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Role Playing (Games)

Review: Dragon Quest VIII 245

Most modern single-player RPGs have changed quite a bit since the early days of the NES. Real-time combat and epic story arcs have allowed the traditionally hardcore RPG market to draw in new fans who may not otherwise want to invest 100+ hours on a single title. Square Enix, the company that founded the genre, spits in the eye of progress with Dragon Quest VIII. This traditional dungeon delve has an old-school heart with a beautiful current-generation exterior. Read on for my impressions of the latest chapter in the mind-numbingly popular Dragon Quest series.
  • Title: Dragon Quest VIII
  • Developer: Level 5
  • Publisher: Square Enix
  • System:PS2
  • Score:9/10

Admittedly, your mind is only likely numb if you live in Japan. The U.S. first saw the series on the Nintendo Entertainment System as Dragon Warrior, and some of the most hardcore elements were dumbed down for our squishy American palates. Since those heady early days Dragon Quest has been largely absent from our shores. Dragon Quest VIII allows us to once again experience what can only be described as a Japanese cultural phenomenon.

Dragon Quest's focus is on entertaining and enjoyable gameplay, and so for the most part the game's plot can be forgiven for being fairly weak. The game's subtitle, "Journey of the Cursed King", is almost everything you need to know to understand what's going on. You, an unnamed heroic adventurer, are on the hunt for a power-hungry sorcerer. The spellcaster has stolen a potent magical artifact, and pair of royals present when the artifact was stolen are turned into a frog-demon thing and a horse. They hook up with you and your buddy Yangus (a burly fighter-type), in hopes of finding the spellcaster and reversing the magical effect that imprisons them. Along the way you encounter some typical RPG stereotypes (like the scantily clad mage Jessica), but for the most part that's the hook that drives the story. While this doesn't sound like much to go on, the NPC characterizations are so well-written and over-the-top that it's hard not to like them.

Really, it's surprisingly hard not to like everything about this game. Gameplay-wise, the latest installment of the Dragon Quest series is an unapologetic blast from the past. The game features menu-driven turn-based combat, endless hours of gameplay, a random encounter strewn overworld map, and plenty of slimes. You'd think this would tire a veteran RPG player, but the quality of the game's presentation and the obvious effort the designers put into the game's systems is inspiring. The overworld map, a tired warhorse in the gaming world, is a beautifully rendered naturescape. Beautiful glens, soaring caverns, and imposing ruins all lie hidden within the gameworld. The mini-map, a constant companion in most games, is blissfully absent. Without any easy-access artificial assistance, the temptation to explore is overwhelming, and can lead to some interesting hard-to-find creatures and treasures.

This sense of exploration is only broken by the occasional encounter with wandering monsters. The pace of encounters is well spaced out, to ensure that you won't have to fight through several encounters just to proceed a short way down a trail. The combat is a traditional RPG line-up, with enemies on one side and heroes on the other. Players navigate an intuitive menu to instruct their characters in who and how to fight, but attacks are far from the bland or ordinary. Both monsters and heroes have an array of visually interesting attacks and spells to take out opposing forces. Giant tongues seem to be a weapon of choice for the enemies, who have an array of quirky appearances and behaviors. Besides the title-identifying slimes, there are a bevy of beasts and monsters to face down. Some of the early beasts actually forgo their turns to calmly lick their fur. This variety of choice, animation, and behavior ensures that even the most jaded RPG fan is unlikely to get bored with combat. Trying to one-button push your way through combat, if you do start to glaze over, will teach you the error of your ways quickly. The challenge level here is high, and you can expect to wipe more than once at low levels. The tenacity exhibited by a gang of cute little kitty cats can easily end in tragedy.

That gang of cats, like everything else in the game, have distinct sensibilities conveyed by their unique visual design. The whole title has a beautiful cell-shaded look, and an anime quality that brings the personality of each beast and NPC to the fore. Dragon Ball Z designer Akira Toriyama helmed the look of this title, and the result is a naturalistic landscape and highly distinctive characters. The audio environment is stirring as well. Adventuring music takes center stage, with the occasional more thoughtful piece thrown in to highlight some of the game's quieter moments. Despite the tissue-paper plot, the voice acting is top-notch. The laughable whining and cowardice of the King and Yangus's thick brogue should set the standard for RPG cohorts in future titles. The dialogue's localization is also tremendous, with some jokes managing to be bitingly clever. It's hard not to appreciate the attention to detail spent here, as the inordinate amount of time you'll spend with these characters almost requires a sense of connection and empathy. While they may not make you cry, you'll definitely enjoy spending time with these likable non-people.

