Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors – Staff Review

When Nintendo finally gave the gaming public a look at the Wii, it included a short clip of Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors in the montage of games currently being made. Nearly two years later, the game is out, and anyone can pick up an invisible sword to become the silent protagonist of the newest game in the Dragon Quest series.

The Kingdom of Avalonia has enjoyed a five-year peace since the demise of Xiphos the “Deathbringer.” During these tranquil times, the queen has invited people to take the “Walk of the Worthy” on their sixteenth birthday, and it just so happens that the unnamed, silent hero of the game is nearing his birthday. The kingdom has high hopes for the boy; he is the son of Claymore, one of the adventurers that slew Xiphos five years prior. As per tradition, the hero dons a sword and embarks on the trial to prove his worth by making it to the final room of the cave to the north, the Worth of Worth, defeat a worthy opponent, and see just how many times someone can say the word “worth” in a single sentence. This opening quest sets the tone for Dragon Quest Swords, and it is significantly more lighthearted than its other console brethren.

For most games, the battle system is a key component, but for Dragon Quest Swords, it is almost the only component. Though there is a town to explore and eight dungeons to go through, everything that is not sword-based fighting seems rather tacked on. It is the RPG version of an arcade on-rails shooter. Each dungeon has a set path along which the player can move forward or backward. Though there at least one branching path in each one, all of them either tie back to the main path or dead end, after which the player is taken back to the junction. There are no mazes to wander through nor any puzzles to solve. Battles even occur at set points and always consist of the same set of foes, some extra enemies occasionally show up at random as well.

The battle system itself is quite simple. Slashes with the Wii remote are translated into physical sword swings in the game. Pressing A sets a focal point around which all attacks are centered, and B turns the pointer into a shield. Items and spells are accessible with 1, and when a certain bar is filled, master strokes, extremely important super attacks can be unleashed. Though it all sounds quite easy, if the controller is not held in the perfect, thumbs-up position, slashes will not be remotely accurate. Furthermore, focus points do not last long, and blocking seems to negate them. This might not be a big deal, but the game grades you on accuracy and hit chains. One lost focal point can ruin a chain of a hundred hits and cause no end to the frustration.

Graphically, Dragon Quest Swords will probably not win any awards, but it gets the job done. All the environments are colorful and pleasant to look at, and the monsters all retain their Toriyama charm. For those using high-definition sets, the graphics will be a bit pixelated, and unfortunately, the game has a pretty bad case of the jaggies.

Luckily, things are much better on the aural side of things. Many classic Dragon Quest themes are among the sound track, but sadly, there are few, if any, new songs. Longtime fans of the series will probably still be happy with the offerings. As another positive, the voice acting is excellent again, and anyone that enjoyed Dragon Quest VIII will find much more to love.

Completing the game can be done in as few as ten hours, but to fully enjoy the game, it will take at least fifteen. Rather than buy weapons, almost all weapons are crafted by improving simple weapons you can buy at the shop. With a large number of options of craftable weapons, almost all offering a new Master Stroke, the game has an strong item collecting theme going on. Also, after completing the main quest, several new bosses show up in an otherwise empty room to give the game some challenge. Those that finish that are treated to a replay of the game with an insanely powerful sword paired with the worst equipment in the game.

In the end, the game is quite fun, but the lack of depth and playtime hurt Dragon Quest Swords pretty badly. With a few tweaks and a lot more content, it could have gone from a glorified tech demo to the Wii’s first solid RPG experience. Though it looks and sounds like a Dragon Quest game, the same formula could be applied to nearly any well-known universe that involves swords. Sadly, this lack of the core gameplay that defines the series is its greatest shortcoming.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.