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Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PlayStation 2) artwork

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PlayStation 2) review


"Everyone was talking about it. “Dragon Quest VIII is going to be the best RPG of the year” and “Dragon Quest VIII is finally coming out. I can’t wait.” I was thinking “Awesome. What the hell is Dragon Quest?” Then slowly, after seeing a very unique slime bounding around on one of the commercials, it dawned on me: Dragon quest is Dragon Warrior, the old school "heal more, hurt more" epic that made me love RPGS in the first place. I was in the car the next moment..."



Everyone was talking about it. “Dragon Quest VIII is going to be the best RPG of the year” and “Dragon Quest VIII is finally coming out. I can’t wait.” I was thinking “Awesome. What the hell is Dragon Quest?” Then slowly, after seeing a very unique slime bounding around on one of the commercials, it dawned on me: Dragon quest is Dragon Warrior, the old school "heal more, hurt more" epic that made me love RPGS in the first place. I was in the car the next moment, driving (heh, well actually speeding) to the store to buy it, hoping this sequel was just as good as what I fell in love with the first time around.

Sometimes True Baby's gambles pay off.

Visually, Dragon Quest is incredibly unique. Cel-shading is extremely popular these days but anyone has yet to produce this kind of quality. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the characters. Everything about them, from their definition against the background to the tiny details in there clothing, is simply remarkable. The environments are amazing. The 3-D land seems boundless as it trails off into the horizon and I’ve never seen such beautiful sunsets and oceans, even in real life. Colors are explosive at times, serene at others. Dragon Quest is a living, moving work of art.

And it’s nice to play a Square Enix game that doesn’t take itself so seriously. Even I get tired of brooding heroes, dire situations and countdowns to doom. Thankfully, Quest has none of those. The comedic value is extremely high in this game. King Trode pranced around, spoke proper English and carried himself like any member of royalty would, all while looking like a frog. The enemies were a riot, as well. When I reached Port Prospect, the townspeople warned me of a horrible creature terrorizing the ocean. When I sailed out, I found that “horrible” creature to be Khalamari, a giant squid vaguely resembling the Kraken from Shining Force 2, but he was far from terrifying. He put on a puppet show with his tentacles (one was named Mr. Bubbles I believe) to complain about my boat hitting him in the head before he attacked. It was pretty funny.

Then there was the jester and main villain, Dhoulmagus. Oddly, he was the only one I didn’t find amusing. I despised him, but that’s what made him so cool. Dhoulmagus isn’t like other villains. He doesn’t monologue and he doesn’t pop up at awkward times just to try and destroy you before he completes his master plan. For the most part, you rarely see him. You will, however, be able to see how vile he is. From town to town, Dhoulmagus leaves a trail of depravity. Sometimes it’s just striking fear into the hearts of locals, other times he murders a king or priest in cold blood. No matter how hard you try he always seems to be one step ahead. You may get close to stopping him, but you are always too late and all you can do is watch as he creates another victim. Dhoulmagus is the driving force behind the story. He’s sick, he’s crazy and I wanted him dead… no matter what it took.

The game has a simple plot, but all the mini-missions kept it from getting boring. With each new kingdom visited I found myself on a different quest. I had to raise a ship from a barren desert, retrieve my horse and cart after it had been wrongly sold and help a fat, obnoxious prince named Charmles pass a trial to make him worthy of the throne.

It’s a lot better than chasing the bad guy the entire game, but the downside is some of these missions tend to drag. Raising the boat, for example, seemed to take forever. I had to find the boat, then I had to return to the cursed kingdom to learn about the boat, then get my wish granted, find the wish master moon guy a new harp, get the harp back from the mole people blah blah blah. It was irritating. I just want the damn boat.

Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and the simple combat system made them easy to stomach. If you’re lazy like I am, a few clicks of the D-Pad and one button is all you need. In combat, you can choose the tactics of everyone but your Hero. You can tell your posse to follow orders--which means you direct them--have them focus on healing, show no mercy, not use any magic, fight wisely or get psyched up. They take a step up from usual A.I. in battles because your characters are actually smart. If you choose show no mercy, they will slam the enemies with spells and abilities, but if one enemy is left with only a few hit points they simply attack, sparing their MP for another round. Choose “focus on healing” and they won’t waste heal if everyone has full health, they may cast a stat boosting spell or, again, attack. It’s actually a pretty solid aspect, making what could have been lengthy and boring battles more than tolerable.

