If you're looking for an old school RPG with a great story, look no further than Dragon Quest V.
Graphics: The game is presented in a mixture of 2D and 3D. All of the sprites, from characters, enemies and other things are rendered in 2D. However, all of the environments are in 3D. This is a pleasing combination of both old and new. The sprites are insanely charming and have some cute animations as you walk around, and the enemies are all very crazy and fun looking. (They also animate very well when they attack.) Additionally, the developers added in a feature that allows you to rotate the camera in a full 360 degrees in most places. Not only does this allow you to admire the architecture from every angle, but it's useful for finding hidden doors and items that you wouldn't be able to see normally. The battle screens are also very well drawn, making great use of a bright color pallet that runs throughout the whole game. Overall, the presentation of DQV is a pleasing mixture of both old and new, making it both nostalgic and novel at the same time. 10/ 10
Sound: Like the graphics, the music is a mix of both old and new. Sound effects like walking up stairs are very old school sounding, but the music is very crisp and clean. It is quite nice to listen to, although there aren't a whole ton of standout tunes. While the music sounds great and is of general high quality, there aren't a whole lot of tunes that will make you say "wow" like there are in other RPG series like Pokemon or Final Fantasy. Despite that, the music is still nice to listen to when you're just roaming around a town or exploring the wild. There are a few tunes that really grabbed me, like the opening theme and the theme that plays in castles at night. (It's a beautiful acoustic version of the castle theme.) Something else worth noting is that there aren't a whole ton of songs. Towns all repeat the same theme, as do castles, the overworld, most dungeons, enemies and bosses. As I said, it's not bad, but I feel like there could have been more variety. So, while the sound isn't mind blowingly good, it is still pretty good. 7/ 10
Story: You start out by naming your character, a young boy clothed in a purple cape and hat. Once you do that, you begin the game as that child. You travel to a few different places with your father, Pankraz. Along the way, you meet a few interesting people, like a young girl named Bianca and a little cat named Sabre. After a certain point in the game, you are shot forward ten years. The game spans the course of three generations, adding a very personal touch to the otherwise typical save the world RPG story. Things like a friendship you develop with a prince who was originally a stuck up brat, seeing how places you knew as a child changed over time, and even choosing a bride give the story a lot of emotional weight. Despite the rather shallow characters, the plot manages to interest, mainly because it reflects life so well. For instance, in the second generation, you don't have a clearly defined goal. You just wander around the world, seeing how things have changed, while searching for the Legendary Hero and thinking about your father's words. (That I won't spoil here.) People from the past have changed, and may even join you for a time in your quest. All of the emotional buildup gives the finale a certain weight to it. You are a man with a family, and they are counting on you to lead them to victory. Aside from the story, the world is a very interesting place. At first, you go to towns that are just typical RPG towns, filled with folks with funny accents and lots of puns. However, as the game progresses, you go to more interesting locales, like a town on the side of a mountain, a castle whose town is inside the walls, a harbor that sports a ship where you can gamble to your heart's content and more. Inhabiting these towns are lots of funny and quirky characters who give helpful advice or commentary. It is really cool to see how these places have changed over the years. Overall, the story is more than your typical save the world story, due to the personal element that it has. It will make you care more about what is happening, despite the somewhat shallow characters. 9/ 10
Gameplay: Dragon quest V is a very traditional JRPG. You travel around the world, fighting monsters in randomly encountered battles, gain experience, level up, buy new and better equipment, learn spells and pretty much everything you can imagine in a traditional RPG. It's a formula that works, despite the somewhat dated features it has.
One quality that does set this game apart is the monster recruitment system. Certain monsters will randomly ask you if the can accompany you on your quest after a battle. Despite the fact that this is luck based, it is a very neat feature and adds a certain level of customization to the game. You're likely to get most of your main party near the beginning of the game, where monsters are much easier to recruit than later in the game. I personally found a team that worked for me for a good portion of the game, before some human characters are given to you later in the game. There were even a few of them that I brought right to the end, and I used them to fight the final boss. This is nice, because it means that the monsters aren't just random throwaway characters who serve little purpose. They level up just like any other character and can grow to be very powerful. It can be very annoying if you're trying to recruit a specific monster, because you will need to grind for quite some time. The odds are always pretty low, so get ready to fight a lot of monsters if you have a very specific team in mind.
This luck based aspect works its way into other parts of the game. For instance, there are the well-known Metal Slimes that give you tons of experience if you are lucky enough to find and kill one. The reason for this is because they are pretty tough to find, let alone kill. They can dodge a ton, flee quite often, and even if you do manage to land a hit on one, it always does one point of damage. This means that you either need to get lucky enough that you land enough hits on them to kill them, or you land a critical hit on one before it flees. In other aspects that are luck based, there are numerous mini games for you to play, like a slot machine or a TnT board. The TnT board is like a massive board game. You roll a die, move forward that many spaces, and gain an effect depending on what space you landed on. This can be anything from winning money to being teleported further on the board, to outright losing the game. Each play costs a TnT ticket, which are scattered in numerous places around the world. The idea of luck based rewards can be quite frustrating at times, but it makes them all the more rewarding when you finally kill a Metal King Slime, or beat the tough TnT board.
You are only allowed to have four teammates on the field at a time, but you can carry up to eight thanks to the Wagon. Whoever you take in the Wagon does not fight, but still gains experience along with everyone else. This is immensely helpful if you recruit a low level monster and want to improve them, or have a character who doesn't have great equipment but want to level them up anyway. Additionally, at certain parts in the game (where you're allowed to swap out team members), you can change out team members mid battle, allowing for some strategy to be had. On top of that, each character can only carry a certain number of items with them (although there is the seemingly never ending bag which can store everything else), so inventory management is a must, at least in the later parts of the game. Additionally, there are certain items that can be used as items for an effect. For instance, the Staff of Antimagic is a rather weak weapon, but place it in a character's inventory and have them use it, and watch as it casts a spell. Again, this adds a lot of strategy to the proceedings.
There are some rather annoying features, like the save system. Basically, you must confess to a priest at a church (which are located in just about every town), and you need to go through a lot of dialogue in order to save. Every time. Another thing is the cost of equipment. It gets ridiculously expensive near the end of the game to keep up to date with armor and weapons, and monsters only drop a few hundred coins per battle. (With one exception that I remember where the monster drops at least one thousand coins.) This makes it very grindy if you want to constantly have the best equipment.
Despite the old school nature of the game, it's not too challenging. The random encounter rate is never too high (with a few exceptions), so you're never really too overwhelmed as long as you plan well enough. You can get through most random encounters without too much strategy. Most boss battles aren't too difficult either, as long as you remain on your toes. It's only near the end of the game where you need to seriously consider strategy and grinding. (I did several hours of grinding before the final boss and still had to be careful.) Additionally, when your party is wiped out, the consequences aren't as bad as they could be. You simply lose half of the coins in your wallet, but keep everything else. (And you can even store money in banks scattered around the world if you're not confident about an upcoming fight.) This makes the game pretty forgiving, for the most part.
Overall, the game isn't perfect, and there are some aspects of it that are quite dated, but the game is still very fun. 8/ 10
Dragon quest V is a great remake, with a highly nostalgic presentation, a great and emotional story, and some old school gameplay. (For better and for worse.) If you're craving an old school RPG, or just want a great story, Dragon Quest V has what you are looking for. So long and thanks for reading.