|Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence,
Simulated Gambling, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
| The Good
Wonderful polygonal environments
Great capturing of Akira Toriyama's style
Solid old school gameplay
Nice voice acting
| The Bad
Music can be repetitive
Old school turn-based gameplay may turn off some
In terms of Japanese roleplaying games, there's Final Fantasy
and then there's Dragon Quest (also known as Dragon Warrior).
Everything else is secondary. When Square and Enix merged,
it seemed that the two top RPG properties would have to compete
for the company's attention. While Final Fantasy has always
pushed the envelope in terms of visual presentation, Dragon
Quest has been all about old school style. To remedy this
inequality, Square-Enix brought in Level-5 (Dark
Cloud 2) to work on the newest incarnation and bring the
series into full polygonal glory.
The story begins with the nameless silent hero on the road
with the cursed King Trode, who has been turned into a green
goblin-like monster. Along with the princess-turned-horse
Madea and ruffian Yangus, the group is on the hunt for the
jester magician Dhoulmagus, who is the cause of the cursed
king and princess. Along the way, the run into other people
who have been harmed by the magician. As with previous titles
in the series, the core of Dragon Quest VIII's story
is more intimate. While there is an overarching story, a lot
of the player's time will be spent in smaller vignettes as
you move from town to town.
Even with the modern upgrade to the series, Dragon Quest's
gameplay is old school at it's core. Players move their party
through the gameworld, traveling from town to town, solving
local problems to gain clues as to where they should travel
next. In towns, players can purchase weapons, armor and items
and can sleep at inns or save at the local churches. Churches
also offer the ability to revive fallen allies or remove curses.
Most locations will have cupboards and bookcases to explore,
along with chests and pots to pick up and toss (breaking them
sometimes reveals items).
Outside of towns, players will run into random encounters,
where battle is played out in turn-based fashion. When combat
begins, you can choose to attack, intimidate (scare of lower
level enemies), flee from battle or set up your tactics, which
can be used to let the computer control your allies if you
don't want to do it yourself. One you initiate combat, turns
play out as both sides attack, either using their equipped
weapons, magic or items. You can also swap weapons depending
on what each ally has in their bag. In the item menu, you'll
find that each character has a small set it items and equipment
they can carry, while rest goes into the group bag. This forces
the player to think ahead in what they let their characters
But, why would you want to keep more than one weapon on hand?
Well, as you level up, you can assign earned skill points
on multiple character-specific skill sets. The higher these
skills gets, the more special attacks they learn. During the
heat of battle, swapping in a weapon with a skill you have
can work in your favor.
As an obvious nod to Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball series,
characters can Psyche up, taking turns to power up their next
attack. While this may initially seem like your swapping one
turn for a double-strong attack on the next, where Psyching
up works is when you take a couple turns and then using a
weapon-based special attack to do some real damage.
Along with the main quest, players can find entertainment
in the Casinos or by collecting Mini Medals for Minnie, Princess
of Medals. As with many other RPGs, DQ8 also features
item creation, where the player finds recipes in an Alchemy
Pot. This proves to be a nice diversion, but once you realize
some of the ingredients are equipment you may have sold off,
you may find yourself holding on to everything. This brings
up the issue that money is hard to come by. Previously, you
may have had to fight a lot of monsters just to gain levels,
but this time around, you're going to need it for the money
to make sure you're decently equipped.
While aesthetically nice, the maps you find throughout the
game tend to be only moderately useful. Since you can't scan
the map, you may have a hard time figuring out where you should
go next. In dungeons, though, the maps are useful in keep
players from getting lost.
Visually, Dragon Quest VIII launches the series into
modern standards. Stylistically, the game fuses Akira Toriyama's
character designs with Level-5's location and menu designs.
The overall gameworld feels like the perfect translation of
the original old school games into current generation technologies.
The color palette is bright and colorful and the enemy designs
are unique and stylish. Cities vary in size and feature a
nice level of detail, finding a nice balance between staying
within the style and featuring enough depth to make exploration
worth it. There's often more than a few NPCs moving about
and the animation of the characters and monsters is nicely
done. Visual effects add a nice touch to the game, offering
that added touch to the colorful gameworld.
The audio package is a nice step up from the older games.
Sound effects and music are brought into modern styles, though
both seem to be a bit repetitive, especially considering how
long most players will play this title. The real star of the
audio is the voice work, which isn't overly dramatic but fits
nicely with the way the script is written. Yangus and Trode
in particular are well done and delivery a bit of light comedy
throughout the length of the story. If I had any complaints
with the voice acting, I would say that the pacing feels a
little long as some lines seem a little drawn out. But, it's
nothing that can't be skipped to progress the conversation.
Structurally, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed
King is solid game with little wrong with it. Controls
and the in-game camera are well executed and most of the decisions
made by the development team are excellent for this title.
Whether you like the game or not is based largely on how much
you enjoy old school turn-based gameplay, because despite
the visual facelift, the gameplay core hasn't changed much.
If you have no problem with a lot of random battles, many
of which will task you as enemies are no pushover, then this
title is calling your name. If the idea of lots of battles
just to afford decent equipment doesn't sound like your thing,
you may find the whole experience tedious.
With all that said, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the
Cursed King is a great modernization of the series. Level-5
has captured Akira Toriyama's style perfectly, making the
2D to 3D leap perfect. Few old school series get such a great
modernization like this. Considering the game easily clocks
in well over 50 hours, any RPG fan will get their money's