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May 27, 2006
Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/4/2006UbisoftLevel 5 &
Square-Enix
1PGMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
155KBStereoYesNoNoneYes

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DQVIII really is stunning.
So here we are at last. It has been 19 years since the first Dragon Quest was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and we are now up to the eighth title in the series (ignoring offshoots). Finally gamers in Europe and Australia will be able to get their hands on an officially released version in what is an even bigger RPG series then Final Fantasy in Japan. Some of the previous games were released in America as Dragon Warrior however due to the games being developed on Nintendo's systems many of them were censored for religious regions prior to release due to that companies stringent requirements. But let's talk about Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. It's one of the biggest RPG's of all time, is in 3D for the first time, and best of all has been localized specifically for PAL territories - so no American voiceovers in our version.

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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.

This game wasn't developed internally at Square-Enix, but rather by Level 5, the same company behind the glorious Dark Cloud and its sequel Dark Chronicle earlier in the PS2's life. To be honest we found the story in Dragon Quest VIII rather standard fare. There wasn't many surprises, shocks, twists or turns. Having said that it was at all times entertaining.

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Essentially this game is a traditional RPG, and a very traditional one at that. Level 5 have (deliberately) 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. Still there's plenty of HP's, MP's, items, potions, upgrades and spells to keep you playing. Oh, and of course enemies. This game is quite long. If you rush through it you may get to the end within 60 or so hours, however if you decide to complete the side quests, explore all the areas and go after the majority of the hidden items and features then you're looking well at a game that could take well over 100 hours to complete.

As with any RPG the battles play a large part in the game, and it's no different in Dragon Quest VIII. The battle system is turn based, and fairly standard fare with each member of your party being equipped with various skills - some are strong while others better with spells and so on. One interesting aspect though it the ability to skip your turn and charge up for the next round. It's an interesting addition that works quite well. Also impressive is the range of enemies. Only hours into the game you would have encountered dozens of different enemies in battle, and by the end of the game, well, almost countless numbers. The PAL version of Dragon Quest VIII introduces new abilities for the characters - but not having played the originals we can't say specifically what they are.

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One of the best things about this title is the vast number of extras available. Not only are you able to find hidden areas and items during your quest, but by pressing the Select button the developers have added in a page full of incidental statistics about your game such as how many miles you've traveled, how many times you've had to flee a battle, and keeps a list of all the monsters and enemies you've encountered.

The PAL game has undergone a couple of other improvements - improvements which we, without a Japanese copy of the game to compare to, will take their word on it. First up the menu system has apparently been improved and we certainly didn't have any problems in this regard. Also improved is the battle abilities and the re-recorded voiceovers for the PAL version which are detailed below.

Still, there are a couple of areas where I thought the developers could have improved this game even further. Firstly I felt that there were too many random battles taking place. You'd no sooner finish one random battle then enter another. It makes getting to the meat of the game a bit of a stretch, and they probably could have shaved quite a bit of time off the game by reducing these battles and not lost any of the games quality. Also as I've previously mentioned the storyline is a little on the simplistic, and shock-free side.

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As you can see from the surrounding screenshots Level 5 have used a cel-shading graphical technique in Dragon Quest VIII. I'll admit that initially I had my reservations about the style (probably as you do now), however it's not too long before you really appreciate the visuals which give the world a unique personality and atmosphere. The character design by Akira Toriyama (of Dragonball Z fame) is marvelous, from the most basic of non-playable character to the evilest of enemies every single character in the game looks like they belong in the world. Widescreen support is also welcomed although the lack of progressive scan mode is disappointing. There are some moments of draw-in, and the occasional stutter as the game streams off the DVD but neither is severe enough to cause any problems.

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The audio experience in this title is exemplary. Apparently the Japanese game doesn't have any voiceovers and it was only when the game came to America that they were added into the game - and it's all the better for it. Even more impressive is the fact that Square-Enix has taken the time to re-record the voices for the European version of the game so we can now listen to a wide range of European accents for the characters - rather then American voices. Make no mistake about it, the European version is every bit as impressive in audio as the American one, if not more so. Square-Enix has also recorded a new soundtrack for the game - and the quality both technically and artistically is superb. Naturally the audio is rounded off with sound effects which are probably as good as we've heard in a PS2 RPG to date. If there's a down side it's that the game is only presented with Stereo sound.

When a game sells over 3 million copies in a single territory it's time to sit up and take notice. Fortunately it's not just Japanese gamers that can enjoy this title but also American and European. Square-Enix must be applauded for the localisation of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King which is simply superb, and possibly one of the best ever. If you like RPG's then this is a no brainer - in fact you probably already have it. If you're not usually an RPG fan this game is still so brilliantly created that it is also deserving of your attention. Don't hire the game, with well over 60-70 hours (ignoring side quests) you'll never finish this in a couple of days.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version) or Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSProbably the best use of cel-shaded style graphics we've ever seen.
87%
SOUNDSuper music and speech makes this equal to any Hollywood movie.
93%
GAMEPLAYThis is a classic RPG with all the right ingredients. Totally entertaining.
93%
VALUE$100 for 100 hours of gameplay, that's sensational value for my mind.
95%
OVERALLDragon Quest VIII is certainly one of the best RPG's on the PS2, and is a must have for anyone even remotely interested in RPG's and/or any form of entertaining game. Pure brilliance.
93%

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