Dragon Quest has been a largely inaccessible JRPG series for years in Europe, with only two main series instalments making their way here in its 30 year history. That is, until Nintendo pushed for the release of the Dragon Quest VII remake worldwide, and now the remaster of Dragon Quest VIII, one of the two games previously released worldwide for the PlayStation 2 over a decade ago. With the series making its way to the 3DS, many more (myself included) can now experience Square-Enix’s beloved JRPG juggernaut. But is Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King worth jumping into at all?
In the land of Trodain, an evil court jester by the name of Dhoulmagus steals a legendary magic scepter and casts a spell on the king, Trode, and his daughter, Madea, turning them into a troll and a princess. Now, with the land out of his control, Trode enlists one of his guards, the player, to escort him and Madea so he can have his revenge on Dhoulmagus. Along their journey the hero, Trode and Madea save a bandit named Yangus, who insists he joins them. They are also joined by a mage seeking revenge named Jessica and a classy, flirtatious Templar Knight named Angelo, as they travel Trodain to have their revenge on Dhoulmagus.
While it stands as a generic story on paper, Dragon Quest VIII‘s 70 hour story is held together firmly by its loveable cast of characters. Each of the four main cast (and two more added into this version) have their own personal grudges against the villain, and they’re all given their own time to shine and develop as the story progresses. It’s easy to connect with the characters and understand their motives as a result of the fantastic writing and character development that keeps the player in the game’s world for tens of hours.
More importantly, keeping the player in the world is the easily-accessible turn-based combat. The game has a simplistic combat system that people who have never even played a turn-based JRPG before can easily jump into and veterans of the genre can appreciate for just how fun it is. Each party member represents a certain class, but they can all use a variety of weapons whose usefulness can be upgraded by leveling up, instead of that party member’s stats. It’s an interesting and unique system that works in its favour, as it makes travelling to a new town and acquiring a new weapon type feel more rewarding and fresh.
Being the first 3D installment in the Dragon Quest series, the game stands out by having a huge world to traverse which, unlike the PS2 original, is filled much more in the 3DS version thanks to the removal of the random encounters. Now enemies show up on the world map, which helps fill in the blanks and adds to the game’s sheer beauty for a 3DS title. It may be a port of a console game, but this is definitely a nicer looking version. The game’s UI has been redone, now utilising the bottom screen of the 3DS for the battle menus, the dialogue and the world map.
The most beautiful part of Dragon Quest VIII‘s aesthetics are the incredible character and monster designs from Dragon Ball creator and artist Akira Toriyama. Toriyama is known for his unique artwork for the Dragon Quest games, but seeing the characters and monsters fully rendered in 3D is something else entirely. It adds incredible charm and appeal to the entire game that outshine a lot of the design of Toriyama’s original characters.
Another part of the game’s delightful charm is the localisation and, more specifically, the native English voice cast found far too often in localised JRPGs (the only other memorable one being Xenoblade Chronicles). While some people may not be fans of some of the line-delivery, the voice acting calls back to the style found in some English animated shows some of us grew up with, and it is something we should see (or hear) more often in colourful RPGs such as this.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is an incredibly fun JRPG that appeals to both newcomers to the genre and veterans alike with its enjoyably simplistic combat system, well-developed story with fantastic characters, charming localisation housing a great, fresh voice cast and aesthetics that stand as some of the most delightful designs found in a Japanese RPG. Now that the series is readily available to play on the 3DS, it hopefully means great things for getting Dragon Quest IX localised soon.
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 20th January 2017