DQVIII – The legendary JRPG returns on Nintendo 3DS
When I think back to my absolute favourite JRPG experiences on PlayStation 2, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King stands head and shoulders above the rest. Square Enix’s classic game had it all: a witty, charming story, an inspired cast of characters with beautiful art design, a vast, wondrous world to explore, and action-packed, turn-based combat. Now you can relive this epic tale in all of its gloriousness, or experience the thrills for the very first time, in an awesome enhanced port of DQVIII available now on Nintendo 3DS.
Square Enix’s DQVIII follows in the same footsteps of last fall’s brilliantly remastered version of Dragon Quest VII, and invites a whole new generation of gamers to experience another timeless entry in this legendary role-playing series. In addition to all of the content from the original, this beefed up version includes additional story elements, two new playable characters, a new Photo mode, new monsters, a streamlined alchemy system, a new quick save feature, and even the possibility of seeing a new ending. If you love epic, immersive RPGs, then you will not want to miss out on this amazing new updated version.
Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: January 20, 2017
Developer: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: T (Teen, 13+)
For king and country
Your journey in DQVIII begins in the ill-fated kingdom of Trodain where a powerful scepter has been sealed away and long forgotten. One day a mysterious jester named Dhoulmagus releases the scepter from its ancient bond, and uses it to place a spiteful curse on the kingdom, turning its citizens into thorns. The king Trode and his beautiful daughter Medea survive the ordeal, but Dhoulmagus adds insult to injury by transforming them into a hideous troll and a white horse, respectively. Unbeknown to Dhoulmagus, however, there was one other survivor of this wretched curse…you, the hero. As a former King’s guard who served in Castle Trodain, together you set out with Trode and Medea on an gallant quest to lift the curse and save the world from the sinister jester.
Delightful cast of characters in Dragon Quest VIII
There are many standout aspects of DQVIII, but none are as remarkable as the alluring characters you’ll meet along the way. Angelo, the charismatic, chauvinistic, Templar-turned-gambler always makes me laugh with his ‘holier than thou’ facade masking his true kind-hearted nature, and he’s the perfect foil for the straight-shooting Jessica who relishes in handing the poor guy many much-deserved tongue-lashings. King Trode is also utterly hilarious with his squeaky troll-like voice and hideous appearance that scares away everyone he meets, and who can forget his soft spot for helping daughters in need, as every young girl he meets seems to remind him of his own lovely daughter Medea. And then there’s Yangus, a rough around the edges bloke who defends our Hero at whatever cost, and amusingly refers to him throughout the entire game as “guv”.
Two new playable characters
Adding to the roster this time around are two non-playable characters from the original game, a sassy pirate thief named Red and the flamboyant Monster-arena owner Morrie, who have both been upgraded to playable characters. Like most characters in this game, their personalities are turned up to eleven, and it was thoroughly entertaining to see these two get more screen time with additional story elements. With Red, I loved watching to her constantly rib Yangus for having gone soft (she’s the leader of Yangus’ old bandit crew), and Morrie, well he’s a hot-blooded and passionate guy with an Italian accent who’s always insists everything is done with lots of “GUSTO!” Without a doubt, DQVIII has some of the wittiest and most memorable heroes of any JRPG out there, which is certainly saying quite a lot.
Classic gameplay with improvements
Another huge highlight of DQVIII is its finely-tuned turn-based combat that’s easy to get into, yet challenging to master. Each of your party members have five different skill specialties they can develop, from your Hero’s ability to slice through enemies using boomerangs, to Yangus’ skull-busting club strikes. Choosing which skills to improve will develop your characters’ proficiencies in vastly different ways, so you really need to give a lot of thought as to how you want your team to evolve over time. For example, enhancing Jessica’s whip abilities will enable her to learn devastating attacks that will lash groups of enemies, but if you instead focus on improving her magic staff skills, she can become a powerful healer that will keep the team in top form. Experimenting with different skills is a lot of fun, and I love how it can lead to so many different ways to approach battles.
The two new characters, Red and Morrie, come with all-new combat styles that add even more depth and strategy to combat. Morrie, for instance, can wield deadly claws that can slice through enemies in no time, while Red can steal extra gold from monsters and then toss the coins back for extreme damage. When developed, these two can become even more powerful than the original characters, so they are very useful additions to your team.
Nintendo 3DS enhancements
The Nintendo 3DS version of DQVIII includes many welcome enhancements that make this already great game even better. My favourite is the all-new Photo mode that allows you take pause the action on the field, or in towns, and snap photos of your surroundings. A guy you meet early on called Cameron Obscura issues you fun photo challenges that range from finding Golden Slimes hidden in each town, to locating rare monsters, to posing in front of interesting city landmarks. Not only can you add neat filters to your photos, like making them black and white, but you can position your characters in silly poses, place stamps, and add funny captions. Photos can saved onto your SD card, and you can also share them with friends using the 3DS’ StreetPass feature. I spent hours completing various challenges and taking pictures just for fun, it was a total blast.
The game also offers tons of quality-of-life improvements that modernize the experience and make it more enjoyable. Just in like in the remake of DQVII, enemies now appear on the field and in dungeons, so there are no more random encounters, and you can often avoid encounters if you so choose. You can also speed up the flow of battle by hastening battle animations, reducing the amount of time each battle takes.
As expected, there’s also a mini-map on the 3DS’ lower touch screen, which really helps when navigating dungeons and locating interest points on the field. The Alchemy Pot, a device used to mix items to make new items, is back and now you can brew multiples of the same item right from the beginning. You also produce items immediately, instead of waiting for the passage of time. Finally, DQVIII features a convenient Quick Save function allowing you to save your game at any time (outside of battle) and continue your journey later on. I’m really impressed with all of these new features, and they go a long way to making this amazing game just that much better.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a timeless RPG that is even better on Nintendo 3DS. It was a joy to relive this wonderful story filled with lively characters and exotic locations on a handheld device I could take with me everywhere. The 3DS enhancements, including the new characters, new enemies, new Photo mode, and more, elevated this great game into something even greater. All RPG fans should experience this masterpiece, which still stands today among the pinnacle of its genre.
+ Incredibly rich story and characters
+ Awesome skill system
+ Wonderful presentation
+ Great new features
+ An all-time classic RPG
– Graphics a slight step down from the PS2 version
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4.5/5