Dragon Quest VIII Review

Developer: Level-5 Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 15, 2005 Also On: None

To my extreme disappointment, throughout my video gaming career, I’ve been deprived of all that is Dragon Quest. This is mainly due to the fact that this popular RPG series has made few quests across the Pacific since the NES days. However, I knew that it was only a matter of time before America got its fair share of Dragon Quest greatness. As of November 15th, 2005, that wait was over, and Dragon Quest VIII was ported. With the RPG masters Square Enix behind the wheel, Dragon Quest VIII was all it was cracked up to be and more.

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This charming tale of magic and mystery puts you, the protagonist, in the shoes of a boy who managed to escape a terrible fate. The evil jester Dhoulmagus turns the entire castle of Trodain to stone, in order to steal an ancient scepter from a secret chamber in the castle to gain ultimate powers. The King of the castle, Trode, is turned into an imp-like creature and the princess a horse. Everyone else in the castle is turned to stone, except for you. The king, the princess, and you leave the castle, and set out to find Dhoulmagus, and a way to reverse the curse. On your journey, you meet up with Yangus, a beefed-up criminal who’s changed his ways (with a cool accent), Jessica, a noble with an attitude that equals her beauty, and Angelo, a temple knight with a smooth tongue. Together you track down the dastardly Dhoulmagus all across the world to find his motives for what he did, and a cure to undo it.

Although the story is good itself, the real treat is all of the characters you encounter throughout your adventure. This game contains some of the goofiest, most entertaining NPCs I’ve ever seen in a game, ranging from a farmer with a strong Italian accent to a princess who talks in the third person. Sometimes even more interesting are the bosses you fight. Such as a giant squid with schizophrenia, or a mole who for some reason thinks he’s James Brown. Every time you turn this game on you’ll find some new, interesting character, providing for endless entertainment.

The world in Dragon Quest is massive, overwhelming at times and eventually you’ll get to explore every inch of it. This excited me, being an avid RPG player, I love searching throughout the lands finding a new place around every corner. The only bad part about the game’s extremely expansive world is that sometimes directions given to you can be very vague and you’ll often find yourself wandering around for a bit until you reach your destination. Also, due once again to its hugeness, traveling from point A to point B can be rather slow at times. However, this becomes much easier later on in the game once you obtain a certain “item�.

Dragon Quest’s battle system is something that most RPGs cannot accomplish: extremely simple, yet never boring. It’s very easy to pick up, and impossible to forget. Don’t let the simplicity fool you however, the battles can often be very challenging. You have to be prepared with healing items and well equipped with weapons and what not, otherwise you and the game over screen may become good friends. The bosses are often challenging as well, and may have you try two or three times until you beat it.

There are a few interesting perks of the battle system that are note worthy, such as the tension of each character. Along with the ‘attack’, ‘item’, ‘spell’, ‘defend’, and ‘ability’ commands, you can choose to increase your tension as well. Doing this raises your tension level but a certain number. The higher the number, the more damage you’ll do when you attack. After the attack, your tension will decrease back down to zero. Also, when you level up, you get a certain number of skill points, which you can allocate to each of your six skills at your whim. Each character has a different set of skills according to what weapons they can use. Once you add a certain number of skill points to any one skill, it can gain a level, giving you new abilities, spells, or increase your strength. This is a more interesting way of obtaining skills, rather than the traditional automatics upgrade every few levels or so.

There are also a very wide variety of side quests to be found throughout the game. They all come gradually throughout the game, slowly introducing each new one, explaining it clearly. My personal favorite is a monster fighting/arena side quest that you can partake in once you encounter a certain character. In this quest, you become a monster “bounty hunter� and search the lands for unnaturally strong monsters. Once you defeat them (if you can) you can put them into a monster coliseum, where they can fight against other monsters and you can win prizes. Hunting down and capturing monsters and pitting them against each other for your own sick game is surprisingly fun and adds to the overall experience of the game. This is one of many other side quests you’ll come across in the game.

The game is visually stunning, to say the least. It features the kind of cell shading Wind Waker wished that it had. The environments are gorgeous, with everything coming to life as you pass it, from the grass blowing in the grasslands to the sand you kick up while running through deserts. The dungeons and towers are also quite the marvel to behold, making traveling through them (as you will travel through quite a few) much more pleasurable to the eyes with little details such as lovely lighting effects and the change from day to nighttime that truly bring the game to life. The game’s characters are vibrant and unique, with beautiful character art brought to us by the one and only Akira Toriyama (the mastermind behind the Dragon Ball series). Every character is well designed and every color is placed perfectly, making each character a wonder to behold.

The music also goes along quite well with the game, and you may even find yourself being moved by it. The voiceovers (which weren’t in the original Japanese release) is truly flawless. The cast is just about all European voice actors, with an array of different dialects well represented. Each voice suits the character very well and is very interesting to listen to.

There are few flaws in Dragon Quest, but those flaws can hurt sometimes. As traditional in the Dragon Quest series, the game requires you to go to the local church in order to save your game, and go to the Inn to rest and heal your party. It’s time consuming and a bit annoying to travel to two different buildings to do two things that go (or should go) hand in hand in RPGs. Why they chose to do this is beyond me. Also, at least in the beginning of the game, enemies drop a pitiful amount of money when being defeated, so you may find yourself short of money quite a bit, which is bad considering you’ll need plenty of healing items. Plus weapons and armor are quite expensive, so you may find yourself inadequate to battle, but you won’t have the money to do anything about it. Also, managing your items can be quite an extreme headache, since when you receive an item, it gets sent to your bag, which is separate from each character, requiring you to manually transfer items from the bag to the character’s inventory. A better menu system would have been much appreciated later in the game.

Even given these flaws, Dragon Quest VIII is a solid game in every other way. It’s unique from any RPG of its kind, and will constantly surprise you with something new each time you turn it on. It’s a great way to start off the Dragon Quest series in the states, and makes me hope to see more Dragon Quest titles here in the future.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9.1
Written by Matt Evangelista Review Guide

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