Dragon Quest VIII is not an evolution in the genre, nor is it likely to convert a dyed-in-the-wool anti-RPG nut. It's a challenging old-school game that appeals directly to traditional fans, and does so with personality, levity, and a lot of style. The hack and slash, turn-based combat system has never been so lovingly displayed as it is in this title. If you ever find yourself pining for those long-past grind sessions, gaining levels outside of Elfland by slaying ogres, this is a game you simply must play.

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Review: Dragon Quest VIII

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  • How can you lose? This game proves to be a traditional RPG style game that I grew up on plus the modern graphics, control and AI that provides a better challenge and experience. And plus you get a playable demo of the next FF in the franchise. If you don't buy it, you're a nazi.
  • Weird graphics (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andrewkov ( 140579 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @03:58PM (#14273907)
    I haven't played games in years, but I looked at the screen shots out of curiousity. The grass looks blurry to me, like it's got major motion blur. Is this normal for these new fangled 3d games? Maybe it's just me but it looks really strange.
    • Re:Weird graphics (Score:4, Informative)

      by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#14273945)
      The graphics engine for this game is based on the Dark Cloud series of games. They were known for their highly stylized graphics, and they are a little old at this point. The first one is from 2001. You're seeing a combination of those things. Plus, it looks better when stuff is moving. It wasn't really designed for stills.

      If you ask me, they could have used 8-bit sprites, as long as the gameplay was good.
      • I don't think so. Unfortunately a profitable game for gamers needs top of the line graphics. It might be different with casual gamer games, like Zuma. So much money is spent into graphics, that fun aspect of the game is normally not a big thing. You can show graphics (even CGI FMV) in screen shots to create buzz and hype, but it's much harder to do with "fun".
        • Re:Weird graphics (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @05:12PM (#14274684)
          When I said "if you ask me" I meant that *I* would have bought it, but since you bring it up...

          There are *tons* of profitable games that don't have top of the line graphics. They just aren't super hyped with multi-million dollar marketing budgets, because they don't need tens or thousands of copies to sell to make a profit. You need cutting edge graphic and a huge budget to justify outrageous hype fueled by a huge amount a advertising dollars, but the the need for big budgets and fancy graphics is a complete myth that only people who need to be spoon fed their content buy into.

          Profitable games *don't* need cutting edge graphics. If you disagree, I'd point you to Puzzle Pirates, Popcap, Kingdom of Loathing, or one of the dozens of others of low-profile profitable games that have some out in the last year or two. If you don't know this, you're missing out. Spend a few hours to search around and see what you're missing when you don't look at games that don't advertise on television or in pay-for-reviews gaming rags.
          • Sure, that's my point. I really enjoy games like Zuma and Puzzle Bubble. But my point is with the more "hardcore" games. Take a look at, for me, the best RPG in the SNES, Chrono Trigger. The graphics were good. The game play was awesome. I've played it several times. The sequel, Chrono Cross, had breaktaking graphics, the intro was really really good. The gameplay sucked. A real shame given what COULD have been done with all the money they threw at the game. The game flunked, and probably we won'
            • I thought the gameplay in Cross was really really good. They should have had more double-techs. but the gameplay was a refreshing change from standard RPGS that I really enjoyed. I thought the storyline was uneven though (sad, because it could have been really good) and the charactors were a bit off. Often I was left wondering why on earth the charactors were doing what they were doing. Maybe I confused by the charactors because I'ld played Radical Dreamers first, and the charactors were slighty differe
    • All of the screenshots posted here actually look rather crappy for a modern PS2 game. (Not really the artwork, but the graphics themselves.) Part of it, I think, is that Square must have taken these screenshots on a development station. On a television, the jaggies would be "naturally" smoothed out and the lower resolution hides the imperfection of the 3D models.
    • The grass is blurry because Sony's designers only put four megabytes of video RAM into the PS2, so in PS2 games there is no such thing as a hi-res texture. Thank god that after five years of hideous PS2 graphics Sony had the sense to outsource the hardware of the PS3!
    • The graphics were a little weird, but overall, I thought they were pretty good and artistic. On the plus side, the game does support 16X9 mode, which looks good on an HDTV.
      The music was excellent, though you obviously can't tell that from the screenshots!
  • by Yocto Yotta ( 840665 ) * <catapults.musicNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 16, 2005 @03:58PM (#14273908)
    "Despite the tissue-paper plot, the voice acting is top-notch. The laughable whining and cowardice of the King and Yangus's thick brogue should set the standard for RPG cohorts in future titles."

