Reviews

Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors

Dragon Quest Swords turns out to be an interesting study in knowing one's audience.


Publisher: Square Enix
Genres: Action RPG
Price: $49.99
Multimedia: Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Teen
Developer: Square Enix
US release date: 2008-02-19
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

One of the most interesting things about the Wii's release and relative dominance, sales-wise, when compared to this generation's other two major consoles, is that Nintendo's little machine that could has redefined exactly what a gamer is, and what a gamer can be. The truth is, in most cases, you can tell a lot about the gamer who has chosen to drop $250 on a Wii -- the gamer who buys a Wii would rather play with other people in the room than online, for instance, and is willing to sacrifice graphical power for the sake of potential new ways of being engaged. The gamer who buys a Wii is one who finds Nintendo's distinct style appealing, and probably has an appreciation for the classic games in Nintendo's most recognizable series.

What is a third party developer to do, but appeal to the target audience of a console when it makes a game exclusive to that console?

This is why we have games like Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors.

Despite its unwieldy subtitle, Dragon Quest Swords is actually a rather severe simplification of the Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior series. Dragon Quest first appeared in the late '80s as a rather basic but very well put together turn-based role-playing game. The graphics have gotten better, the gameplay more complex, but the exploration, treasure-hunting, and kingdom-saving have all pretty much remained the same. Even the game's most recognizable baddies have remained consistent throughout the series, a series whose proper releases now number a full eight, with a ninth on the way (exclusively for the Nintendo DS, oddly enough).

The things that Dragon Quest Swords borrows from the original series are fairly predictable ones for the most part. There are slimes here, and golems, too. There's a silent warrior whose sole duty it is to save the kingdom. There are shops at which to buy bigger, better weapons and armor, and a handful of NPCs around to progress the plot and provide gently humorous banter.

Still, 8ing did keep the differences of the Wii audience in mind when they put together Dragon Quest Swords, and what we get is a simplified -- some would say dumbed down -- version of the role-playing experience. Example: There's only one town, from which you embark on each of the separate adventures that make up the game. The game is arranged episodically, and each of your adventures is something of a first-person on-rails experience. The same enemies show up in the same places every time you progress through one of the predetermined paths, attacking the same way every single time. You return to the town after an episode, and subtle little things change, but for the most part, it's a pattern of walk around town, talk to everyone, buy some new weapons, go fight, and repeat. Role-playing lite.

What's truly odd is that of all of the similarities and differences between the primary series and this particular offshoot, one of the most universally despised parts of the role-playing experience made it through the translation: grinding.

Anyone who has played an RPG knows the pain of having to walk around in the great outdoors, waiting for randomly-placed battle after randomly-placed battle to occur, all in the name of building experience points for long enough that your character is strong enough to take on the next bunch of bad guys necessary to progress the plot. It's an artificial way of lengthening the time it takes to beat the game, and it's a rather frustrating, not to mention boring way to spend time.

On average, you'll play the episodes of Dragon Quest Swords twice; some less, some more. Granted, there are some separate paths that you can take to look for treasure and change up the experience a bit, but for the most part, it's the exact same experience multiple times for the sake of getting ready to progress through the main storyline. Perhaps it's for the best, however, as without the grinding, the whole thing might only take five or so hours to get through.

There are, of course, a few special touches tossed in here to take advantage of the Wii's unique control system. You get to wave the remote around to use your sword and shield, a mechanic that works pretty well, although the diagonal sword-waving seems a bit unreliable at times. One can only imagine what a nightmare such controls must be to implement, and 8ing did an admirable job in their attempt.

The question remains, however, of whether Dragon Quest Swords will reach the audience that it's catering to. The Dragon Quest name is bound to appeal primarily to those familiar with the previous games in the series and the history of Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior; for American audiences who might not have played a Dragon Quest game in almost 20 years, using the old Dragon Warrior name might actually have done a better job to court the hearts and memories of those who may have fond memories of bashing their way through a game as a descendent of Erdrick. Get past the name, and the game doesn't present itself as much more than a typical questing game with a Japanese art style.

That said, those who do take the plunge are in for a hack 'n' slashing good time, at least for ten hours or so. Despite the cuts made to the role-playing experience, Dragon Quest Swords does a decent job of presenting a fully developed game without many of the intimidating aspects of the genre it draws from.

Still, we really could have done without the grinding.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.