Review by methedemon

Reviewed: 10/26/06

Good RPG, not for everyone though!

Story- The story of Dragon Quest VIII revolves around the Hero (you name him) saving the world from the evil jester Dhoulmagus. The game begins with Dhoulmagus attacking the castle of Trodain and stealing their ancient treasure, the forbidden Scepter. Being the only survivor, the king (who was turned into a monster and his daughter into a white horse) asks the Hero to go after Dhoulmagus and retrieve the Scepter. Before you know it, you discover that the same evil guy that attacked Trodain castle has invaded other towns and killed innocents. Your main goal now is to retrieve the Scepter and kill Dhoulmagus. At first the story seems basic, but few hours into the game and you meet the rest of the party. Your main party consists of four characters, Hero, Jessica, Yangus and another character ( I won’t reveal who is the fourth character since he does not join you at the beginning and he is not on the cover of the game). Having only four characters might disappoints some gamers, but honestly I liked it this way better. Each one of the four characters have his/her own story, yes not just some backgrounds. Jessica for instance joins you for revenge and not to save the world. Yangus is your best friend, you (the Hero) saved him earlier, and he wants to repay you so he decides to join you. The King and his daughter want to kill Dhoulmagus to take the Scepter and remove the curse he put on them. So each character has his/her own reasons, but you all end up with one goal. The problem with the story is that it moves very slowly, the first ten hours are extremely boring, you will be moving from one town to another. Another thing you should know about is that the Hero is mute. He does not speak, but he shows lots of emotions and you can easily guess what he is thinking. Overall I liked the story, its not complicated you won’t be taking notes but it definitely has charm and the loveable characters will grow on you.

Gameplay- Dragon Quest VIII is a traditional old school Role playing game. it’s a pure turn based game. This may sound simple but its not, Dragon Quest VIII is a very deep RPG, mainly because of the amount of customization you can do for your characters. Each character can use different kinds of weapons. Hero can use swords and lances. Jessica can use staves, and whips. Yangus can use axes and hammers. And the fourth character can use staves and bows, and swords. So you have the option to build your Hero to become a sword master, or lance user. The type of weapon you use determines what special moves you learn. Putting points in sword, raises its level, and giving your character sword-abilities like Miracle slash. Each character comes with a special category of his own. Hero has courage, raising this category will teach your character abilities that let you perform better in critical situations. Yangus has a human category, raising this one will teach Yangus moves that lets you summon creatures to assist you in battles. The amount of customization is just amazing, you have complete control of what to make of your characters.

Leveling up is one of major flaw in this game. From what I heard all Dragon Quest games been like this, but for me this is new. Leveling up in this game is like pulling teeth. You need massive amount of experience points to gain a level. I spend two days leveling up to defeat one of the earlier bosses. You can’t go without leveling up at least a bit, this game is hard and random monsters can actually kill you. The very first boss in the game killed me three times, can you believe it? I asked on the message boards and they told me I was under leveled! So leveling up is essential.

Leveling up alone is not enough. To make life easier you need the best equipments on your characters. You can buy weapons, armors, and items from any shop in towns. Just like with leveling up, earning money is hard and even impossible. Yes I said impossible, good weapons/armors cost like 1000 gold, a monster gives you around 10 or so gold, so you need to 100 monsters to get good equipments for just one of your characters. Now that is ridiculous, luckily for us there is a solution for this. Later in the game, when you get your ship, there is an island called Neos that is infested with gold golems. These guys are awesome, you get 700 gold each time you kill one of them.

The list of “annoyances” does not end here. To check how many experience points you need to get to the next level, you need to go to a church and ask the priest. If you want to remove an abnormal status off your character, you also need to go back to a church. Saving is done in churches as well. Anything you might need to do, you have to go back to a town and do it in church or Inn. This gets very annoying. Dragon Quest VIII is a very unforgiving game, if your party is wiped, you don’t just lose your progress but you also lose half the money you got.

The game mechanics are very simple and easy to learn. As stated before, there is no ATB, it’s a pure turn based role playing game. You pick your moves all at once, then it’s the enemy’s turn. The battle menus consists of attack, defend, abilities, magic and flee. Attacking is just..attacking. Defending obviously reduce the damage you receive from monsters. Abilities and magic are the most used ones. Abilities take magic consumes points, once you run out of points you are done using the. Since the game is turn based, you get a lot of time to make your strategy. You can go all out on your enemy and use your strongest attack (combined with tension and other moves that raises your attack power) to bring his hit points quickly. Or you can play it defensively, you have many options to choose from. My favorite strategy is to start by building my defenses and set barriers that protect me from magi based attacks. Then I raise my attack to the maximum, and it’s the monument of truth. This strategy works most of the time, but some tough bosses have the ability to break through your defenses and barriers. You also have the option to flee or intimidate. Fleeing works on monsters that are weaker than yours. Intimidating (scaring monsters making them flee) usually never works.

Character customization is great, and the game mechanics are simple but provide plenty of strategies. What’s left? The game world of course. Dragon Quest VIII has the biggest and most wonderful world ever. The world map is huge, I bet you never seen like it before. Dragon Quest VIII’s world is realistic and lovely. You can walk, ride saber cats, and sail the massive ocean. Towns are lively and full of people. You can enter any house you see, a pub, an Inn, a Castle or even a Casino (yes you can play all kind of games like slot machines ). Since the world is huge, getting from one town to another can be tedious so the game gives you the option to teleport to any visited town. Later in the game, you will even be able to fly and get to places you couldn’t reach on foot. The world is full with dungeons. They can be pretty long at times, and each dungeon has at least one logical puzzle. Side quests are plenty. You can collect mini medals and trade them for valuable prizes. You can collect monsters, and use them in battles. There is the alchemy pot, you can use it to combine different items to make new ones. Some of the best equipments in the game can only be acquired from the alchemy. There are many more side quests to do .One neat thing about the game is the day and night schedule. Many monsters can only be encountered during the night. People in towns will say different things.

Controls- the controls are very easy to learn. You use left analog stick to move around, you open menu with circle, the square is used to display the map. The right analog stick is used to rotate the camera. The controls get a little harder when flying, I won’t explain them though, the game will give you the instruction. The in battle controls are easy too, X to confirm, triangle to cancel, and the D pad to move the cursor.

Graphics-The graphics use excellent cel shaded style, it truly show Akira’s (creator of Dragon Ball Z) talent. The world is absolutely stunning. The trees, mountains, landscape, everything look so colorful its like playing an anime. The character models are some of the best I have ever seen. The similarity between them and those found in Dragon Ball Z is very noticeable. Enemy designs is even more impressive. The enemies are varied, you have from little blue slimes to mummies and zombies. Each new area you enter, has new enemies. The random encounter rate is high, but thanks to the great enemy design it never get tedious.
The voice acting is top notch. The actors did a great job brining the characters to life with their realistic voice over. The music is really good, I don’t recognize any of it but it didn’t bother me.

Value- the replay value is low, but that’s normal for long RPGs. However the side quests are plenty and the extra dungeon will keep you playing for another 20 hours.

Overall-Dragon Quest VIII is a great RPG, but its very old school. The saving system, and unforgiving style might turn off some players. The story however is fresh and will entertain old school and new gamers alike.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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