Gaming Platform: Playstation 2
Distributed by: Square Enix
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
My experience with Dragon Quest began way back in winter of 1989, when the very first RPG ever, Dragon Warrior—later known as Dragon Quest—was first released in the States. It was two days after Christmas and I was itching to spend my hard-received money on some cool, state of the art 8-bit games for my Nintendo. While in a local store, my brother pointed out a game called Dragon Warriors and suggested that I get it—I was big on dragon related things back then. I looked at the back of the box, scoffed and said, quite obnoxiously, that it looked like crap to me. Well, the store owner didn’t waste any time admonishing me for my ‘stupid,’ commentary of a ‘great game.’ Thoroughly embarrassed, I did the only thing I could: I bought the game. To my delight, the game was better than the store owner had attested. I was hooked. I played the game late at night, woke up early to sneak in extra play before school and pretty much put every nonessential activity on hold while I leveled up, collected armor and defeated slime.
So you can imagine my surprise when, last year, I learned that the upcoming Dragon Quest VIII was actually a sequel to that old 8-bit game. As I had seventeen years earlier, I collected my Christmas money, ran to the local store, and bought my game, hoping that this game lived up to the original, so that I might have a chance to redeem my previous ignorant critique of this game’s ancestor.
In Dragon Quest VIII, you are a young guardsman in Castle Trodain, servant to the King and friend to the princess, Meada. One day, a crazed jester, Dhoulmagus, steals an ancient scepter from the dungeon of Castle Trodain, and unlocks its terrible power. He puts a curse on the King and his daughter, turning them into a monster and a horse, and entraps the rest of the castle in a spell of vines, of which you are the only survivor. But being the loyal guardsman that you are, you continue to guard your King and friend, and swear to find Dhoulmagus and break the curse.
Along the way, you meet Yangus, a tough, former thief with a funny way of talking. You save his life and he agrees to help you complete your mission. You also meet a young socialite named Jessica, who is out to avenge her brother’s death; when it’s learned that Dhoulmagus killed her brother too, she vows to follow you until the evil jester is destroyed. Finally, you meet, Angelo, a templar knight, that’s more rogue than knight, but has a good heart. When his master is killed by—guess who—Dhoulmagus—he also joins you. Together you are a nearly unstoppable force, with various skills in magic and weaponry that can be combined in various ways to defeat your enemy.
Together, you travel across the globe, gaining strengths, finding treasure, defeating monsters, and upgrading your armor, until at last you face the evil jester himself. But facing him is only the beginning of your journey, as the true evil lies in the scepter, and those who wield it fall prey to a wicked magic that comes from a much darker place than Dhoulmagus, and there’s a lot more at stake than avenging a few lives and restoring a kingdom to its former glory.
But the story isn’t just about fighting. There are plenty of side missions and a few mini-games that will give you some great prizes, as well as an underlying love story and a mystery to boot. There are also a couple of features unique to this installment of the series, such as the psyched up feature--in which you can pump up your strength to later deliver a stronger attack--and intimidate--which allows you to attempt to scare off weaker opponents without having to fight them.
Dragon Quest VIII, like its predecessor, Dragon Warrior, had me instantly hooked. I played the game late at night, woke up early to sneak in extra play before work and pretty much put every nonessential activity on hold while I leveled up, collected armor and defeated slime. With its anime-like graphics, bright colors, fluid motions, and simple, yet engaging storyline, Dragon Quest VIII actually managed to recapture much of that old magic that I found so appealing in that old 8-bit version. Although the story is different from the original, I felt like I was twelve years old again, playing the very first RPG, and loving every minute of it. The game has a universal appeal, without all the flash and confusion of some of its RPG cousins out there. The makers of the game knew what worked and they stuck with it, and for that, I was grateful.
So, in case you haven’t already figured it out, this game is a must have for any serious, novice, diehard or old-school RPG players. You will not be disappointed.