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Review: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS)

Just 10 more days to go and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King finally gets re-released on the 3DS in Europe and North America. The port already got released in Japan in 2015, where it sold over 500.000 copies in the first week, clearly showing how many fans of the series were hyped for it. But does the port of Dragon Quest VIII, DQ8 for short, actually deserve this much hype? Yes, yes it does.

Basic plotline

DQ8 tells the tale of a court jester named Dhoulmagus, who steals a scepter from the Trodain Castle. Upon getting his hands on the scepter, he gains magical powers and curses King Trode, king of Trodain, into a troll-like creature. But Dhoulmagus doesn’t stop there. He also transforms the princess, King Trode’s daughter, into a horse and everyone else into plants. Luckily, one of the castle’s residents was able to escape, a loyal guard simply called Hero. He now finds himself obligated to lift the curse of the king and the princess.

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The story of DQ8 is pretty basic and may come off as weak. However, it’s how the story is handled and delivered that makes it a strong part of the game. Unlike many other RPG’s, the story of DQ8 is actually believable. Well yes, it’s still about magic and monsters, but the characters are written realistically. Every one of them has their own motivations and role in the fantasy world of Trodain. Each character is carefully designed and instantly memorable, making the character developments easier to follow. You’ll quickly care about these characters and want to know everything about them.

Addicting gameplay

Slaying monsters, powering up and exploring dungeons are DQ8’s main focus. The battles are turn-based, but quick and simple. Even so, the fast battles are deceptive; the game is so vast and complex that you’ll spend dozens of hours on your first playthrough. DQ8 features a fully detailed world to explore between locations. You can lose your sense of time by just poking around the map in the hopes of finding treasure. The original PS2 version featured random enemy encounters, which was frustrating to a lot of people. Luckily, this has been tweaked in the 3DS version. Now, you can see the enemies while running around, so you can prepare for a fight or sneak around to avoid combat.

combat

While this change has made the game less frustrating to play, it still shouldn’t be underestimated in terms of difficulty. A lot of the monsters you’ll have to battle are significantly stronger than you, especially in the first few hours. Mashing the attack button won’t do you any good here and the game basically requires you to grind your way to the next level. This makes you able to find out weaknesses of enemies that you can use against their stronger forms later in the game. Besides, it also gives you plenty of time to look at the great designs of the monsters.

Pleasant visuals

DQ8 has something that a lot of RPG’s don’t. It features an incredibly and beautifully designed world with a wide range of colours, filled with characters designed by Akira Toriyama. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy behind the Dragon ball series. His designs are partially the reason why the world of Trodain is so immersive. This world jumps out at you and truly gives the feeling that you’re playing an anime. The 3DS version also comes with some updated graphics, which are most noticeable in the colours. They’ve been made more vivid, making the game look even more beautiful. It’s a shame, though, that the 3DS outputs in a low resolution, since it makes some of the smaller graphical upgrades less or not noticeable.

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Filled with extra content

Aside from the graphical upgrades, the 3DS version of DQ8 also comes with lots of other extras. You can now recruit two additional party members, Red and Morrie, which were NPC’s in the original version. There’s also the ability to take screenshots while playing the game, which is needed for a new quest. There’s even an alternative ending and additional story content. But the best, I repeat, the BEST addition to the game is the quick save function. I have already talked about this in the preview, but in my opinion, this alone makes the 3DS version worthy of your money. Now you don’t have to backtrack to a church anymore to save your progress. You simply go to the menu and press the quick save button. This and all the other additions to the game made me realize that DQ8 is simply not a port, but the definitive version of the original game.

Conclusion

A great RPG filled with extra content and upgrades, while also being portable. This is what Dragon Quest VIII for the 3Ds is. If you’re looking for a new game to sink your time into, then I highly suggest you check this one out.

9/10