Stellar Squad Series – Dragon Quest IV

[Currently listening to: coffee shop music. Nothing like sipping a cold brew on a mild autumn evening…]

You might remember, back in July, I started a series concerning memorable openings in video games. (You might not remember because you didn’t care to read it, but I’m going to try to suppress my disappointment.) Since I’m fresh outta inspiration again this month, you know what that means…

…TIME TO INTRODUCE ANOTHER BLOG SERIES!

(There’s very little you can do to create a Thanksgiving-themed video game post. I’m just sayin’.)

In this series, we’re going to address a crucial ingredient to any story: the cast. And not just any members of the cast, but your main squad. You know – your Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Your Luke, Leia, and Han. Your Star Trek deck team.

You can have any number of characters in your lead team, but one thing you must be sure to do: make them each important. Distinguish them from each other. Give them personality and purpose. Think about how they would interact. Your audience is going to spend a lot of time with these people; don’t just craft cardboard cutouts.

And since listening to all that Dragon Quest music has got me in the mood, I’m going to use the party members of Dragon Quest IV as my example.

stellar-squads1
The final tally: Frowns win over smiles, 5 to 4.

Let’s break down the roster, shall we? In order from left to right:

Ragnar McRyan

A stout soldier who’s made it his life’s calling to seek the destined hero. Seems rough around the edges and looks gruff, but he’s got a gentle soul.

Tsarevna Alena

Pint-sized, tomboy royalty who would rather test her physical mettle than learn how to be a proper ruler. She thinks more with her fists than her brain. Oblivious to a certain priest’s feelings for her.

Kiryl

A priest-in-training and retainer to Alena. Has a desperate crush on her and is definitely a lovesick goober. Serious, devoted…terrified of heights and ghosts.

Borya

Alena’s other retainer, an old and crotchety wizard. Constantly scolds her and Kiryl both. Complains about nearly everything, but it’s only his way of showing concern.

Solo/Sofia (Main Character)

Suffers from “main character muteness”, so there’s not much to say (literally). You can make them either a boy or a girl at the start of the game. Whoop whoop.

Torneko Taloon

Portly merchant who’s skills lie in item appraisal. Bit of a jokester and brings levity to the most dire situations. Hey, look, he’s got his own blog post!

Meena

Maya’s younger and more sensible sister. A seer of the future who makes her money telling fortunes. Typically a realist in most situations.

Maya

Meena’s older sister. She makes her fortune dancing, but is quick to squander it all in casinos. Dreams of marrying into rich society.


I know I keep saying this, but…with party chat these character qualities become all the more clear. So…GO WITH PARTY CHAT! DO I HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU?

*hem* Anyway, already you can see the disparate personalities that have had to join forces. Dragon Quest IV further emphasizes the diversity by giving its characters different “nationalities”. Torneko speaks with an Irish lilt; Ragnar is barely understandable with his Scottish; Meena and Maya use stereotypical Indian idiosyncrasies; and Alena, Kiryl, and Borya are politically incorrect but adorable with their thick Russian grammar.

stellar-squads5
Is fantasy world, so such playful dialogue is acceptable, da?

Add to this their many social positions and trades, and you have quite the mix of characters. Imagine the interactions between a young priest and a night-life dancer. Or a Russian Zamoksvan princess and a merchant. They would view certain scenarios in very different ways – and possibly also find a peculiar few traits in common.

For many Dragon Quest games there’s a party “gimmick” that contributes to the overarching story. For V it was the experience of controlling three generations of one family as your main party. For VI it was learning about each character’s real self and dream self.

IV focuses on gathering heroes from all over the world to defeat a great evil, and for that reason it’s key to identify the characters’ disparities within their common goal. Imagine the differences these eight people would need to overcome in order to cooperate – and how strong their bond would be because of it. Now, if that doesn’t give you team feels, I don’t know what will.

The Dragon Quests also give plenty of room to further develop characters beyond what we see in-game. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I absolutely love it. It gives me the opportunity to create more of the story and interactions in my mind as I play; it gives me a chance to contribute to this epic tale and understand the characters in my own fashion.

Which brings me to this ending announcement: expect to see a special second Dragon Quest-related post later this week!

 

Dragon Quest IV belongs to Square-Enix. You can purchase it to play via Nintendo DS or as an app on your phone. (Go with the phone for party chat.)

2 thoughts on “Stellar Squad Series – Dragon Quest IV

  1. Even though I don’t have any history with these characters, (and heretofore never entertained the notion that video games could stand up to character analysis), you make a strong case for VG’s to be seen as a unique and legitimate art medium. It makes me understand why the storyteller in you is so drawn to this arena. As always, great job, frehn!

    1. This is high praise indeed! You have made my day completely, friend. 🙂 Thanks for taking a moment to comment with your own insights and share in my geekery. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the “treat” I have planned for later next week, too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *