Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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There are legends that are told time and again; the sort of elemental tales that, in one form or another, define an entire genre. These stories are copied, referenced, and remade endlessly, all because they represent a fundamental part of our shared culture. For RPG fans of any age, one such tale is Dragon Quest. If you loved Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, the Mana series, or any of the hundreds of other awesome old-school RPGs out there, you owe at least a little to Dragon Quest.
Originally released in 1986 for the Famicom/NES as Dragon Warrior, Dragon Quest for iOS is an updated remake of a truly classic game. The visuals strike a great balance between looking like something from an early-era RPG (palate-swapped enemies FTW!), but are still cartoony and fun. The music is good, though you will get sick of the horn trill that sounds at the beginning of every random encounter. The script, written in a faux-Shakespearian tongue, is charmingly full of 'thees' and 'thous', making for a fun, campy experience.
And gathering experience is the name of the game. Though some modern anti-frustration features have been implemented, such as a frequent auto-save and smoothly implemented touch controls, this is most assuredly an old-school game. You will spend plenty of time simply grinding for gold and levels, as it is far too easy to accidentally wander too far into a new area only to have your face unceremoniously kicked in by a random battle. Every time you die you will be teleported back to your starting location, penalized for half the gold you were carrying at the time, berated by the king, and set out again. Gear options are fairly limited, as are combat spells, commands, and inventory space.
It is this old-school mentality that really creates the dividing line for who will enjoy this game and who will not. Dragon Questdefined an era of RPGs, but that era could either be seen as ground-breaking or tedious depending on your perspective. Combat animations are virtually non-existent. The game almost never sends you in a particular direction – it is entirely up to the player to piece together their next destination by talking to every NPC they come across. Item descriptions, while more robust than in the original, are still occasionally so obtuse as to be useless. Still, this game represents a chunk of gaming history, and despite (and sometimes even because) of its limitations, it’s still a fun game.
Its historical significance aside, Dragon Quest I is a fun, campy, difficult, thoroughly old-school RPG. This modern remake retains a lot of what made the original so enjoyable, while dressing it up and making it presentable for a new generation of gamers.