Review by gjvaquino

Reviewed: 09/08/06

It's not all that. It's just another "filler" game.

Dragon Quest is not all that. It’s just another “filler” game. So what do I mean by a “filler” game? It’s a game that you play while you wait for better games to come out. When you’re in a video game store and you have nothing else to buy because you’ve played all the good games of the year and you decided to get a copy of Dragon Quest VIII for $19.99, then you just got a “filler” game. So when a better game comes out like Final Fantasy XII, a filler game is usually put off at a later time or completely left unfinished and forgotten. Known for its strong nostalgic appeal, Dragon Quest has graced our game consoles through the years. It has a strong fan base that has created quite a hype. In essence, Dragon Quest VIII triumphs with its exquisite graphics and heavenly music but its traditional gameplay and cliche' plots leaves quite a bitter aftertaste. So why is Dragon Quest VIII a “filler” game? Let me go over the technical specs of the game and explain to you why.

Visuals/Graphics: 9/10
There is no doubt about it. Dragon Quest VIII is one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. The environments are eye candy. The excellent colors and textures remind me of Namco’s Tales of Symphonia. Excellent graphics like this will not only please veteran gamers but also appeal to a younger, fresher audience. In contrast to the dark, gothic, desolate environments and elements of Digital Devil Saga, Dragon Quest VIII breathes life and intricate detail to the smallest of elements such as character facial expressions, clothes, weapons, items etc. Equipping certain armors will change the characters' appearances. It would have been better if it was done for all equipment, not just the weapons or certain armors. From a flowing waterfall to the grass on the ground, details were given to all of these elements. You will feel like you're constantly looking at a work of art.

Story/Character Development: 4/10
Unfortunately, exquisite graphics is not enough to please the most fastidious of gamers. Without a solid plot a role playing game will fall flat on its face. Essentially, the main plot of this game follows the cliche' formula of previous Dragon Quest titles. The main hero of the game has a mysterious past and eventually you find out that he is a descendant of a dragon tribe of some sort and he is the only one who was the powers to stop the destruction of the world (kind of like Breath of Fire). The story starts very slow. You and your motley crew of bandits, mages etc. are hot on the trail of an evil clown magician who placed a curse on your kingdom. 75% of the story is like a cat and mouse game because most of the time you will find yourself on the road looking for the main villain and trying to find out where he has been, the people he’s killed and his reasons for doing so. The characters of the game aren’t so bad. The incredible voice acting really gives life to different personalities of the characters as well as injects a sense humor and spice to the plot. Secondary main characters were given backstories that allows the player to get a glimpse of their personalities and motivations. Sad to say the main character fall short of these elements because you basically control one of those “silent” types. There is nothing wrong for making the player feel like they are the main characters of a game but it is how it is done. Aside from a few facial expressions during battle scenes and some cut scenes from the main plot, the main character, or the hero I should say, barely has any emotion. He is like a robotic slave subject to the dictates of his king, unable to think or act on his own. Only a couple of yes or no questions that do not really have any effect on the main plot are the most freedom you’ll ever going to get out of this game.

Difficulty/Gameplay: 4/10
The difficulty of a particular game is a double edged sword. If a game is too easy, the player will get bored and get tired of the game but if the game is to too hard to the point of insanity and impossibility then the players will get frustrated to the point of using profanity. Why will you play a game that will make you either bored or frustrated? The key to excellent gameplay is a balance in difficulty. Dragon Quest is one of the hardest games that I have ever played probably because of its traditional roots. Even on the first dungeon, you will find yourself fighting countless monsters to earn puny amounts of experience points and money in order to level up and buy new, very expensive, weapons and equipment. Technically the story is very short; it is the incessant fighting that takes up the chunk of the game. The special attacks in the game don’t do much damage. They do not do anything at all aside from being eye candy. A dragon slash will only do 10-15% more damage than a regular attack on a dragon and with their huge hit points, it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Only a handful of spell such as heal or one that causes instant death are the useful ones. You will find yourself using the same attacks and strategies over and over again. What is the point of using weak single attacks if you can use weak multiple attacks. You will also use the tension system often. Tension raises you attack per turn you use it and help you inflict massive damage on your enemies but towards the end of the game most of the strongest monsters and bosses have the ability to cancel you tension so what is the point of putting it there anyway? Aside from regular monsters that are as hard as bosses, you will always find yourself against unfair odds. There will be 9-10 or even more monsters in an encounter, will all of them having the ability to inflict status effects, against you four man party is quite hilarious. If you want to survive you literally have to heal every turn. Another downside to the game is the lack of saving points. You can only save your progress in a church located in towns or inns so if you died in battle you lose half you money and have to go all the way back to the dungeon. There are some spells that help make transportation easier but I found myself going back and forth just to save and it becomes very frustrating.

Music: 8/10
The music is amazing. Having most if not all of the game’s music performed by an orchestra really makes a difference. The music can literally lull you to sleep. The makers of the game utilized an excellent orchestra. The only problem is that the music is very repetitive. You will hear the same music for all the towns, the same music for all the churches and the same for most of the dungeons.

Replay Value: 4/10
Even with its nostalgic appeal, replay value is very low. First of all, there are no alternate endings. Secondly a traditional battle system does not give players any motivation to go through the same story line twice. All skills or special attacks, secrets and side quests can be unlocked and accomplished on your first play through and this will take a lot of effort.

Overall/Conclusion: 5/10
Amidst the entire Dragon Quest VIII hype that a lot of people have created in the past. It is nothing more than a filler game. Once a better one comes out it will simply be tossed aside. Out with the old and in with the new. Such is the destiny of forgettable games such as this. With its new $19.99 price you can buy it or rent it but either way it will just be another forgotten, regrettable game that will be collecting dust in your shelves.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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