Dragon Quest has always been a series that I’ve held near my heart. Ever since my introduction to the series when I first laid my hands on the third installment, and now here we are. Dragon Quest 8 first released in North America back in 2005 for the PlayStation 2. Having many firsts for the series like fully voice acted main characters with the exception of the silent hero that you play as. Also the first in the series to use 3D character models and environments using a cel-shaded art style, which for the most part made the transition to the 3DS. The character models look perfectly fine on the 3DS, but the environments suffer greatly from the under-powered handheld- particularly the textures between the roads and the grass. There is an ever present line that’s visible along every road in the game and I can’t help but notice it every time I play. I really wish they bothered fixing it, but I guess I’ll live.
In this installment of Dragon Quest you play as the silent hero on a journey to find the dark jester Dhoulmagus who has cursed the Kingdom of Trodain and all its inhabitants. Alongside our hero is King Trode and Princess Medea who have been turned into a troll and a horse by Dhoulmagus. Also tagging along is Yangus the former thief turned friend after you save his life during a failed robbery attempt by Yangus. You’ll meet other companions as you progress including two new additions that are exclusive to the 3DS version. Not new in the sense that they’re new to the game since they’re in the PS2 version, but new as in they can join your party now. I for one welcome these two new additions. Another new feature are the photo quests which make use of the built-in feature to take photos in-game. Cameron an NPC in one of the towns you visit will give you Cameron’s Codex which helps you keep records of the photo quests that are assigned to you. Completing these quests give you stamps that are used to fill out your stamp cards. Upon completing the cards. You are rewarded with consumable items like a skill seed or even weapons like the holy lance. I haven’t focused too much on these quests, so I’m unsure of what the other reward items are.
A great many changes have been made to the 3DS port like the removal of random encounters and even an option to speed up battles. The most notable change however is the score. Originally, only the Japanese version lacked voice acting and used a MIDI soundtrack while the West was given a fully orchestrated score and voice acting, suffice to say that’s not the case this time around. While we do still get full voice acting, we do not however get an orchestrated soundtrack. I unfortunately do not know the reason for why this is, but many speculate that it may be for the same reason why we ended up with a MIDI soundtrack in Dragon Quest VII which released for the 3DS on September 16, 2016. Which was due to licensing issues. Another change is Jessica’s VA due to new additional scenes that have been added which required new voice recordings. That and the original actress has long since retired from voice acting. Now I’m sure many of you have heard about all the censorship in the game by now. While normally I get a little upset about such changes being made, I wasn’t this time around since the changes are so minor in my book that it isn’t even worth getting upset about. Yes, some of Jessica’s outfits were changed in order to avoid bumping up the games CERO rating in Japan. Which have been getting stricter over the years, but it’s not exactly a game breaking change. Some of the scene changes however are a bit bothersome. Like one of the later scenes where a servant is made to eat dog food from his masters dog bowl.
All in all, it’s still the great game that I remember playing all those many years ago. The characters, though not exactly memorable are still very much lovable in my eyes. The story isn’t also something to write home about. It is ultimately a hero’s journey to defeat the evil that ultimately leads to a greater evil. That bit doesn’t matter because it’s the events that happen in-between that stand out more to me. I never once cared about the big baddy. I was far more invested in the backgrounds of our heroes and the people around them and if you haven’t played the game before than you’re in for a surprise (maybe). At least I was when I originally played it as it made certain events in the game make so much more sense. But those are things for players to find out when they embark on this journey.
Dragon Quest 8 is not without it’s faults. Though there are no longer any more random encounters, that does not mean that you won’t be pulled into battle often. If you do not make use of the psyche up feature. Then expect to have to grind a bit in order to make it past the many bosses that you’ll find along the way. Not to say this game is difficult, far from it actually. At least it shouldn’t be with good planning and tactics. When you’re using skill points on your character make sure to plan accordingly, as it makes a world of difference. I would definitely recommend this game to veterans of the series and newcomers. It’s just good fun that should take roughly 50+ hours to complete. There’s also post game content to look forward to. Which I have yet to see for myself as I still have a way to go before I reach that point…But before I end this, I must say. King Pavan is still the worst person ever. You’re a king. Man up already and act like one.
Release Date - January 20, 2017
Dragon Quest VIII was purchased for review purposes