As one of the most beloved series in Japan, the Dragon Quest IP has found success in other regions lately thanks to its quirky, yet familiar, character design (courtesy of Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama) and enjoyable gameplay. In fact, the series has managed to establish itself as a mainstay on Nintendo’s handhelds in recent years, and the latest venture to make its way to the Nintendo 3DS is a remake of one of the most beloved installments in the franchise, Dragon Quest 8.
Now officially known as Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King, the revamped PlayStation 2 game provides the de facto experience for fans of the classic title. Falling in line behind Dragon Quest 7: Fragments of the Forgotten Past, the eighth entry in the property has a few noticeable enhancements over the aforementioned remake – namely voice acting. The benefit of voiced characters is immediately noticeable for anyone familiar with the JRPG genre – let alone fans of Dragon Quest – and it makes the adventure immediately engaging as a result.
Setting that key feature down for a moment, those already familiar with the series can rest easy knowing that the core experience remains very much intact. Users will lead their party through dungeons filled with monsters that must be vanquished in order to gain experience points and helpful items. Much like other Japanese role-playing games, these encounters play out in a turn-based battles, allowing users to instruct their band of warriors however they may see fit. It’s a longstanding formula, but one that still has its merits and a very loyal fan base.
The adventure itself doesn’t delay the inevitable action like its predecessor either, throwing players right into the midst of a story that’s already begun to unfold. There’s no setup, as players are given an understanding of the mess they currently find themselves in through the actions, dialogue, and goals of the characters on-screen. As previously mentioned, this is where the character design and voice acting both come into play, as it quickly familiarizes users with a world that is sure to grow on them. The characters are goofy, enjoyable, and all incredibly unique, and that goes a long way towards getting people invested in the unfolding narrative.
It’s a good thing that the protagonists of Dragon Quest 8 are likeable too, because the title will take close to 80 hours to finish in its entirety. It’s an absolute behemoth of a game, but one that doesn’t necessarily feel like a slog. Yes, it’s true that grinding will be required throughout in order to accumulate enough experience and ability to take on more difficult sections of the ongoing venture, but the enemies vary enough that they are, at the very least, visually stimulating and sometimes even laugh-out-loud ridiculous in their design.
Despite the ever-divisive grinding mechanics, Square Enix has made it much easier to completely avoid enemies whenever players just want to scurry along to the next chapter of their quest. Foregoing the random encounters present in games like Pokemon or even Dragon Quest 7, battles will only occur when players run into an enemy present on the map. That’s right, those that want to avoid battles can do so by simply side-stepping the copious number of Slimes and Drackys roaming around the world – plus it also has great strategic value for moments when one’s party is low on health.
Even when combat does unintentionally occur, players have a high-speed option that allows them to fast-track the battles they find themselves in, which makes for a great feature for anyone that just wants to get on with the story. Having said all of this, it’s still good to engage in battles to maintain a strong party, and the rock-solid battle system in place is a blast for those that like the strategic and cinematic aspects of turn-based titles. The execution of a successful defensive move and the thrill of a skin-of-your-teeth win are still euphoric, so it’s still very much worth experiencing the game as intended.
Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King is an incredibly long game filled with standard offerings from the tried and true JRPG genre. While the battle mechanics remain traditional, the narrative and characters that push it forward are incredibly charming. So much so that they surround the game’s design with ample incentive to keep playing until bitter sweet farewells are made. DQ8 is goofy, charming, and endearing, but more importantly it’s still constantly enjoyable even after spending an absurd amount of time with it.
The fact that it can be packed up and taken with fans on their Nintendo 3DS is just the cherry on top of this turn-based sundae.
Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King is now available for the Nintendo 3DS.
Game Rant was provided with a physical copy of Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King for the Nintendo 3DS by Nintendo.