Quest 7 hit the US, it was met with very little enthusiasm.
The game just didn't have a new enough look. The visuals were
straight out of the 16-bit era (which is sad on a PSX game),
the sounds were all classic (read: midi), and there was
absolutely nothing that made it standout as a new RPG for the
is the true appeal of Dragon Quest games; they don't care
about what the masses want, but rather about what the fans
want. While this may be hazardous in the less than friendly
towards RPG countries (like the US), it has made the DQ series
a smash hit in Japan.
So, with the
first DQ of the current generation (which is about to be the
old generation), Square Enix gave the game a bit of a facelift
to make it more visually appealing (while also giving Akira
Toriyama a chance to work his magic that we all know so well
from DBZ, Chrono Trigger, etc). It now looks like a whole new
series. However, the ultimate question is; does DQ8 still have
the classic RPG feel that made so many fans of the series, and
does it offer anything new to keep the more jaded DQ fans
tell you that this is a game about chasing a jester across the
world. These people are also the ones who will probably have
to say "no" if you asked them if they actually
finished the game. What I'm simply saying is this; don't be deceived
by the un-hype.
The plot of
the game is pretty deep and full of plenty of plot twists,
despite it's rather average beginning. You play a guard (which
is nameless and resembles Gohan from DBZ...the characters are
designed by Mr. Toriyama, afterall) who is on a quest with a
gruff bandit, a creepy looking goblin like man, and a horse
pulling a cart. Before long, the game starts to explain why
this random group would be together. The goblin-like man is
actually the king of Trodain, the country in which you were a
guard, while the horse is actually the king's daughter. As for
the bandit...he was just suckered into the quest due to his
own ineptness as a bandit and your kindness in saving his
of Trodain was once a peaceful country, much like the average
DQ kingdom. It was bright, full of life, and full of happy
citizens. Then, one day, an unusual Jester came to the castle,
seeking a special treasure that was rumored to grant infinite
magical ability. He managed to break into the treasure room
and got a hold of the item, a scepter. It was then that he
used the scepter's magic to turn the king and his daughter
into the abominations that now make up half of your party. It
was after this that the Jester unleashed a massive curse on
the rest of the castle...leaving on man, you, somehow immune
to the evil magics.
quest begins. You are out to find a cure for the king and the
princess while also trying to prevent further damage to the
world by the power hungry Jester. Along the way, a grander
scheme of evil begins to unfold. As you follow the Jester, who
happens to constantly be traveling towards the next potential
cure for the royal family, he starts to slowly and
methodically eliminate certain people from the world. Because
of these acts, you soon get two more members to your group;
Jessica, a rather (let's not sugar-coat the truth) slutty
young woman who is seeking revenge after her brother becomes a
victim to the Jester, and Angelo, a young (let's apply the
same rules to him) slutty priest who is out for revenge after
his church's leader is killed by the Jester.
game does go deeper than just being a simple quest of
"follow the leader" (or jester). However, it will
take some time for the plot to truly progress. In fact, with
this game that weighs in around 80 hours, you can consider the
first 30 hours as mainly an introduction to the world of
Dragon Quest 8. If you think this may get dull, you are
probably wrong (unless you find RPGs dull...in which case,
this is not a game for you anyway). The world contains a
greatly detailed history, unique traditions and rules, and
some interesting side information. Plus, as you play, you will
stumble across some questions (Why is the main character
immune to curse attacks? What's the deal with Munchie, the
heroes pet mouse?) you may develop on your own that will take
the full game to truly begin to understand.
this may be a long game, it will fulfill your need for a plot.
