Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a masterpiece of an RPG. Filled with memorable and lovable characters, a story that is both simple and full of depth, strong gameplay, and fantastic music, no one should miss out on this experience.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Developer: Square Enix
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
MonsterVine was Provided With a 3DS Code for Review
Dragon Quest is a series that is far too underrated for how amazing most of its entries are. Much like it’s preferred brother, Final Fantasy, each entry brings a new band of characters, locations, and stories that can vary wildly. Unlike Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest has one central style of gameplay, and, small-scale upgrades between games, they stick with it. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is proof that this method works, as it serves as a benchmark for JRPGs.
Journey of the Cursed King‘s plot strikes the perfect balance between easy-to-follow, and deep enough to stay interesting. The King and Princess of your kingdom were cursed by a jester, and transformed into a monster and a horse. You meet a Bandit, an aristocrat, and a Templar (with two new playable characters), and head on your way to find and defeat the ghastly jester, Dhoulmagus. Along the way, each party member develops through the exploration of their backstories, to exceptional results. The backstories of the core party members are all tragic in one way or another, which makes their development throughout the story feel even more rewarding.
The characters are all fantastic in their own rights, as each gives off an entirely different, but equally appealing. Yangus seems like a simple bandit bumpkin, but his dialogue and story change him from a generic archetype to an actual character. Angelo, on the other hand, seemingly fills the “handsome narcissist trope”, yet his backstory is arguably the saddest of all, challenging him to defy the trope that would seem to define him. This could be the most likeable group in a Dragon Quest game, and that’s indeed saying something.
It also helps that Journey of the Cursed King has stellar voice acting. While the European accents and dialects are somewhat polarizing, they fit the fantasy atmosphere flawlessly, and bring a great deal of life to the already grand characters. Jessica and Angelo sound cool and refined, Dhoulmagus sounds theatrical and insane, but the best voice belongs to Yangus. Ricky Grover brings such a fun and light-hearted silliness and genuine compassion to such a visually intimidating thug that it’s always fun to hear from him.
Journey of the Cursed King doesn’t stray too far from the usual Dragon Quest gameplay system, with the noticeable exception of the Tension system – created for Dragon Quest VIII, and later seen in Dragon Quest IX. Party members and enemies can raise their Tension by “Psyching Up,” an action that can be performed on any turn. As your tension rises, your moves and magic are more damaging and powerful. Reaching 100 tension makes your character into a pseudo-Super Saiyan, changing their appearance while granting them the ability to inflict ridiculous damage. Tension adds just enough to the tried-and-true turn-based gameplay to make it feel unique, without changing its spirit.
One of the best additions to Journey of the Cursed King is the removal of random battles. Random encounters have been replaced with visible enemies on the map, like in the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VII, meaning you can choose to avoid enemies if you wish to progress more quickly. This makes finding rare enemies like Metal Slimes, or avoiding powerful enemies you don’t feel ready for, far easier than in the original PS2 version. I’m an advocate for random battles disappearing entirely in favour of visible enemies, so this is a worthwhile change.
Journey of the Cursed King‘s visuals are surprisingly high quality. While the models aren’t as crisp as they are in the PS2 version, the colors and models are preserved rather well. Dragon Quest VIII‘s visual style is so different from previous entries, with taller characters and a more vast and open world. The 3DS version manages to maintain this sense of scale and depth thanks to the dulled down textures, which is a worthwhile trade in my eyes. And as I’ve said before, and could say endlessly, Akira Toriyama’s art-style is as charming as it gets, and perfectly suits the world of Dragon Quest.
The music in Journey of the Cursed King is tremendous, and incredibly memorable. The sprawling open fields have upbeat music that beckons you towards exploration and adventure, while dungeons and enemy-infested areas have tense and eerie melodies haunting their halls. The use of classic sounds in menus and battle is as charming as it gets, and I stand by the opinion that the main theme of the Dragon Quest series is one of the very best main music pieces of any game.
The Final Word
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is the crown-gem of RPGs on the 3DS, and one of the most enjoyable JRPGs of recent memory. Every inch of it is full of personality, charm, and life, thanks to the fun story, fantastic characters, and beautiful sound. If you own a 3DS and enjoy RPGs, you need Dragon Quest VIII yesterday.
– MonsterVine Rating: 5 out of 5 – Excellent