Dragon Quest VIII Review

makes you want to play it eh?

makes you want to play it eh?

I’ve played the heck out of this game, fairly recently but still had to do some research to remind myself of some of the games quirks. It is awesome and I chose to review it because I really think it got underhanded here in the states in comparison to series like Final Fantasy. I know people would probably prefer to hear someone mutilate the existence of a game but this isn’t the case. Ha! too bad!

The franchise Dragon Quest, also known as Dragon Warrior in America, is one of the most renowned JRPGs (Japanese Role-Playing Game) ever. Don`t believe me? Check out Famitsu`s top 100 games of all-time.

However, when bringing the series over to the west, Square Enix did not have much luck. It was only overshadowed by the already dominant Final Fantasy series, which made the transition to US much more smoothly, with a defining game like Final Fantasy VII.

The game was released in 2004 in Japan to great acclaim, and roughly a year later overseas, to only decent success compared to their prior standards that were set. One can only guess why. Enter Dragon Quest VIII


An ominous cutscene will start the game off where one of the main villains, Dhoulmagus (yes, DOOL-MAY-GIS get your laughs out now), steals a seemingly powerful sceptre from the castle of Trodain, and casts a curse on it using his new found powers to eternally petrify it`s residents….with the exception of one castle guard….you.


yeah this guy doesn't look like a tool.

You start off in humble beginnings, in the middle of a forest. The game doesn`t quite tell you how you got there yet, as you are to discover it yourself. Accompanied by two rather bulbous and short men (one of them reminiscent of a toad), an eccentric mysterious mouse, and a beautiful white horse attached to a carriage, you are immediately informed that this is going to be quite an adventure as the title implies. The player is immediately thrown into an introductory battle before finding shelter in a nearby town, taking in the games stunningly sharp score (check it out here).

The situation is quickly discovered upon entering the town as your green companion (actually the king of Trodain, King Trode, morphed into a beast by Dhoulmagus` venomous powers) has you investigate the whereabouts of a mage that may have the knowledge to help him and his daughter Princess Madea (the white horse) in their accursed state. From here you are plunged into a perilous pursuit, and you can just sit back and enjoy the story-driven classic JRPG gameplay.

The typically mute hero lacking a concrete name (you have to name him, I chose to name him ‘Hiro’ for pun) is one of the most likable main characters I can say I’ve seen. He`s intuitive, knows to keep his mouth shut, (with the exception of player ad-libs) and makes you feel like your playing a role. You`ll man him as you travel with your companions and find new ones (also controllable), to destroy Kefka`s retarded brother Dhoulmagus` curse, and maybe even find a thing or two out about yourself and why you were the only one to survive the crisis.

Those new found companions would be Jessica and Angelo (also known as Kukule in Japan), the other two playable characters along with the Hero and Yangus, the bandit berserker type character, who pledged his life to the Hero after you save it during a rather humorous confrontation, which one of the cutscenes will elaborate on later in the game.

Jessica is a voluptuous red-headed whip-wielding black mage type, who joins the crew after a heated debate with her rich mother, believing to her mother`s dismay that she should go and find her estranged brother Alistair, eventually receiving the help of the Hero and company.

Angelo is a rebellious templar who frequents the bar often for gambling and women. He wears a red costume and attacks with a rapier, with the option for bows and arrows, topped off with a touch of white magic.

Outside of the playable characters, there is Munchie the mouse, who also has his uses. Using different types of cheeses during battle will cause him to consume them, enabling special battle effects, including damage.

umm, yeah this is going to be some journey.

umm, yeah this is going to be some journey.

The end of the game will leave players mildly and moderately satisfied, but the optional ending that you acquire by completing the game once and going through a series of trials known as the Dragovian Trials, gives you a dose of much needed main character development and makes the ending way better, leaving you content with your game.

The story isn`t anything new under the sun but it is certainly one to remember, with easily lovable characters, and countless side-quests, everyone will find something to enjoy here. The twists aren`t too ridiculous and the characters (designed by the infamous Dragonball Z creator and artist Akira Toriyama) shine in all of their cel-shaded glory, from snow villages to sky citadels.

how can you go wrong?

how can you go wrong?


Very simple and somewhat primitive even. This game does a spectacular job on building on top of what was already present. It`s easy to learn, hard to master battle system caters to all crowds of gamers. It takes what we`ve grown to love from RPGs of the past, and added a graphical facelift, with some extra quirks. If it`s not broken, don`t “fix” it. However when developers do this “fixing”, it is likely in an attempt to freshen the series, DQ8 takes the best of both worlds and executes it in an outstanding fashion by staying true to the series roots and introducing new ideas simultaneously.

In DQ8s turn-based battles, you will have four options. Fight, in which your respective character will attack with whatever weapon they have (be it a sword, rapier, bow, dagger, ax, etc.) and attack the enemy of your choice. Also under Fight will be the ability to use items, magic, defense, and skills acquired by utilizing points after gaining a level. The abilities and magic are fun animations to watch and will manage to almost never become tedious. The spells/skills include typical elemental attacks and status boosts/debuffs for the most part. There is also an option to “Psyche Up”, allowing you to charge up by the turn for maximum damage, as your character goes into a trance like state. Additionally, a team of monsters can be assembled to do your bidding for you later in the game. The option to Flee obviously is an attempt to end the battle, Intimidate does so by scaring the enemy away and Tactic is an automated set of protocols for characters, it doesn’t have much of a purpose but its existence does nothing to hurt the experience. I honestly have never experimented with it much so don`t hold me to that statement. All of this might seem a little complicated on paper, (or…monitor?) but it’s a lot easier to understand when you have the controller in your hand, along with visual aid and sound cues.

where have we seen this before...

where have we seen this before...

Each of the four characters can carry 12 items, and all other items will be stored in a bag. Typically each character will have a weapon, armor, a helmet, a shield, and an accessory equipped. Whatever else you decide for a person to carry into battle is all up to you. The game menu is also very simple, four tabs for attributes, items, magic, and a miscellaneous tab for things such as the character line-up. Pressing select allows the player to see more specific statistics, like the amount of enemies obliterated, and amount of times killed. This also includes King Trode commenting on your performance thus far.

As for navigation outside of menu interfaces, players will travel amazing landscapes far and wide, talking with townsfolk, purchasing new items, taking new sidequests, and watching some of the games charming, funny cutscenes. You’ll go through your usual sequence of dungeons be it optional or sidequests. Few enemies will trek the environment, dashing towards you as you near them and engaging in battles, but for the most part the battles are randomized, although not to the point that they are annoying, considering how fun the battles can be. There are ways to turn the amount of battles down and move about quickly, with the likes of teleportation, tiger-like creatures called “sabrecats”, a boat, and even the ability to fly eventually at your disposal throughout the course of the game, giving treasure hunters a much easier life. The world map consists of several continents which can all be fully explored, granted only a few of the areas are worth noting, completionists and explorers alike are going to want to leave no stone unturned as the game tends to have treasure chests and hidden areas in the most of unlikely places. Some people are going to want to explore every nook and cranny, only to find out that they’ve missed a few things.

*Good gameplay video*

Dragon Quest VIII is a game of epic proportions and of epic delivery. Down to the polished visuals, sharp battle system, great storyline and charming characters, it is almost impossible to find a flaw with this game. Even if your not an RPG fan, you should at least try this one, and if you do decide to pick this up, try not to go in with inflated expectations just because of this review, maybe you`ll like it, maybe you won`t….but if you don`t…..you`re probably braindead ;).

1 Comment

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