Quest has a neat little level up system to keep the battle system fresh as well. Your characters, upon gaining a level, grow in the usual way. HP, MP, attack, agility and so forth but you also get stat points for one of the four weapons each character can use, earning you more attack points or cool abilities. You can also choose to build an aspect of each character's personality--hero’s courage, Jessica’s sex-appeal, Angelo’s charm or Yangus’ humanity. Yes, the burly, rock hard thief has a soft side. Boosting this stat will allow him to learn heal and a few cool tricks, like whistling to start a monster fight or sniffing out treasure. It was entertaining building these stats up; I never knew what ability I would learn next.

I had fun with Dragon Quest VIII. It removed the emotional heroes, intricate battle systems and apocalyptic stories of other RPGs and replaced them with good, old-fashioned monster bashing. It’s gorgeous, nostalgic and downright amusing at times. Reminds me of why I fell in love with this genre. An old school style with ground-breaking graphics? No complaints here. It’s like having Betty Page’s mind in Adriana Lima’s body. Classic feel; beautiful modern day look.

Rating: 9/10

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Community review by True (February 09, 2006)

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zippdementia posted February 12, 2009:

You don't mention the grueling hours of leveling using the boring combat system, or the treks through dungeons that take hours due to an almost constant stream of random encounters.
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joseph_valencia posted February 12, 2009:

Perhaps he wasn't bothered by that?
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honestgamer posted February 12, 2009:

Long-time Dragon Quest fans--such as myself--aren't always bothered by that because it's often one of the things that made the series so endearing to us in the first place. In my opinion, Dragon Quest was and is one of the finest RPG franchises around precisely because it forces the reader to work for the next story sequence (though I do wish they'd tone down the story a bit; I've never been one for extensive plot in my video games).
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overdrive posted February 13, 2009:

Yeah. None of those things have ever bothered me about a Dragon Quest game. There might be a lot of fights, but they're all fast-paced, so it never really has ever felt to me like I'm being drowned in a deluge of combat. If anything, I wish there was a bit more complexity to the average fight. In DQ VIII, you get a ton of abilities, spells, etc., but (with the exception of a couple of bosses), I scarcely used any of them other than the heal spells and the occasional buff/debuff spell.

All I can say is that I'd far rather play a DQ game than many of today's more story-driven ones where you have to wade through massive amounts of cutscenes just to get to a simple, linear dungeon.....that leads to more cutscenes. To my perspective, it's somewhat confusing as to how people get so enamoured with games like the Metal Gear Solids of the world, as, to me, all that interactive gameplay stuff takes second fiddle to watching one cutscene.....and then another...and another. When I reviewed MGS 3: Subsistence, it got a 9 primarily due to the inclusion of the MSX Metal Gears. MGS 3 itself.....I'd have rated it a 6 or so. Very great graphics and all, but the game itself just didn't interest me as much as it should have because my enjoyment of the stealth and all that kept getting disrupted by constant jabbering.

Just goes to show that different people have different likes and dislikes as to what they look for in a game.
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True posted February 13, 2009:

To my perspective, it's somewhat confusing as to how people get so enamoured with games like the Metal Gear Solids of the world

Thank you, O.D. I thought I was the only one who wasn't going to give MGS 4 a perfect score.

As far as the battles in DQ, they could have been a lot worse. At least Dragon Quest is straightforward with them, and didn't opt to try and re-vamp the fighting system by adding useless aspects like a list of elements that eventually fade and render your attacks useless I.E. Magna Carte. Or a shitty cross between real-time and turn-based combat, like... well Magna Carte.

Dragon Quest thankfully kept it simple and left it up to one button, and that makes it far easier to tolerate the amount of enemies.
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zippdementia posted February 13, 2009:

Have you ever read my review of MGS4, True?
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sashanan posted February 13, 2009:

or the treks through dungeons that take hours due to an almost constant stream of random encounters.

There is a way to relieve the pain some: the Hero has a skill to reduce the encounter rate (Holy Protection I think it'll be called) so you can explore dungeons more easily and keep your MP for the inevitable end-of-dungeon boss. Experience thus missed out on can be compensated for by using Yangus' Whistle skill (force an immediate encounter) when in a suitable area for monster hunting.

Of course, even so, DQ as a series is encounter heavy. I don't mind so much, but then every time I fire up a DQ, I know precisely what I'm getting myself into.

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