A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that although Dragon Quest V isn't as heavy-handed as other RPGs, it explores some themes that very young children might find upsetting, such as the death of a parent, ghosts who desire to cook children and eat them, the destruction of a village, and people being forced into slavery. Religion figures prominently, with frequent references to a "Goddess" figure. Players can visit a church to receive various blessings in exchange for a donation, or to resurrect slain party members. Most towns have pubs in them with somewhat scantily-clad barmaids, and Casinos where players can play slot machines, wager on arena fights, and play a dice-rolling board game.
What's it about?
Dragon Quest, also known as Dragon Warrior, is a highly successful role-playing game (RPG) series in Japan, second only to Final Fantasy in popularity. North Americans haven't been able to play the fifth game in the series until now, thanks to DRAGON QUEST V: HAND OF THE HEAVENLY BRIDE, a remake of the 1992 original, now available for the Nintendo DS with enhanced 3D graphics, a new playable characters, and other minor tweaks.
Uniquely, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride takes place over 20 years of the main character's life, starting when he's a young boy adventuring with his father, to a teenager making his own way in the world, through to marrying and becoming a father himself. Over the years he meets various people who travel with him, as he and his companions become caught up in an epic quest concerning the recovery of four special artifacts that can save the world from a great evil. At the same time, on a personal level, the hero searches for his long-lost mother.
Is it any good?
Like most Japanese role-playing games of that era, Dragon Quest V is driven by a compelling character-centric story and a vast world map to explore filled with towns and dungeons. This is the first game in the series where monsters can be recruited into the party to fight alongside the human characters and that adds a whole new level of interest. Players can equip weapons and armor and engage in turn-based combat, gaining additional spells and abilities as they advance in level. Additionally, players can use the L and R buttons to rotate the screen 360-degrees to reveal hidden passageways and other secrets.
While Dragon Quest V is a great romp, its gameplay betrays one or two old-school RPG trappings that some players might find frustrating, such as the constant random enemy encounters and lack of frequent save points. Even so, the game has definitely aged better than some of its contemporaries. In fact, given how enjoyable Dragon Quest V is overall, it's mind-boggling to think that the series hasn't made its way to Western shores until now. Still, better late than never.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the game changes and becomes harder when the main character grows from a boy into a man. In what ways does real-life become more challenging (and yet, rewarding as well) for children when they become adults? Which of three potential brides did you choose to be the hero's wife, and why?
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