The long running Dragon Quest franchise has always been a massive succes in Japan, but its US presence was pretty limited for awhile. That trend finally seems to be changing though, as 2016 saw the release of Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past and Dragon Quest Builders, and now Square Enix has finally released the much awaited Nintendo 3DS port of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.
Due to licensing, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was the first in the series to hold the Dragon Quest name in the US, as it was previously known as Dragon Warrior. This was pretty fitting, as the game served as an excellent jumping on point for the series, which is still the case even today with its traditional gameplay style.
While prior entries in the series have received graphical overhauls in their portable remasters on the DS and 3DS, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was the first in the series to include 3D environments and character models from the very start. You might would assume that taking a PS2 game and bringing it to 3DS would lead to a large decline in visuals, but the game’s cel-shaded art style that is paired with character designs from Akira Toriyama holds up incredibly well on the portable system. Dragon Quest has always been known for its colorful environments and characters and that is seen all throughout the game, with it honestly being one of the best looking games on the entire platform.
The story found in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King features the lead Hero and his companions traveling on an adventure to take down the evil Dhoulmagus, who is causing harm wherever he goes through manipulation and magic. The plot is pretty straightforward most of the time, but what really makes the experience so special are the cast of characters, especially the four main members of your party.
Yangus is one of the funniest and enjoyable sidekicks you will find in any RPG, made even better with his Cockney accent. Jessica is introduced with a very tragic backstory where she sets off to avenge her brother’s death, with her strong and confident attitude standing out. Angelo, who is introduced a little later, plays as a good foil to the rest of the party as well. The Hero is probably the least fleshed out of the bunch in the original, but this new version on 3DS adds additional backstory to his character.
The supporting cast in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is also a standout, with characters like King Trode really making an impression. Two of the memorable characters from the original game, Morrie and Red, have even been added as playable characters later in the game, which gives those who already played the original a completely new experience with two different characters.
Unlike fellow Square Enix series Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest has always remained very traditional with its combat system. The battles are turn-based, with speed playing a factor on turn order, where your party of four will face off against different numbers of enemies. This classic oriented gameplay style may turn away those that prefer an action-based system, but Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King’s is as good as it gets when it comes to turn-based RPGs combat wise. For those that find the pace of the combat to be too slow, the game now has a fast combat speed option that can be chosen right from the battle menu. This might not be for everybody, but it could really do wonders for the enjoyment of some people.
As the characters level up, they receive not only a boost in stats, but also Skill Points allotment. Each one has five categories in which points can be put towards, with the first three always being the three weapon types that specific character can use, followed by the weaponless Fisticuffs and then a final option that is specific to that character only, such as Hero’s Courage or Jessica’s Sex Appeal. Players can put up to 100 Skill Points on each of these, with each offering stat boosts and new abilities at different stages. However you choose to build your four main characters is up to you, which is one of the elements that makes this game still so great.
More accessible than ever to veterans and newcomers alike
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King features what is still a rather impressive overworld map that is spread across different regions that only get bigger as the game goes on. This world feels more alive than ever as well, as random encounters have been removed from the game entirely and replaced with putting the enemies on the map themselves. This is something that was not even introduced to the series until Dragon Quest IX, but it fits right in with Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS. With enemies everywhere, the game also offers an in-game camera that you can use to take pictures of these enemies and then share through Streetpass.
Yet another improvement coming on the 3DS version is that the bottom screen displays the map at all times, whether it is the overworld map or one for a town or dungeon. In the original game, you had to find an actual map for every dungeon, as well as the overall world map as well, but here they are provided at all times from the start. This may make the game a bit easier, but it is well worth it for the convenience of the map display. The bottom screen also features a few helpful shortcuts that you can utilize by pressing the yellow arrow displayed on top of the map, including Zoom and the Alchemy Pot.
Like many RPGs, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King features an alchemy system, which is done through the in-game Alchemy Pot. You can find recipes throughout the game for new weapons, equipment, and items by searching through books on bookshelves, but you can also try your hand at doing some from scratch, though there are some limits to what you can make. What is exponentially better is that this version removes the wait timer after crafting an item. In the PS2 version, you had to walk around for awhile before you could access your new item. In the 3DS version though, it is instantaneous, which is a huge time saver.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was already in the premiere class of RPGs with its initial release on PS2, and now Square Enix has somehow found a way to make it even better on the Nintendo 3DS. Just being able to play this game again on a handheld would have been satisfying, but the new additions like speeding up combat, removing the Alchemy Pot timer, and a map display on the bottom screen help to make Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King more accessible than ever to veterans and newcomers alike in this now definitive form on the 3DS.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
- Available On: Nintendo 3DS
- Published By: Square Enix
- Developed By: Square Enix
- Genre: RPG
- US Release Date: January 20th, 2017
- Reviewed On: Nintendo 3DS
- Quote: "Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was already in the premiere class of RPGs with its initial release on PS2, and now Square Enix has somehow found a way to make it even better on the Nintendo 3DS in its definitive form."