    Just a fair warning: The voice acting is very over the top in a cartoonish way. If "top-notch voice acting" means realistic and dramatic to you, you'll be sorely disappointed with the voice acting in DQVIII. The accents and the content of the dialog is so silly and uninteresting, that I ended up skipping story sequences (a major RPG sin in my opinion) after a dozen hours of the same crap. You've been warned.

    Great game otherwise.
    • Excellent. I've always been attracted to over-the-top-notch voice acting, as I have enough "realistic drama" in real life. Anything that recalls the voice acting in the old LucasArts adventure games is fine by me!
    • You can turn it off (Score:3, Informative)

      by neostorm ( 462848 )
      You can turn the voice acting off. The Japanese version had no voice acting at all, and was a bit better off because of that. Just turn the Voice setting to 0 in the menu and you'll not miss out on anything else. The only difference is that the prerendered cutscenes have voice encoded into them, but there are only a handful in the game anyhow.

  • by Cash202 ( 854642 )
    This is an excellent review, thanks. If I had a PS2, this would have confirmed my purchase.
  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @03:59PM (#14273918)
    Square Enix, the company that founded the genre, spits in the eye of progress with Dragon Quest VIII.

    You know, just because people have come up with new gameplay mechanics doesn't mean we should abandon the old ones. It's about time some tried and true turn based RPG came back on the market. The game market has grown, and there's room for the old style and the new style out there. I think it's fair to say that the old turn based style games offer different types of strategy than the newer real time games, and I was getting a little tired of every new RPG testing my reflexes and jacking up the pace. Those are good games, but sometimes you want to slow down and relax a bit, or add in the increased complexity that having turns allows.

    If somebody came up with a real-time version of a game like chess that was sufficiently fun that it became popular, I bet people would still play the old version too. Why should video games be any different. While they're at it, let's get some good old style 2D (the environments, not the graphics nescessarily) platformers back out there for non-handheld systems. Perhaps something that uses the Symphony of the Night engine. Maybe the Revolution will bring some of these types of games back.
  • Excellent Game (Score:3, Interesting)

    by casualsax3 ( 875131 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:00PM (#14273926)
    This is the first game since Final Fantasy VII that I was unable to put down from the moment I got it. It's an excellent RPG all round.
  • Loving the game (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sarlos ( 903082 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:01PM (#14273930)
    The game really is all the reviewer says. It has an old school charm that I find irresistable. The first time I found cheerfully floating Drakies, I laughed out loud, it was too perfect. People may be skeptical of the cell shaded look, but it works oddly well for this title. It fits the lighthearted gameplay and makes me nostalgic for the blocky sprites of the old NES games.

    And lest we forget, Jessica is rather, err, bouncy... o.o
  • by Johnny Sailor ( 936454 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:01PM (#14273933)
    or if it's because it has a refreshingly simple character system. You have a couple of easily understandable stats, when you level you have 5 different abilities you can choose from 4 weapons, and one unique ability per character, and the story isn't some over the top ridiculously unable to be understood thing. There's no sphere grid system to confuse people. There aren't 20 different stats to try and understand. It's just straight forward, and yet still deep and entertaining. The characters are great, and there's only four, so you don't have to worry about missing out on plotline for a character, or keeping everyone's level equal. Really the only complaint I have about it is the fact that there is a bunch of running around and fighting in order to level, just in order to beat the next dungeon.
    • Old school would be Wizardry, or Ultima. Japanese games are not old school. Preschool, maybe. And no, I'm not forgetting the text games; they are in a different genre (adventure games, like Myst or King's Quest).

