While Dragon Quest hasn’t made the same splash as Final Fantasy here in the west, the series boasts an equally pleasing aesthetic, brilliant world designs, characters that resonate with the player and grand music to listen to on your adventure. My favourite Dragon Quest is now available on a handheld console and while the core experience is still there, Square Enix has added some new and welcome features to bring home the fact this game is on Nintendo 3DS
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King has one of my favourite stories from the catalog of Dragon Quest titles. The court jester Dhoulmagus has cursed the king and turned him into a troll, the princess is a horse, and the kingdom’s inhabitants have become plants. The hero, a Trodain guard, is left standing and it’s up to him to restore the kingdom back to its former glory. The Dragon Quest series is known for its charm and lighthearted sense of comedy and these do mix well with the sometimes dark scenarios the game throws at you.
After a slow start, and believe me, the starting hours are a drag, the game opens up and becomes a pleasant treat. The game follows a familiar path of going from town to town and discovering where to go next while you stock up on supplies, or help the locals with problems they may have while you’re there. The charm behind even the more mundane aspects of Dragon Quest VIII, make completing these tasks easier.
The English dub is as fantastic as it was on the PS2 and Yangus can still put a smile on my face when he speaks. The price of porting to Nintendo 3DS comes at the quality of the dub sounding worse than when on PlayStation 2. I did notice some new dialogue and additional scenes, which all sound great and mesh well with the established story.
The character designs are still beautiful, and Akira Toriyama provides some of my favourite character designs with the hero and his party. His style of drawing is most known for Dragon Ball Z and Chrono Trigger. It’s this design that brings the world alive, and the cel-shading art style creates a pleasant experience as you explore the towns, speak to people and battle monsters.
The battle system of Dragon Quest VIII is a standard turn-based affair with multiple options for engaging the enemy. The hero can wield a sword, spear, and magic. Some new additions to the 3DS port include seeing enemies on screen whereas the original was completely random encounters, you now see enemies on the map and can actively avoid them. You can also psyche your party up, and by doing so, you can double your attack strength, up to four times.
To make the remaster of Dragon Quest VIII even better, the developers have included two new party members, fan-favourites Red and Morrie. Battles have a speed up feature, which reminds of Bravely Default.
In Dragon Quest VIII, though, the more you battle, the better the experience will end up being. The secret I learned early on was to spend time battling and leveling my characters because as I soon found out the hard way, enemies are relentless and dangerous.
Dragon Quest VIII was a highpoint for the series and RPG’s on the PlayStation 2. Years later, and it’s hard to find a similar experience these days. The improvements made to the game, for the most part, bring a tighter experience to the hands of fans, but the removal the original score and downgraded graphics show how the 3DS has aged. Luckily, with a library that includes DQVIII, you’ll be okay.