Dragon Quest VIII - Journey of the Cursed King
This hub is a review of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the Sony PS2. This is the first and only Dragon Quest out of the first nine to have full 3D (Dragon Quest IX has 2.5D if you look closely). It is an epic adventure that is punishing as any other Dragon Quest, so if you enjoy RPGs that are challenging, you should see this review and see if this game is right for you!
The protagonist is a guard of a castle that somehow survives a curse that turns everyone it touches into plant statues (it'd make a bit more sense if you actually saw what I meant). The king of the castle is turned into a frog and his daughter, the princess, into a horse. The villain of this story is Dhoulmagus, who uses a scepter he stole from that very same castle to amplify his powers. However, there's more to that artifact than meets the eye.
In this game, you will have a total of 4 characters in your party by the time you reach the middle parts of the game (which means you can't switch and swap characters; what you have is what you get). You travel with the king and your wagon is pulled by the princess (there's something severely wrong with that picture; a princess reduced to essentially a pack animal.). The world map is a lot more daunting now that the series is in 3D and you will probably spend a lot of time manually walking from point A to point B (until you can use spells to teleport that is).
The combat system is still turn based, but has a neat new feature. A character can sacrifice his/her turn to get a level of Tension. Tension increases the power of that character's actions by a fixed percentage for one action. This adds a greater strategic level to the game as some enemies can also gain Tension, and powered up attacks hurt, a lot.
The difficulty of this game is borderline insane at times. It's probably one of the hardest games in the series. In the earlier games, difficulty tended to come about because you had to figure out what you had to do next (no hand holding for you!). In this game, it's just the sheer strength of your enemies. Bosses that can use Tension and can attack 3 times in one round are serious business. I can say though, that it is incredibly fulfilling to beat this game, for the reason mentioned above.
Graphics and Sound
As is the case with the other Dragon Quest games, Akira Toriyama (you may know him as the artist of Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z) did the art. It's an incredibly beautiful game in terms of graphics, and shows that the PS2 can really deliver in that department.
As for sound, the variety of music coupled with the many nice sounds (such as when you land a critical hit) make the experience even more memorable.
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In conclusion, if you can still procure a copy of Dragon Quest VIII, and still have a PS2 (or a PS3 capable of running PS2 games), then do yourself a favor and play this game. If you're an RPG fan I am sure you will not regret it!
Until the next time, take care and have fun!