It’s Square Enix mobile port season again, and this time the game getting the Google Play treatment is Dragon Quest IV. Dragon Quest IV was released for the NES in 1990 and brought over to America in 1992, but this version is based on a remake that came out in 2007 for the DS. In addition to a 2.5D graphical overhaul, the DS version completely retranslated the game, added a prologue and a new chapter, and majorly rebalanced the game to speed up the pace and make random encounters easier. So if you’re fond of the original Dragon Quest IV, or if you’re looking to experience the game as it was back in the day, know that with this version you’re going to be playing something that’s actually pretty different. But the DS version must be an improvement, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case, and the mobile port suffers for it.
Dragon Quest IV was well received upon its original release, and still enjoys a good reputation from those who remember it. What sets Dragon Quest IV apart from other games in the series is its non-traditional storytelling structure: instead of one linear story, the game is divided into chapters. Each chapte r follows one of the characters that ultimately become the hero’s party members in the final chapter. That means that for the first four chapters of the game, you’re jumping around the world playing as characters that would normally be supporting players. As far as gameplay goes, the Dragon Quest games are some of the most typical JRPGs around, so expect turn-based battles and frequent trips to town to replenish your resources and buy new equipment. It’s no Chrono Trigger, but it is a pretty great JRPG for those who want one.
The problems with this port aren’t so much with the game itself as they are with the deviations introduced by the DS remake. Whether you prefer the easy random battles in the remake or the difficult ones in the original is a matter of personal preference, but if you prefer it hard, you’re out of luck with this version, because there are no difficulty settings. Even worse, the aesthetic changes in the remake are pretty much all negative. The original NES graphics are 8-bit, abstract, and gorgeous, and the DS graphics look bland by comparison. Square Enix had some success updating the graphics on their Final Fantasy mobile ports, but here they opt for the ones that were already done in 2007, and it’s pretty disappointing. Worse than the graphics, though, are the changes to the game’s structure and the translation. Instead of starting you at the original game’s first chapter, you get ushered through a prologue that doesn’t really serve much purpose other than to water down the game’s unorthodox storytelling by introducing the main character right at the beginning. It’s a small thing, but it’s one of many changes that take the edge off of the radical parts of the original game in favor of something cutesier and simpler.
The translation deserves special mention here, because it’s actually significantly worse than the original 1992 translation to the point that it lowers the quality of the game’s dialogue and production values. The biggest change is the addition of regional dialogues, so that you have characters speaking in dialects like Scottish and Russian depending on where you are in the world. That’s not the problem, that’s interesting. The problem is that the DS translation irons all the ambiguity out of the dialogue, making it wordier and more cartoonish (Example: “If I make friends with humans, perhaps I’ll become one. Take me along,” becomes “Hey! Maybe I’ll become human if I start hanging out with humans! Can I tag along with you?”). Dragon Quest IV ‘s dialogue is always going to be minimalist because it was an NES game, so why not keep it archaic and mysterious?
Ultimately, your decision will come down to personal preference. There are plenty of people who will even prefer Dragon Quest IV as an easier, more user-friendly game, but Square Enix’s entire philosophy with these remakes is that it’s a premium experience for a premium price. That might fly with new graphics designed specifically for the mobile port, but just pushing over a dodgy remake without fixing it up much and charging 15 dollars for that is a bit much. Dragon Quest IV is still better than a lot of mobile RPGs out here, but it’s disappointing that it didn’t get the adaptation it deserves.
Dragon Quest IV is a perfectly good JRPG that’s had a lot of its magic ripped out of it by this particular remake, which was actually done in 2007 for the DS. It really deserves a full mobile remake to justify its price.