6.5

Swords defeats any other form of swordplay on the Wii, but still lacks polish in every other aspect of the game.

Based on the Japanese electronic toy titled Kenshin Dragon Quest, Dragon Quest Swords is a unique new game for the Nintendo Wii. While not the typical role-playing affair that the Dragon Quest series has to offer, Swords does have some interesting new gameplay ideas, if players can first suffer through a handful of game-hindering flaws.

Story wise, Dragon Quest Swords doesn't tread any new ground at all. A young voiceless hero and son of a greater hero awakens to realize that he has is now of age to be considered a warrior in his town. And like clockwork, a dire situation arises that calls for some serious fighting, so who better to send than the barely of age son of a great hero, right? That game cliché is as old as time, but the Dragon Quest series has never really been keen on reinventing something that it has already perfected throughout the years.

This is especially obvious with the characters of the game. For players that enjoyed Dragon Quest VIII, the good news is that you'll be playing and interacting with characters that might as well be relatives. Need proof? Take the bandana off the head of Dragon Quest VIII's main character and you've got Swords' lead, change the hair color of Angelo and you've got Anlance, and make Jessica a blond with a French accent and you've got the game's token female, Fleurette. Even the supporting characters and monsters are all reused, which isn't necessarily a bad thing since Dragon Quest is more about tradition and nostalgia than re-envisioning, but players looking for something new may find the game too close to its previous predecessors.

But like mentioned earlier, one thing that players will find new with this Dragon Quest installment is the way it is played. Instead of a classic turn based fighting system, the game uses the Wii's remote as a sword and shield. Selecting and watching attacks are a thing of the past as the controller allows players to swing it across the screen to attack enemies in real-time. Swinging downward will create a downward strike, while slashing horizontally across the screen with naturally slash any enemies standing in a row. Just think of it as a much improved Red Steel sword system, but not quite perfected as most players would like.

The gameplay is fast and fun, but for some reason the programmers at Square Enix decided it best to not include Nunchuck controller support, which almost cripples the game. Instead of mapping character movements and shield usage to the Nunchuck, players are required to move around town with the d-pad and put the shield up with the same device used as a sword. It can be a bit disorienting, especially with battles that require fast decisions and movements that require quick turning.

Once players get accustomed to the severely neutered controls, they'll be out and about in one of a handful of locales, where gamers will soon realize the next big problem with the game. Instead of a free-roaming, quest-based structure, Swords is simplified to an on-rails, hack-and-slash fest. The B button and down arrow on the Wiimote moves the character forward and backwards along the same linear path until players are occasionally interrupted by random battles. This structure feels a lot like an arcade game with players being able to return for high scores, but the ability to level up, earn money for better weapons, and search for secrets on one of many numerous paths makes the game a bit more suitable for multiple plays.

All in all, Dragon Quest Swords has many good and bad things to offer gamers. The game can be genuinely fun with decent visuals, music, and a talented voice cast, but it starts to backslide when the monotony sets in with its game-hindering designs.

As soon as hardcore Dragon Quest fans and newbies alike realize this, or that the game takes about as long to beat as it does to say the entire title aloud, they'll quickly be sending it back to rental stores or laying it aside in preparation for the oncoming apocalypse of Super Smash Bros. Braw on March 9.

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