      You want old school [atariage.com]? You got it.
  • Bad example, Zonk! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RailGunner ( 554645 ) * on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:03PM (#14273946) Journal
    First: You don't fight giants around Elfland. Those are Ogres.

    And that's not a Dragon Quest/Warrior game - that was Final Fantasy!

    The better analogy would have been fighting Wyverns in a swamp while carrying Princess Gwaelin back to King Lorik...

  • by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:04PM (#14273953)
    After the first hour or two, does anyone really notice the eye-candy graphics? If not, why not just skip that part alltogether and play a MUD for free?

    Endless zombie gore
    pales before the epic thrill
    of asterisk spam

    -A haiku for MUDs.
    • Yup /agree. And I thought WoW was too cartoony ... this one goes Daffy (pun intended)

      Three games in point:

      1)Lineage 1. Best selling MMORPG worldwide of its time. America didn't like it but the rest of the world did. Horrible graphics. Killer gameplay.
      2)Lineage 2. OK selling in the US. Better graphics than WoW. Horrible gameplay (well, not horrible, but not very questy, and the main point of the game - grinding to get high lvl to siege - welll when you get to the point where you'd make a difference in siegin
      • The Lineage series has god awful gameplay. It has the worst grind of any game I've ever seen. For some reason, that goes over big in Korea, but it doesn't here in America. And I'm thankful for that- if my options were Lineage or never playing another game again, I'd have an awful lot of free time on my hands.
    • Unless you're blind of course. Then you don't. You can still appreciate Yangus' English accent however.

      As for MUDs, to each their own. I find them tremendously boring.
  • I thought I noticed the handiwork of Akira Toriyama [wikipedia.org].

    I did a little research and he designed the monsters and characters
    • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:47PM (#14274350) Homepage
      Akira Toriyama has done the character design and artwork for every Dragon Quest game in the series.

      Yuji Horii has done the storyline and scenarios for every game in the series.

      Koichi Sugiyama has done the music for every game in the series.

      They, combined, are the "DQ Team", and are responsible for the entire series, having come together to create it after enjoying Wizardry and Ultima, but thinking they were too complex for the mainstream.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Quest [wikipedia.org]

      In addition Toriyama and Horii did quite a bit of work on Chrono Trigger -- Toriyama did the art and designs, Horii did the storyline and scenarios, and several experts from the original Final Fantasy team did the battle engine, music, etc.

      That's why CT was so great -- it was basically a new spin on the Dragon Warrior series of games.

      Bewarned, even though DQ8 is arguably the easiest game in the DQ series, it's still leaps and bounds above the difficulty arc of modern Final Fantasy games. If you've never played a DQ game before you're in for a treat, but you *will* die a few times. :)
      • I played through the original Dragon Warrior in about 4 hours and didn't die even once. HP is at address 00C5, MP is at 00C6, attack power is at 00CC, and your equipment is at 00BE. If you want to shorten your quest to 4 hours like I did, you'll have to step up your experience a few times. Experience is at 00BA and 00BB.

        That said, the game sucked ass, and would have been worse if I had played it the "right way". I've tried getting into DW2, 3, and 4, but they never held my interest past the first 10 minutes
  • Is this the first American-released game to have the puff-puff girl? I don't remember one in 7.
  • I love this game. (Score:4, Informative)

    by millennial ( 830897 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:13PM (#14274023) Journal
    I bought DQVIII the day it came out, and have never regretted doing so. The graphics are beautiful, the plotline is engrossing, the characters are lovable, and the environment is believable. The only complaint I have is that some of the songs sound like they were recorded in an echo chamber. Apart from that, I love it.
  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:14PM (#14274033) Homepage
    Dragon Ball Z designer Akira Toriyama helmed the look of this title, and the result is a naturalistic landscape and highly distinctive characters.

    If memory serves, Toriyama's done the design on all of the DQ titles... which was vastly more palatable back in the 8-bit days, when you couldn't tell how atrocious his "distinctive" character design was. He's also responsible for the aesthetic of Chrono Trigger - a game that plays great but in my opinion looks absolutely horrible: his grotesque "anatomy" and facial design seriously hampered my enjoyment of the title.

