Dragon Quest IV Review: Chapters of the Chosen: The greatest NES game ever made

Dragon Quest IV Review: Chapters of the Chosen: The greatest NES game ever made

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen stands as a testament to the enduring brilliance of the Dragon Quest series—a series that even the first few entries still stand as incredible games. Renowned for introducing chapter-based storytelling to RPGs, this game offers a rich and captivating journey that unfolds across diverse landscapes and engaging narratives. Each element contributes to the game's timeless charm, from the innovative battle system to the lovable cast of characters. Join me as we delve into the world of Dragon Quest IV, exploring its strengths in customization, storytelling, and the unique art style that sets it apart. Now, without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... a Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen Review: The greatest NES game ever made.

Battle System - 7

This may be your typical turn-based Dragon Quest system, but it is perfectly executed here. With awesome party members that can be directly controlled or AI controlled, this game has an incredible amount of options for those who like tactical gameplay, as well as those who are more interested in auto-battling mechanics that are very well done—especially for a remake of an NES game. This game does an excellent job of making classic RPG battling feel fun and rewarding yet nostalgic for a simpler time. It's pretty fantastic. Add in some fun temporary characters that join you along the way and the excellent wagon mechanic that allows for party switching but balances it in an incredible way that makes it fun to switch up the party but also essential to select competent party members when tackling a dungeon—it's a superb balance. It makes the game balanced yet also has a great quality of life. It also makes battles very fun in areas the wagon can go! Overall, this game is about as fantastic as a traditional, classic battle system can get—it's so wonderful.

Customization System - 7

This game takes an approach of each character being named and learning a predetermined set of skills—a complete 180 from the previous entry in the series. However, this game does a phenomenal job of making every character useful and well-balanced, something many games struggle with. There's the Hero, a jack-of-all-trades, master of all with fantastic physical attacks, equipment, and both healing and damaging magic. There's Ragnar, the game's slow yet powerful tank, who will consistently dish out the most severe physical damage in the game while being an almost unconquerable wall of HP. There's Alena, an attacker who's the opposite of Ragnar, with lower HP and attack power but higher Speed and Luck, making her just as valuable, yet more of a glass cannon than a tank. There's Borya, an unconventional Black Mage with solid Black Magic but even better buffing and debuffing capabilities that lower enemy defense and raise the party's attack—he's perfect as a token mage in a party of heavy hitters. There's Kiryl, an incredible White Mage with solid DPS, amazing multi-heals, the best reviving spell in the game, a broken-beyond-belief party-wide defense buff, and a slew of instant death spells. Then there's Torneko Taloon, a goofy man who's fun to put in battle but practically only suitable for his stealing capabilities. There's Meena, a more hybrid mage, who is a much quicker grower than Kiryl, learning great spells earlier; even if she falls off later with a lack of multi-heals and revive spells, she's made useful by her strong wind magic. Penultimately, there's Maya, the game's more standard Black Mage and perhaps the best DPS in the game, with an array of Black Magic fit for different circumstances. And there's the hidden ninth character, who is a late bloomer, but he quickly becomes just as powerful and versatile as the Hero, if not more so. While games like Dragon Quest XI are more in-depth than this, it still has a ton of fun depth, especially in areas where the wagon is available, allowing you to switch party members on a whim. All in all, this isn't the most in-depth customization system I've seen, but with so many fun characters to use, this category certainly deserves an above-average score.

Story - 7

This game genuinely started chapter-based storytelling in RPGs, and it did so phenomenally—this is easily the best story on the NES and even better in newer releases! From saving children from evil to a chapter about running away from home and then coming back to save your kingdom; from a chapter about fulfilling a merchant's dream, to killing an evil demon to avenge your father, there are four banger chapters—and that's all really before the main story starts This allows for fantastic world-building and amazing intrigue around the villain, Psaro the Manslayer! It also finds a way to connect the player to each and every character and make them feel like true guardians of the Hero. The endgame also is a fantastic climax, with locations like Zenithia, another continent, and the literal underworld being highlights. And then there's the postgame chapter, which causes a huge yet believable and teased plot twist that adds quite a bit to the plot. Unfortunately, as a remake of an NES game, there are some unfortunate plot holes, oversights, and a lack of emotional weight. There's a monumental plot twist at the end of Chapter 2 that never pays off. In Chapter 4, the revenge plotline lacks an emotional core. Chapter 6 didn't take the implications of the plot twist to the next level in the way it could have. However, this game was about the journey, adventure, and comradery, not deep morals and consequences. While I won't say this game's story is a masterpiece, it sets a strong precedent for chapter-based storytelling and grandiose RPG adventures that will blow you away. And for a game initially released on the NES? It is awe-inspiring.

Music - 9.5

Like the other NES Dragon Quest titles, this soundtrack is brief but fantastic. I loved the battle themes and adored the implementation of the varying overworld themes. The town theme was terrific, and some late-game boss themes were incredibly epic. This is one of those soundtracks I would wholeheartedly listen to while chilling or working out! It's not quite an all-time great due to its brevity, but it's still phenomenal.

