_hojo:Jessica Quest 8September 8, 2009
_The Dragon Quest series is one of the longest running and most influential series in the history of gaming. Released in Japan in 1986, it popularized many of the standards found in modern day turn-based RPGs, and is one of the most successful game franchises of all time…in Japan. In the US, the series (long known under the name Dragon Warrior, due to copyright issues) has long been overshadowed by the Final Fantasy games. Most gamers have played at least one FF game in their lifetime, even if they’re not fans of the RPG genre. I’ve often heard people say, “Well, I figure that the series is good enough to get 12 installments, they must be the best! So…might as well try out the best there is to try, y’know?” Funny enough…Dragon Quest saw its 8th installment on the PS2, but i never once heard anybody use that excuse to play it. I guess a series has to hit double digits before people start to make that assumption. Anyways, despite being a big fan of RPG’s, i had managed to go through 25 years of non-death without playing a single Dragon Quest game. Sure, I can make excuses. I didn’t get into RPG’s until 1994, when i played Final Fantasy 3/6, and another Dragon Quest game wasn’t released after that point in the US until 2001. I was scared of the 100+ hours DQ7 promised to require of me. I was too busy playing Xenogears. Excuses, excuses. But that’s all in the past now. I rectified the absence of Dragon Quest in my life last month by playing through Dragon Quest VIII. And it was good.
_Many games that have seen numerous sequels end up going through changes…go in new directions. Maybe they borrow from other games coming out at the time…adopt popular modern day trends, or maybe try to set the new trends themselves. Maybe they think that they should go for a new audience…blend elements of multiple genres together. All noble ideas, and understandable. The Dragon Quest series spits on all of that garbage. “Fuck all that,” it says. Simple, easy to manage inventories? Bah…I’d rather have needless menus to organize. 30-40 hours of gameplay? Bah…having other things to do with your time other than play DQ is overrated. REAL gamers want to endlessly grind for gold and experience. Maps drawn with the top being north? Pfff…traditional cartography is for fucking ASSHOLES! We’ll make north point wherever the fuck we want! Maybe left on this one…maybe fucking down-right on this one! Real men don’t believe in the magnetic north.
_But…somehow, even with all of these archaic and sometimes inexcusable flaws, the game still manages to be incredibly enjoyable. The game might be incredibly long, even by RPG standards, but the pace of the game is very good. Rarely is there a point in time where you get hours of nonstop cut scenes, and unless you go out of your way to grind and search for treasure, you’ll be progressing the main story at a decent pace throughout. The battles are played out traditional turn-based style, and you can set your characters to fight automatically, or commands each person yourself. And the computer is [normally] pretty good at selecting attacks, so you can go through battles pretty casually if you so choose. There’s not a whole lot of aimless wandering either, as there are clearly defined paths that will lead you from town to town. The dungeons don’t always have paths leading to them, but the game does a pretty good job of giving you decent directions on how to get there from your current location.
_But…directions STILL occasionally prove to be a problem. Sometimes you’re given directions on how to get somewhere with a different town as a starting point, or just told to go back to a previously visited town. The problem with this arises from the map, once again. And no, the world map thankfully DOES have north on the top of the page, but you can’t manually examine different areas of the map. There’s a full view, and “zoom on your location,” but you can’t do a zoomed view of any part of the map other than where you’re standing. And there’s no list of what town is which. So…the world map basically gives you a bunch of locations, but without any labels. If you don’t remember what each city or location is manually, you might as well not even bother checking your map for it. Thankfully, there’s a magic spell you can use to warp to previously visited areas, but if you don’t remember the actual location of a town yourself, you’re pretty much forced to use this spell rather than walk there yourself. Sure…walking is slower, but what if you WANT to gain more gold and experience? All I’m saying is…it would’ve been nice, and isn’t THAT big of a request, is it? Is it SO crazy to want the names of towns displayed on a MAP?! It’s like having a map of the US with none of the states labeled and trying to find Wyoming. Sure, you see the state outlines…and you have a general idea of where it is…but Wyoming is such a dull state, and it’s shaped like a rectangle around a bunch of other rectangle shaped states. You could make an educated guess that has a >75% chance of being right, but with such a shitty state, you probably wouldn’t be 100% sure. Now pretend that this map was of a made-up world, with only dots representing towns. Exactly.
_I’m going to attempt to not bring up the maps again for the rest of this post. Except maybe the final paragraph. I’ve done it twice, and it made my paragraphs so huge that I had to separate them in awful places. Graphically…the game is designed by Akira Toriyama. So, naturally, a lot of the character and monster designs are stock Tomiyama characters with palette swaps. But even so, the graphics are lively and vibrant, and many of the special attacks have insanely awesome animations. As mentioned by someone on one of my streams, Yangus is one of Toriyama’s most original designs in…forever, and Jessica is probably his strongest female design outside of Chrono Trigger. Because of huge jugs. Awwwwwwwwww yeah.
_On the audio side of things, Koichi Sugiyama’s score is top notch. The same music plays throughout the entire game on the world map, and during my 70+ hours of gameplay, I never got tired of hearing it. That pretty much sums up all of my feelings on the music in this game. The voice acting in the game is rather good. Maybe it’s because everybody except for two bratty kids have European accents, so instead of “OMG shitty voices,” they got me thinking “lol British.” But yeah, it’s all pretty solid, sound-wise.
_I’m not going to delve deep into the plot, as there isn’t terribly much of one, considering the game’s length. It’s decent…not great, but good. It’s really hard to put into words why this game was so consistently enjoyable for 70+ hours, considering that the story wasn’t deeply moving and didn’t REALLY get interesting until halfway through the game, and the battle system is, at its core, just traditional turn-based. Perhaps it is what i mentioned at the beginning…the game’s old school feel, sticking to the roots of the RPG genre. RPG’s have come such a long way, that going back to the beginnings of the genre is now new and fresh. Or perhaps I’m simply underestimating the game. I’ve always said that the most underrated part of the Final Fantasy series is the intangibles. Something about the games keep you coming back for more. Every time I played one, it was all I wanted to do. Forget everything else…all my free time is going into Final Fantasy. DQ8 was the same way. I compared DQ to FF at the very beginning of this article, perhaps this is another fitting time to do so. Perhaps the best thing about DQ8 was that intangible quality…something I can’t quite put my finger on that made me want to do nothing but play it. And that’s what it was for 2 weeks. It was nothing but Dragon Quest 8. So…if you were like me, a gamer with a love for RPGs, and have overlooked the Dragon Quest series like i did, do yourself a favour and try Dragon Quest 8.
_My score for Dragon Quest 8…is 8 1/2 Slimes out of 10.