My opening of the Dragon Quest franchise was one of the few happy events of 2020. For decades, I’ve convinced myself that I just don’t like this iconic JRPG series. Then I fell in love with Dragon Quest XI. Now I’m on my own search, going through every game.
But I will not deal with this in any particular order. I just play whatever Dragon Quest I’m most interested in and can get my hands on. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride was first on my list.
Dragon Quest V came out in Japan for the Super Famicom (what we call the Super Nintendo) back in 1992. We won’t see it here until the 2009 Nintendo DS remake. This is the version I played, although a port of the DS version is now also available for mobile devices.
While scrolling through the lists of the best Dragon Quest games, I noticed that Hand of the Heavenly Bride was often at the top (if not number one). I was also attracted by its core gameplay mechanic: monster recruitment. Years before the first Pokémon came out, Dragon Quest V lets you add defeated monsters to your party.
I was able to get the sealed version of the DS cart online relatively easily. Then I inserted the game into my 3DS (which was a strange experience in itself, considering I hadn’t touched it for a couple of years because I was focusing on my Switch) and my adventure began.
The old way
Firstly, I was happy to play such a classic JRPG. And I’m not talking about his historical reputation. It was great to play the 16-bit JRPG of the era with sprite-based characters, turn-based combat, and a huge world to explore. I’m not one to regret the state of modern JRPGs. I think we still have great games. But I miss the old elements that used to define experience.
I was also surprised by the story of Dragon Quest V. As I understand it, most Dragon Quest games have a light plot. I know Dragon Quest XI is one of the exceptions. Well, it turns out Dragon Quest V is another one. The tale takes a while to establish some interesting characters, especially your potential wives, and even includes some dark twists. From this point on, the spoiler warns, but after playing a short intro, your character becomes a slave and is forced to spend the rest of his childhood doing forced labor.
And yes, you can choose a wife. Besides recruiting monsters, this is another big hook of the Heavenly Bride’s Hand. You have three options. Whichever you choose doesn’t have a significant impact on the game, but choosing is still fun. Your wife does indeed become a party member and they each have different strengths (one is best for physical attacks, the other is more likely a magician, and the third is somewhere in between). Your wife will also dictate the hair color of your children. Yes, your kids will be joining the party in the end, which is another fun twist.
Apart from family members, the rest of your party is made up of monsters. The last monster you defeated in battle may ask to join your caravan. For some, those chances may be low, requiring a lot of effort from you before you can hire the monster you want. And I love it. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I enjoy grinding. I find it relaxing and usually results in big wins. Here, it means being able to create your perfect party.
Early on, you can find some strong monsters that will join your caravan. In my group there was Slime Knight who played most of the game because of his ability to attack and heal. And I had fun looking through the guides and finding out what other monsters I can add to my group.
I am still mad at myself for giving up trying to recruit Metal Slug into my group. They only have a chance of joining your group about one in 1000. I like grinding, but even I have my limits.
Dragon Quest V is a simple recommendation for any JRPG fan. I know a lot of people love 16-bit adventures like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. I’m not sure I’m ready to say that The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is as good as any of them, but it’s not that bad.
It’s also a great starting point for the series. It’s not nearly as long as, say, Dragon Quest XI or Dragon Quest VII. And while I did use the guide to help me hunt monsters, you don’t need to go through the game in the same way as if you were playing Dragon Quest III.
Speaking of Dragon Quest III, this is what I played after defeating Hand of the Heavenly Bride. So I’ll be dedicating RetroBeat to this original JRPG soon.
My Dragon Quest continues!
RetroBeat is a weekly column on gaming past, classics, new retro games, or how old favorites – and their design tricks – are inspiring the modern market and experiences. If you have any retro themed designs or tips that you would like to send me, please contact me.
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