The only part that will be left behind in details are those of
the four main characters. You will suffer from a bit of
underdeveloped characters. While Yangus (the bandit) gets a
fair share of the spotlight, Angelo (the priest) and Jessica
will get almost no development. As for the hero...well, unless
you strive for the bonus "good" ending, you will
find out almost nothing about him. However, the world and the
other characters will supply you with plenty of plot to keep
nut-shell, this is old school RPG nostalgia. You will have
random battles (if you have a problem, then just go and f#%^
yourself...did I type that? Sorry...or not), text based
dialogue (see previous note), and large open areas between
locations of interest (you know the deal). You also have turn
based combat with standard issue menu commands, like
"fight", "defend", "spell",
"ability", and "item" to name a few. This
is simply RPG Nirvana for those of us who know what a quality
RPG is and where they came from.
The bulk of
the game comes down to either exploring or fighting. The
exploration involves towns, castles, dungeons, and the world
map screen. In these areas, you will typically have a map (or
you will find one with time) to help you keep track of where
you are and where you are going. This is very important since
the areas of the game are quite large and daunting without
this type of assistance. Also, if you're in a town or castle,
you will have plenty of your standard shops and people to
interact with. Each one will offer something unique that may
or may not be of help in your quest. You should know the deal;
in towns you talk to people, buy equipment, and figure out
your next step in your quest (and maybe take part in some
local fun, like the casinos).
leave town, you will have a large world to check out,
including dungeons...which are where most of the action takes
place in. This action comes down, mainly, to fighting random
battles and boss monsters. However, you'll also have plenty of
opportunities for finding loot and all of the usual side quests.
not fighting, you will eventually get access to the
"Alchemy Pot". This is a special addition to Dragon
Quest 8. Using alchemy, you can try to combine two or (later
on) three items to make new equipment. For example, if you
combine a cypress stick (basic sword type weapon) with a
certain knife, you will make a spear. These transformations
usually make some sense (use "saint's ashes" on a
cursed item to make it safe for general use, and a demon's
tail to reverse said effect) and help to unlock the most
powerful items in the game. Also, considering the nature of
how infrequently one obtains gold in Dragon Quest games, this
will help you to turn your obsolete items into useful
equipment without breaking the bank.
use alchemy, you have to either have a recipe and some ingredients,
or a lot of patience as you try new combinations. Luckily, a
failed mix does not deplete your time or items, but you may
get tired of King Trode telling you that you failed. Also,
when the mix is good, you still will have to walk a bit
(literally...alchemy is finished depending on how many steps
you take, not how long you sit idle) before your new item is
ready. Also, the game is nice enough to give you many recipes,
assuming you take the time to talk to NPCs and to read books
left on bookshelves in towns. Overall, this feature adds a
little something extra to the game, but it only helps (it's
not required), so if you don't care for it, it won't ruin the
most evident part of the game, as you play, are the battles.
To start with, as I said, they are random encounters. You will
encounter a fair share of fights. It's nothing as bad as
Beyond the Beyond, but there are more than a few battles as
you travel from location to location.
most other RPGs, these are not "mash the X button"
battles. Even a normal low level fight can turn into a
slaughter if you throw away strategy in favor of button
mashing. At any time, an enemy may pull out a rarely used
attack, or work in conjunction with another enemy in the same
battle, and put the hurt on you in a major way. It's not like
the game is unreasonable in difficulty, but it will make you
work for your victories.
As I said,
the battles consists of standard issued commands, with only a
few exceptions. The most important exception is when you build
your tension. There are five levels of tension for each
character (starting at no tension) and they help to make your
next action more potent. If you use a healing spell with no
tension, it will give you so many HP back. Use it with some
tension, and it will cost the same MP (magic points), but it
will be more powerful. The same applies to buffs (like
boosting defense, agility, etc), and offensive moves. However,
once you act in a way beyond boosting your tension, the
tension will be expired. So, if you use three rounds to boost
your tension (which means you've boosted three times since
each one requires a whole turn) and then attack, you will be
back at zero tension (and the enemy should be hurting badly).
