Dragon Quest VIII marks the return of the Dragon Warrior/Quest franchise in America. For us american fans of Dragon Warrior, this is the first time the game is titled "Dragon Quest" which is what the game is known as in Japan. This game was developed by Level 5 and published by SquareEnix. Final Fantasy XII playable demo-disc is packaged in.
I have always been a fan of the Dragon Warrior (DW) games and had great expectations for this one. Enix understands that DQ games are highly successful because of the nostalgia feel you get when playing them. Japan goes ga-ga over every DQ game and I wish that it would be a HUGE cultural phenomenon over here... something along the lines of Star Wars or Spongebob, but sadly it isn't. What it is, however, is a 5 star game that I HIGHLY recommend to every PS2 owner. Some of its accolades thus far include selling over 4 million copies, RPG of the year, and being rated either 9.0 or 10.0 from major video game critics. This game breathes new life into a stagnating genre and a full breath of fresh air into an already classic series.
I can't think of a better word to describe the graphics than brilliant. They are cel-shaded which is a cartoonish-look that has been done in different video games before (Dark Cloud 1, 2, and Legend of Zelda: Windwaker for example). This is what Dragon Quest needed all along, and it gives life to Akira Toriyama's art style. From fighting the very first slime to the final battle, the player will feel fully immersed into the world of Dragon Quest VIII.
All enemies have complete animations and the characters all have distinct personalities and facial expressions. The battles are shown from a modified 3rd person perspective - a first for the series(every preceding DQ was shown in a 1st person perspective) and a welcome one at that. For the first time players can see their characters' vibrant colors on their equipment as they cast graphically-enriched spells that will indeed punish the enemies severely. :) Another detail (probably minor to most but major to me) is when you equip a different weapon, you can see what the character looks like holding it - just something new. For instance, if the hero switches from a boomerang to a sword, you can see it in his sheath that goes along his backside.
The world is huge and every town/village/castle feels different. This is due partly because the game utilizes a day-night cycle (commonplace for DQ ever since DQIII). People will give you different advice and act differently in towns at night-time. Again, this is nothing new if you've already played DQIII-DQVII. If you are a new fan of the series, the day-night cycle is one thing that separates the grandeur of DQVIII from other RPG's out there. It makes towns look so vibrant during the day and somber at night. The sun will rise and set as time elapses during the game. Moons and stars blanket the night-time sky at dusk.
In my opinion, other RPG's (I say this because I feel that DQ is the pinnacle RPG series, yes even moreso than Final Fantasy - even though I am a HUGE fan of that series as well) don't take as much pride in their work as DQ. SquareEnix care about every single detail of the game including the monsters that you combat. They went even as far as to hook the US version up with a fully-orchestrated soundtrack - a feat on its own merits. I haven't played that many RPG's on the PS2 or lately for that matter, but I don't ever recall a video game company orchestrating the score. This is actually a huge bonus for DQVIII players because it adds so much ambiance to the game while playing it. Even if you don't care that much about the music, I feel that people will actually think it is quite remarkable.
I have the original soundtrack which I imported from Japan a few months ago. It retains all of the great melodies from the game, but it's bogged down with a PS2-synthesized version. The human element does so much justice to the score that a computer synthesizer absolutely can't. From string instruments we can hear deep, full crescendos and decrescendos. Layers upon layers of different instruments being played by humans as they are conducted by Sugiyama makes every moment of this game feel fresh. Koichi Sugiyama is a remarkable composer and this is some of his best works. He has consistently composed all of the music for every Dragon Quest game. A few songs I'll talk about are as follows:
The opening FMV of the game has the classic "Overture" - an epic song with a varied selection of instruments while the camera zooms in and out of the world. Birds fly by and it's amazing just to watch the FMV coupled with this song.
The opening menu screen plays "Intermezzo" - a bouncy happy song while you create a new game or revisit old saved data.
The battle music is intense and is accompanied with excellent sound effects - from bells and whistles to explosions and blizzards.
One of my favorite songs from the soundtrack is Ascantha Castle's theme song - a melancholy song that ushers in a depressing mood. I don't want to say anything that will spoil the plot, but this was done for a reason and it sets a very good - SAD - tone. THANK YOU ENIX for shedding light upon us with this breathtaking music score. I definitely don't take an orchestrated-soundtrack for granted, especially when importing one can cost up to $50.
