In the vast tapestry of RPG history, there are titles that stand as landmarks—games that, through their storytelling, mechanics, or sheer charm, etch themselves into the hearts of players for generations to come. Among these luminaries stands Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, a title that melds traditional RPG elements with innovative gameplay mechanics, it has long been celebrated as a jewel in the crown of the Dragon Quest series. Journey with us as we delve deep into the heart of this epic saga, exploring its battle dynamics, intricate narrative, and the unique charm that sets it apart from its contemporaries. Whether you're revisiting the tale of the Hero or discovering it for the first time, this review promises to be your guide, shedding light on what makes Dragon Quest V an unforgettable adventure in the realm of RPGs.
Battle System - 9
This game has a fantastic, traditional turn-based battle system! With the use of the wagon, there's a dynamic party switching system that allows you to switch characters mid-battle as long as the wagon can fit within the confinements of the current area. The game also has a unique and memorable balance of human party members and monster recruits, a balance I've not seen repeated since. The battles in this game may be much less challenging than previous entries in the series, but due to the vast amount of monsters available, there's still plenty of incentive to battle, even if you'll almost always feel a tad overleveled. Due to the awesome wagon mechanics, the unique amalgamation of different skillsets available, and there always being incentive to battle, this is a traditional battle system at its best.
Story - 8.5
While the worldbuilding and villain ere much better in Dragon Quest IV, the overarching narrative in this title was better. The generation-spanning story is heartwarming and emotional, and, as a sixteen year old myself (like the Generation II Hero) who is looking forward to potentially having a family one day, this story was rather beautiful. However, there are two ways this otherwise grand tale is hindered. First is the completely forgettable villain that is mediocre, even by typical Dragon Quest standards. While Bishop Ladja is a serviceable side villain, the main villain is completely forgettable and pales in comparison to Psaro, the villain of the previous entry in the series. The second is the game's lack of impactful dialogue and believable emotional gravitas. Compared to other games of the era like the SNES Final Fantasy trilogy and Lufia II, this game suffers a bit in its execution. While the story is awesome, the limited interaction with the protagonist's wife and children and the unbelievably indifferent reactions people have in extreme conflict, the tale feels less rewarding that I'd have presumed taking into account the game's stellar reputation. However, as harsh as I may sound, Dragon Quest V still told an impactful, epic, generational adventure that I'll never forget, with some of the coolest plot twists in any RPG I've played to date.
Music - 8.5
While this may not be the best soundtrack in the series, and was arguably a step back from Dragon Quest IV, the songs in this game still boast the fantastic energy and style of the Dragon Quest series. Every song has a distinct, classical-esque style that sets it apart from many other RPGs, making for a fantastic soundtrack that I'd be down to listening to any day of the week. Favorite songs of mine include The Ocean and any of the waltzy, wedding related tracks the game possesses. Overall, this is a fantastic soundtrack.
Characters - 8
While this game may not have the most developed or interesting characters across the board, there's one thing this game is masterful at: making you care about the characters and their familial relationships. Since you play as your main protagonist throughout their life and watch them grow up with the people they care about, it's very easy to care about the character cast of this game. My favorite characters would have to be Pankraz, the protagonist's father, Harry, the protaganist's best friend, and Deborah, one of the three potential choices for the protagonist to marry. The first two get a plethora of emotional moments, whereas the last has funny dialogue and solid character development due to her tsundere personality. In the end, while the game may not have outstanding characterization, its ability to make you care about the underdeveloped characters compels me to give this game an above-average score.
Sidequests - 9
With heaps of monsters to catch, a couple of optional dungeons, Knick-Knacks to collect, and T'n'T boards to complete, there's plenty of side objectives in Dragon Quest V that do a great job of distracting the player from the main quest. While these quests aren't the best RPG quests of all-time or anything, like most Dragon Quest games, this game has just enough side content to enjoy without needlessly padding out the already substantial experience. Ultimately, this game has a fantastic set of sidequests that add a ton to the charm of the experience.
Locations - 8.5
As always with the Dragon Quest series, this game has tons of memorable locations. However, regrettably, another comparison to its predecessor must be made. Dragon Quest IV does an impeccable job of introducing its locales and fleshing them out before revisiting them in the final chapter to regroup with the party and exploring the world. It also has a lightning-in-a-bottle way of building its setting and making each location interesting to explore, as the townspeople always drop meaningful hints on where to go next in the story, or where to find interesting items across the world. By comparison, this title does a much weaker job building up its locations, save a couple of important ones like Whealbrook, Gotha, and Coburg. Something about the world of this title feels like a step back from the excellent exploration in Dragon Quest IV and even Dragon Quest II. Regardless, Dragon Quest V has plenty of standout locales that are more memorable than IV's, even if the worldbuilding and exploration are worse, V does a better job at making more creative and variety-filled locations, making the game still hold up incredibly well. My favorite locations would have to be Gotha, Mostroferrato, Coburg, Uptaten Towers, and the Faerie Lea, as they all had huge bearing on the game's most climactic and emotionally-resonant moments.
