|By Charlie Goodrich||Monday, 29 Mar 2010|
The RPG genre can grow old and tired quickly. Think back to all the RPGs you have ever played. How many of those games stand out as being overall spectacular? Refrain from including RPGs that lack imagination or failed to outshine their competition in anyway. I’m talking about the cream of the crop in terms of RPGs. These are the games that surface every five years and blow you away. I can think back to a total of six RPGs that inspired the genre and took it to new extremes. The last RPG that I added to this exclusive list was Dragon Quest VIII. Nothing in this game falls short of amazing. I was initially skeptically about how good this game could possibly be after playing DQVII. I loath that game and began to lose faith in the series after beating it. Thankfully DQVIII removed the nasty taste in my mouth left behind by VII and fully restored my love for Dragon Quest.
The aspect of the game that you notice first are the stunning graphics. Whoever decided to use cell shading to make this game is a genius. The color palette is rich and vibrant. Everything “pops” and there is an added sensation of life in this world. Each town has a different and distinct atmosphere to it, and every dungeon and outside environment goes beyond just looking right, it “feels” right. The graphics immerse the player wonderfully. The characters and monsters were drawn by Akira Toriyama, who did the art for Dragon Ball Z. The main characters you encounter thoughout your adventure are all unique and have an nice individual touch to them. This counters the amount of reuse you find in average town folk. Many of the monsters in DQVIII can be seen in pervious Dragon Quest games, but many of them come across as new because of the art style. Their animations are fresh and distinct. The emotions are expressed wonderfully too. There are times when your characters or monsters can express how they feel with a simple smile or widening of the eyes. This attention to detail and the overall beauty of this game make it one of the best looking PS2 games available. The word “beautiful” really doesn’t come close to describing how good this game looks. I’d have to invent a new word to fully capture the stunning beauty of DQVIII. The story in DQVIII could be described as typical at first glance. You begin as a guard for the
Kingdom of Trodain when an evil jester, Dhoulmagus, steals a magical staff which turns everyone to stone except for the King and Princess. The former becomes a giant toad and the latter a horse. Thus begins your adventure to restore the people of the Tordain and cure the King and Princess of their aliments. What saves this story from mediocrity are the characters and some well placed twists. The depth of the characters in this game is on a level rarely seen. Your party eventually consists of four unique people. Your main character is the silent protagonist type. He is joined by a Cockney accented bandit, Yangus, who has many catchy phrases (Cor Blimey!), a voluptuous aristocrat named Jessica, and an arrogant knight from an abbey, Angelo. Each character has a different background and story that binds them on a quest to bring down Dhoulmagus. Even minor characters are explained and given the proper treatment. In past Dragon Quest games there are tiny medals you can collect and trade in for goodies. The person who collects them in this game has a specific (and good) reason
for wanting them. It’s minor touches like that which stand out and bring this game into its own. The gameplay and battle system in DQVIII are solid but not revolutionary. The controls are standard for a RPG, and the camera is very responsive and easy to use. Battles are mostly (I’ll get back to this “mostly” thing) random encounters. During a battle you have familiar commands at your disposal. One new command is called tension. When you build tension you cannot attack. You can build your tension up to 100 which takes three consecutive rounds of using tension. Tension is important because when it reaches 100 your character begins to glow and can unleash a devastating attack. Other than that the battle system is straight forward. It follows the mantra, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
The sound in DQVIII stands out mostly for the voice acting, but the music is nothing to scoff at. The music is fully orchestrated and rarely gets old. The music that plays when you are in a town can get old, but the rest of the game has brilliant music that makes level grinding and exploration less tiresome. In terms of voice acting, this game has some of the best. Each character is done exquisitely, and their accents give this game more of a medieval feel. Their voice quality adds greatly to their personalities and depth. Speaking of depth, there are many side quests and things to do in DQVIII other than pursue the main quest. There are some visible monsters that roam the land. If you defeat these monsters you can recruit them to your ranks. You can then use them to fight in the monster arena. Trying out different teams and finding all the monsters you can recruit can be fun. Winning the different ranks in the arena can yield very handy items making your time finding monsters worth while. Like previous Dragon Quests you can also find tiny medals scattered about the world. When you collect certain amounts you can give them to Princess Minnie who will present you with rare and valuable items. There is also a casino to try your luck in. You can play roulette and slots to amass casino coins which are used to buy special items. As you progress through the story, new dungeons and areas will be opened to explore. Many of these areas are bonus dungeons that offer a greater challenge than the standard ones. There are many characters that you encounter who you can accept quests from as well. There are a good amount of these that can add hours of gameplay to DQVIII. Finally, once you beat the game you can attempt the Dragovian Trials. This is a gauntlet style event where you battle against seven dragons. Beating them will give you the best equipment in the game, but completion of a seriously difficult task. If you choose to forgo most of the side quests you can complete this game in about 40-50 hours. If you want to attempt everything you can easily spend over 100 hours playing. Dragon Quest VIII is one of about five or six RPGs that I can say standout in my mind as spectacular. The beauty of this game is superb and the characters rich in detail. If you fancy yourself a RPG fan or even someone who likes to play them occasionally, you should play Dragon Quest VIII. You won’t regret finding time for this game and you can find it pretty cheap in a lot of places. I’ve seen it for under $20 many times. At that price, this is a steal!