With this entire overhaul that the series has been given, many of the elements have still been kept in tact. It's amazing how SquareEnix has created a full spectrum of light in Dragon Quest VIII. They've retained all of the brightest rays from yesteryear and combined them with shiny new ones.
Dragon Quest has consistently been created by the same core development staff. Yuji Horii is the scenario designer, Koichi Sugiyama composes and (as a special for us American Dragon Quest fans) conducts the phenomenal soundtracks, and Akira Toriyama creates the monsters and characters designs in an elaborate Dragonball Z style.
Many of the old-school gameplay elements are back, such as: equipment, monster names, and the previously mentioned music motifs.
The game retains the same turn-based combat that has been in every DQ game previously. Every time the menu shows up characters can choose from attack, spells, abilities, and items. Abilities are different for each of the characters and require certain equipment to pull-off. For instance, to execute a metal-slash the hero must be equipped with a sword and not a boomerang. Characters can change their weapon on-the-fly so in essence they can do any of the abilities. However, it's a shame that we can't just choose any of the abilities and the character will automatically switch weapons for us.
A new tension system has been added which allows characters to psyche-up. This increases all of their attritubes which makes them deal more physical/magical damage, restore more health with items or spells, increased evasion etc. 5, 20, 50, and 100 are the levels that tension will increase, each level obviously being better than the previous. One must be careful though because if an enemy attacks a character, their tension falls back to zero.
Random enemy encounters take place in this game with the characters fighting up to 9 enemies at once. Enemies have so many different personalities. Some will call for back-up while some enemies might be able to attack twice each round. They can cast spells and have abilities that are exclusive to them. Enemies like cureslimes will concentrate on healing their friends while they keep dealing damage to your party.
After battles take place characters gain experience points and gold coins. If they gain enough experience points, they go to the next level and can allocate skill points in different categories. Each category has many different spells and abilities that can be learned, it's just a matter of the player willing to put points in it.
(I highly recommend purchasing the strategy guide because it has lists that are too deep to go into in a review for the game.)
The opening menu has a simple feel to it. Create a new game, continue a saved game, erase data etc. Many of the weapons/armor/items are the same with slightly different names due to the localization. For instance what used to be called a "medical herb" is now known as a "medicinal herb" - no biggie. The spells have new names as well... Return is now zoom, blaze is frizz, blazemore is frizzle, and blazemost is kafrizzle. Nothing big, just something new to long-time fans.
The story is about a twisted-jester that steals Trodain Kingdom's royal sceptor and goes haywire. The events turn the entire castle into thorns as well as all who reside. Only one person survived the hellatious consequences - You. Not even the king survived unscathed. He was unfortunately turned into a troll and his daughter - Princess Medea - was turned into a horse. It's a unique storyline with original characters. I find the thorn situation being something new. Never before have I heard of a wicked spell cast that turns civilians into bush-shrapnel.
Doulmagus (the jester) has such a squeeky voice that sends shivers down spines. Yangus, the hero's sidekick, has a funny Australian accent and a deep heart for his friends. Well, that sums up what players will feel in the first 10 minutes of playing this game which is actually a very long RPG.
Players may use the alchemy system which is explained later on in the game that lets them combine different items to make rare ones. It's the only way to get the "impossible-to-find or buy" rare items out of the game. Alchemy recipes can be found all over the world which give subtle hints on how to make stuff. Again, this is another reason why the strategy guide is so helpful.
There is a fighting arena which allows the player to befriend monsters and form teams that compete in championships. Winning championships garners some nice rewards. I unfortunately can't say much about this because I didn't get involved with it until the end of playing DQVIII.
Recreationally-wise there are two towns thats have casinos in them. Slime bingo, slot machines, and roulette are games that the player can try to win casino coins. These are used to purchase rare items that are only held at these casinos.
If the player chooses to use the alchemy system often, the fighting arena, as well as complete the entire game (including leveling up etc) then they can expect atleast a good 65-70 hours. I didn't get too involved with the fighting arena, but I still ended up logging in over 80 hours playing this.
Read all 60 Reviews
Write a Review