While this may seem pointless ("why boost three times and
attack on the fourth turn when I could attack for four
turns?"), the increase in ability will become obvious
when you start unleashing tension based attacks and healing
enemies will not be afraid to use tension based offenses as
well. In fact, beyond that, some bosses will have abilities to
drop all of your buffs (including any built tension). So,
that's where strategy comes in. You will have to determine
when it's right to build for full tension and when it's right
to just go gung-ho. Also, to reach the highest level of
tension is a gamble. You may reach it after boosting four
times, or the game may be determined that you just can't build
enough tension and it could take far longer. Think of this
fact like a critical hit...you may get it when you need it
most, or you may just keep failing. There's no rhyme or reason
to getting to perfect tension, so it's also a simple question
of "can I afford to attack at the second highest tension,
or can I afford to keep boosting to full?"
other big change to this game is in how you level up. Each
character will start to get skill points when they level up
after your first half dozen levels. These points, which can be
between 3 and 8 per level, are applied to one (or more) of
five skills that are mostly unique to each character. Each
character has three weapon skills (sword, spear, and boomerang
are the heroes), fisticuffs (barehanded fighting), and a
unique personality based skill (hero gets "courage",
Jessica gets "sex appeal", etc). The weapon based
skills (including fisticuffs) are usually (with spells learned
from the staff skill being an exception) only useful when equipped
with said weapon, while the personality skills are always
usable. Each skill set contains ten different levels (obtained
at unique point levels depending on the skill) that grant the
character some unique abilities or spells. Each skill can be
raised to 100 (being the maximum), but there are caps
depending on your current character level (you cannot max a
skill until level 38).
will further add to the strategy of the game since certain
weapons are more useful at different times than others. For
example, the heroes' boomerang can hit many enemies, so these
skill may prove useful during random battles, but the sword
and spear are more useful in major battles. So, do you waste
skill points on the random battle weapon or one of the more
potent weapons? Also, certain abilities are just more powerful
then others, so do you keep using that weaker weapon with a
good ability, or do you use the stronger weapon that you have
not learned as much with? It's all up to the player, and it
will all make a difference in the game.
the skills, you still have the other more common aspects of
characters leveling up. In other words, you have a few stats
(four main stats, not counting MP and HP) that increase with
each level. These stats all raise according to what character
it is (Yangus and the hero tend to go for strength, while
Angelo and Jessica get more intellectual and agility based
properties). Last of all, in case you're scared that you
didn't level up your skills correctly, you still get some
spells from leveling up. The hero gets a few healing and
offensive spells, Angelo gets some healing and buff spells,
and Jessica gets some buffs and offensive spells...while
Yangus is just a tank for the party who gets nothing for his
MP, unless you go for the right skills.
other really new aspect is monster battling. It's like Pokemon...in
a way. As you progress the plot, the owner of an arena will
ask you to find some special monsters (who actually show up on
the map and are more powerful versions of random monsters).
Once you beat then, these guys will join you. You will then be
able to use them in this arena to mindlessly (you don't
control them) battle through three rounds of battles to
increase in rank. There are around 10 ranks to progress, and
each one will get you some new items and/or abilities. These
include being able to use your monster team in a real battle.
It doesn't add too much to the game, and it's definitely not
required to beat the game, but it can give completionists a
little more time to enjoy DQ8.
In the end,
there's not much really new to the game play, and you'll see
mostly familiar and friendly game themes. This is definitely
similar to the original DQ as much as it is to DQ7. There are
big dungeons, lots of story, a large time commitment, random
battles, big dungeons (did I mention that...because they are
freakin' huge), monster area teams, alchemy, and a severe lack
of gold (which is a staple of DQ). In other words, if you've
ever played a real DQ game and enjoyed it, you will be in
heaven with this one's game play mechanics. Also, you'll be
right at home.
for you; "Akira" and "Toriyama". This is
the first game to break away from the standard sprite based
visuals, and it shows with each cell shaded Toriyama creation
that graces the screen. If ever a game looked like an anime,
this is the game that would best fit that title.
this is one of the most impressive looking RPGs ever seen,
assuming you are not a fan of ultra-realistic or polygonal
visuals (in other words, if you enjoy FFX or Morrowind for
visuals...well, you're out of luck on this one). The
characters are greatly detailed, but only to a certain limit,
to make them look about as anime as possible. This applies to
everything from the characters, the NPCs (of which, many look
nicely unique), the monsters, the terrain, vehicles, animals,
water, and just about everything else present.
