The Dragon Quest series of Japanese role-playing games have been around a good long time. And fans of this 30-plus year franchise—with its anime-like characters and dialogue-heavy adventuring—will find this particular spinoff very familiar. They might also find the game a tad lacking. Dragon Quest Treasures seems designed to introduce younger, inexperienced players into the JRPG fold.
But in some ways, that’s a very good thing.
Treasures focuses on siblings Erik and Mia, two young orphans who were picked up and given jobs on a Viking longship. But these kids aren’t just mop-the-deck swabbies at heart. They want to strike out to find their fortune, too. So, one night when the Vikings are about their usual partying and mead-drinking ways, the pair sneak up to the ship’s deck, straight-away discovering a strange pair of winged creatures (Porcus and Purrsula) caged there.
Next thing you know, Erik and Mia have freed the critters, swiped a small dingy and traveled to a nearby island. All four are then magically whisked off to the continent of Draconia, an untamed land of five explorable islands where monsters roam free. Let the treasure seeking—and a world-saving search for seven fabled Dragonstones—begin.
Gameplay here is mostly focused on exploring the vast island landscapes; digging up treasure of various types; putting together a gang of helpful monsters; and slowly discovering all that’s going on in this strange land.
There are plenty of interactions with characters along the way, but only a word or two of any given dialogue is spoken: the majority is printed out for gamers to read. And while players engage in battle, the button-mashing combat is straightforward and simple. In fact, fighting feels almost secondary to the real purpose of those monster-vanquishing battles: growing your team.
Back at a home base that Erik and Mia establish early on, those formerly bested, cartoony monsters sometimes pop up, ready to be recruited. If the kids give them some special materials that they desire, the beasties will join in as faithful teammates.
Gamers play as either Erik or Mia—who are essentially identical in their playable skills—and can venture forth with a team of three helper monsters. Not only do those companions join in to fight bigger, tougher creatures, but they also have their own “fortes”—special abilities that help the kids jump higher, run faster, glide down from high peaks, and the like. So, strategic party formation becomes an important part of play. The monster pals also help the sibs find their hidden or buried treasures by communicating location-visions when they’re getting close.
As the Treasures part of the game-title suggests, discovering and amassing huge stores of wealth is key here. When the kids reach specific levels of stored up gold, they can then unlock a quest to seek out the next powerful Dragonstone.
Since treasure-seeking is emphasized, and the battling side of things is downplayed, Dragon Quest Treasures feels more kid-friendly than some JRPGs. Exploration and discovery are a big part of play and draw gamers into the fun side of the questing adventures. The characters and monsters are also all presented in a cartoon anime style (in fact, some are super cute).
Some players might not enjoy the less-actiony, somewhat grinding style of this game. But it actually lends itself well to breaking play into smaller chunks of time—which can be a benefit when parents require gameplay time limits.
Though the attack-and-dodge fighting is simplified, there’s still a lot of combat-focused bashing in the mix. The kid heroes and their monster crew use slingshots and daggers to chomp, slash and bash at foes that fight back with clubs, swords and magic blasts. The game displays slashing and colored light-explosion effects before the defeated disappear, but no blood or mess. (And some defeated foes reappear later with no apparent physical harm.)
As mentioned, we hear a limited amount of spoken dialogue: No truly foul exclamations are uttered, but there are cries of “What in the name of …”, “Egads!”, a description of something being “hellish,” and other like elements in the dialogue.
Magic is definitely a part of the Draconian world and we see it used regularly. We’re introduced to an evil pirate ship captain who looks like a living skeleton. We also see characters that are drinking heavily and dancing, along with one who seems inebriated. There’s a quest that offers up some piping-hot dragon feces.
Gamers may not be swept up in a huge, risk-taking JRPG adventure with Dragon Quest Treasures. But there are charming characters and treasure-seeking quests aplenty to be found here.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.