Review by aln03
Portable Journey of the Cursed King
Intro: Originally released in 2004 in Japan Dragon Quest VIII (DQ8) was designed for the Sony Playstation 2. Selling over 3 Million copies alone, it was the first DQ game to receive a score of 39 out of 40 from Famitsu magazine. This version of DQ8 would go on to sell over 4 million copies worldwide with sales in the US just under 450,000 copies, making the game somewhat of a success in the states. DQ8 was also released for the IOS and Android markets with updated controls and new touch screen controls. The 3DS version was released on August 27, 2015 in Japan and it is an updated build on the IOS/Android release. This release sold over 580,000 copies in its first four days, big fans in Japan for DQ games. Each release has added something new so the 3DS version isnt a straight port of its counterparts but more like the definitive version. This is the complete version of DQ8 with new story elements, two more playable characters, no more random encounters since all monsters are visible, updated graphics and controls, and the list goes on. The only downside I thought was not the addition of Downloadable Content (DLC) that isnt widely available to anyone who bought the game but we can go over that and more changes for the 3DS version through the review.
Graphic 10/10: The PS2 version of DQ8 looks a great and the IOS/Android version look great too but I have to say the 3DS version looks amazing. Compared to its PS2 release the graphics took a hit in detail but the processing power of the two systems is different. Square Enix (SE) squeezed a huge game in to this tiny cartridge and was still able to maintain the graphics of the PS2 version and enhance them. The amount of detail missing is minimum at best. You would have to be looking for certain things such as like a big bush in the PS2 version is now like a small shrub in the 3DS version. Again though this is not a port of the PS2 version but an enhanced remake. Also there is no use of the 3D selector switch in this game. I thought that maybe my import 3DS XL was broken but no, there is not one part of this game that uses the 3D selector. Being that is a build on the IOS/Android versions; the use of 3D selector may not have been an option or wasnt needed. Weird as the remake of DQ7 for the 3DS uses that selector switch, you can play that entire game in 3D. Regardless of that the enhanced graphics dont suffer and look great on the top screen. The bottom screen is pretty much used just for maps.
Music 10/10: What can you say about the music of a main series DQ game? Thats its awesome. The music is perfect. I was concerned on whether it would be clear or even loud pumping through the 3DSs speakers but SE made sure DQ players could hear it clearly. The opening DQ theme sounds amazing coming through the 3DS. It evens sounds as if it may have been completely redone. I had to boot up the PS2 version to compare the audio and listen to the IOS/Android version as well. Its clear the music is ported over from the IOS/Android version and new tracks were added for the new bonus dungeons and story elements. The music will not disappoint fans of the DQ series and players will enjoy the updated music.
Sound Effects 10/10: Just like the music everything is clear. The entire game isnt voiced which I think was one the new additions to this version but the main story events and story elements are voiced. I was amazed with this part simply because again that this shows that this isnt just a port, SE made it much more than that. All the spells are heard clearly and there effects are visually impressive. Also all the enemies give off some sort of sound, from their initial animation to their death animations you can hear it.
Story 10/10: I have enjoyed every DQ story since the first one on the Famicom/NES. Yes I have played every game in the main series (JAP & US) with the exception of the US PS2 DQ8 and the Import online only DQX for Wii/WiiU/3DS but I do own them. You play a protagonist that you name and that does not speak. The Hero was a guard at Trodian Castle. Along comes an evil jester named Dhoulmagus who steals a powerful scepter from the castle. He unleashes an evil curse on the castle that turns the king into a green monster and the princess into a horse. Everyone in the castle is affected by the curse but the Hero isnt. The Hero then guides the king and the princess on a quest to find Dhoulmagus so he can undo the curse. Along the way, the group meets Yangus the bandit, Jessica the sorceress and a knight named Angelo. In the 3DS version Red, a female bandit and Morrie, the owner of the monster arena join the party. They join rather later in the game to be considered useful but they are powerful on their max levels and Red is actually needed to beat a boss in the new bonus dungeon. As for Morrie, good luck on beating the Monster Arena S rank because that is the only way to get him to join (Spoiler). This is not the standard RPG story where you fight evil to save the world or a princess, youre just fighting to undo a curse but in the process you will eventually save the world. The story unfolds as you play; it is not just laid out to the player. When the story actually starts the castle events are not known to the player and Yangus is already a part of the team. The story plays out in a non-linear sequence which is a little different from traditional RPGs. All the new added story elements help to flesh out back story for the characters and expand upon other characters story lines.
