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Picked up the new Dragon Quest game yesterday, along with a new DS. My third, if you’re wondering. Thanks, Nintendo. Great build quality. Keep up the good work, you bastards.

Some thoughts:

Gosh, it’s pretty. The world’s in 3D, as are your characters, and NPCs for the most part are sprites. It works. Environments are wonderful, etc etc. I don’t like Dragon Ball, but I really like the character designs here. Look at those peeps up there! Adorable, great eyebrows and they’re far better than in say, Chrono Trigger. I’ve yet to find a character named after food or underwear, but I’m sure there’s at least one. This just wouldn’t be a Toriyama joint if there wasn’t. Basically, Level 5 can make a very good-looking DS game, even when they’re not especially good. They work better with other people’s IPs and oversight, I think, and Square Enix seem to have done a very good job, not that I think that was ever really in question. Dragon Quest is, let’s say, an important franchise for them. They can make a good game when they bother, and it all feels very expensive.

The battle system is a fairly simple turn-based affair, which is how I like it. None of this Active Time nonsense, and it hurtles along at a fair pace. Battles are well-animated, with characters running around all over, hitting things with a decent sense of impact and judicious use of slow motion. It’s a nice change from the whack-the-air routine of old, which really didn’t work in 3D games like, say, the DS Final Fantasy remakes.

Speaking of Final Fantasy, this is so much more pleasant than that. I’ve yet to get bored of fighting Cruelcumbers and Meow-gicians, the world is colourful and varied, and the translation is wonderful. The story is, so far, more straightforward than any Final Fantasy game I’ve played, but that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting. You’re an angel, cast down from heaven. There’s nothing much wrong (again, so far) with the world you’re in, it isn’t ending. Kingdoms aren’t really in peril, but something might be wrong in the world you’ve been thrown out of. So the melancholia comes from a sense of abandonment and loss, rather than danger or tragedy. It’s refreshing for a game like this. At the moment, the quest is to attract the attention of your long-gone God, which is nicely poignant. You save by going to confession. I gather that’s a Dragon Quest convention?

Religion up the bum, by the way. Such is the Square way. Up the bum.

Party members are customisable and interchangeable, which I really like. There’s something I really like about going through a game with characters I’ve made. Knowing that no-one else has quite the same Warrior as me – his name’s Caleb, by the way – really gets me. For me it absolutely makes up for an absence of character, and that’s just how I roll. I’m still getting used to all the classes. Priests seem a lot more physical than I’m used to, sort of a combination of Final Fantasy priests and monks. So healing spells and buffs, but also punching. Hitting things with a wand steals MP, which is good. It means there’s a point to hitting things as a mage, and I can also envisage using a strong melee character to neutralise magic users by getting rid of their mana. My main character’s a minstrel, although I think that’s randomly chosen. I thought perhaps that meant she was basically a bard, but I haven’t learned any, y’know, songs or stuff. I’m not really sure what the minstrel is good at, but she can breathe fire. That sir, is the absolute coolest. She’s called Dani, by the way. What? Don’t you judge me.

A few niggles. Having to go see a priest to check how much experience I need (Divination! Get it? Eh?) to level up is a pain. Just show me that stuff, people, come on. Maybe my priest will at some point be able to show that? I hope so. Also, Don’t show the experience I gain at the end of a battle on the bottom screen, and the money on the top. I tap through that stuff fast, and it doesn’t sound like it would be annoying, but trust me. It is.

My only major worry is that perhaps it’s a little easy. I’m not really sure what level of player I am, on your Amateur to Professional scale. Dilettante? Anyway, it’s all very pleasant, but I’m not being challenged. However, I am informed that, after five hours and 193 battles, I’ve only seen 8% of the enemies. Jury’s out on that one, then.

Anyway, it’s good! You have a fairy, and she drives a flying train! Yes!

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