Review by gbarules2999

"It's an ADVENTURE!"

Did I just say a few days ago that all of these new games coming out these days are like the old games? Yeah, I did. Grand Theft Auto is still Grand Theft Auto, which is still like Crackdown, which is still like the other Grand Theft Auto (you know, the top down ones that nobody actively likes). Or Resistance, which is like Half-Life 2, which is like Half-Life, which is like Quake, which is like Doom, which is like whatever John Carmack was doing before he started making games. They haven't changed much, aside from the cursory glance at prettier graphics, sprawling cultures and what most people call "accessibility," which really just amounts to telling the player which button to press so that they can skip reading the instruction booklet.

It's time to backpedal frantically and sweat for a minute into the microphone as if I just made a nasty joke and nobody laughed at it. Uh, hi, you guys, what's going on? Heh, what's up with that weather, huh? I mean, is it going to rain or snow or what...

The problem is that Dragon Quest VIII is exactly like the rest of the series, aside from a Dragonball Z-esque visual makeover that turns a pixel-created world into an animated one. Few game series have changed as little as Dragon Quest - while the Final Fantasy series has gone between hardcore-yet-simple RPG and mildly interactive soap opera for years now, swapping the two back and forth as if they're going out of style, Dragon Quest has kept it simple, offering the same adventure it offered back on the original Nintendo. The problem is that this is precisely why I love the game so much.

Fans of the classic Final Fantasy games (you know, like FF1, 2 and 3 on the original Nintendo, plus whatever they were trying to do with 9 and parts of 12) will fall in love with Dragon Quest's remarkably unremarkable gameplay, noting how smooth everything feels. With Dragon Quest's lack of innovation comes polish, refinement, and a sense that the game knows exactly what it does well, and pulls it off with thunderous aplomb. This makes Dragon Quest VIII a truly decisive game - if you didn't like the series before, you're not going to like it now.

The improvements over the series' past games have proved to be quite spectacular in a quiet, unassuming way that comes when you'd least expect it. Dragon Quest VIII uses the PlayStation 2's considerable power (compared to the other console hosts DQ has be greeted by) to create a world so finely crafted and well produced it almost feels like they cheated and actually made the Playstation 2 run better than it's supposed to. Every minute monster is carefully animated down to its dying breath, and some are so well done that they look like expressive characters on a Saturday morning anime show. Additionally, the game's astounding, jaw dropping draw distance allows the player to get the lay of the land from high vantage points, with visuals that are sure to bring any gamer to their knees.

This is all auxiliary additions to a gameplay blueprint that feels fresh, even today. the turn based combat, while simple, is still as strategic and fun as it used to be, and VIII keeps the pace fast for minimal grind bruises. Yes, there is a bit of a grind in this game, but every area offers so many places to explore it will seem natural to wander off the beaten path in the search for hidden treasure chests and extra experience points. The game's pace is thoughtful, and almost zen like, and while the story seems to want to clip off into the sunset, the actual mood is quite mellow and relaxing.

Dragon Quest VIII may not make a fan out of you, but certainly, if you like the classic console RPG genre, you'll find no better adaption. This is the best it gets, and in the realm of the PS2, it's one of the better games around.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/23/09

Game Release: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (US, 11/15/05)

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