1 Store149 Reviews
Pros: Beautiful updated graphics, great symphonic score, nice old school touch, some DQ favorites return...
Cons: ...and got dumbed down, Squaresoft's side is noticeable (not as challenging), story is boring
Overall: 78% (3 stars/Average)
Enix Co. Ltd., was the company reknowned for the Dragon Quest series that many have attributed to a challenging (and old school) RPG with a great story and respectability. They are also famous for the Star Ocean series, which many have heard at some point in time. The big event surrounding any release of Dragon Quest is usually in Japan, where masses of students and workers alike call of to try to attend a release of this game. It has gained such a mass following that the Japanese government requested that any release of Dragon Quest be done on day's off, to ensure that the productivity of the country does not suffer as a result of this 1 video game series.
Alas, despite having such a mass following, this massive video game company once known as Enix Co. Ltd. suffered great financial misfortune, the likes of which left many scratching their heads. In order to survive, on April 1, 2003, Enix Co. Ltd. ceased to exist and merged with then Squaresoft to form the now massive JRPG maker known as Square Enix. This was said to be a major benefit for gamers, as it would help produce major RPG games and keep the old favorites going that we would all appreciate. However, with the 8th iteration of Dragon Quest having since been released, does this still hold true for this favorite and closely regarded series?
With the development of the game sent to Level 5 Studios. This company had few RPG's under their belt, yet they had earned respectable scores with the few games they had released. So it was hoped that the series was in good hands under them, and it turns out it may have been.
The game's graphics are relatively good, with the cel-graphics being used in place of the usual 3-D models of the characters, and everything else being held to 3-D. Relatively few, if any, pop ups show up on the land scape, and the land scape is rather massive at times. Just don't expect that "wow" factor to kick in when watching the game in motion, or seeing the spells doing their thing, as Final Fantasy X and X-2 have proven that the PS2 has more horsepower and capabilities than what this game is pushing. Also, JRPG's are known for their FMV's (which I am not a huge fan of), and thankfully this game does not occupy your time with too many of them.
Hailing back to some of the sounds on the Nintendo Entertainment System, you will hear the victory confirmation and the miss sound, just to name a few. These are good touches to harken back to the old school for those of us who have followed this series for as long as this series has been around. Unlike Final Fantasy, which time and time again has tried to forget it's roots and it's old sounds that many have come to remember and want to see return, these small touches go a long way in adding to a memorable experience that we can all relate to. Also, the soundtrack to this game that, unlike the Japanese soundtrack which was all synthosized, is all played with an actual orchestra. Despite sounding softer, this actual sounds much better, in my humble opinion. It gives the music in the background that much more immersion. The voice acting is another high point for this series. The actors, all British (or with British accents that sound quite convincing) come across quite well. Usually voice acting in a JRPG leaves something to be desired, but in this case, you will be quite pleased and astonished at how well they do their job.
Controls, what is there to mention in a JRPG? Like any review where I am speaking of a JRPG, the only thing I can speak of is how organized the menu is and whether the camera is a pest. On both counts, the menu is great and the camera does not get in your way and it does not get really up close and personal with your character at any point in time (which gets quite annoying in games such as FFXII).
The problem that has arisen in Dragon Quest 8 is the story line of the series. As everything else has essentially remained the same (with the ability create your own items), the storyline remains the one hold that would make or break this game. Unfortunately, it is a love it or hate it sort of relationship that'll make you consider what they were thinking when they wrote the story.
Without spoiling much, it is simply one of the most linear stories that I have experienced in a Dragon Quest game. This theme has been reminiscent of that with other Square-Enix games, and it makes me wonder why?! Also, it is one of the most cliched stories that you will experience, as well. You have to hunt down an evil jester, who turned a king and his daughter into a grossly looking monster and a beautiful horse, and whilst doing so destroyed the castle that the king used in his departure with roots. Your whole game revolves around that one theme, with very few side quests to hold your interest (if that is your thing, which in my case it is). Few choices are made that will deviate you from any different endings at the end, or delay or allow you to entertain the possibility of receiving a character earlier than expected in the game. The one thing that is assured is that the king is downright annoying throughout.
Also, the amount of characters that join your party are mindnumbingly low. There are only 4 characters who will be in your party during the course of the whole game, 2 from the start. Their histories are fleshed out as well as I would have liked them to have been, with some given as an afterthought at times. Also, gaining skills are based on spending skill points awarded at each level on 5 skills that you can determine. These skill points never add up to your ability to gaining all the abilities should you go up all the respectable levels at the end of the game (100), which is a negative, and some of the skills attained are downright useless and make you wonder why you spent the points to attain them. Of course, if you had a strategy guide (which in my case I did not), then you would have known which skills to get and which to not get so as to not screw your character on a permanent basis for the remainder of the game. Wonderful, ain't it?
The longevity of the game, despite the linearity, does not suffer. It is just a matter of whether the story can hold your interest throughout to make you want to finish it. It will take you in the neighborhood of roughly 40-60 hours (depending on whether you go straight for the end or take the meager few side quests) to complete this game.
To sum it all up, if you have been looking for an old school RPG experience, you have found the game. By now, this should be a "Greatest Hit's" game that can be picked up for $19.99 at most any game shop. I would recommend it at this price and encourage you to give it a spin. If you're the type that enjoys the great expansiveness that Neverwinter Nights 1/2, Final Fantasies VII or XII had to offer you, I would still recommend this lightly with the caution of linearity. If you are an MMORPG'er that enjoyed the openness FFXII had to offer and can stand nothing of the sort that FFX or X-2 had to offer, then I must recommend that you stay away from this one.