Like many, my love for traditional Japanese Role Playing Games has gone down the toilet. And in the passed 5 years only two JRPG’s have really stuck with me. Dragon Quest VIII is one of those titles.
The Dragon Quest series doesn’t have a storied history in the U.S. Being renamed Dragon Warrior, and having many of it’s titles on very obscure systems over the years--alienating all but the hardcore followers.
Obviously if you follow Japanese culture, the Dragon Quest series is monstrously popular. And there was a lot of hype being thrown on Dragon Quest VIII; it just wasn’t something that I was anticipating as much as our friends to the east.
I’ll even admit that the only reason I bought it was for the free demo of Final Fantasy XII that was packaged within.
I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this game. I’m a big Chrono Trigger fan, and I loved the art style from the Dragon Ball series when I was a child. Akira Toriyama (the artist behind Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger) is the creator of most of Dragon Quest’s visuals, and has been for many years. The Cel-Shaded look is what makes the anime style pop. It looks like a 3D rendition of Dragon Ball, and it was very nostalgic to see such a familiar look. It was whimsical, yet cartoony, in a good way.
It really was a very traditional RPG though. And I don’t recommend it to everyone. Not because there’s nothing new in the game, but because it’s actually a really hard game.
|Akira Toriyama's art is always a welcomed sight.|
If you don’t “grind”, that is level your characters up constantly, you will fail! And dying in Dragon Quest games is expensive. If a party member would die, I would just leave them dead because it cost an absurd amount of gold in order to revive them. That’s right, if a party member dies, they’re dead for good and you have to pay way out the ass to get them back.
But I really did like the difficulty. I wasn’t a big fan of having to “grind” all the time, but it’s satisfying when you’re completely destroyed by a boss, and you come back later, ten levels higher, and you wipe the floor with him. It’s empowering: you feel that all the time and work you put in paid off.
Is it old school? Yeah, we’re talking random battles; tough difficulty; a story that has it’s moments but for the most part is vanilla, and turn-based gameplay that definitely didn’t set the world on fire—but it’s such a solid game.
I’ve only enjoyed the Xbox 360 JRPG Lost Odyssey quite as much as Dragon Quest in the passed few years, and I've played a lot of RPG’s. Dragon Quest stands out because of its polish. If it were a statue, it didn’t break the mold, but it’s still one gorgeous creation.