Dragon Quest 8

  • Hi everyone,

    I recently finished Dragon Quest 8, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you all and get some discussion going. A few notes before I begin: I played the 3DS version of the game, which I think was to my benefit (as I'll discuss below). I also haven't touched the post-game yet, but I probably will at some point down the line. Finally, it's been a while since I've written one of these, so excuse the rusty prose; grant-writing is way different from gaming blog posts. As always, spoiler warning!

    I've always been curious about jumping in to the Dragon quest series, largely due to its incredible popularity in Japan. However, there was always a part of me that was hesitant. I don't know if it was the old-school sound effects, the supposedly grind-heavy nature of the series, or the superficially basic combat, but I never felt the urge to jump in head-first. I bought a copy of DQ4 DS while I was living in Japan a little while back, but the cart broke and I took it as a sign to move on with my life. The only reason I jumped into 8 was Huber's incredible passion for the game displayed during the Hall of Greats. With some trepidation, I picked up a copy of the 3DS version for my birthday, and finally beat it 5 months later.

    This game blew me away.

    To get the obvious out of the way, the art style is incredible. I used to be somewhat lukewarm on Toriyama's art style, but it started growing on me once I played Chrono Trigger for the first time. The character design does a great job of conveying everyone's personality, and the monsters are top notch. I've looked at some comparison videos, and I think the 3DS does an admirable job of retaining the look and feel of the PS2 original, but it would all fall apart if it weren't for such a rock-solid foundation.

    One thing that completely shocked me was the sense of scale I felt as I traveled the world, even on such a small screen. I'm fairly uncultured in the gaming sense, so forgive me if I'm overstating things a bit, but the second I stepped into the overworld for the first time I was overcome by this sense of wonder that I haven't felt in years. It took me a while to place it, but I think I finally figured out why this moment hit me the way it did: I don't know if I've played a game where there's a shift between town/dungeon and world map that keeps the camera behind your shoulder. I kept wracking my brains for one - surely I'm forgetting something - but I couldn't think of a title I had played that had that same transition. The camera angle created a sense of scale that made me feel like a small part of the world without overwhelming me. It made me feel like I was going on an adventure.

    Part of this is also due to the biggest change between the PS2 original and the 3DS remake: the monsters are displayed on the screen. I've heard mixed opinions on the matter, but I loved that I could see my enemies before engaging with them. It contributed to that sense of scale and danger that I loved about the game, and I think the ability to pick and choose my battles - however limited that choice may be - drastically improved the pacing of the game.

    This brings me to what is probably my only real issue with the game: I think it's objectively too long, so long that I'm not sure if I would have finished if it weren't for the 3DS's speed-up function. Granted, I'm not sure how I would improve the pacing of the game, but there were points where I felt like the story was dragging. This fatigue started really settling in around Orkutsk and the whole Sir Leopold storyline. After a certain point, it just felt like the game was throwing in extra obstacles before I could get to the next major story beat. I think this could've been somewhat alleviated if there were a better sense of progression; once my characters hit the mid 30s, the EXP gained from standard random battles was so minimal that I never felt like I was making any meaningful progress towards the next level. I appreciate that metal slimes are a great source of EXP, but I wish that "grinding potential" were a bit more evenly distributed throughout the game.

    There are also some more minor gripes - the enemies, while excellently designed, become repetitive after a while, with color swaps showing up at around the 15 hour mark (if that). I also thought that the game could've benefitted from a few more tracks on the soundtrack; even the strongest compositions can become repetitive if they're heard enough times in succession. However, none of these issues did much to detract from my overall love of the game. There's so much good in here that I didn't even touch on because I feel they're a given (like the incredible characters - Angelo's storyline is worth a post on its own). I'm really glad I played this game, and it's easily found a place on my top 10 RPGs of all time.

    So those are my thoughts. What do you all think? Love the game like me? Think its pacing is perfect and that I'm an idiot? I'd love to get some cross-talk going! These posts always make me view games in a new light, and often make me like them more than I had at the time of the credits rolling, so let me know!