    The lesson here is that a "distinctive" look and feel can alienate gamers as well as attract them - I won't play or watch anything modern that Toriyama's involved with simply because I just can't stand to look at it.
    • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:38PM (#14274229) Homepage
      The lesson here is that a "distinctive" look and feel can alienate gamers as well as attract them - I won't play or watch anything modern that Toriyama's involved with simply because I just can't stand to look at it.

      There's nothing remotely new or surprising about this--edgy art has always appealed to a smaller audience than "mainstream" art.

      Frankly, I'd rather "suffer" through the occasional bizzare-looking game than have designers bend their vision for the sake of mass appeal. Take, for example, Hieronymus Bosch. Bosch made plenty of "regular" art, but he is best remembered for his utterly mind-bending depictions of demons, Hell, and Judgement. Had he abandoned his artistic direction and not composed some of the most truly exotic, horrifying pre-modern art ever created, he'd be remembered as a talented--but only marginally significant--artist, and our society would be missing out on some geuninely unique and amazing art.

      Art doesn't always appeal, but it's almost always more valuable than uninspired works designed for mass comsumption. There's a seemingly endless supply of well-painted, arrow-riddled St. Sebastians out there--but there's nothing else quite like the Garden of Earthly Delights...

      • The immediate cheap response would be "yeah but Bosch is good, see." - Toriyama has maybe two dozen or so physical archetypes that he's endlessly recycled with minor variations, as pointed out elsewhere in this thread - there's almost no difference between Chrono and Goku and the DQ hero. He's got some fairly obvious, fairly basic themes and hasn't evolved much over the past decade. Great for eleven year olds but it fails to hold water as an adult.... which is about the time those of us with an interest i
    • I like how his "distinctive" style is basically that all his characters look identical, save for different hair. Put a bandanna on Chrono and you've got the main character from DQVIII.
    • Speaking of Dragonball Z...

      First off, all the characters in the game look like - well, Toriyama characters. That is to say, if you've seen Dragonball Z, you'll notice that the characters would be right at home with Goku. I've never really liked that style, but that's not the point of this post.

      Zonk didn't mention the "Psyche Up" system, a system by which your characters can increase their "tension" and use more powerful attacks. Doing this makes them do almost exactly the same "tense and grunt" move

    • "I won't play or watch anything modern that Toriyama's involved with simply because I just can't stand to look at it."

      See, I don't mind the drawing; I'm not a rabid fanboy of it or anything, but I'm not against it. What does bug me about Toriyama, though, are his female characters: almost without exception, they're all useless, whining dead weight. Be it something from DragonBall or characters from DQ games past, I want to strangle them.

      The women in Chrono Trigger were OK, but I think that's less Toriya
      • Squaresoft gave us Yuffie and Rikku


        Squaresoft gave us Rosa, Palom and/or Porom, and Relm long before that.

        Every FF game with pre-named characters has the annoying, useless female (or child, or both) with the exception of FF5, and even then, Lenna/Reina comes close.
        • "Squaresoft gave us Rosa, Palom and/or Porom, and Relm long before that."

          Porom was the boy.

          And I wasn't trying to say that Yuffie were Rikku were useless whiners like Toriyama's women, they were annoying in an entirely different way, a squealing 14-year-old girl way.

          And I'm not saying that Toriyama's women are useless in a logistical/capable sense (even Bulma makes the Dragon Radar), they're useless via sitting on their asses all day. I'm in the middle of Dragon Warrior VII, and Maribel's entire witty dial
      • See, I don't mind the drawing; I'm not a rabid fanboy of it or anything, but I'm not against it. What does bug me about Toriyama, though, are his female characters: almost without exception, they're all useless, whining dead weight. Be it something from DragonBall or characters from DQ games past, I want to strangle them.

        I can't speak for Dragon Ball [Z/GT/WTF], but as far as the DQ games that made it to the US, I have to say you've got to be joking.

        DQ II - Princess of Moonbroke (Name generated at random) -
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:23PM (#14274100)
    "The U.S. first saw the series on the Nintendo Entertainment System as Dragon Warrior, and some of the most hardcore elements were dumbed down for our squishy American palates."

