Game Reviews

Dragon Fantasy Book I

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Dragon Fantasy Book I

Without wishing to be too reductive, Dragon Fantasy Book I is Dragon Quest in all but name.

Thankfully, this is exactly what Muteki Corporation was aiming for: a loving homage to the 8-bit adventures of old, with some modern references thrown in for good measure.

This affectionate retro effort captures the look and feel of the Dragon Quest era, but it also suffers from many of the problems that the RPG genre has since weeded out.

In other words, Dragon Fantasy Book I is an accurate replica of Dragon Quest, for better and for worse.

Joker

After five minutes of play, the game's heritage is clear. You womble slowly about in a large monster-filled overworld, visiting dungeons and getting into random battles with a variety of enemies. The iconic Slimes are replaced by small rocks with eyes on them, but they're all analogous with the monsters in the Toriyama classics.

Except, of course, that they're nowhere near as well-designed. There's an attempt at injecting personality into them, with combat screens informing you that Mr Lizard has "lost one too many limbs" (and has therefore died), but it doesn't compensate for the sheer aesthetic brilliance of a Dungeon Quest game.

The presentation is high class, though, and you can switch between a truly 8-bit style and an Enhanced mode which sports a few more colours and a multi-instrumental soundtrack.

Fighting is fast, and that's a godsend as there's a lot of it. You're attacked every ten seconds or so when you're in a dangerous area, and while you can force your way through areas with levelling and better equipment you'll also need to think about how to use your skills.

You can fight monsters with weapons, use magic, run away from battles you can't possibly win, and so on. Keeping track of your party's health and getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of the world's inhabitants is a must.

Nostalgia stands in your way

In the more compact towns you're given time and space to breathe, since you're safe from attack. Here you stock up on potions and other supplies, rest at inns to replenish HP and MP, and you save your progress at churches. It's all very reminiscent of, yes, Dragon Quest.

There are other games/geek culture references during the fantasy story, though the more modern day ones about Reddit feel at odds within its ancient pixel confines. There's an entire chapter of the game dedicated to Minecraft, too, but the humour lacks subtlety. For the most part, this is for fans of the early Dungeon Quest entries, and not really anyone else.

The game's main problems stem from its overzealous commitment to its own shtick. There's no journal reminding you where you should be off to next, and little direction as to your target location or character.

Combined with the significant number of random battles - often with enemies of much higher power, should you wander into the wrong area - this makes exploration a tedious, dangerous, and laborious process.

It's also comparatively basic in its approach to narrative: the epic here just isn't that grand, even if it is lengthy. The cheery but silly humour can fall flat, and the rest of the dialogue isn't engaging.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but if you enjoyed Dragon Quest back on the early home consoles then you'll like Dragon Fantasy Book I, as it's a sterling recreation of what made those games great. If you've tired of traipsing around simple worlds with simpler stories, or you simply don't like Enix's flagship RPG, then this won't change your mind.

Dragon Fantasy Book I

Dragon Fantasy Book I sticks incredibly close to its early Dragon Quest source material, warts and all
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