"I'll be honest with you: I'm a big fan of the Dragon Quest series, often famed for having a rather simple storyline, a "boring" battle system, and graphics that most people can only describe as "shit". In fact, I'm such a big fan that I'm often labeled "fanboy" by a surprising number of people. That being said, it should be no surprise that I was salivating over the screenshots of the eighth entry in the series as I anticipated the North American release. "
I'll be honest with you: I'm a big fan of the Dragon Quest series, often famed for having a rather simple storyline, a "boring" battle system, and graphics that most people can only describe as "shit". In fact, I'm such a big fan that I'm often labeled "fanboy" by a surprising number of people. That being said, it should be no surprise that I was salivating over the screenshots of the eighth entry in the series as I anticipated the North American release.
Then it finally came. A week early, too!
And damn, did it ever amaze me. Dragon Quest VIII has all the ingredients to be not only the PS2 game of the year, but the best PS2 game ever made. Incredible, fluidly animated graphics with a touch of cel shading bring Akira Toriyama's character designs to life, giving the game a deep storybook feel to it that has always blended well in the series. Meanwhile, the gorgeous music by composer Koichi Sugiyama, another series staple, makes a comeback and is better than ever has been thanks to its being performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphonic Orchestra. The music never seems to get old, always seems to fit the mood, and further reminds you that this is Dragon Quest, even if the spectacular eye-candy suggests otherwise.
Of course, the audio/visual portions of the game aren't the only thing making it worth playing. The deep storyline that begins as a traditional quest of a young man setting out to save his king from a terrible curse becomes something even greater. While this certainly sounds rehashed, Dragon Quest VIII proves that it's not what the story is, but how it's told that makes or breaks the narrative. Luckily, the execution of this storyline is top-notch.
Even the turn-based battle system has received a rather large overhaul. Upon entering battle, you enter a first person perspective to get a view of the enemy party. There are the normal RPG staple attacks such as Fight, Magic, special Abilities and Items, but there is also a new addition known as "Tension". By using the Psyche Up command in battle, you can increase your tension, which makes your attacks and spells stronger. At the beginning of the game you can only reach a tension level of 50 (which still offers a significant power boost), but upon reaching an experience level of 20, your tension can reach as high as 100, even giving your characters a Dragonball Z-esque Super Saiyan look (Not surprising since Dragonball was drawn by Akira Toriyama as well) on top of heaps of additional power for a single attack. That's not to say that your battles will be without strategy. Enemies can utilize tension too, and if you're not careful an enemy may wipe out a character's entire HP total in a single hit. It keeps the battles fast paced and very fun. Adding to the fun is the ability to customize your characters by allocating skill points earned after gaining levels. Each character in your party has a number of attributes that can have skills devoted to it, such as the Hero's sword skills and the mage Jessica's Sex Appeal skills. By allocating skill points smartly, you can turn your party from wimps into total badasses, as the only way to get the best abilities in the game is through skill points.
Sadly though, I can't reap the same praise on the translation as I do to the rest of the game. While the character dialogue is fine, accented and often fairly witty, the translation team botched a lot of the spell and monster names I grew up with. The "Healmore" spell I adored in my younger days has since been renamed "Midheal," and while that may be closer to the Japanese "Healmore" spell "Behoimi", The translation just felt... wrong. The same applies to monsters such as the Red Slime, too. Oops, did I say Red Slime? I meant She-Slime. The names have suffered a rather large blow in the translation, and the shoddy voice acting that was crammed into the North American release to please us lazy Americans who apparently can't read is more of an insult than a blessing. At least it's possible to turn off the voices before you even start playing the game. (I suggest you do so.)
However, the good most definitely outweighs the bad in Dragon Quest VIII, so if you're looking for a great, freshly presented story with beautiful graphics, intense battles, and touching music, then this will be a great pickup. Of course, for everyone else you could always just get it because it comes packaged with a playable demo of Final Fantasy XII.
Community review by espiga (November 27, 2005)
Espiga likes big butts, and cannot lie.
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