Great RPG with a lot of depth. This will keep you occupied for weeks. A must-buy for any RPG fan!
Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DQ5) has a '2D-point-5' view. Nice looking 2D sprites (characters), with beautiful 3D environments, rendered with a lot of polygons on both screens, and a superbly rich colour pallet. To me, this is easily one of the best looking DS games, if not the best technically.
As you travel they environments/dungeons are very varied; you never feel as if you've been somewhere before, which helps differentiate places you may need to remember as you progress through the story, if that area may have been cut off previously. You couldn't ask for more, the dungeons are nicely done. Some of them have small puzzles, most puzzles are easy but sometimes you may come across some cryptic puzzles, though very rarely. The world is large, and after a while you will get the ability to quickly travel to most cities in the games world, but you must visit them first. You'll get a boat long in the game, among other interesting methods of travelling.
This is a classic style RPG, which means random battles. There will be a lot of them, an you have the basic options: flee (if the enemy allows you to), and fight. They aren't that bad during the beginning, but towards the end of the game the random battles can become a bit tedious. However, they are also rewarding because they give you experience points and good amounts of gold which is needed to buy new weapons/armour which helps defeat the enemies. Though you can use Holy Water to deter monsters from you, it's only for lower level monsters than yourself, as as you go through the quest the monsters are tough and usually fight in groups so the deterrents effects aren't felt. However, I have played many worse games when it comes to random battles.
The battles are turn based, but you don't see your characters on the screen, only the enemies/monsters. This may be a let down to some people who like to see their characters during battles, but the game makes up for it with fluid enemy animations, each monster is interesting, enemies have good animations, and they keep the moves varied so it keeps you concentrated during a battle because you don't know what type of move they'll do.
After defeating a monster(s), one may ask you to join the party. The monsters can be very helpful, some monsters strong in battles, some are better at magic/spells, and some are good with both. They will help ease you through your adventure. You get a maximum of eight (8) people in your party, which means you may need to drop some monsters off to a monster carer if you want to have new monsters in the party. That's all the monster carer is good for, this isn't like Pokemon where they level up with a carer, they just stay there and keep the same level, though the game makes up for it for being able to have party members in your wagon (i.e. not actively in battle) and still gain experience points. You just may find that the earlier monsters will feel weaker towards the second half of the game, and you want to switch to more powerful monsters.
DQ5 feels rewarding, with steady levelling up and a decent save system. I say decent because you can't save in a menu, you have to talk to a priest to save, but it's better than some RPG's. You can die, but still continue from the most recent town/village. Dying is the only time the game feels punishing because it takes away a huge amount of your gold. The item system is a little strict at times, some weapons/armour you'd think you could equip can't be, but others can. You can easily tell which party member can be equipped with something when buying it from a store.
You follow the story of a young boy, as he grows up and matures in this slowly degrading world, and you'll eventually get married and have kids. It may seem pretty basic "evil dude trying to take over the world", but just describing it like that would be just wrong, it goes way beyond that and it will be a story to remember.
The story itself is well told, though it doesn't have any full motion video (fmv) cutscenes or voice overs, the game makes up for it with superbly well written dialogue which sucks you in; there is never a dull moment. That is a good thing, because this game will keep you occupied for weeks. It took me 36 hours to complete, and you get a bonus boss after completing the game. Every town is of importance, and discovering a new town/village, no matter how small, is always a good moment. You'll meet some interesting characters on the way, who may be able to help you later in the game. Overall the story is well driven, and the game never feels stale.
The music is beautifully done, with a mix of classic soundtrack and some nice orchestrated music. Some soothing melodies in peaceful towns; and moody music during dramatic times. The music is something to be appreciated, though it will sound familiar, and some music gets repeated a lot, but it is mixed up well. This is a great conversion to the DS of the original soundtrack. Sometimes though, the sound effects feel weak and uninspired, this is more noticeable during battles.
In the end, DQ5 is a must buy RPG for RPG fans and especially for fans of the series. Boasting amazing graphics, rewarding gameplay, a superb script, a great classic sound track, and a lengthy campaign. It's hard to think anyone could go wrong with this game. Buy this game. Support good games. Support good developers.
Graphics: 10 | Gameplay: 8 | Sound: 9 | Story: 8 | Value: 10