Review – Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Overview

Developer Level-5
Publisher Square Enix
Genre Role-playing Game
Platforms Playstation 2
Release Date NA: November 15, 2005

Dragon Quest VIII by Square Enix is an RPG adventure game for the PlayStation 2. Released back in 2005, it launched when people were anticipating the PS3, and the talk of new graphics and console capabilities were on the horizon. The PS2 had a great ending, with games like this giving players who were not ready to make the console jump something to enjoy. Now, more than ten years later, I finally get to play it, as well as finally enter the Dragon Quest series. Does it still hold up?

This looks like an LJ photo mode job!

 

Content Guide

Violence: Yeah, the whole point is to vanquish the forces of evil from the land, and protect people from the monsters in the wilderness. Those swords, axes, whips, and boomerangs are going to get so much action. This is what players bought the game for: a pleasant fantasy RPG.

Language: The words a**, d***, and b****** appear in dialogue.

Alcohol/drugs/gambling: Going to pubs to gather information is sometimes vital in the story. Some characters appear drunk in the environment. There are instances where players can enter casinos and risk money for high rewards. For gambling fans, take a look at onlinecasinosingapore.asia where you can find a variety of casino games.

Sexual Content: Dragon Quest VIII cripples my entire enjoyment of the game, and the series, by mishandling their female characters. Every city has a girl dressed in a skimpy or short bunny suit somewhere (mostly a pub). Red, a side character who helps the story at a couple of points, is a seriously top of the line fighter and practically dressed in her underwear. And then there’s Jessica, one of my favorite female characters in video games who has abilities that go completely against who she is. She’s strong, witty, composed, has stakes in this story, and experiences some growth during the adventure. But they sabotaged her by having better equipment be skimpy bikinis, garters, and bunny suits. Her skills revolve around sex appeal, and while I’m grateful there’s an ability that can potentially stun an enemy for a round, it should have been named something else. Jessica, and certain enemy witches, can also use a “sexy beam” (just a pink heart-shaped energy attack, how is that sexy?) and… Puff Puff, where they squeeze their chests to stun their targets. Sometimes Jessica is used as a joke for being a “model woman” (ala a “VA VA VOOM, That’s what I’m talking about!” moment with the camera zooming in on her features) and its wholly bothersome. And it’s most bothersome because it’s not who she is. Yes, she comes out and adventures in a top that has way too much cleavage and that may have been her choice (the game is still designed by men at the end of the day) but never once is she even remotely sloozy. There’s also a small room hidden in the mountains where characters, including Jessica, can receive a Puff-Puff treatment. It’s a woman placing two slimes on either side of the heroes’ face, but the provocative statements and the blackout make players believe it to be something else.

Should someone tell him?

Review

A mouse with a wicked mohawk runs through the woods, and finds the player, Hero, resting with a little green creature, who is looking for the princess. A horse comes through the clearing, and the goblin King Trode pronounces Princess Medea, the horse, is safe. Players are the Hero (whatever name is given the players input), a knight-turned-adventurer still loyal to the crown, and sets out to destroy the curse cast by Dhoulmagus, a foul, wicked clown responsible for stealing a cursed staff from Palace Troden. 

This is a story that seemingly gets the player invested immediately. The goal is clear, the characters are relatable and charming (save for the silent, “insert yourself into narrative” main character), and the end seems worth the journey. Along the way, you meet your party. Each member shares an interest in the narrative, and follows along for real reasons.

Traversal involves going from town to town, following the smallest whiff of Dhoulmagus you can. Each town has an Inn, a Church, and shops for equipment and items. They are also all affected by the villain in some way, and to progress the players takes it upon his or herself to clean it up. The paths around the whole map lead you through castles, dungeons, and caves, over water, on floating islands, across deserts, inside dark towers, and even into a shadow universe (which is extremely under utilized). 

Sabrecat, hooooo!

On that journey, you’ll encounter that classic Akira Toriyama artstyle of monsters and bosses. Every creature is equipped with an ironic name and clever design. They are unforgettable to newcomers, and classic players may find their third-dimension quite appealing (unless of course the player is working backwards, DQXI is clean).

Dragon Quest is not friendly in its fighting gameplay. Since the first installment, preparation and grinding, have been key to even getting out of the first town, and that’s no different for installment number eight, I’m afraid. The sheer amount of random encounters is overwhelming, and the leveling-up system is slow. This game released before quality-of-life improvements were thought about as well, meaning that battles take time.

This game can leave stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Speaking of gameplay, DQVIII comes with the tried and true RPG goodies: item and equipment management, magic keys for locked doors, a mount, a boat, a flying option late in the game, item creation, and monster collecting! Still not satisfied? How about gambling? Or do you fancy the post-game content? How about the mini medal collection? For completionists, there’s the bestiary which offers a handy item upon filling it all out. Adventurers will enjoy the islands not marked on the map, and the tiny corners you can only get to by flying there. And don’t forget to try and pit your monster team against the monster arena!

Yangus forgot to go to church last Sunday.

Dragon Quest VIII takes 80-90 hours at minimum to finish. The story takes its time, and tells a grand narrative (save the stupid collecting the seven stones before the final boss schtick; why!?) that shows the impact that evil places on the world in ways other stories don’t. Its twists make the final battle feel personal, yet it still retains its grand scale—you fight on the back of a bird god!

THIS ISN’T EVEN HIS FINAL FORM!

And hardcore gamers rejoice, the game doesn’t hold your hand. In fact, I dare say it should a little. I wouldn’t have finished without an online walkthrough from good ol’ GameFAQ’s. It’s dense, and most of the time partaking in the side content is a necessity to keep up with the difficulty curve. 

 

I had a lot of fun with Dragon Quest 8. It’s not perfect, as I mentioned the sexist content previously as well as how slow the grinding can get, but the overall experience still remains positive. The world is highly imaginative. Flying as a sun bird, crossing into magical doors, and sailing around in an ancient ship holds the spirit and allure of adventure I crave.

The princess was never in any castle. She was a horse.



The Bottom Line

 

It's a slow brew, but worth the build up.

 

8

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Johnathan Floyd

A current work in progress while being a work in progress. Johnathan has bounced around multiple jobs until he found his passions later than most people would. After two attempts at college, he is aiming for the career as a published author, and professor of English lit. Until then, he is enjoying being a worship leader, and writing about video games for Geeks Under Grace.

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