    You seem to be confusing this with the Final Fantasy series. The only changes made to the first Dragon Warrior was an improvement in graphics to make it look as pretty as Dragon Quest II ("ZOMG, I can face in four directions! Look, a shoreline!"). Later games had you dragging along ghosts instead of coffins when somebody died, but Enix didn't pull any of that EasyType crap on us like Squaresoft.

    Which is why it didn't sell. Dragon Quest never apologized for being Dragon Quest.
  • by oGMo ( 379 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:28PM (#14274128)
    If you ever find yourself pining for those long-past grind sessions, gaining levels outside of Elfland by slaying ogres, this is a game you simply must play.

    As others have noted, this more FF1 than DQ1. Additionally, you didn't fight ogres outside elfland; you go to the top of the peninsula just northeast of Pravoka. Due to the map design and the way the monster distribution is laid out in a grid across the map, in these two squares you find monsters from across the next continent. With decent buff skills, and the fact the Pravoka area is very early in the game, you can gain levels very quickly here.

    (The Dawn of Souls port for the GBA makes this even more trivial with the addition of MP instead of static spell counts. I was able to complete the game in barely 13 hours with 999999 gold, level 60+ characters, and all the items, using this method followed by harvesting the dungeons out of order for items and exp.)

    In Dragon Warrior, you could gain levels very quickly by fighting Metal Slimes, which gave tons of exp and had very little HP... but were very hard to hit.

    • Additionally, you didn't fight ogres outside elfland; you go to the top of the peninsula just northeast of Pravoka

      Exit Elfland, walk around in circles. If you're on an NES, the Ogres will often be accompanied by "Creeps", if it's Final Fantasy Origins for PSX the Creeps are named something else.

      But there's definitely Ogres surrounding Elfland, and they'll appear all the way to Astos's castle.

      But you are right about one thing, they do appear north of Pravoka.

      • Right, but these are all of the low-level variety. The higher-level ones are only available at the Pravoka peninsula, as well as the northeastern continent which can only be reached by airship. If the high-level ones were available in Elfland, it wouldn't be much of a trick, since you get the seaship as the first Pravoka event, and Elfland is your first new destination.
        • I usually spent a little time circling Elfland, and did some major leveling up in the Earth Cave, in the infamous "Hall of Giants".

          Of course, after I played through the game a few times, I'd end up getting the canoe and fighting through the ice cave / castle of trials, then going back to the Volcano to stomp Kary with the upgraded characters (Knight, Ninja, etc.) after seeing Bahamut.

          Sadly, the FF games started getting more linear after that, though I'm still a big fan of the series / genre.

          • Totally. When I played the DoS variant (which is very, very easy), I first defeated the Earth Fiend, but now I don't believe even that was necessary. Then I just went to all the other dungeons, harvested the items, and didn't defeat any of the other Fiends. Tiamat was the second to go down, and then when everyone was outfitted with top gear, everything else was trivial to clear out.

            I was suprised to see how nonlinear this turned out to be; i really wish they'd make a Final Fantasy that was reminiscent

            • The sages won't give you the Canoe until the Earth Fiend is dead, and you need it to get to the Ice Cave and get the Airship. I also used to skip Kary, get my upgraded characters and better spells/items from later dungeons before coming back.
        • Right, but these are all of the low-level variety. The higher-level ones are only available at the Pravoka peninsula, as well as the northeastern continent which can only be reached by airship.

          No no no. Those weren't ogres. They were Frost Giants. Also you could find Frost Wolves, and Minotaur Zombies. The nice part about all three of those monsters was that they were EXTREMELY weak against Fire spells, and, wouldn't you know it, the first black magic spell most people got after getting the boat was Fire 2.
  • by EXTomar ( 78739 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:29PM (#14274130)
    ...and the best arguement why many "old school" ideas should be left at home. DQ8 is simply not challenging because they embraced many old school concepts instead of washing their hands of it or improving upon them.

    DQ8 combat engine is simplistic. I mean dirt simple to the point you can predict with "in your head math" whether you can win the fight or should flee before damage is even exchanged. This leaves a system where the only way one can challenge the player is by trying to use "Surprise! Your Dead!" rare super attacks or the equally rare chance that given 4 targets, the size of your party, they will all chose to hit just one. Neither of these senarios features much intelgence nor does it dictate any strategy or stance player should take (beyond "overwhelming forces"). In any event, you are left with no strategy to play with. No tactics to leverage. No action to minimize risks or maximize bonuses. Simply put: there are no real decisions in DQ8. You either determin in the first round if you can win or leave.

