REVIEW: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Monday, March 6th, 2017

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Dragon Quest VIII 3DS | Cover Image
Title Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Developer Square Enix, Level-5
Publisher Nintendo
Release Date January 20, 2017
Genre Japanese Role Playing Game
Platform New Nintendo 3DS XL
Age Rating ESRB T for Teen
Official Website

Finally, the 2nd of the Nintendo 3DS Dragon Quest ports sees the light of day in the US. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King took a significant amount of time to reach our shores, and for a game this beloved, it was a difficult wait. It did seem a little strange that it took longer to release this title than it did the complete overhaul of Dragon Quest VII, but to be fair there were still large changes to this title and also a significant increase in English voiced dialogue over the original game. But in the end, it’s far more important to get a release right than it is to rush it out. Especially when the game in question was considered one of the greatest RPGs of all time when it was originally released on the PlayStation 2.

Dragon Quest VIII | Original Cover

I still have this box kicking around.

Looking back on the 2005 release of Dragon Quest VIII, it’s pretty easy to see why it would be such a successful game. But before its release, the general tone in games media was an overall shrug. We had missed out on the entire SNES generation of Dragon Quest games, and Dragon Warrior VII hit with a resounding thud when it was released in the United States. There were really only two bits of excitement that I read about in the pages of the major magazines (I know, real print seems novel now). The first minor excitement was that the new Square Enix merger was allowing them to bring in a bright new developer Level-5 to work on the game and update the series to a more modern style. Level-5 is a very famous developer now, but when they were given this project they had only released Dark Cloud, and they were working towards the release of its sequel. Even stranger than that, the greater excitement surrounded the included playable demo of Final Fantasy XII. In hindsight, that may seem quaint. I’m one of the few RPG fans who actually consider Final Fantasy XII a better game than Dragon Quest VIII (although it’s a close one, even for me). But the combination of the very pretty new aesthetic and the wonderful English dub turned a generally very niche series into a certified critical darling.

Dragon Quest VIII | 3DS New Characters

The two new playable characters were NPCs in the original.

When a game is almost universally considered a classic, messing with that formula is fraught with peril so that is what most of my review for this title is going to be about. With Dragon Quest VII I spent a lot more time talking about the game itself, rather than what was changed. And that made sense for the previous entry, because finding an actual review of the original game (or even someone who had played it to completion) was exceedingly difficult. But this is a game that almost every RPG fan who was old enough to own a PS2 has played. Not only that, but Dragon Quest VIII and Final Fantasy XII are very famous in the industry for having possibly the two greatest English dubs of all time. This game was also extremely memorable for really making the most of that gorgeous Akira Toriyama art style. It was not the first game to make use of “cell shaded” graphics, but it most definitely popularized the style.

Dragon Quest VIII | 3DS Children

Several scenes were fleshed out more.

The most obvious change to the game was that you can now see every enemy wandering around the field (other than while riding the boat). In the first game you could only ever see the Infamous monsters on the field, but that did pave the way for visible enemies in Dragon Quest IX, and then these previous two remakes. That does tend to make the game a bit easier merely because you can avoid enemies with less difficulty, but it ended up having an almost game breaking effect as well. In a traditional Dragon Quest game, much of your power leveling comes down to fighting metal slime enemies (of various types). Previously the effectiveness was mitigated by how rare these enemies were and by how fast and hard to hit they were. They still remain a bit difficult to kill (although both of the two new characters have slime obliterating abilities), but they are no longer rare at all. You can just stand in a location they are known to appear, rotate the camera around a few times until you see them on the map and then kill them. I’ve beaten Dragon Quest VIII a few times on PlayStation 2, but I’ve never been over level 65 (and that took me over 150 hours). Due to this change in enemies all my characters were level 99 at 80 hours of gameplay. That is virtually game breaking for such an old school RPG.

More Questing on Page 2 ->

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.


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  • darkgamer001

    Loved the PS2 version, can’t support censorship for any reason.
    If I find it at a decent price, I’ll buy it used.

  • Wowpeoplethesedays

    lol personal rant so don’t take this out of contents. Who cares on the censorship in this game. Its been done before so stop crying. Man I’m serious that this generation of kids and adults are too sensitive with “Digital Boobs”. Who cares if the game story and gameplay are great. Yeah Jessica was censored but again, who cares. She still be my little hot waifu regardless of what she is wearing. If anything Its just like Persona 4 Golden. Seriously do know one remember games being censored, like back in the NES days? I know censored is a bad thing but come on, you’re complaining about again “Digital” contents. Its really no better than the SJWs when they complain that “Digital” video games girls are too skinny and sexy. And they made them FAT to show what they want them to look like. Well doesn’t that sound familiar.

    Ok Rant over. If anything, if you like Dragon Quest 8 then go buy it if you have the money and want to replay this game again. If you’re new and want to try it out, then the 3DS version is a good way to start of since the PS2 version do have a shorter shelf life and probably because of the complains of the 3DS version it’ll most likely sky rocket in price. Other than those two reason don’t buy it. There are other games to play or don’t waste your money if you’re still complaining and have the PS2 version. No need to spend money on what you already have.

    • darkgamer001

      You could have found space in your ranting to realize that the censorship affects more than just costumes.
      As always, those who get angry with people like us are ill-informed about censorship

    • Wowpeoplethesedays

      Lol oh wow, you miss the mark by a long shot.
      But oh well, it not like I expected you to understand a moderate game compare you who is a GAMER. I’m assuming.

      But all good so keep on forming your opinion and judgements and I’ll do the same.

    • No_Good_Names_Ever

      You’d have a point if you said people shouldn’t bite a company when it’s the ratings board forcing their hand but in an age where everyone can easily show their disdain for something and it’s censorship just because; it’s best to fight against it now before they take something you actually have an interest in or butcher the story with memes while rewording an M rated game to neuter the meaning.

  • DOUGHNUTS ARE AMAZING

    I’m playing through this game right now and I’m really enjoying it. There is a lot to offer in this game and it just feels so familiar, especially coming from Dragon Quest IX. The qorld is vast and the difficulty is fair, and the monsters are as cute as ever. That said, the lack of 3D was very disappointing as that should have been a staple draw to this game, even though the game still looks very good.

    There wasn’t really much need to comment on the censorship, It was so minor that it was not worth talking about, and devalues the whole review as it’s clutching at straws. It was most likely CERO that was the cause of the censorship as this happened in the Japanese version. I would save censorship talk for stuff that actually matters, like fanservice games, adult games and very violent games.

  • No_Good_Names_Ever

    “They needed to cut down some of the music file size and turn it into
    midi only in order to fit all the new voices on a 3DS cart, but I think
    they actually made a good choice there”
    Do you have anything that says this is true because I feel it’s the same bullshit reason that had them replace midi with orchestral in PS2 that lead to lag; just backwards (to pander to nostalgia than bait new people). The censorship was because of Japans ratings board being stricter lately with Enix wanting to keep DQ in the rating it always been in.

  • Fiona

    Thank you for discussing the censorship issues.