Locations - 7

This game has so many fun towns and locations, and just like I said in my Dragon Quest II review, this game does a fantastic job of giving the player a world to explore without holding their hand too much. The world-building in the first four chapters is phenomenal, and once you get the boat and balloon to open up the world, the game begins to be remarkable. There isn't just one world map in this game, but four: the world map, the sky, the underworld, and an extra continent! Sure, the last three aren't very expansive, but it is still cool! Every town in this game is full of life and content, and every dungeon, even the most generic-looking caves, is memorable! I adore how the early Dragon Quest games utilize their locations to create an immaculate world full of hints, clues, and gossip that lead you to where you need to go... it makes the games feel like a Zelda game! These are some of my favorite RPG towns, and these locations are the core of why this game and other entries in the series are endlessly charming and fun to play!

Characters - 8

While they were already pretty fun characters in the NES version, the characters in this game are all the more lovable due to the new Party Chat and distinct accents. Each character is entertaining to hear from with Party Chat! Ragnar is a bodacious knight who somehow reminds me of a lovable farmer bro; Borya is a sweet old man; Kiryl is a paladin-like righteous man; and Alena is a girl I wouldn't be surprised if she started the Russian Mafia of the world of Dragon Quest IV. Maya and Meena are mid but still fun. And the hidden ninth character with his tsundere personality is rather intriguing. Last is Torkneko Taloon, my favorite character due to his delightful charm and antics, even if he is my least favorite character in battle. And there's Psaro the Manslayer and Rose, two fascinating characters who are deeply connected and are great characters. And there's an excellent supporting cast with characters like Hank Hoffman Jr. with his escapades and Taloon's super epic wife, who's an independent woman and a very supportive wife. This character cast isn't incredibly deep, but they are so fun and lovable that they've instantly become one of my favorite RPG casts of all time.

Art & Graphics - 9.5

These graphics are incredibly unique! At first, they were utterly appalling. It has 2D sprites on a 3D plane in which you can change the perspectives to find hidden doors and secrets. The isometric-esque look was very odd, and I thought it was an eyesore at first; however, as I continued to play the game, I fell in love with the incredibly unique art style that perfectly captures the traditional Dragon Quest art style in a beautiful way I've never seen made before. The contrast may look weird at first, but I assure you, it'll grow on you so much it's ridiculous. This is now one of my favorite-looking games of all time—it's just so cool and distinct.

Sidequests - 5

Dragon Quest IV Walkthrough, Chapter 6: Psaro

This game has some really fun sidequests! From finding the Liquid Metal Smile gear across caves, secret shops, casinos, and Mini-Medal trading (a whole sidequest on its own), to grinding out obscene sums of money with Taloon; from opening all of the locked doors in the world, to metal slime hunting; and of course, the two best quests, which are building a town with the help of Hank Hoffman Jr. and playing through the game's very intriguing sixth chapter, there's a lot to love here. While there aren't many quests in this game, they perfectly round out the game without wasting the player's time or brain cells, and they go to show that, sometimes, less is truly more—not every game needs a 60 to 100-hour runtime like Dragon Quest VII or Dragon Quest XI.

Quality of Life - 9.5

This game is challenging sometimes for a more casual player, but I appreciated that it wasn't an absolute cakewalk like later entries (looking at you, Dragon Quest XI). While the grindiness and some of the cryptic story beats were occasionally frustrating, and rearranging items can be a slog, as a whole, this game is very well polished. It adds quick saving, autosaving, the bag, and many other quality-of-life fixes compared to previous game versions, making it much nicer to play. Ultimately, while the NES version had an enormous amount of quality-of-life issues, this version is very playable, with only a few mild annoyances along the way.

The Verdict

Fun Factor: 9
Overall Score: 78%
Letter Rating: A

I liked the first two Dragon Quest games quite a bit, skipped the third since the remake is coming out sooner or later, and then dove right into this one—and I'm utterly shocked by how phenomenal this classic was. This game took everything I love about classic RPGs, with fantastic turn-based combat and a wondrous world, but put an impressive, chapter-based spin on it. Every chapter was a lot of fun, each presenting a unique experience and wonderfully climaxing in two awesome chapters, Chapters 5 and 6. This game blew my expectations out of the water, feeling fresh and feeling like the inspiration for awesome games like Octopath Traveler and Final Fantasy XII. This game was easily the best game on the NES, and its remake made it into a much better game—a game that ranks among my favorite RPGs of all time. I'll never forget my experience with this game, playing it simultaneously with my brother and discovering all the secrets together. I still pull this game up occasionally to grind some Metal King Slimes in the Zenithian Tower or to traverse this expansive world by boat, wagon, or balloon. This game is a masterpiece, and I'd recommend it to anyone. As long as they are okay with a smidge of difficulty, that is.

Wanna check out one of the best classic RPGs out there and support our website? Check it out in one of its various versions below! The NES version is pretty dated, but it is still a fun experience. The DS Version adds a ton of fantastic content and has the best controls! And the Mobile version adds Party Chat on top of the DS additions, but has worse controls. I'd recommend the Mobile version any day, but you can't go wrong any way!

Dragon Warrior IV
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (DS)
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (Mobile)

Primary Version: Dragon Quest IV (iOS)