Review by OrangeFanta

"For King and Country!"

Many people believe there to be only 16 colossi, however this is not the case. There is a seventeenth one which is the most gargantuan of them all. It isn't the most conventional colossi, in fact it's not one at all, for this gigantic beast is a game, not just any game, however – it's a JRPG. This thing of mythic proportions is probably the greatest threat to mankind because, while it makes you think it's anything but standard it really is just lying – pulling the sheet over your eyes. The name of this monstrosity? Dragon Quest VIII (phew, that took us a while to get here, huh?).

Dragon Quest VIII is very much your standard Japanese role-playing fare. It's roots are very much stuck in the old-school teachings of RPG's, so much so that sometimes you may well feel you've played this game a thousand times over already. The story is your typical rescue the princess, save the world cliche common in this genre. The characters you meet and who will join you on your travels are also accompanied by a strong sense of deja-vu. Everything you find in this game can probably be found in a similar title from yesterday.

Dragon Quest VIII brings very few new things to the table; it's almost unbelievably shallow and devoid of character at first glance. However that's not to say it's a terrible game, far from it in fact. First impressions can, as well you know, be deceiving.

While cel-shading has been done before in RPG's, it has never looked this good, fresh or alive. Everything in the game is so lavishly detailed that it makes you wonder if we really do need a next generation of consoles so soon. Characters are animated in such a lifelike fashion, your jaw may well drop upon start up. In short, Dragon Quest VIII is nothing short of mesmerizing an attribute wired into many a recent PS2 titles DNA.

“So, what about the gameplay?” I hear you ask. Unfortunately that doesn't fare quite so well. As mentioned earlier, the action is pretty standard stuff – there are no summons, limit breaks etc. In battle you have few options with 'psyche' and 'fight' (hey that rhymes!) being the most useful and probably the most used. While the battles may seem simple initially, they soon ramp up in difficulty dramatically with the incessant need to level up constantly coming into play especially before tackling dungeons and bosses (unlike other RPG's, there are no save points before boss encounters). Unsurprisingly, this soon starts to annoy with battles becoming more a mandatory chore than a necessary deed.

Unlike most other JRPG's, all character dialog is acted out instead of just being represented on screen with words. Good news if you don't much like reading, bad news if you don't much like voice acting. The voice overs in the game are.....interesting. Again, unlike other RPG's localized for Western release, the voices aren't your typical, whinny, American, teenage trash – all voices are of European origin. It does seem quite strange at first, but you soon become desensitized to it all. However, that's not to say it's terrible, some of it is actually quite good bordering on great, but more often than not you'll find it merely adequate.

As strange as the voice acting may be, it doesn't quite prepare you for the orchestral soundtrack. Changed from the original Japanese releases electronica soundtrack, the music seems completely out of place. It's not terrible, however, it's just strange and feels like it has been composed with anything but an RPG in mind. The first time I played Dragon Quest VIII, my sister, freshly home from her stint in Australia, was checking her email on my PC when a bout of fisticuffs commenced. She subsequently burst into a fit of laughter not because of my performance (I was doing quite well, actually), but due to the 1960's James Bond movie-esque music that accompanies random battles. With the frequency in which random battles are encountered throughout the game, it got on her nerves (and she got on mine) pretty fast and soon she was pleading with me to “turn it off” as if I was listening to it for recreation. And all this happened in the space of ten minutes.

Yes, Dragon Quest VIII has probably the most frequent random battles I have encountered in an RPG this side of Skies of Arcadia. It really is quite bad, especially later on in the game when your whole party can easily be wiped out in a single turn if unprepared. Frustrating is definitely an understatement.

Unlike MegaTen: Nocturne, there isn't a steep learning curve to overcome which soon evens itself out once you've adjusted to the games mentality, but difficulty spikes masquerading as steeping stones on your road (which promptly turns to a near unclimbable wall) to victory. Dragon Quest VIII is many things: long, pretty, occasionally comfortable, but newbie-friendly it most certainly is not.

I don't hate Dragon Quest VIII, I just feel it could have been so much better than it is. It's debatable what is the better Level 5 game; this or Dark Cloud 2 (I honestly believe the latter to be the superior title), but with some luck, Rogue Galaxy will expand upon the ground work set by Dragon Quest VIII, and we'll simply look back at this as an "almost, but not quite" affair.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 02/27/06

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