    DQ8 tries to promote mindless "grinding". This sort of aimless wandering around hoping for random encounters is an artifact any level based system which DQ8 is strongly tied into. Nominally, grinding happens when a player "lucks out" or out flanks the game to arrive a place the game didn't content on seeing at this particular time or level. The problem with DQ8 and their guerilla style strategy is that by the time you disembark a city, travel to the dungeon entrance, work your way to the bottom of a dungeon, spending resources and energy along the way to do so, it is too late to show the player "Oops, you should have been a higher level!" Grinding should be tuned and supressed as much as possible. Tasked based quest systems give much more satisfaction than vague "see you when you get there" systems DQ8 uses.

    Randomly wandering around, randonly bumping into creatures that may randomly kill you off just isn't fun. I seriously question they were fun back in the "old school" days too (I don't ever seem to remember thinking "oh joy! another random encounter" in any console RPG). We now have the knowledge and technology to actually instill some more complex logic and real challenges into games instead of relying on random acts of "fickle fate" to try to trip up players. If I wanted to play a game that featued such randomness, I would rather play poker.

    DQ8 is a great looking game. The plot is sometimes amusing even if it is cheesey RPG fare. The music is a bit repetive but otherwise is awesome. I even like the touch that the SFX are old school. It is the wet dream of a designer who lived 20+ years ago who thought this is how these games should look like. The problem is we are play this game now instead of then and are left wonder "Why is this fun?"
    • Just because DQ8 is a "Case Study On 'Old School,'" does not mean that it is not fun. I, like other /.ers, am having alot of fun playing this game. Not all RPGs need to be incredibly complex, new school type mega-quests. If you don't like the gameplay, fine, don't play it, go back to FF* or any other 'advance' RTB game. Millions of gamers, japanese, european, or american, will disagree and tell you that the Dragon Quest series is the best out there.
    • I agree with this 100%. DQ8 is really just a case of outdated gameplay mixed with pretty graphics. Which is the only reason it's getting the attention and reviews that it has been.

      Grandia 3 and Shadow Hearts From the New World are both due out early next year. Both are far, far better. As are any of the Shin Megami Tensei games, of which three have been localized currently for the PS2. These are the games that should be getting the attention, not boring drivel like DQ8.
    • What you have said is completely untrue. The tactics and strategy in Dragon Quest is much, much deeper than that of the typical RPG. When you just choose to not see the intricate combat system and decided to brute force your way through the game through "mindless grinding", it doesn't mean that the game is simple at all.

      Sure, you can play Dragon Quest VIII by simply choosing Attack with all your characters, "grind" hours to overpower the dungeon which you should have tackled 5 levels ago, but that is onl
  • After playing this game for 50 hours, I can only say this: COR BLIMEY!

    (I just wish I knew what it meant)
  • by Audigy ( 552883 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @04:35PM (#14274189) Homepage Journal
    I'm "only" 25 hours into the game, but I've experienced everything the reviewer has and much much more.

    Despite the paper-thin plot (as it appears to me currently, at least) the game is challenging, and encourages the players to utilize tactics other than "button mashing" to get through battles.

    The monsters are detailed and adorable, and the Bestiary feature allows you to look at monsters you've already fought and reply their battle animations as many times as you'd like if you just can't get enough. ;D

    The voice acting and the localization effort are top-notch. I can't remember feeling sorry for a character in recent memory except while playing DragonQuest VIII. Additionally, some of the jokes are incredible.

    I'm glad I bought this game, and I am extremely happy that one of my favorite console RPG series is pulling in such stellar reviews in America. I look forward to many copies being sold so the game is re-released as part of the Greatest Hits series in 6-12 months.
  • I vaguely remember it being Dragon Quest in Japan and a few titles from that series made it to the US as the Dragon Warrior series.

    I loved those Dragon Warrior games.
  • First I've heard of it. That is the game, not its mind-numbing popularity.
    • First I've heard of it. That is the game, not its mind-numbing popularity.

