For quite some time now I have been a big fan of “Dragon Quest VIII” on PS2. I loved the gameplay, battle system, characters, and even the story. When I saw the first couple of “Dragon Quest” games start releasing on iOS, I snagged them up because I had never played them before. That said, this review in particular will not be so much about the game itself, but rather how well the game plays on iOS. There are plenty of reviews out there, I’m sure, if you are looking to find out more about the game itself.
“Dragon Quest I” version 1.0.4, on an iPhone 6s with iOS 10.2.1 installed.
For a game that was originally on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), the graphics on the iOS version still look great. The 8-bit transfers over well to the small screen, leaving you with crisp lines and clean colors. I really enjoyed that you could even tell the hero was walking with the subtle movement of his hat and feet. Playing games on such a small screen means that little nuances like that really stick out and help immerse you in the gameplay.
What surprised me the most was how Square Enix really nailed the screen size. You’d think that a game designed for a standard screen size would not look or even feel right on a phone with a portrait screen (which is the only orientation option), but it does! In fact, if I hadn’t known that this game existed on NES first, I would have assumed that it had been designed for iOS. Even when playing split screen on something like Call of Duty with your friends, it never feels quite right; it always feels like something is missing from your view. However, Dragon Quest I on iOS doesn’t feel that way at all! I never feel like I am missing any part of the action.
Personally, the controls are the best feature of this version of the game. Square Enix took a game that originally used a controller with a d-pad and gave you both a d-pad and a joystick with a customizable layout in conjecture to the menu. Now, when I say you get a d-pad and a joystick I am not just talking about choice — they are on screen at the same time! You can easily control the hero with the traditional press of up, down, left, or right, or you can control him with a simple joystick that is set in the middle of the d-pad controls. In fact, I switched back and forth between the two often, dependent upon what I was doing on-screen. For example, if I needed to navigate around a secret area that could easily be stepped out of by mistake, I would use the d-pad controls. But if I was jogging around the map to grind and level up, I was using the joystick.
Another great aspect of the controls is the ability to customize the size of the d-pad/joystick combination and the placement of both it and the menu. You can set the d-pad/joystick to be small, medium, or large and to reside on the left, middle, or right side of the screen. The menu always sits opposite the controls for easy access. Notably, you can play the game almost entirely one-handed if you are feeling particularly lazy like I get sometimes, and since you can set everything on the left or right, it doesn’t matter which had you prefer for controlling your hero because you are covered either way. You can even change the side the controls reside from the main screen just by tapping the left/right arrow button underneath the menu button.
The touchpad controls for the game are great too, but does have one flaw that cannot be overlooked. As far as scrolling through dialogue/text, the touch screen is great for skipping through everything quickly so you could get back to battling foes. It also gives you several options for interaction with non-player characters (NPCs) and objects on the screen. You can either touch the joystick button once to double as an action button, or you can touch the person or object on the screen (as long as you are standing next to them). There were even a few times that just tapping somewhere on the screen allowed me to enter into a conversation with an NPC that I was standing beside.
The flaw, however, comes up when you are in battle mode. There were several times that I accidentally tapped the flee option during battle, prompting my character to run away from the battle. It actually cost me some much needed gil one time when I was trying to save up to buy a new weapon. I was battling a Gold Golem which drop a huge amount of dough (but little XP) when defeated. I accidentally ran away, which meant I didn’t get the several hundred gil that comes with defeating one. I was not a happy camper by any means. Would it have been so hard to add a confirmation box since we all know how easy it is to accidentally touch your screen?
Aside from that, the touch screen controls were fantastic. I never had problems with them not working and I felt like there was no delay in action when utilizing them. It definitely set a personal standard for how touchscreen games should operate.
Settings and Sound
The menu settings for the game were pretty good. I had to play around with the sound effects and music a bit to meet my personal taste, but there were several great options. I always note when a game doesn’t let me turn off the music. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against music, I just grow tired of the same midi tracks sometimes. I was able to cut the music off completely when I desired to do so, which made me immensely happy. As far as the sound itself, I was very satisfied with the quality; I could control the sound well enough to fit both my liking and surroundings.
I was also able to choose the text speed (which is not an option in “Dragon Quest VIII”). I typically select the highest speed for the fastest gameplay, especially since I am a fast reader. However, I noted (as should you) that the fasted text speed meant that I missed some information during battles. The text was scrolling so quickly that I sometimes missed the name of the foe I was battling. It made for some pretty funny assumptions for what some foes were called until I realized I should slow the text down a bit so I could immerse myself in the gameplay more.
There only other setting option is the control layout. This allows you to choose how large your control pad is on-screen. This is a fantastic option because I could make it tiny if I wanted to see more of the screen, or larger if I was being lazy and holding the phone with one hand.
It crashed on me a couple of times when I first started playing which I think were in part to the particular activity that the phone was performing at that moment. For instance, once it happened after a long phone call wherein the person I was speaking to ended the call while I was in the middle of still playing. However, that never replicated itself throughout the duration of the time I played subsequently. (Also, I can’t recall what I was doing the first time it crashed.) Aside from that, it was actually pretty awesome to see an app perform so well while switching between apps, calls, and messaging. In fact, I cannot recall another game or app that does as well as Dragon Quest when it comes to that. I could be in the middle of a battle, talking to an NPC, or even in the screen transition to start a battle, get a call or text, and pick right back up where I left off without skipping a beat or missing any information or gameplay.
Overall, “Dragon Quest I” on iOS was a blast to play and a great application to use. I would highly recommend this game to anyone looking to have an easy mobile RPG experience, or even someone looking to rekindle their love for the series. It’s not often that I find ports to be worth the time — especially if you have access to the original — but this one is well worth it (especially given the low price point).
Have you played “Dragon Quest I” on NES and iOS? In the comments, let us know what you think of the game’s transition over to mobile.