Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King PS2 Review

This is a fantastic turn based role playing game from a long lineage and history of the Dragon Quest franchise. For starters, all of the classic enemies and their cartoon-esque art style are here fleshed out in 3D. The turn based battles feel great as ever, but there is some depth to said combat. When you level up you get your standard stats increase, but now you get extra points to pool into combat traits such as swords, spears, clubs, unarmed combat, courage and so on. Each character has different trait abilities. These stats will give you abilities to use in battle that are different than spells. Abilities like Heart breaker, penny pincher, monster masher, blow kiss and a lot of others.

There is a very competent tactics system where you can assign certain party members to take certain actions during combat. You can still control them if you want to, but if you don’t, you can have them show no mercy, fight wisely, focus on healing, don’t use magic, get psyched up or follow your orders. The choice is yours, but it does save on brain cells not having to think about who will do what or if you’ve got a very young player that isn’t playing for the combat.

The menu system feels a little cumbersome and it takes a longer time than it should to do things. The menu is broken down into items, where each party member has their inventory to equip things and a bag that holds your excess. In battle, you can only use items that character holds and cannot use anything from the bag, which makes sense. The magic menu where you can use a character’s spells. Attributes to see character stats, traits, abilities, bio and so on. Finally there is the miscellaneous section, where you can easily heal everyone with the push of a button (that will automatically use magic and items to replenish health), tactics, line-up, equipment, settings, help, battle records and an interesting new alchemy pot, where you can take useless items and make them more useful.

The game follows the player from a third person perspective and you have very good control over the camera. The game has you walking around towns which are safe from enemies and the wilderness which is not safe. Random monster battles will happen. You will not see a monster on the map (just in rare occasions), but rather you will just be taken to a fight screen with the foes. All of the monsters have good animations and a sense of charm and personality. The 3D and animations really bring everything to life nicely. Better yet, the enemies have a lot of combat diversity that adds a lot and makes you think. Diversity far from just spells and attacks, but some enemies flip when hit to reveal a stronger version. Some enemies start the battle sleeping allowing the player to run away or take advantage. There are plenty of status ailments like sleep, poison, paralysis, curse, mute and so on (Pretty standard stuff).

Now let’s talk about the story. Normally, I don’t care much for story, but this game has a surprisingly good and rich story with plenty of characters to get attached to. Your character is the silent protagonist. Yangus is the brute comedy figure, Jessica is the bold young lady you meet 2 missions in, Angelo is the charming ladies man that works for the Templar that you will find a few hours into the game. It is all held together by the cursed king. Some short frog like humanoid creature and his horse of a daughter Madea. Hence the name Journey of the Cursed King. You are all following a strange jester villain that literally has affected everything in the story. Quest after quest is tied to this jester. It is nice storytelling.

Each quest… or I should say chapter in the story is around 2+ hours between battles, travel, your exploring and cut scenes. Speaking of cut scenes, they are voice acted for the most part. Some voice acting is quality, but it feels like they recycled some voice actors doing triple duty. You end up reading a lot quicker than their voice acting, but you can skip to the next bit of dialog (box). The townspeople are not voice acted, but rather dialog boxes at the bottom of your screen as is the traditional RPG format.

If you come back from a long downtime of not playing, the game reminds you that you can ask your party what to do to get back on track. This works excellently like a hint system or a friendly reminder.

All and all, his is a fantastic game for anyone who likes turn based role playing games. You really can develop your characters to how you play. Its deep, but you can still play it on a shallow level. There is exploration, but you won’t get lost with clearly defined paths. A lot of dungeons and outdoor areas you can just go straight to find your goal, but you can look off the path to find treasures and other quirky things.

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