January 21, 2017
Nintendo, Square Enix
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is one of my all-time favourite video games. Originally released on PS2 back in 2005, the gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, addictive and deep combat system and gigantic open world to explore, it featured a range of lovable characters and memorable moments that still make me smile to this day. I was thrilled to find out a remake would be coming to the Nintendo 3DS, and it’s a solid port that brings just enough change to warrant a second play through, even if my first lasted well over 100 hours.
A traditional JRPG in many ways, it uses the history of its franchise and the experience of its development team to capitalize on what makes this genre so engaging to begin with. A storyline about a King that has been turned into a green troll-like creature and his daughter turned into a horse, it’s your initial mission to have them returned to human form which sets up the premise easily; the evolution of the narrative from here feels entirely natural and comes together as one of my favourite storylines from any RPG.
Characters are also designed expertly; look no further than Yangus, your essential right-hand-man, who provides comic relief with his cockney accent and over-the-top animations while also being entirely reliable and believable as a friend and faithful bodyguard. Jess brings with her the attitude you’d expect from a strong female character that’s a bit of a tomboy, while Angelo brings likability to a role that initially comes off as a little pompous and arrogant. Each play their role in the interweaving narrative and create a band of misfits that all have their reasons for joining you and bring some real personality to the proceedings.
The world is also never short of things to do. Beyond the story, there are extra dungeons, secrets to uncover, rare monsters to hunt, side-quests, alchemy recipes to learn… there’s just so much content here, but none of it feels tacked on or out of place. There is justification for every single element of Dragon Quest VIII, which helps to make it one of the best overall packages available for RPG lovers.
That’s not to say there isn’t new content for long-time fans. There are two new characters that can join the party; the bandit pirate, Red , using fans as a weapon and being able to revive party members and use gold to damage enemies. Then there is the monster master, Morrie, using claws for weapons, assists with increasing tension and allows you to switch out party members during combat without costing you a turn, which is super helpful.
There are new story scenes as well which work to expand the already fantastic characters and narrative, including a new ending possibility. Photo mode is a welcome addition, as it also provides you with rewards such as items and equipment to assist you on your quest, along with genuinely being enjoyable in and of itself.
“…memories flooding back each time a quirky and catchy tune made its return; the production overall is something really special.”
It’s great to be able to play through battles at fast-forward speeds, given the portable nature of the 3DS and that some of the grinding doesn’t require too much detailed attention. Battles are also no longer a random occurrence like in the original; you’ll see monsters moving out in the open and can make a choice whether or not to take them on, which is a nice touch when you are just back-tracking for items or following up a story beat. I wouldn’t recommend skipping fights as this is pivotal to your progression and needed to take on some of the more challenging bosses, but it’s nice they have provided the option.
Due to the colourful, cel-shaded nature of the original, this port to the handheld holds up visually incredibly well. You’re of course going to lose some of the detail and scale on the smaller screen, but the aesthetics were put together in such a way that it really does manage to stand the test of time. The soundtrack is also iconic and brought the memories flooding back each time a quirky and catchy tune made its return; the production overall is something really special.
- Truly fantastic JRPG
- Colourful and fun
- Unforgettable characters
- Additional, useful content
- Smaller screen means less detail
I’ll take any excuse I can to go back and play one of my all-time favourite games again; it turns out that this 3DS version of Dragon Quest VIII is stellar in every sense of the word, effectively translating one of the most carefully and creatively constructed JRPG’s in video game history. Not only is this a great version to play for fans of the original, but is the perfect entry point for newcomers. Ever wondered what all this fuss about Dragon Quest was about and why it’s arguably the most popular JRPG franchise of all time? Journey of the Cursed King will provide you with all of the answers.