If you ever
felt like cell shaded visuals were not the way to go in a
game, then either this game is not for you, or this game will
show you the errors of the other game's (that use cell-shaded
visuals) way. Either way, this game stands to impress anyone
who thought that Sly Cooper was the limit of how cell shaded
visuals could look on the current generation.
the great still images, the characters models are just as
impressive (if not more so) when in action. The level of
animation and the frames per animation are nicely done. On top
of that, visual effects (like spells) are all sharp and fluid,
while packing a nice punch of visual flair.
combine the wonderful images, the fluid animation, and an
obvious lack of visual issues (like frame rate drops, etc), it
is easy for me to say that DQ8 is possibly one of the best
looking RPGs ever to grace a console.
will begin by impressing you with it's audio, it will let you
down after 80 hours. There is no other way to say it. When you
deal with making a game as long as DQ8, Square Enix, you need
to understand that the music and voices will become an obvious
problem as they wear on the gamer.
sounds orchestral and nicely unique. The music also applies
nicely to the situations at hand. However, there is only a few
tracks that stand out, and these tracks, like the over world
background music, will be played to death. I still can't get
that damned tune out of my head. It will probably always sit
in there, driving me insane, due to how I heard it for about
45 hours of the game. Throw in about 15 hours worth of the
standard battle music, and 20 hours of the same damned town
music, and you probably can see my problem.
doesn't end with repetitive music. There's also the classic
problem of an RPG; voice acting. The voice actors in DQ8 can
range from mediocre to flat out horrible. Every time you hear
the king speak, you will want to slam your hand down on the
mute button. When you hear Yangus shouting in a bad English
accent, you will writhe in pain. The only truly good voice
acting in the game comes from the main character (and that's
only because he's mute). I wish I could say that there were
some standout performances to make it all better, but there
simply aren't. The voice acting is bad, plain and
sound effects do balance out the bad music and voice acting,
especially if you like the classic DQ sound effects, they just
can't save DQ8 from bad audio. On the plus side, with DQ8
being a turn based RPG, sounds are not important in the game
(with one possible exception near the end of the game), so you
could always just turn off the audio and pop in a music CD or
80 to fill the void.
In the end,
despite having a bad set of audio stimuli, DQ8 is one of the
best examples of why turn-based classical RPGs should not be
pushed aside as antiquated. The visuals are nothing short of
amazing, the plot is truly captivating, and the game play is
rock solid (assuming you are not a damned "innovation"
freak, or a turn-based random battle hater). Even if classic
RPG game play is not your thing, DQ8 definitely merits a rent.
When you throw in the fact that technically this game shines
(the load times aren't obtrusive, the visuals never lag or
suffer, and the game never crashed once in over 80 hours for
me), and it's safe to say that Square Enix still can do RPGs
right. Therefore, I
have no choice but to give Dragon Quest 8 a most deserving
9.75 out of 10
(despite my hatred of Square Enix and their recent exploits).
This is it...true RPG addiction at it's best.
says Akira Toriyama like Gohan in a bandana!
Dragon Quest battles...
with a little extra visual flair...
new skill system, as seen in a level up.
with the classical leveling with stat increases
like gambling you almost impossible to earn gold away at a
game of roulette.
options include animal friends of both the sky (above) and the
about these images: My video capture card is about
to die on me. So, while these visuals are definitely sub par
in quality, they should definitely give you a nice impression
of what a quality turn-based game with visuals by Akira
Toriyama can look like.
visual settings of the game allow wide screen, much like my TV
does, so these images are displayed with the DQ8 widescreen