The original Dragon Quest is a game that forever changed the world of Japanese role playing games. Unlike the games that came before it, Dragon Quest was really accessible thus allowing more gamers to play it without feeling completely lost. Dragon Quest II, on the other hand, is closer to more recent role playing games in a lot of ways, retaining the ease of play of its predecessor while making everything a bit more complex, and ultimately, better.
Dragon Quest II is set one hundred years after the first game. The prince of the Kingdom of Midenhall is tasked by his father the King to defeat Hargon, a powerful wizard who attacked and destroyed Moonbrooke Castle. The prince, who is a descendant of Loto, will embark on a difficult journey that will bring him all over the world, meet other companions and restore peace to the land. While the premise is not all that different from many other classic role playing games, the Dragon Quest II story is executed nicely and manages to carry the actual gameplay until the end. The new localization of the iOS release is also quite good, in line with the more recent Dragon Quest localisations, adding more charm to characters.
Dragon Quest II gameplay mechanics are a huge step up from the original game. For starters, the game finally features a party system, allowing players to bring more than a single character into battle. Obviously you will also have to battle multiple monsters at the same time, which makes battle more complex than in the first game. The battle system, which is pretty much the same as future entries of the series, is made more deep by the inclusion of buffs and debuffs, which can easily change the course of battle, especially more difficult ones. Speaking about the overall difficulty level, Dragon Quest II is a really balanced experience in the first part, as the player is slowly eased into the more complex gameplay experience. Once the ship has been obtained, however, things take a different turn, offering more challenging battles that can be conquered with a good strategy and, in true Dragon Quest tradition, grinding.
The ship also works somewhat differently from other classic role playing games. Instead of being able to land only on specific points, players can land on pretty much any walkable tile of the map, meaning that it’s possible to explore the world freely. This much freedom, however, comes with a cost: it’s really easy to get lost if you don’t pay attention to what NPCs say. Luckily, the iOS version of the game comes with a nice system that shows which tiles players should check out, a nice compromise that takes nothing away from the total freedom offered by the original release.
Despite such nice design choices, Dragon Quest II stumbles hard during the final parts of the game. The final boss is one of the main offenders in this regard, using a healing spell that restores all his HP way too often, but regular encounters are almost as bad, requiring a huge amount of grinding to survive. The iOS version does come with some tweaks that make this whole ordeal a little more manageable, like increased EXP and gold and a quick save feature, so it’s not as bad as it was in the original NES release.
Together with the aforementioned gameplay tweaks, the iOS release of Dragon Quest II comes with more changes not seen in previous releases. Just like the other iOS Dragon Quest titles, Dragon Quest II can only be played in portrait mode, resulting in the graphics getting stretched somewhat unnaturally, giving the game an awkward feel in the process. Touch controls are fine most of the times, with the exception of some dungeon exploration sequences that require a bit more precision. The iOS release also comes with a symphonic soundtrack which really sounds glorious, breathing new life into some classic tunes. I feel the Dragon Quest II soundtrack is one of the best of the entire series and the new orchestral tracks only reinforce these feelings