Overall the game play is adequate and is an improvement from previous Dragon Quest/Warrior games. Some of the same features include turn-based battles, purchasing weapons and armor, and the use of the wagon for multiple allies. Each character has unique abilities that only he or she can learn, and acquire spells as levels increase. Some of the new features include a new option for battle tactics. The player has the choice to manually control all of his party members. This is unlike Dragon Warrior Four, which added much unnecessary frustration to the game especially for me when fighting the final boss, but I digress. The player also has the ability to recruit monsters in the party, each with their own abilities. Some of these abilities can only be acquired by monsters, which can add a nice advantage to any party. The only change to the game play I was less than thrilled with was the limitation of only having three members in my party at a time.
This is my only complaint with the series in general. However, I think many gamers seem unimpressed with this series due to being spoiled with the beautiful graphics of the Final Fantasy titles and other Square Soft games, which is a bit unfair to Enix. If you're aware of what kind of graphics to expect, this game has a decent improvement from the others. I would compare the improvement with the change from Final Fantasy 3 for the Nintendo to Final Fantasy 4 for the Super Nintendo (FF2 US). The menus are similar to that of previous Dragon Warrior games, however I found equipping items to be a little awkward. Once finished equipping one has to cancel out of all the windows, which is a bit cumbersome. The spells and weapon strikes are actually animated in this game, however one cannot actually see the characters or the enemies fight. For 1992, the graphics aren't bad. Besides if you're that concerned about the graphics to a video game, you're probable playing the game for the wrong reasons.
Some of the classic sound effects for fighting battles and speaking to people return in the fifth installment. Due to the added animation to the weapon strikes and spells DQ5 has much more variety in terms of sound effects than in previous DQ/DW games. The sound effect for a sword is different than that of a staff, for example. There are about the same number of musical tracks to this DQ game as in previous, and containing mixed tracks. Some of the songs are quite good with a nice variety in orchestral instruments. However, some tracks sound like fake MIDI tracks to me. The constant string trills in the Zenithian Castle music sounded as square and as unmusical as they get (some of you reading probably don't even know what a trill is, which is a quick shake in the music. You'll have to excuse me, for I'm a musician).
Although this game lacks character development in any way, shape, or form, it has an innovative story. This game takes place over three generations, which have a slightly different outcome depending on who you choose to marry. The only other game that uses this same idea is Phantasy Star III for the Sega Genesis, released in 1991. Unfortunately the differences in story are even less apparent than the changes in PS3. The story begins with Papas, who sets on a journey with his son (which is you, the main character), and expands as you age and your children age. The generations come together to destroy an evil being in the dark world.
Overall- 81% I found this game to be an improvement from previous DQ games. If you are looking for a game with a little more of an old school style set in a more medieval setting I would highly recommend this game.