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March 22, 2005
Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King - PS2 Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
13/4/2006UbisoftLevel 5 &
Square-Enix
1$99.95
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Graphics are gorgeous.
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Man, looking tense.
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What, ermm, encounter?!

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Heading into battle...
When it comes to RPG's few are bigger then Square's Final Fantasy series, but there is another. Rather amusingly it's from the company Square merged with a year or so ago, Enix. That series is Dragon Quest. A series which sells by the millions in Japan, but hasn't made an impact outside that territory. How could it really, it was never released outside Japan, but that's about to change with Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King. Despite development taking place at Level 5, Square-Enix have had plenty of input into the game, and it has received rave reviews in Japan and America where it is already available. The European version, however, is getting some changes before it's release here so let's have a look.

A mysterious jester. A forbidden sceptre. A fiendish curse. A once idyllic kingdom lies entangled in a web of enchanted vines, its king and princess hideously transformed, its castle and subjects frozen in time. Only one person has survived this horror unscathed: you! Only you can save your king and country by lifting the shadow of the evil jester's curse.. But it won't be easy. An epic tale of friendship, bravery and adventure awaits you on the grassy fields, snow-capped mountains and restless seas.

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What you looking at punk!
Essentially this game is a traditional RPG, and a very traditional one at that. You see Level 5 have kept this game quite simple much like the RPG's of the early 1990's. There's only a handful of characters joining your party, very little CG cut scenes with in-game graphics used to tell the story, and a lack of stats and complex character manipulation. Still there's plenty of HP's, MP's, items, potions, upgrades and spells to keep you playing. Oh, and of course enemies.

One thing that I'm sure you haven't overlooked are the gorgeous graphics. Level 6 have used a cel-shading technique to draw the characters with 3D backgrounds used in the game for the very first time. To add even more credibility to the game Akira Toriyama, the father of the Dragon Ball series, has provided the character design in what is surely one of the most beautiful Manga inspired games ever.

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Only 2 damage...
Before we conclude this preview I must mention the changes which have been made to the PAL version of this game - and it really demonstrates Square-Enix's commitment to gamers in the long suffering territory. First all the voiceovers are being re-recorded so rather then annoying American accents we will have English voiceovers. Also being reworked is the music with an entirely new orchestral score being written for the PAL version. Finally PAL gamers will be blessed with a new menu system, improved battle abilities and improved animations.

With at least 50 hours gameplay, and many people commenting that this can easily stretch to 100+ hours if you take your time this is one game that will take up some of your time. I guess the biggest telling factor of the quality of this title is the 3.5 million sales this game has racked up in Japan - significantly more then Final Fantasy XII which has also just hit the shelves there. This is going to be a cracking game, make no mistake about it and RPG fans should pre-order Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King right now.