Review by Pikaley

"Evaluative Review of Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2"

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is overall an excellent game that makes excellent use of the Nintendo DS's aging graphics engine. Before I go dissecting the game into the good and bad I would like to preface this review with a little bit of my gaming history. Firstly, I have not played the “ancient” Game Boy Color Dragon Warrior games that this modern title finds its roots in. I have heard they were excellent games, but since I have never touched them I cannot do any comparisons to them. However, I have played the prequel, Joker 1. Also I have always loved the monster raising/fighting genre of games. I have played many similar games like Pokemon, Spectrobes, and even Digimon. Now that you trust me as an expert, I hope, lets get down to the game.

I am going to evaluate the game on the basis of four different categories: story, graphics, gameplay, and multiplayer. These are the categories that I value the most when I play a video game. I will be giving a basic description of what I am looking for and then my analysis of that category. The category will then receive a ranking from one to ten with one being very bad and ten being amazing. One last note, Joker 2 will be in reference to the game being reviewed. Joker 1 will refer to its prequel.

The first category is the story being told throughout the game. A good story will have a well thought out plot line that progresses at a relative speed in the game. What I mean by a relative speed is that it is spread out by various events or challenges in the game instead of spoiling it all at once. Think of your favorite movie, now how would you feel if this hour long movie was shortened to five minutes, this is what I am referring to. This can be called a five minute storyline.

Joker 2's storyline begins with a stowaway, this is you, sneaking aboard a ship to the famous World Monster Scout Challenge. On the way the ship loses control and crash lands on a mysterious island filled with monsters. The hero then goes on to compete in another Scout Challenge hosted by mole monsters that will eventually lead to a very interesting storyline and conclusion. While I will not spoil the story, I will say it is a well thought out story that keeps your attention very well. If you played Joker 1 you will understand parts of it better, but is still a good story without prior knowledge. The only drawback is that the storyline is relatively short compared to what I would expect for a more developed story. The story behind the second ending, the final boss after the final boss, leaves a bit to be desired as well. Overall I would give the storyline an 8.0 for being good overall but a tad short.

The second category of rating is the graphics. While it is somewhat self-explanatory, I will explain it anyway. Graphics usually do not make a game, but they can definitely break it. Some people will prefer high definition graphics on anything they watch or play, but I have to disagree with this. Good graphics are nice, but some games make good use of cartoony, lower definition graphics. For instance, look at Pokemon, it is 2D and cartoony and yet it is still a great game. Basically, to be an awesome game you do not need excellent graphics. Each game has its own niche for graphics and this should be taken into consideration.

For a DS game, Joker 2 makes excellent use of 3D graphics. For an older handheld Joker 2 has some extraordinary looking monsters. While Joker 1 had the same style, Joker 2 looks like an almost entirely new game with upgraded models. Even though some of the environments leave much to be desired, the monsters look absolutely amazing. When you are used to 2D models fighting, like in Pokemon, the 3D battles are a refreshing change of pace. Overall the monsters look great but the environment does not. Despite this, the environment actually blends in pretty well with the game play and is a much larger world than Joker 1. I would have to give the game's graphics an 8.0, the only flaw is lack of overly interesting scenery in the various areas.

The next category is gameplay. Gameplay is probably the most broad category of evaluating a game. This encompasses the controls, or how the game is played out. In this game that mainly entails the monsters, battles, and synthesis. Controls are how you actually control the game or character. Controls can be simple or complicated and this really depends on the game and the system it is played on. For example, when you compare a Nintendo DS to an Xbox, which one has more buttons? Because the Xbox has more buttons, more often then not, its games will have a more complicated control scheme. Some games require that degree of difficulty while others are fine with very simple controls.

While simple, the controls are one of the few complaints I have about this game. While playing the game there are many things on the touch screen such as battle commands and the start menu. This would have been the perfect opportunity to use the touch screen, but instead you still have to use other buttons to select the various options. It just feels clunky when you would expect to be able to touch the options. It is easy enough to press the buttons like normal, but the way the menus are laid out makes it appear that touch screen functionality was forgotten at the last minute.

