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Old 12-23-2005, 12:53 AM   #1481
Icarus4578
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Dragon Quest VIII ~ Journey of the Cursed King - PS2 - Rating 7
After many--too many--restless nights spent running around one of the most expansive worlds ever conceived in an RPG (or any other game, for that matter), I am wasted. It almost seemed like the credits would never roll, but, as I'm a completist, it was only a matter of time. And let me tell you up front, close and personal that this may very well be the last time I subjucate myself to such an incredibly long RPG quest. Hey, I've got other things to do with my time! 30 hours is more than sufficient length for an RPG, in my humble opinion. Yes, Akira Toriyama's artwork looks especially great in 3D (much to my surprise; I was disappointed when I had first seen screenshots of this game), Yuji Horii dishes out a highly enjoyable storyline, and Koichi Sugiyama's affinity for the classical approach to composition works wonders here, even if the battle music gets beyond irritating by the 2,000th fight.

So, how long is DQVIII? To do practially everything in the game took me 100 hours.... Yes, that's approximately four days and four hours of my time stripped away. It wasn't as torturously long as DQVII (130 hours) but, all things considered, this is definitely not what I'm looking for in an RPG. They could've told the very same storyline in a much more agreeable manner of time, such as 40 hours, and yet I spent an absurd 50 hours in combat! 10 of those hours were spent leveling up just to take out ONE BOSS! It was an extra boss, sure, but come on! To make matters even worse, it would've taken just 1-2 hours had they programmed it so that those stupid Metal Slimes didn't always run away!! Do those people over at Enix/Level 5 have hearts? I'm guessing not.

If this game were 40-50 hours long I would've given it an 8 or even a 9 Rating. It's an amazing quest that's marred by a capacious amount of time wasted away in combat. As great a battle system as DQVIII has, it's not good enough to warrant the extended playtime. In fact, I don't know a battle system off the top of my head that's good enough to warrant a good 50+ hours. Heck, I beat most other RPGs in less time than that! If you've played DQVII or VI then you know what to expect here, except that it's all in 3D, obviously. As DQVIII was developed by the same team that brought you both Dark Cloud 1 & 2 (Level 5), expect to see the familiar 3D cel-shading used to full effect here. The visuals are quite pleasing, looking akin to a more detailed Ocarina of Time (no accident, I'm sure), and the animation is well done, for the most part. There are times when the frame rate suffers slightly but it's almost always as smooth and steady as a Playboy bunny's legs (not that I'd know).

There are some new additions to be found here that weren't present in former DQ titles, the most obvious being the 3D locales. However, as impressive as they are, there's nothing here that tells me that this game could not have been achieved in 2D. Next on the list of additions is the Alchemy Pot with which you can mix various weaponry, armour and items to create some unique crafts, an idea which Level 5 liberally borrowed from their Dark Cloud series. Although the battles are in full 3D, there's no discernable difference between them and former DQ battles except now you can actually see your party onscreen performing attacks and whatnot. According to blueskied, who has played through the import version, there are zero loading times. Not so here. Not only is there loading times but there's quite a lot of it, and it rears its ugly face nearly everywhere, even going into and out of your inventory screen! The loading is somewhat reduced while you're in a dungeon area but it still taxes your nerves and only serves to make an already frustrating game that much more frustrating.

What the hell was that magic ingredient that kept me pressing onward? The storyline played a large part (thanks Yuji-san, you whore). Why, oh why, did you have to write such a great storyline which, by the way, was exceptionally well translated, although I could never really get used to those European/British expressions and mannerisms such as Yangus' grating habit for yelling out "COR BLIMEY!" (Yup, Enix decided to add voice acting.) There were some, err, questionable accents used, such as a clearly faked French accent on one of the bartenders later in the game. But it's nothing to throw a fit over. In fact, much of the voice acting was well done. Angelo's voice was a perfect match... after the voice actor doing his part realized that he had to speak a bit louder into the mic so that you could actually hear what he was saying. Angelo often displays a chauvinistic attitude, providing comic relief, though he's not quite as lecherous as Lunar 2's Ronfar tended to be. Well, whatever. Jessica is a very determined, decisive lady who tends to reserve a gentler nature behind her fiery facade. Finally, there's Yangus, Hero's first companion from the game's outset, who wants to 'elp the guv (Hero) out when'ver possible.

Angelo ~ "One of my favorite pastimes is looking at beautiful women."

The plot starts out as somewhat basic affair but gets deeper as the game progresses. You play the role of Hero, a Trodain knight, who is escorting King Trode and the princess around the world, hoping to vanquish a curse which was placed upon them by Dhoulmagus, a Jester who stole the Royal Sceptre from Trodain Castle and placed a vile curse on everybody in that kingdom. The king has been transformed into a hideous green goblin-type creature and the princess has been changed into a white horse. And so, as the only person who didn't wind up cursed on that fateful night, it's Hero's mission to undo the evil curse and perhaps even save the world along the way. Of course there's far, faaar more to it than that, but that's the basic premise. What's especially interesting is how the game fills in all of your companions' past and present situations/motives but only leaves you with one mystery after another so far as Hero is concerned (Hero, by the way, never speaks a word throughout the game). Needless to say, all is explained before the second and final ending ensues.

When I had first bought and listened to the original Japanese soundtrack for DQVIII I was somewhat underwhelmed. Some of the compositions were of great quality but sorely lacked the extra oomph needed to help illustrate the drama and excitement of an epic adventure. What Enix decided to do is change the soundtrack for US/UK distribution into the Symphonic Suite, performed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchstra and conducted by (guess who?) Koichi Sugiyama. The result is a much more rich and enjoyable soundtrack, but due to the streamed music the US/UK versions have all that additional loading time. The sound effects are great, with some sounds reused from past DQ titles -- very befitting of the retro style of the quest.

Dragon Quest VIII deserves a better rating but I cannot allow it to have one because it wasted too much time and didn't reward me adequately for my efforts. Also, I know I've done most all of this before; I wanted something a little different. But the amount of effort Enix/Level 5 threw into this production cannot be ignored -- DQVIII is an outstanding game. Some review crews (EGM, Game Informer, etc.) lamented the fact that it's an old-school adventure ....and then proceeded to give Grand Theft Auto ~ Liberty City Stories for the PSP higher ratings, surveying its fine new additions such as new missions and, ummm.... it's GTAIII. "Hey, there's a couple of broads that I want you to knock off." Yeah, doesn't that sound like quality to you? Ok, let them have their way. One magazine only made it up to Dhoulmagus' compounds before attaching their ratings to it -- not even halfway through. All I can think to say is, "This is the Bbest driink I'VE had in aaages."

Random Templar knight ~ "I am nobility! We're a different breed from these commoners who've been permitted to join the ranks recently. Completely different. Observe! See the dignity with which I hold myself! My majesty! The natural authority I exude! My dashing appearance!? Look! Look at me!"

Well, this is farewell. I'm off to the castle. Drop by sometime if you'd like to see the adoration on my subjects' faces first-hand! Ta-ta!
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Last edited by Icarus4578; 12-23-2005 at 04:49 AM.
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