Gameplay/Control 8/10: I took 2 points away in this category because of the camera and the (Spoiler) flying bird Retis. The analog nub on the 3DS is used to control your current character on screen and the camera will move with the character. Sometimes this can be good, other time it can block your view especially when you out in the field. You are constantly adjusting the camera angle with the left and right triggers or using the directional pad to bring the camera down or up. In the beginning of the game this is annoying but later it becomes second nature and helps with flow of the game. I guess it would be like using the right analog stick on a PS2 controller. Now for using the flying bird it took a while to get use to turning and moving up and down with the analog nub. Even after 50 hours of gameplay I was still having trouble flying that bird, eventually I just warped everywhere if I didnt have to fly. Other than that the game controls smoothly and the touch screen responded with no problems. All the action takes place on the top screen with the touch screen acting more as map screen for towns, fields, and dungeons. Some areas do not have a map though and it will say that No Map. It is also used for shortcuts such as Warp, calling the two modes of transportation, the Alchemy Pot, and asking the party members for advice. These shortcuts are extremely helpful especially the Alchemy Pot, which mixing now is instant no more waiting. Something new that was added to the battles now is that the Hero can be put on Auto and there is a Hyper mode that speeds up the battles. Basically if everyone is on auto you can set this Hyper mode and the battles will go twice as fast. I would only recommend this on battles you are for sure you will win or like in the early stages of the Monster Arena.
Replay/Challenge 8/10: First of all its a DQ game so the replay is high until you beat that final bonus dungeon and two the challenge is up there. I remember the Japanese PS2 version being hard but this one is tough. Tough to the point where it is frustrating sometimes. I took away the two points for that frustration. You are going to have to build levels and use the Tension option in the boss battles. The AI for the enemies has been bumped up and you can get slaughtered in some battles, especially boss battles. If you know how to set the strategies for your characters and rely on the auto command you can be ok for the beginning of the game but later you really have to balance out your attackers and healers. Also using the alchemy pot to make the best weapons and armors possible is a big plus. The addition of the new characters helps as well because if the 4 active characters die in battle the remaining two come in to continue and this can turn the battle around. I didnt use Red and Morrie a lot but when set them to auto they come in resurrected any dead characters and then focused on healing or attacking. I won a lot of battles that way especially in the bonus dungeons. The Monster Arena is challenging and unbalanced so good luck with that. Scout out all the strongest monsters possible to win in the later ranks and just hope for the best. Even with the strongest monsters it was more luck than anything else. Took me over 10 times just to beat the S rank and that was luck. The added bonus Dungeons are extremely challenging and you will need the strongest everything and max levels to beat those bosses. Just to touch up on replay real quick, there are 4 different ending with multiple variations. The variations depend upon whether or not you beat the game with Red or Morrie in the active party or if they are just in the wagon. There are added still pictures and scenes in the ending if you have these two. Also there is a picture taking side quest which gives you some rare items for completing it, there are 143 pictures to take of different things such as locations, non-playable characters, and enemies. My SD card was filled after a 100 pictures though. Another side quest where you have to locate a DQ9 character in different locations, good luck with that one. There is a lot to do post game but the biggest are two new bonus dungeons.
Overall/Personal 9/10: I am a big DQ fan and I enjoyed this enhanced remake. The saddest part is putting it away back on my shelf next to the other DQ games for the 3DS. The addition of the two characters was a welcome addition, like I stated before they come along a little late in the game but some of the post-game content was so much easier with them. I didnt talk about the costumes that were added to the game but each of the characters does have at least 3 to 4 new costumes to wear. I thought I was playing a Tales of game for a little bit but all the costumes so far are obtainable in game. Last but not least there is some DLC for the game in the form of weapons, armors, and items. Depending upon where you bought the game from in Japan different outlets offered different items and some of the DLC was available through the strategy guides that are made available for the game. That makes some of the DLC not available to everyone especially those who cant register the game because DLC was made available that way too. It is sad such a great game will be stuck in Japan. Do I see a US release? No, not a big enough market here to generate the kind of numbers SE would need to break even for localizing this game unless they kept the Japanese audio and just translated it. Hopefully DQ9 gets an enhanced remake for the 3DS, it needs one. Thanks for reading my review of DQ8 for the 3DS.
Product Release: Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi (JP, 08/27/15)
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