When Dragon Quest made the jump to the PS2 in 2004, the series also got a nice upgrade in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. 13 years later, we get a chance to relive this incredible adventure once more for the Nintendo 3DS.
Will Dragon Quest VIII reign supreme with RPG fans, or is it a game that suffer a curse worse than the king… low ratings! Find out in our review, after the break!
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Nintendo 3DS Family Systems
Developed by Cygames
Published by Square Enix, Nintendo
Released: 20th January 2017 (NA/Europe)
Review copy provided by Nintendo
Screenshots/Art Courtesy of Nintendo
Similarly to Dragon Quest VII, Dragon Quest VIII has also received the 3DS remake treatment, and boy has it transferred well. There have been a range of new improvements in this version which were not present in the original. These include improved localisation, swifter gameplay, new content, and more!
You start off as the self-named hero, travelling the kingdom of Trodain, along with former cockney thief, Yangus. Also tagging along is the cursed king and princess, King Trode and Princess Modea. Both were cursed under the hand of Dhoulmagus, who cast a transfiguration spell to turn the king and princess into a troll and a horse respectively. The kingdom was also left in ruin. It is up to you and Yangus to track down Dhoulmagus, and bring peace back to Trodain. Along your journey, you’ll meet a range of different characters, and it is important to interact whoever you come across as some may hold clues to Dhoulmagus’ whereabouts.
You start off your fighting party with the Hero, a young guard of the King who is well balanced, and Yangus, a former cockney thief who can deal quite the powerful attack. Later on, during your quest, you will also recruit Jessica, a busty tomboy from a wealthy background who dabbles in offensive magic, and Angelo, a womanising Templar knight who is a vital healer. There are also two new playable characters, who were NPCs in the original, exclusive to the Nintendo 3DS remake. They are Red, the Thief, and Morrie, the Fighter.
As for most RPGs, turn based combat returns. You can choose to attack with your equipped weapon, or you could perform a spell or an ability. New in Dragon Quest VIII, you can also choose to intimidate an enemy, or psyche up. Intimidating gives you the chance of scaring off an enemy. Psyching up increases your tension, meaning that you skip your turn, but the next attack will be stronger. A new feature for the 3DS version, which makes the game more appropriate for portability, is Quick Mode. Activating this vastly speeds up the combat animations, making the battle run more quickly. It’s perfect for the portability of the 3DS as you are wasting less time in long battles while you are on the bus. It also means that level grinding isn’t as tedious.
Dragon Quest VIII has a much larger sense of being able to control your adventure compared to previous titles through the use of skill points. Every time a character levels up, you are assigned a certain number of skill points to distribute to different skills. For example, Yangus has skills for Axes, Clubs, and Humanity. Assigning points to each skill will change how much damage the character deals with certain weapons, and they may even learn new spells and abilities. The skill points mechanism definitely creates some strategic play as you choose what sort of fighter your characters will be.
The progress of gameplay is much more streamlined compared to Dragon Quest VII. Within the first thirty(ish) minutes, you would’ve already been through several battles, learnt the basic story, and have entered the first dungeon. There is also much less faffing about between each story event. This translates very well to portable play. You also learn transportation spells like Evac and Zoom much earlier in the game, for convenient travel. Don’t expect a short 20 hour game however, it can be very easy to rack your playtime to 60 hours before completing the game, and that’s without collecting every item and completing every quest!
The difficulty is well balanced as the enemies get progressively harder much quickly, but not so much you’ll constantly get defeated (unless you refuse to level up). What’s great in the 3DS version is that there are no more random encounters. Instead, you’ll find enemies roaming about. Once one sees you, it will try to chase you. If the enemy is weaker than you, it may actually try to run away. This means that you do not necessarily have to go into battles in areas you revisit. During dungeons, it may become slightly more difficult to avoid enemies in narrow corridors. One new mechanism in the 3DS remake is the fact that levelling up will now restore the character’s Health and Magic points. There have been countless times where this has saved me a trip back to the nearest town to rejuvenate myself.
One new 3DS exclusive feature is the Camera. You can now take out a camera at any point in the world and take a picture to share with your friends. You can also change your pose, put in party characters, and add stickers. This isn’t just a fun little extra, as it also links with a brand new side quest. Soon after you start your journey, you’ll encounter an fancy old fellow, aptly named Cameron Obscura. He’ll explain how he used to travel the world before the monster made it too dangerous. He then gives you the Cameron Codex, asking you to take pictures of certain people, monsters, and other things.
There are more than 100 different objects to take pictures of. Every objective will give you a certain number of stamps, and if you complete a stamp card, you will be rewarded with special items. This is the perfect way to really explore the entire world of Dragon quest VIII. You can also swap your photos as digital postcards over StreetPass, you may even receive a special reward for swapping enough of them. There’s also a special post game dungeon, which is another new extra in the 3DS version.
The game, like most RPGs on the 3DS, is bursting with quirky charm. Some of the animations of the monsters are pretty weird, and it’s hilarious when a jailcat decide to clean itself in the middle of battle! The voice acting also adds to the charm as now conveys the expression of each character at a deeper level. You can’t help but smile when you hear King Trode shriek with annoyance. The script is great too. There’s nothing better than hearing a giant squid monster using his tentacles as external beings!
Overall, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is another great RPG for the 3DS. It’s fun, has a lot of replay value, has streamlined gameplay, and a whole lot of charm. There are so many great improvements that definitely justify the remake. The Camera is definitely a highlight of the improvements. The only fault I can see is that the menus are still a bit messy.
Dragon Quest VIII is a must have for any RPG fan, and therefore, we fully recommend it!
Dragon Quest VIII is out now for Nintendo 3DS Family Systems.