Japan. Enix struggled to establish any sort of long term foothold in the North American gaming market. They were a bit more successful in Europe, enough to keep the doors open through the mid-90s. Translating RPGs is a long, expensive process, and Dragon Quest
was the company's flagship series. The first four games on NES were all localized and released, but the process likely started too late. Japan got to see the full, natural evolution of these early Famicom RPGs, while the Western games were jumbled. They released a few years after their initial release as well. Japan originally saw the first Final Fantasy
releasing two short months before Dragon Quest III
. In the timeline of Western releases, Final Fantasy
actually beat Dragon Quest II
to market. Being a full game behind made Enix's games look that much weaker once they released internationally.
A big promotion with Nintendo Power got a lot of copies of the first Dragon Quest
game circulated in North America, but the sales of each subsequent game in the series just fell. The later games in the series were also hurt, since they were released after the Super Nintendo's release. The early games in the series were like building blocks, introducing more core mechanics with each subsequent game. By the time that Dragon Quest V
was getting ready for release, all these pieces were in place, and the focus on telling the personal story of the heroes became even more prevalent.
Enix shut down its North American subsidiary, Enix America Corporation, in 1995 due to years of concurrently weak sales. Dragon Quest V
had released in 1992 for Nintendo's Super Famicom, and with Dragon Quest
seeming like a failed brand, there was no hope for a translation at the time. As a result, everybody outside Japan originally missed out on Dragon Quest V
. A new Enix subsidiary opened in 1999, too late for anything to be released on the Super Nintendo. This new subsidiary was opened after helping Eidos release Dragon Warrior Monsters
. The new company completed its formation and worked on releasing Dragon Quest VII
on Sony's Playstation.
Years later, Nintendo has a successful handheld, the DS, that is more powerful than the Super Famicom. Square Enix started pumping out remakes of these older games, with Dragon Quest V
finally getting international releases. Dragon Quest V's
DS remake was released in 2009, and was based on the Japanese exclusive Playstation 2 remake of the game, with all of its changed features and a few of its own.Dragon Quest V
has the honor of being named as series creator Yuji Horii's favorite game in the series. The game starts with your main character being born, and you begin playing the game as a child following his adventurous father, Pankraz. Pankraz is well connected, and is called upon by kings for advice and help with problems. Multiple features of the game are introduced during an early adventure. A young girl named Bianca and you run across a sabercat kitten being teased by a group of village boys. You are dared to investigate a haunted tower in exchange for the kitten. Once this mission is successfully completed, you adopt the kitten, and he joins you in combat in your first battle afterwards, introducing monster recruitment. Bianca plays her own role, being one of the player's options for a bride. The original release only had one other option, Nera. The DS remake adds a third marriage option, Nera's older sister Deborah. The actual decision of who to marry is rather simple, merely being a choice for the player rather than the modern design of a series of choices and consequences that only wraps up near, if not at, the ending.
As the story continues to advance, the brilliance of these little adventures and short quests in the overall view of your character's life seem all the more charming. You will jump forward in time on multiple occasions showing the advancement of the world, with the events becoming more serious and maturing alongside the main character's age. There are some odd choices with the localization that seem to pull away from these moments, such as Bianca's accent, which is more of a chore to read since it's solely communicated through text. There are no voice overs in the game, but it pulls in the precedent of Dragon Quest VIII's
variety of English accents. This works because of VIII's
voice work, but it is jarring here since it's an isolated case. There are plenty of other, mostly European, accents shared through text around this world, which mostly has the same effect, but in a smaller window. It is fun to read along with the accents in your head at times.Dragon Quest V
is a true classic, it's obviously a game that was crafted with love and care, and polished to a nice shine. There is enough substance to the story to keep a player engaged and moving forward with the adventure, on top of a plethora of optional content and side quests. The DS is arguably one of the best systems when it comes to remakes of games from the 16-bit era. It has more than enough power to upgrade the games from their original in some ways, while keeping the same charms as the source. While the upgraded music from the PS2 remake would be nice, the sound capabilities of the DS never feel like a step down from any 16-bit original. If you've never played a Dragon Quest
game, or have played a couple and want a new one to dig into, then Dragon Quest V
is one of the best.