      I'm perhaps assuming too much, but I'd guess that you're neither Japanese nor a fan of RPGs? Then, I guess you're not in the target market anymore than I am for "mind-numingly popular" FPS or sports games.
  • Dragon Quest is probably an acquired taste. The original Dragon Warrior on the NES was my introduction to the genre and as such, has set the standard for me as far as what I expect from a console fantasy RPG. Fancy graphics are a plus but mean nothing without good game play.

    The great thing about Dragon Quest is that it gives the option of exploration as well as the incentive -- something that is largely absent in most "modern" RPGs I've played. Most other so-called RPGs restrict you to the story. You do
    • That choice you are talking about can be confusing as hell sometimes though. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has walked from town to town talking to people because I didn't know what to do next. Hell, even in FF Mystic Quest I got lost (didn't know what to do next) a few times (I was like 8), and this was before I had the internet for walkthroughs.
  • As usual, Zonk's got no clue what he's talking about. DQ 1-4 and 7-8 were all released here - that's 75% of the series. That's hardly "largely absent". Heck, it compares well to Final Fantasy - 2, 3, and 5 only came out within the past few years.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @05:28PM (#14274897) Homepage Journal
    The casino system is based on games of chance and pretty much requires you to cheat to pick up the casino prizes. I suspect that the designers either EXPECT you to cheat or just plain hate their users. Maybe both...

    The monster encouter rate for monsters too weak to damage (or help) your party is much too high. Those monsters should stay away unless called (And yes, you can call them.)

    The monster treasure drop rate is WAY too low. And the skill you can get to increase it doesn't help much.

    The voice acting is... well it's terrible. They should have not had voice acting and used the extra time and money to put more stuff in the world and increase interaction with NPCs (A la Morriwind.)

    Occasionally the writing was heavyhanded in a very typical RPG and Anime way. It's that whole "Oh look the bad guy is gearing up to cast a spell that will destroy my party, I'll just stand here with my thumb up my ass and let him" mentality. NO! Put an arrow in him before he can launch his attack! Or "We just beat down the big bad boss without breaking a sweat, but the next scene is of us all gasping for breath while he attacks again/does a move that makes him stronger/limps off to lick his wounds" wtf?!

    All in all it's a reasonably fun game that will keep you busy for a while, but I'm still holding out for the next Morrwind game.

    • The casino system is based on games of chance and pretty much requires you to cheat to pick up the casino prizes.

      I don't know about the recent game, as I don't have it yet, but all previous installations with casinos were Swiss-cheese. There's a Blackjack table in almost all of them, and if you win a hand, you can choose to double your winnings by guessing if the next card is higher or lower than a card they show you. The cards don't repeat, so with a little elementary card-counting, and an arbitrary cuto
      • There's no Blackjack, and no lucky feelings, but the roulette wheel is (apparently) highly exploitable, and there's one slot machine with much higher payout rates than the others. Doesn't take long playing that to get some big wins.
  • What!?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Friday December 16, 2005 @05:39PM (#14275018)
    "Square Enix, the company that founded the genre"?!?!?!

    BS, BS and more BS. The CRPG genre was well established before Square [wikipedia.org] or Enix [wikipedia.org] were even founded as companies. Heck Ultima III [rpgdot.com] (Richard Garrot's forth CRPG) had already been released before those companies came into being, Ultima IV [rpgdot.com] was out before the first Dragon Quest [wikipedia.org], and Ultima 5 [rpgdot.com] was out before the first Dragon Warrior [dragon-warrior.com] Game.

    Dragon Warrior was a dumbed down newbie to a mature and established CRPG genre when it was released.
    • The original Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior game wasn't necessarily dumbed down, it was just more simple. It had a simple story line, a simple interface, and a simple battle system. This wasn't because it was "dumbed down," but rather because it was Enix's first try. Now look at their 2nd and 3rd games and you can see how much they progressed in a rather short period of time. With the advent of Dragon Quest/Warrior IV you have arguably the best console RPG of all time (FF6/3 and FFVII are contendors also). No
  • Elfland (Score:2, Insightful)

    by silverdirk ( 853406 )
    Aah, the giants outside Elfland! That was great stuff ;-) I seem to remember the trolls on the southeast corner of the world being better for grinding, though.

    (FF1, for those who missed out)

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.