The other portion of the game play category includes the main attraction, the monster battles. Monsters and battles are the bread and butter of this game. There are over three hundred different monsters in this game, each with their strengths and weaknesses. In this game you command up to three monsters at a time against your opponents. Your opponents can be wild monsters, bosses, or even other people over wi-fi. For those that do not know, wi-fi refers to the wireless internet connection used by modern electronics. A new feature to Joker 2 is giant monsters. In Joker 1 you could control three monsters and that was your only choice. In Joker 2 you can do that, or you can use a giant or medium monster. Giants take up all three of your monster slots and mediums take up two. With the customization of skills and traits that are possible in this series this really opens up the different possibilities for team composition. During the story of the game you are unable to use giants, but almost any team will do. Only in the wi-fi tournaments is when more strategy will come into play and I will discuss this later. Battles are the majority of what this game is about and it does it very well. Due to the degree of skill customization and the different traits of each monster, any monster can be successful with the right team. Unlike other games where certain monsters/fighters are simply bad, this allows players to succeed with the monsters they like best. I will go into more detail with this on the next section, but for general game play and controls I still give the game an 8.5.

The final category, and my favorite, is the multiplayer capabilities. Multiplayer is the ability to play with or against other players in a given game. More often then not multiplayer is used to pit one player against another in any number of challenges or mini-games. A good multiplayer game will allow someone to play easily with friends they know with the game while also allowing wi-fi capability to compete with others around the world. This is something Joker 2 does extremely well.

The multiplayer in this game is one of my favorite parts that I have not had the time to compete in recently. There are two major types of multiplayer in this game, tag mode and the wi-fi tournament. I will start with the tag mode feature. Tag mode allows a player to close their system with the game running in tag mode and walk around with it. This allows the system to tag other players in the vicinity doing the same thing and allows you to fight or recruit their monsters. The flaw with this is that it was designed with Japan in mind more then America. In Japan, I might be able to tag five to ten people just going out and getting a burger. In America I still do not know anyone locally who owns this game. This makes it difficult since some monsters are only obtainable via tag mode.

The second, and largest, multiplayer is the World Monster Championship. This is a world-wide tournament with five different levels of competition. These levels are rookie, scout, super scout, mega scout, and ultra scout. Depending on the general strength of your team, you will be placed in an appropriate category. Not much is known about the requirements for each category, but that is part of the fun of team composition. This also allows players to compete with monsters they like rather then being forced to use the strongest monsters. For instance, if a given player likes monsters that are generally weak they will be placed in one of the lower categories against other monsters of that caliber. The actual tournament is the same in each division. This consists of Home bouts and Away bouts. Home bouts are when you download other teams and fight them. Away bouts are when other people download your team to fight. You get five home bouts a day and you receive points based upon how many you win and your opponents rank versus your own. Even though your daily opponents are generally close to your own rank if you beat a higher ranked team you will receive additional points. At the end of the day these Home bout points are added together with points from winning away bouts and totaled. Ranks are then determined by these tally points and they change every day. This tournament system is much better then the one in Joker 1 where nearly everyday you could compete against the top five teams with you team that has absolutely no chance against them. Overall the multiplayer in this game is surprisingly addicting and deserves no less then a 10.0.

This game is an excellent game for anyone who enjoys a little bit of a grind to a goal. Some monsters require a lot of work to obtain, but that makes them that more special once you do. This is one of my all-time favorite games and I would recommend anyone to try it. Not everyone enjoys a grind, but those who do will love this game not to mention the addicting multiplayer and constantly striving to improve. My record after a week in Ultra scout was rank 267 out of over four thousand and my goal is still to be in the top hundred or fifty. Overall with an 8.0 for story, an 8.0 for graphics, an 8.5 for game play, and a perfect 10 for multiplayer, This game gets a total of an 8.6/10. Since will not allow decimal points, I will round my final rating to a 9/10. With over seventy hours of playtime and counting this is one of the best games I have played in ages and I still love it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/18/11

Game Release: Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (US, 09/19/11)

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