Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower Of Mirrors - Staff Review  

Sword Swinging At It's Finest?
by Mete Tanyeri

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10 to 15 Hours
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   Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors is Square Enix's first RPG offering on the Nintendo Wii. The game was originally meant to be a launch title for the Wii, but it suffered delays and setbacks before finally seeing the light of day. A spin-off of the series, players shouldn't expect this game to be a long epic. Instead, this game is for either the diehard Dragon Quest fanatic or those who have never played an RPG before.

   The plot in the game contains an interesting story that is neither complicated nor grandiose, but it does sport a unique charm of its own. Players assume the role of a sixteen-year old boy named Blade. He must undertake a rite of passage in order to prove that he is capable of being his own man. It is a tradition that men must go through when they turn sixteen. Once he completes his mission and returns home, strange events occur. It's up to player to solve those mysteries and to put an end to a gruesome evil once and for all. If players are looking for a long epic filled with many twists and turns, they may find themselves disappointed, because it's a generic tale of a battle between good and evil. However, it does throw a few curveballs to keep players guessing, further enticing them to find out what happens next.

   The world of Dragon Quest Swords is neither large nor small. One town acts as the base of operations. While in town it is possible to roam around and speak with the townspeople to gather clues and information that are essential to the quest. Weapons, armor, and items are available for purchase. Once any last-minute business in town is completed, it is time to leave and take on the next dungeon, further advancing the storyline. Of course, players will not have to tackle the game's obstacles by themselves. The hero's father, a handsome but tempered prince, and a young ex-nun will acccompany the hero throughout the ordeal. Each ally possesses different strengths and weaknesses, but all are helpful enough in battle.

Like father, like son Like father, like son

   Dungeons don't really have a lot to offer, but they can become challenging. Because it plays like a rail shooter, players can only move forwards or backwards and have little vision in between. When players reach the halfway mark, they can choose to either explore a new road or continue on the same path. In some cases, however, the path may be blocked by a huge boulder. At other times, new paths can lead to new treasure, and the possibility of tackling several groups of new monsters. All fights are pre-determined and each monster follows a distinct pattern which is easy to exploit to obtain an advantage. At the end of each dungeon is a boss which must be destroyed before the dungeon can be completed. The speed at which a dungeon is completed can result in a higher ranking, as can the effectiveness of offensive and defensive actions. Surpassing the previous ranking yields permanent rewards.

   Combat is not only a simple process to go through; it is one of the best aspects of Dragon Quest Swords. In a variety of stages, players will hack and slash against familiar foes from the Dragon Quest universe. Through appropriate swings from the Wiimote, the hero can pull off vertical slashes, a variety of diagonal slashes, and thrusts. The Wiimote does a superb job in recognizing the motions the players do to execute these moves. Once monsters strike back at your party, players can defend themselves with a shield by holding down the B button. If timed correctly, players can also use the shield to deflect specific projectiles, such as arrows or magic, and strike back at the enemy, inflicting further pain. Even shields have their limitations. Failure to defend correctly will result in bits and pieces falling off, forcing the use of healing items or spells to cure the characters quickly. A small gauge registers an increase when attacking and defending at the same time. Once the gauge is completely filled, players can perform Master Strokes: super moves that are more powerful than regular slashes. The Wiimote comes into play once more, as players have to perform a certain motion before that specific Master Stroke can be activated. Players looking for a challenge will not find it until the last dungeon, where hours of levelling up may be needed in order to advance.

   It is essential for any warrior to be prepared before entering a battlefield. While it is possible to purchase the best armor and items available, weapons must be handled differently. In the beginning, the game's swordsmith can create simple weapons. If the player manages to find and bring back eight different tempered materials, along with the right amount of gold, the swordsmith can craft a more powerful weapon. Every time a new blade is earned, a new Master Stroke can be unlocked. It is important to remember that the best sword in the game cannot be obtained until the first playthrough is completed.

Slimes, slimes, and more slimes! Slimes, slimes, and more slimes!

   Koichi Sugiyama, the veteran composer of the Dragon Quest series, returns to score the soundtrack, which is a plus. However, while a few tracks stand out, most of the pieces are not memorable. The sound effects are also back in full-force and are pleasant to hear, like wearing an old pair of shoes that are comfortable. While neither aspect is innovative or cutting-edge, they do well when blended together. However, voice acting takes center stage and adds different accents from various places in Europe, such as France and Scotland. Each voice actor does an excellent job; the script is nicely written and flows pretty well. The dialogue for the game isn't meant to be taken seriously and contains many humorous moments that bring out a chuckle or two. The menu system is great. Outside of battle, all the options are easily accessible without having to scroll through many menus. When selecting items, the information presented is easy to understand. In combat, essential items and key advice can be easily accessed with the press of only two buttons.

   Completing the game takes between eight and ten hours, but only if players do not wish to stop to smell the roses. The good news is that after the credits finish, there are five to ten hours of additional content to sort through. On top of that, earning Rank S involves skillful planning and a lot of effort. It is also essential to look for new materials, and to make decisions on which items need to be upgraded. If the game's storyline fails to maintain attention, there are a number of mini-games to choose from. These mini-games can be played alone, or with up to four players.

   This RPG will not overwhelm RPGamers, for it is not a groundbreaking RPG. However, it does succeed in allowing newcomers to the genre to learn how to play an RPG. Fans of the series--or even those new to the series or to RPGs--will be certain to find Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors amply satisfying.

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