Dragon Quest VIII (PS2) 2005

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Dragon Quest VIII (PS2) 2005

Postby PikaFiend » Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:08 pm

Alright, weekly review time again. I have no little stories or anecdotes this week, so let's get right to it!

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

We have here my first review of a game published by Square-Enix. It was developed by Level-5, developers of such series as Professor Layton and White Knight Chronicles, as well as Ni No Kuni. Released in 2005, it's made many a gamer's top RPG lists, and for good reason. We follow a technically nameless character (Default: Hero), the bandit Yangus, King Trode and Princess Medea on their quest to find and defeat the man responsible for cursing the king, the princess and their entire kingdom, save for Hero. And that is where I leave the story to you to discover.

Gameplay

Alright, the gameplay. Beginning with the controls of the game, they can be split into two categories; In-Battle and not. For the latter, you control the character who has the lead position in the party, so you start with Hero in that spot. You can freely change this to Yangus or either of the other two eventual party members any time you please. You will move them around the overworld and towns as you would in most RPGs, roaming around wherever you might want to go, within the limits of the area. I don't think I need to detail that very much.

While traversing towns, you have various options of places to go. Inside homes, shops and various other places, you'll find a variety of ways to rob everyone in sight. There are treasure chests and dressers to open, barrels and jars to smash and bags hanging on walls to just blatantly reach inside and plunder. This is part of normal exploration, but I, personally, like the idea that I can just wander into someone's house and steal their stuff right in front of them.

The shops come in a variety of shapes and sizes, both literally and in a figurative sense. At these, you may buy the usual variety of things, such as healing items, stuff for crafting, weapons and armor. And the Inns function basically as you might expect. You go in, pay and then sleep off your injuries. The change in the normal way this works is, depending on time of day, you have the option to sleep just until nightfall. Night changes things in towns and the overworld. I'll stick to the towns for now. Night shuts down all essential services except the Inns and the all important Churches. Although you can still explore most of the houses and such, there won't be any open shops (Until a certain place or two late in the game). But speaking of the Churches, do not ignore these. Talking to the Priests and Nuns is a good source for status healing and revival, but that's not their biggest use. This is the only place you can save at. Use these often, because there are big chunks of traveling between most of them and you don't want to have to go back and do all of it if you die.

Now, traversing the overworld. Here you will get to explore vast forests, deserts and wastelands. There are treasure chests to be found and monsters to be fought. Day and night will feature different rosters of monsters, that will also, obviously, change based on locale. What you want to watch out for, though, are the visible monsters. Most of these guys will chase you down for a fight. One in particular, right at the beginning of the game, should be avoided at all costs because even the normal form of it will be too much to handle for a two man team that's likely well below a reasonable level, let alone the beefed up visible version. Of course, later on, fighting these becomes an excellent source of items to sell for money, as well as part of a fun side-game.

Moving on to the battle system. The basics function as they normally would. You're fighting in the classic JRPG style and people familiar with the Dragon Quest series will know it very well. For those that are new to it, the differences from say...A Final Fantasy game pre-XII, are these: Your party members are each capable of learning 5 different skill sets. 3 will be variable weapon skills, ie. Hero learns Sword, Spear and Boomerang skills. The other two are unarmed combat skills and the character's unique set of magics, buffs and the like. Once you learn them, you just select them as you would any command in that control scheme. Learning them, though, can be a game of strategy. As you gain experience and level up, you'll be allotted Skill Points to be put into these categories. Knowing what to increase and when can mean the difference between a tough battle and an easy one. The other interesting part of battles is the Tension command. Using this allows characters, not just yours, but enemies too, to build up tension. It builds in intervals. As you play, and use this command, you'll unlock the ability to go all the way to 100 Tension, which changes your character's sprite as long as you're in that state. What Tension does is it increases the power of what ever you do, dissipating once you've used a command. 100 Tension makes for absolutely devastating attacks, or enormous Buffs to your party/Debuffs to enemy parties. However, using it means that character doesn't attack that turn, so it is a trade off.

Design

This game is a visual masterpiece. This is largely in thanks to the man behind the art, Akira Toriyama himself. For those of you who don't know, this is the man behind such series as Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump, as well as the almost peerless Chrono Trigger. With him behind the way this world looks, you get exactly what you expect. Bright, colourful visuals, which can some times be contrasted against dreary wastelands. The landscapes are beautiful. The world he gave us is absolutely huge, with many islands to be explored and dungeons ranging from castles to defunct abbeys there to challenge you and give you a taste of something other than the verdant forests strewn across most of the world.

Likewise, his characters are gorgeously designed as well. If you come in expecting to see Dragon Ball style visuals, you may be disappointed (Though 100 Tension Hero looks like Super Saiyan Goku and a certain party member bears a striking resemblence to Trunks) or you may not. But I don't advise hoping for that anyway. The Dragon Quest series stands apart from that, with no commonalities outside of Mr. Toriyama's distinct art style.

Sound/Music

In some ways, I find this lacking. The music is fine, but it's not a stand out to me when contrasted against other composers and games. It's nothing to scoff at, but I wouldn't write home about it either. My real problem with the sound engineering here is the speech. The voice acting is good, again, not spectacular, but it doesn't take anything away from the game. But to me it always sounds grainy and removed, like the actors were holding their hands over their microphones when reading their lines. I don't know if this was done intentionally, but it can some times get on my nerves.

Overall/Summary

So, all in all this, the 8th main series entry into the RPG series that started it all, is a wonderful game. The story is rich, the writing is at worst good and at best absolutely hilarious, the battles are varied, challenging and well curved to make it so you don't go from an area you're comfortable in to, "OH GOD, RUN AWAY!" unless you wander into a place later in the game when you are able to move between the islands that you shouldn't be in anyway. The only real complaint I have is the engineering on the speech, but again, it's not enough to ruin the game for me and shouldn't be for you. If you want a game that will challenge you, give you good laughs and maybe a few pulls of the heart strings, check it out, it's well worth the time. As always, questions, comments and criticisms are welcome and encouraged, thanks for reading.

Next week, you can expect...I don't know yet, I haven't thought that far ahead. But I can tell you with certainty, this is the last PS2 game I'll be doing for a while. However, if you do have any suggestions or would like to hear my thoughts on a game, send me a PM. For now, I've exhausted my main to-do list, so if there's something from the PS2, XBox, Gamecube generation or below, I'll be happy to look into it if it's within my means. See you next week!
"Insanity is just a state of mind." ~ Capt. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce
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