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Dragon Quest Wars - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Dragon Quest Wars

DSiWare | SQUARE-ENIX | 1 Player / 4 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-4 Players (online versus) | 500 Nintendo Points 
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11th October 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

The Dragon Quest series has been around for over 20 years and during that time, the series has done much to deliver some strong RPG elements that earned it the popularity it has today. Dispelling the standard Dragon Quest formula of old, Dragon Quest Wars steps in an entirely different direction with its first game on the DSiWare service. Rather than going along the route of a traditional RPG, Dragon Quest Wars marks itself as a quirky turn-based strategy game. Does this spin-off title have enough legs to stand as a good DSiWare release? 

    Dragon Quest Wars plays out much like a board game where players assemble a squad of 4 team members and battle it out on one of the game's 5 grided battle arenas. There are a total of 6 different monsters that you can choose for your team, each with varying abilities and attributes. Each round contains two phases, the first being the planning phase. During this 45-second time frame, players can move their squad members along the playing field and choose one of 3 different cards which dictate what each unit will do during the attack phase. 

The selection of cards varies for each unit depending on their special abilities and their unit type. Golem characters, for example, can guard against attacks and they have the most health out of all the units but they are also very slow in their movement. With the exception of the well-rounded Slime character, each unit has its own strength and drawback ensuring that no unit is overpowered and it makes for a very balanced selection. There's definitely a lot of experimenting involved on the part of the player, trying to get used to each character as they try to assemble a team they feel most comfortable with. 

    The order in which you place each team member is also something important that players must consider as this makes a difference on how effective you will be in a battle. For example, the Speedster unit, Dracky, can increase the attack power of the offensive unit right before he attacks so his attack will be even more powerful. Unit placement before the beginning of each match is also important. If you don't place your characters wisely, you may find that the team that goes first may be able to get a jump over you, defeating one or more of your units before you even get a turn. This is important in matches where there's more than one other squad, but it especially becomes a challenge when there are CPU opponents. The AI in this game is rather challenging and devious and while it may irritate some, others will find it really gratifying that the game provides a good measure of difficulty despite it's cutesy look and feel.

There are two main gameplay styles found within the game's central Battle mode: Versus matches, which are strictly one-vs-one bouts and Survival matches which feature larger grids as 4 squads battle it out. The game lasts 10 Rounds where everyone is aiming to accomplish one of two objectives in order to be declared the winner. One way (the main objective) is by getting one of your team members inside the specially marked End Zone at the opposite side of the grid from where you begin. Although this will result in instant victory, this is actually hard to do with other squad members coming at you or blocking your path. The second way is either by being the last team standing or the strongest team out of the remaining squads at the conclusion of the 10th Round. Both methods require planning and a substantial level of thinking ability on the part of the player. 

    The arenas themselves are pretty varied with differing environment settings, grid sizes and even obstacles (such as not being able to pass a certain space without going around it). Sure there could've been a few more arenas and there could've been a few more surprises or obstacles to make things more interesting but given the cost of the game and the amount of content it already includes, you can't complain too much. On the note of presentation, the game looks pretty good as a whole with some nice detail here and there. The music within the game is pretty good and it works well but, again, it would've been nice if they had a few more tracks to prevent the music from being the same all the time. The controls are what you'd come to expect from a game like this. Everything is touch-controlled with no D-Pad or button support whatsoever. The stylus controls pretty well but the player will notice that it takes some time to get used to because of how finicky it can be.

Dragon Quest Wars features local, wireless battles for 2-4 players but you can't help but feel there was a missed opportunity with this. The game requires that each player have a DSi and a copy of the game, which excludes not only DS Lite owners, but DSi owners alike who may not have the game. This could've easily been rectified so that both audiences could have experienced the game through Download Play but sadly this function is nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, though, it's not a total loss! Players have an opportunity to play with a nearby friend in Free Mode by setting the computer to a human opponent and passing the DSi around which is great.

    The game features a Training Mode which does a great job at teaching you the game's basics in such a manner that's very easy to grasp. There are 10 missions in total and it's likely that the player will complete these in less than 2 hours, but it's just enough that players of all audiences will easily learn all there is to know about the game. It still would've been nice, however, if the game featured some sort of a single-player campaign to further extend the experience for solo players. 

Thankfully, the complaints about the Wireless Battles and the single-player experience are all rectified by the game's online mode. In addition to local wireless battles, players have the ability to test out their skills against players from around the world via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. The online menu allows you to face opponents in Versus and Survival battles, as well as the obvious Friend battles. The online play works great as a whole and it's really robust. The 45-second timer comes into play here and it gives players just enough time to think without going over the "too long" max. Since the game is turn-based, if the timer was too lengthy (especially in battles with 3 other players), some would find themselves getting a bit irritated with the wait but thankfully this isn't the case. Online battles really bring the title to life (especially for solo players) and it further utilizes the level of strategy within the game to an even greater degree.

    Some may take a look at Dragon Quest Wars and reject it for it's seemingly-simplistic style of gameplay but those who do so would be missing out on a title with a surprising amount of strategy. Square Enix should be proud of what they've done with this release and we can only hope that more developers will follow suit (especially when it comes to incorporating online play). Even still, Dragon Quest Wars manifests itself to be one of the stronger 500-point titles currently available on the platform and comes highly recommended.

24/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Cutesy, simple and yet contains a surprising amount of strategy that will grip you early on
Presentation 8/10 - Good focus on presentation with some clean animations and menu selections
Enjoyment 4/5 - Single-player could've been more fleshed out; multiplayer is where the game truly shines
Extra Content 4/5 - Online works extremely well; could've had Download Play for local multiplayer

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Dragon Quest Wars
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