Hey, resident Dragon Quest reviewer here. You might have read my review of Dragon Quest 7. This is a similar story as it’s a re-release for the 3DS of Dragon Quest 8, which originally came out in North America in 2005. Let’s get right to it.
Re-Kicking it old-school
Dragon Quest 8 is, like 7, very much a classic RPG game in the Nintendo tradition. You get a party of adventurers, battles are turn based, you go into dungeons and fight monsters until you meet the boss. But right off the bat, I liked this game more than the previous. You might remember that one of my gripes with 7 was that there was a class system but it appeared pretty late in the story (I did end up unlocking it and it was nothing special). In this one, your characters get skill points when they level up. Each party member has 5 skills on which said points can be spent on, with each one getting his or her own choice of skills. These skills are usually 4 different weapon types and a 5th “utility” skill. You can really customize your party this way. As you put points into a skill, the character gains new abilities and becomes stronger with that particular weapon. You have to be careful though, as you still need to specialize your party so that they work well together. Attacks that hit multiple enemies are important but you also need to take into account boss battles that usually only feature one enemy.
The good thing is that there are multiple combinations for achieving this balance. No character is pigeon-holed into a role. If your hero character takes up swords, he’ll be good at group attacks but with a spear, he can really lay down the hurt on a single character. I really liked this degree of customization, even if I fretted at the beginning that I had made bad choices. Had the game been more clear on what unlocking the abilities entailed, I might not have furiously scoured the internet for reassurance. The whole system had me looking forward to the next level up so that I could unlock something new. That really helped make the combat, which is still pretty classic, feel exciting.
No need to spruce this one up
Dragon Quest 7 was a remaster, as it had originally come out on the PS1, and it showed. When it came to the 3DS, it had to be bumped up a bit graphically. It’s not the case with DQ8, as it came out on the PS2. The graphics are crispy and colourful. Funny detail by the way, the character design was done by Akira Toriyama, the dude who drew Dragon Ball. When I first saw the main character, I said to myself “is that Goku with a bandana?”. He’s got this orange vest over a blue undershirt and his face is just classic Dragon Ball style.
The other characters aren’t as Dragon Ball-esque, although King Trode clearly looks like a shriveled-up Namek. The art style really helps to differentiate the characters and give them personality but it’s the voice acting that really brings it all together. From what I can tell, almost every story conversation in the game is voiced over, even with characters you might only see once or twice. I guess the developers really went all out once they got their hands on the PS2.
As a personal side-note, this game clearly shows that the 3DS can run PS2 games. Why, oh why doesn’t Nintendo release other classic RPGs for it. There hasn’t been a new Final Fantasy 6 port since the Game Boy Advance. I can’t believe that porting or remaking a SNES game is harder than a PS2 one. Get on it, Nintendo.
Right in the action
The first two hours of Dragon Quest 7 felt like a chore to me. A lot of running, not a lot of doing. Dragon Quest 8 goes the other way and I love it. You get thrown right into the action as a bodyguard for a king who somehow looks like a troll and a princess who is temporarily (?) a horse. It almost feels like walking into a movie 10 minutes late. You can re-piece the story from the dialogue and I find this to be very refreshing. DQ7 was bogged down by constant exposition and to be fair, the whole island quest thing required it.
DQ8 is much simpler. The King is hunting the evil magic jester that turned him into a troll and you’re the hired muscle for the job. You learn more about everybody as the story progresses, sometimes through flashbacks. As you chase the villain, you find new party members who have been affected by his shenanigans. It adds a lot of depths to the whole story.
On the whole, I wholeheartedly recommend this game, especially for newcomers to the series. If you’re not too familiar with RPGs, Dragon Quest or if you’re just looking for a game that’s easy to get into, this is your game. It’s colorful, the story is lively and often funny, the systems are easy to grasp and the whole game just feels good. Anyway, time for me to get back to chasing that damn jester…
DISCLAIMER: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King review copy was provided by Nintendo. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.