Review by xMynDx
"An RPG Not to Be Forgotten..."
As I quickly glance at the plethora of the reviews already written for this symphony of fantasy, I can't help but ask why so many people docked it so hard on points. One of the most common arguments I hear for this game being or not being "fun" is based off of the idea that this RPG is too "old-school."
Allow me to preface by saying, I got a SNES when I was little, and was mostly into platformers (Super Mario World or All-Stars anyone?). Where I grew up, video games weren't very common, and my parents weren't very familiar with them. Aside from the brand new SNES, I did not receive another gaming system until a PC (much much later), and eventually an N64 and later PS2. The reason I bring this up is because I want to emphasize that I am not exactly (although I may want to call myself so) an "old-school" gamer. I did not play the early Final Fantasy games (until recently I started working on 4), I had not played Crono Trigger, and I certainly did not even HEAR about the Dragon Quest series until this game was released.
I saw an article about Dragon Quest 8 in my montly subscription to Game Informer I received from a local Gamestop, and to tell you the truth, the few screenshots they put in the article were horrific. Sure the colors were vibrant, but it looked blocky, and reading the article didn't exactly make my mouth water.
But as the media continued to shove it down our throats with ads on every gaming webpage and large cardboard cutouts set up around the mall, I decided that I was going to get this game and try it out.
The audio is probably the least memorable part of the game, particularly the music. There are no majestic compositions as we may have heard in Zelda:OoT or Wild Arms. But, and importantly so, I don't believe it takes away from the game. Sure, it would have been nice to enjoy a variation of melodic beats, but we didn't get that. Depending, a better music selection may or may not have added to the quality of the game, but when you play I am covinced that you too will not be bothered.
Furthermore, sound effects were nothing special. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. So why did audio receive an 8/10? Dragon Quest 8 strongly excels in VOICE ACTING. Where variation may be dry in music, you will find much joy in listening the characters brought to life. And by characters, I am not limiting this to your party, nor just your party and the enemies. Characters (with speaking roles) in towns and across the world will be a pleasure to listen to with impressive tones and distinctive accents. No, the main character doesn't speak, and sometimes you probably wish he did. But that all the more ends up adding to the mystery behind him as the story progresses. But any voice acting you didn't get from him you sure make up listening to the lovely Yangus that will travel with you throughout your journey. And that's enough for audio....
As I mentioned earlier in the review, I had seen screenshots before playing the game that were less than pleasing. The environment looked vibrant in color, but bland (in terms of nothing going on). I want you to know, this is not the case. The graphics are actually not only vibrant (all of the time), but the world is gorgeous and nice to take in.
The characters are all quality cel-shaded, and feel great to control. Some of the landscapes may be a bit blocky, but there really is nothing to complain about. My only concern throughout the game in terms of graphics was that the characters in your party will always look the same. By this, I mean when walking around the world AND in battles. The only thing that changes visually is the item they're using, despite what armor you're wearing. Personally, I like to see my character and go "wow he's tough," and this you won't receive. Furthermore, the Hero (main character) wears a long yellow vest-like article of clothing that may even feel anti-combatic. Nonetheless, DQ8 receives nothing less than a 10 on graphics.
Why is this category here, oh I dunno, because DQ8 deserves it. More than any game I have played in the last X years, DQ8 excels in creativity. When you read what some other people have to say, they'll talk about how mundane the gameplay is, and how archaic it is, but that aside, I'm not talking about creativity in gameplay. The creativity that I want to applaud them for mainly is derived from puns and other humor. You will often find common enemies that will make you laugh by design and/or name, or characters in the same fashion. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave that there, but if you have an appreciation for linguistic creativity in a video game, this is just another reason to pick this game up.
Here I suppose there is the most to say AND the least to say. What do you want, it's an RPG. The battles are all done through menus, and it's turn based (not real time.
Each character will have a variety of skills he/she can specialize in, and this is both a weakness and strength. You see, some of the skill sets they can specialize are useless in the game. You will really concentrate only putting your skill points into one area because you want to achieve the greatest skills (with extras going into only one other attribute). This is nice because it allows for variation in gameplay and difficulty from one play to another, but not within a single play. If you start out with axes, you're going to continue using axes. If you start out with knives, you'll continue with those. But don't be alarmed, there is much excitement in finding out what your next skill is going to be as most of them are unique and devastating.
Then you will be impressed by the immensity of the world, and it will almost feel like a MMORPG in size. Walking on the overmap, or outside of cities, is not like walking from town to town in FF7 nor Wild Arms. It's not even like FFX in this nature. Exploring will feel most like traveling around the zones in something to the extent of WoW or EQ. But, I don't want to imply that the world is too large, as many people seem to find this a fault (especially in reference to Zelda: WW). You will generally always feel like you are doing more than just grabbing a key to take to the other world, or searching for an item, traveling back and forth. The story will progress you through, and later you will receive both a boat and way of flying around the world.
Oh, and of course I couldn't forget the massive 60-80 hours of gameplay this game can offer. No, this is not an exaggeration, the game is MASSIVE. I personally finished it in 65, and had many sidequests that I hadn't completed.
I can't say I'm a fan of the casinos, in fact I didn't do anything with them. I don't like a minigame based off of luck, and as such, this was eliminated from my game experience, but this didn't take away from the game. Only one of the items you can buy by winning at the casinos has ANY importance, and it's a weapon for Jessica that you may or may not need depending on what skill you've chosen. Personally, I chose that skill, and I still never needed it--she did just fine :).
Where many complain that the story is dull, and the center of problems for DQ8, I loved it. With modern day RPGs, I find myself tired of the serious tones put on DQ8. There is something refreshing in the DQ8 story, though many claim that it's been done a thousand time. It's not without plot twists, and the strong character development more than anything keeps you going. You will be on your toes, I guarantee it. Furthermore, I have to compliment Square-Enix for truly using the story to carry the party throughout the world without running into things that seem useless. The BASIC plot (without spoilers) that you will hear, is that some jester stole a sceptre, cursed a king, and is taking over the world--and you have to stop him. But don't listen to them, it's just not THAT simple, and there will be plenty to find out and enjoy. But like I said, it's more about the characters than anything.... The ONLY complaint (and it may seem like a big one) that I have about DQ8's story is the ending. Personally, I was disappointed. Especially after the 65 hours of gameplay I put in, I was hoping for more. But alas, that let me down. Yet as I look back on it, it wasn't a bad experience. That one letdown didn't ruin anything for me, as I still appreciated the strong plot development and characterization.
Keep in mind, this is not an average. Yes, there were small things I was unhappy with, but more than any RPG game I have ever played this game offered me FUN. Say what you will, or criticize it how you want, no low scores on technicalities take away from the sheer fun this game offers.
Rent/Buy? : Buy of course silly.... The game is too long to rent, and more than anything, it's one you want in your collection.
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 12/06/06
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