The big-haired, monster-filled Dragon Quest universe seems willing to have a stab at anything. From the Pokémon-style Monsters series, to the oddly captivating tank-battling action and relentless puns of Rocket Slime - it's easy to forget the franchise's RPG roots, especially as most of the original series haven't been released in Europe.
Swords is an on-rails slash 'em up. Once you've negotiated your way through a little bit of training and done the old-fashioned RPG run-around, you'll get to go to the town gates and start your first mission. You follow a single, linear path - think of a more sedate House Of The Dead, or an intense Pokémon Snap - with set points on the path for combat. Between fights, you can control your forward and backwards movement, giving you a chance to check under rocks for gold, or retreat to town if you're about to die.
Way Of The Dragon
Once you've set off a fight scene, you'll face off against a barrage of DQ's trademark colourful monsters. Combat involves you swinging the Remote vertically, horizontally or across the diagonal. Hacking stupidly away will centre your slash on the middle of the screen
but you can set a different focal point by pointing at the screen and pressing A. Your basic tactics involve finding the most economical way to despatch the many different formations and monsters that come at you.
Your shield adds another layer to the simple combat, forcing you to watch out for signs of attack and stop slicing to deal with them. Certain attacks can be deflected back with a well-timed swipe, and you can also deliver focused damage (at the expense of the multiple hits of the slash) by plunging the Remote forwards.
You'll have to learn the monsters attributes; a Winky can attack around a shield, for example, and Bubble Slimes can jump over a horizontal swipe and poison you. Some later monsters require a strategy of block and counter, which can be awkward when you're already busy with a bunch of slimes. It all builds up relatively quickly to some pretty intense, but never overwhelming, action, and it all makes sense. Granted, the technological constraints force you to keep the Wii Remote upright while you slash, but you have to remember you're playing a game, and not actually walking backwards and forwards through a cave and slashing up a bunch of yellow monkeys.
Less Is More
We haven't left much room for the RPG element, but that's fine - neither did Square-Enix. Sword upgrades use cash, item pick-ups give you improved damage and more elaborate special moves and there's an armour and item shop too. For the makers of Final Fantasy, it's a pretty rudimentary set-up, but that's clearly deliberate and the town is populated with enough entertaining dialogue and warm characters to make the "walk around, looking for the storyline trigger points" segments between missions bearable.
At heart, this is a reaction-based arcade game. If you're serious about your swordplay, you've got the perfect ranks, end-game bosses, Payback mode and ultimate swords to unlock. If you're a more casual player, you'll have it polished off in a few hours. Either way, Swords is a fantastic way to exercise your dominant arm, but don't expect the deepest game in the world. And be prepared for some frustrated flailing as you get used to the quirks of slashing.