Review by Black_Crusher

"This game has been approved by the league of olde-tyme gamers!"

Hello, and today I'm going to review the most modern of all the games I've reviewed to date: Dragon Quest 8 Journey of the Cursed King! Let's set the record straight in case you don't know it yet- This is the 8th installment in the long running Dragon Quest series, but the first good one to be released in the United States since Dragon Warrior 4, in my opinion. I got this the day it came out, and wasn't sure of what to expect. The game exceeds my expectations on almost all counts.

STORY: 8/10

Y'know, for a Dragon Warrior game this has a pretty decent storyline too! It turns out that a maniacal Jester named DoulMagus has taken over the land and turned King Trode and his Daughter into a little green troll and a horse, respectively. As the local nameless and silent hero, it's all up to you and your eventual companions to stop DoulMagus's evil work. It's pretty basic, but there are a lot of side stories along the way that are very cool. The main characters (except the hero) all talk and have a lot to say, which brings out their personalities and makes you care about what happens to them- the sign of a great story!

GRAPHICS: 10/10

This game has absolutely fantastic graphics! The style is cel-shading, and it almost looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. You can tell that the artist also did the Dragon Ball Z shows, and maybe the characters in Dragon Quest 8 look a bit TOO much like Dragon Ball Z characters, but that's just nit picking there. The game world just looks SO good, and real too. Trees are the deepest green, the water looks great, the skies are as clear as a bell and you can see for what looks like miles. I never noticed any graphical pop up bugs due to draw distance problems either. The world is seamless, with the only noticable loading times being when you enter or exit a town or cave, and very slightly after a fight with monsters.

The enemies all look fantastic and animate very smoothly. Some even have humorous dying sequences too, which is a great touch. One of the best compliments to the series' older games is how they brought some of the old enemies back in this one. Remember the Skeleton with the belt, sword, and fashionable boots from Dragon Warrior 1? Well, he's back and has never looked better. The same can be said with some other old favorites like scorpions, drackees, gold men, and even the lowly but lovable slime. There are also a slew of new enemies made especially for the new installment, and just wait until you see them for yourself!!

SOUND & MUSIC: 8/10

Dragon Quest 8 uses a lot of the old classic sound effects that fans of the series have grown fond of. As far as the music goes, is it good? Yes, it's good and well orchestrated- of that there can be no doubt. But, I dunno, it just doesn't "grab" me like some of the older games' music does. The music that plays during the night time though is really good. The battle music, which you'll hear about 10,000 times while playing this through, could be better. Even the first Dragon Warrior's battle music is better! *Readies the flame shield*.

But, there is GREAT voice acting throughout the game! Some complain because it's too British, but I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere. There are only a few people you'll talk to that are annoying, but luckily the good far outweighs the bad. A real letdown here though is like most RPGs the main hero, the guy responsible for y'know, SAVING THE WHOLE WORLD, and the one you'll see about 98% of the whole time playing, doesn't speak a word at all! Now, he's expressive as hell, but nods and shrugs will only get you so far.

CONTROLS: 6/10

I've heard and read a lot about how people hate the menu system for DQ8. Personally, I don't see how they could have really improved a lot upon it though. There's just too much in the game to have condensed it much more than it already is. Controlling the characters is easy enough, and you can always get a 1st person perspective at the touch of a shoulder button to get a better view of where you are. The button layout is a bit odd I'll admit. You'd think that the action button would be something, or the cancel button would be something else, but that's not the case. I mean, you get used to it, but it's different.

GAMEPLAY: 9/10

If I never had played this game myself I would have never thought it possible but they did it. THEY DID IT! They actually managed to pull off a total old-schooly RPG game and bring it into the new age. This game plays just like one of the great ol' classics, don't be fooled. And it has most of the same rules that govern those types of games too. Walking for miles? See a dark cave? Want to fight the boss? Well, chances are you'd better save your game first because if you're not strong enough the boss will wipe the floor with your party in a second. These bosses are no pushovers, and most enemies aren't either. There aren't 100 save points lined up in a row down the path to the obvious ending. If you want to save your game, you have to find a member of the clergy to do it for you. Some complain about this, but they've been making Dragon Warrior saves this way since part 2.

Battles are turn-based, and menu driven. It's your basic attack / magic / flee options, and an additional section to let the computer take over your party members should you choose to. I don't. I don't like Jessica wasting a huge fireball on some yard trash when it could be best used elsewhere. When the battle is over, you get some experience points and a TINY amount of gold pieces. Now, Dragon Warrior games have always been kind of stingy on the moolah, but this game could be at the very top of DQ Scroogedom. I remember fighting 5 or 6 pretty hard enemies and then having a drop of about 37 gold coins. Alucard, could you please comment on this? Alucard: "WHAT!!??"

Also, this is a level grinding game. If you don't like to wander the same patch of trees and mountains fighting the same monsters over and over and over again, this is not the game for you. Leveling is of utmost importance because like I said earlier you WILL die a lot if you're too weak because there's many a mighty monster waiting to eat you just beyond the next ridge. You can even fight special monsters that will later join you so you'll have your own monster reinforcement squad to fight with! Now THAT's cool!

The game also employs a skill system, although there's really not a lot too it. When your guys level up, they are awarded some skill points, which can vary wildly from level to level. You must then decide where to spend your points into 5 different categories. The hero, for example, has Swords, Spears, Boomerangs, Courage, and Fisticuffs (bare-handed combat). This is all well and good, only when I started my game I didn't know what skills to raise for my guys. There are some skills that are far superior to the others, but you won't know about it until it's too late sometimes. Another nag is that you have to spend all your points right then and there before you can continue. If this system were a bit more like Diablo where you can hoarde skill points until you know what to do with them, this would be a much better system than it is.

To shake things up a bit, early on you get a cool item called an Alchemy Pot. This acts a lot like the Horadric Cube from Diablo, where you can make new items by combining 2 or 3 old ones in it. To make it more realistic, it also takes a lot of real time for the product to "cook". When it's done, you'll hear a *ding!*, like an egg timer! Some of the best weapons, armor, and CHEESE(!!) can only be made by using this pot.

CHALLENGE: 7/10

It's not overly hard if you're leveled up enough, but there are some points where you might wonder just where to go next or what to do to continue. To help you out, you can talk to your other party members at any time and they'll give you assistance. Some monsters can be tough, and the bosses downright brutal if you're not prepared. Just remember to SAVE YOUR GAME before you go skipping off into some wasteland or mysterious forest!

PROS:

+Awesome graphics!
+Great characters and story
+Excellent voice acting to boot
+A giant game world that's seamless and feels real
+Many amazing enemies to fight, and a lot of golden oldies make their return
+Collect different monsters to fight FOR you later on!
+Girls in bunny suits, Huzzah!

CONS:

-Too hard to amass a fortune in gold pieces
-Menu system should be a bit better
-The hero needs to speak, damnit!
-Button layout is weird, but you get used to it

OVERALL: 9/10

This is probably one of my favorite Dragon Warrior games, and that's really saying something since I never thought they could pull a game like this off using today's graphics and technology! Good job, and let's all raise a tankard to Dragon Quest 9!!


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 05/16/06


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