Art & Graphics - 9.5
The art in the most recent remake of Dragon Quest V retains the same artstyle from the most recent Dragon Quest IV remake, in which the pixel sprites are overlaying a 3D background. While it may be hard on the eyes when first looking at it due to its odd style choice, it soon becomes one of the most charming graphical styles you could lay your eyes upon. This game's art is truly phenomenal and I assure you, it will grow on you.
Customization System - 10
Perhaps my favorite part of Dragon Quest V is the enormous variety of monsters you can catch! However, what sets this apart from other monster-catching games is its balancing and needlessness. Before you come at me and say that makes no sense, let me explain. In games like Pokémon, everything revolves around the monsters, with a lack of traditional human party members to center the story and gameplay around. A slightly better attempt at also having human party members could be seen in a game like Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World or Final Fantasy X-2, which both put a huge emphasis on monsters, but still have human party members for more diverse gameplay and a much more impactful story. However, these both fall flat, as the former puts a huge emphasis on monsters, making it a rather unfaithful sequel that makes the beloved party members borderline useless, whereas the latter feels so in favor of YRP that the Creature Creator monsters feel like an afterthought instead of a meaningful addition to newer releases of the game. Instead, Dragon Quest V takes a route that is much like Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, as both of these masterpieces strike a perfect balance between monsters and human characters! In fact, in Dragon Quest V, it is balanced enough that every challenge the game throws at you can be exclusively tackled with either the main cast or smartly recruited monster choices. Each monster has so many unique abilities, perfectly supplementing the already robust human cast. Some of my favorite monsters include the Liquid Metal Slime, the best tank in the game and a great offensive mage; the Slime Knight, an easy recruit that is a jack-of-all-trades, master of none that is effective throughout the entire experience; the King Cureslime, an overpowered healer that gets some of the best HP and MP stats in the game, as well as the best healing spell in the game at its default level; the Barbatos, an upgraded form of the Moosifer that has extreme offensive capabilities; and my favorite of all, the Archdemon, a jack-of-all-trades, master of all but the agility stat. But as I said before, the monster system is unnecessary, meaning that if you don't enjoy monster catching games (which many classic RPG fans don't enjoy), you can play the entire game without recruiting a single monster and still have tons of fun. That's what makes this game's customization system so masterful and genius—there's something for everyone! This game is endlessly replayable—at least combat-wise—due to this awesome customization system, and, for that, this game deserves a perfect score.
Quality of Life - 9
Because of the permanent addition of the Monster Magnet in the Mobile version of this game, my only big issue with this game is the absurdly small wagon size. In Dragon Quest IV, a game with only nine permanent playable characters, the wagon capacity is 10 people. However, in Dragon Quest V, a game with six permanent human characters (the family, Sancho, and Tuppence), as well as a total of 71 monster recruits, the wagon capacity is only 8. While it doesn't make me hate this game or anything, having a capacity of 10 would be perfect! It would let me have the family four, Liquid Metal Slime, Barbatos, Starkers, Rebjorn, King Cureslime, and Archdemon... the most overpowered party in the game! While it could be argued the size was for balancing reasons, I think it is silly that a game with more characters would have a smaller wagon capacity. However, in the end, this isn't too big of a deal, so a quality of life score of 9 is fine.
Fun Factor: 8
Overall Score: 86%
Letter Rating: S
While this game has some flaws that me me consider it a slight step back from its predecessor, Dragon Quest V deserves its reputation as a phenomenal RPG and one of the most popular entries in the series. I'd recommend this game to any classic RPG enthusiasts or fans of monster-catching games who can get past the unwarranted grindiness of this game's monster-catching until they can gamble enough to get 20,000 casino tokens. While this may not be my favorite Dragon Quest game... as I said: it's Nera-ly a masterpiece (if you don't get it, my advice to you is to, well, play the game).
Want to check out this phenomenal RPG? Check out one of the links below and help support our website in the process! Each version offers a very distinct experience! The SNES version is a classic and has a fantastic fan translation, but it has tons of less monsters, one less marriage option, and only three party members available in battle at a time. The PS2 version has 3D graphics, unlike any of the other versions, but runs slower and has less monsters than the newer versions (but more than the SNES version!). The DS version has the best graphics and controls, but the lack of the Monster Magnet (which is only in the Mobile version) makes it less than superior. My personal favorite is the Mobile version, as it is the cheapest and is the exact same as the DS version, but with the addition of the much-needed Monster Magnet.
TL;DR: SNES offers the most classic experience, PS2 is a cool version graphically, DS is the best (but only if you can get past the low catch rates), and Mobile is the cheapest and best overall.
Primary Version: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (iOS/Android)