Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (1992)
It seems I never get invited to weddings – I’ve only been invited to two in my life, and neither time was I of drinking age, which is no good. Wedding rates in Ireland are going down, too. Small wonder: the last thing you want to end up having is that type of marriage where you’ve gone out, found someone you ended up hating and bought them a house. Worse than that, you’ll go on to lose this house in a particularly messy divorce that you’ll be asked about at each and every family gathering you get guilted into attending.
An Irish wedding is a hell of an affair – and sometimes the affairs are already happening at the afters. You can expect to be up dancing, drinking and singing rebel songs until well past 5AM, and the cost of entry is pretty high: if you turn up with anything less than a couple of hundred quid for the bride and groom, forget it – you’ll become the subject of scorn at their honeymoon breakfast table, and that’s the last thing you want. “What, have they got no money or something?” they’ll cry.
Now, the biggest question concerning weddings isn’t the “do you take this awfully wedded man” or any of that cobblers. It’s not even the classic “if anyone has any reason, like a spiteful slag of a sister, why these shouldn’t be joined blah blah blah” routine. I think they had to get rid of that line because the lads would be taking the mickey and shouting all sorts of stuff up at the altar.
No, the big wedding question is: will children be invited? And you’ll get the parents kicking up stink if their little rudigers can’t go – you know what breeders are like – and you can kind of see why because that pushes the babysitting costs onto them, and if you’re going to give those guests the double whammy of pressuring them into coming to your wedding from abroad, then God knows what they’ll do to spoil it for you.
But listen, it’s your big day. And your loving wife-to-be has already affectionately glared at you and, with a loving blaze of hellfire from her tongue, intimated to you that if anything goes wrong, she’ll hold you and your puny balls responsible. So the message is clear: there are to be no little monsters running around, getting in the way.
Oh, but where’s the fun in that? In Dragon Quest 5, you can take the hand of the heavenly bride of your choice and start a whole family unit with them – wife, kids, dog. And yes, little Goober, your pet Slime. I know we talk about family friendly games, but I can’t think of many RPGs where you actually go into battle as a family – although Secret of Mana always struck me as a dysfunctional family of three on a half-fantasy, half-farce holiday.
Anyway, that’s one of the selling points of Dragon Ball V, and I suppose it was pretty revolutionary for 1992. We wouldn’t have known about it over here of course, this one was another strictly Japanese release.
But even playing the anglicised DS remake, some of the game’s plot lacks emotional resonance for me. It’s a bit like Lufia 2; you suddenly get married in a day, or more like five minutes. I don’t know, it might be the presentation, or the spritework, but there’s something about it that I find just inescapably goofy.
One thing I also found a trifle disappointing is that, in the course of the story, you escape from one of those backbreaking slave regimes. Later in the game when you’re suited and booted as the Hero of legend (quelle surprise) you kind of flirt around the island where you were once held captive.
But you never storm the place, grab the bastards that nearly broke you and countless others young and old, and turn them inside out with your sacred sword. If I can just round off the criticisms I have for the game, because you probably already think I hate it, I’d have to say that the encounter rate has been turned up just a fraction too high as opposed to Dragon Quest 4’s. In general, I like DQ4 best of the Dragon Quests I’ve played so far anyway, but I’m definitely a fan of this game as well.
You’d better get used to the encounter rate anyway, and treat it as a good thing, since you need every bit of experience and gold you can get. That comes with the territory, this being a Dragon Quest game. And 5 is probably one of the quintessential games of the series, a bit like Episode 5 of Star Wars, so this one is a good place to start. And in spite of some criticisms I have, the game is quite an enjoyable experience, with a plot that spans multiple generations and moves at a pretty fast clip.
Anyway, let’s take a look at our three potential wives first before we choose to take their hands in marriage – we’ll have none of that arranged marriage stuff here, thank you very much. And if you’ve played the game already, then let’s do the Bullseye classic and have a look at what you could’ve won.
Ah, I should mention that the original Super Famicom release only gives you two eligible bachelorettes, as well as three party members, meaning that even when you do later have kids, one of your offspring has to be demonstrably the least favourite and kept away from your journey. What good is that for the kid’s confidence? Anyway, it’s another reason to choose the re-releases of Dragon Quest V over the SNES original, even if you do happen to speak Japanese.
Firstly, you’ve got Bianca, your childhood friend. This is the choice I made, because who better than the girl next door? Especially one who’s probably seen you wet yourself and cry in terror and all the rest of it – there won’t be any new ways for you to embarrass yourself in front of her, twenty years later. She’s the older woman too, which is always worth points. And if all that doesn’t tickle your fancy, she’s blonde.
She faces tough competition from Nera, however – a rich mayor’s daughter, and every bit the quiet, reserved, pure-hearted Japanese housewife type we’d all secretly love to have at home. She’s blue haired, and not in the BPD and ecstasy way, and is unfailingly nice and polite. A strong choice then, and if azure locks are your thing then I say go for it.
Players on later versions of Dragon Quest V can also romance Nera’s sister, who could not be any more different to her sibling. It’s a bit like that rubbish old TV program 8 Simple Rules. Meet Debora, who goes a bit beyond feisty. With long legs, big bangers and an even bigger personality, make no mistake – she’ll be the one wearing the trousers. I’ve always felt that, in all relationships, one person has the upper hand. It may only be slight, but it’s never 50-50 – somebody has a slight edge.
Well, in Deb’s case, she’s got the edge, the cliff, the whole mountain, and she won’t let you forget that either. She won’t even tell you that she’s pregnant at first, because it’s “none of your business”. Like in real life, by all means go after Debora if you’re captivated, but understand that you’re gonna be up against it, and even if you do get a sniff then you’re still only ever moments away from blowing it.
Talk about a loving family to have with you on your quest though, no matter whose hand you take. I get the distinct feeling that, were Christmas to exist in the world of Dragon Quest, this particular family wouldn’t end up killing each other when it came time to put up the tree, which is a very rare thing indeed.
No, it’s all happy families in Dragon Quest V, and by the end of the game, you’ll be sad to see them go. But that’s the Dragon Quest series in a nutshell, isn’t it? To have and to play, for better or for worse, there for you in sickness or in health, ’til death do you visit the church and resurrect your beloved after she’s been struck down by a Gourdzilla.
4 September 2020