One of my favorite games of 2016 was on the 3DS. The handheld had a fantastic year while the Wii U struggled, and to me, the most enjoyable game on the system was Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past. Taking a great PS1 RPG and turning it into a 3DS title was no easy feat, but the transition was seamless from a top down RPG to a 3D one. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is the latest in the Dragon Quest series to be remade for the 3DS, this time a PS2 adventure that many have heralded as one of the finest in the series. So is this the first “must own” 3DS RPG of 2017?
As the title states, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King tells a story of King Trode and Princess Medea. After a curse is put on them that turns King Trode into a troll, and Princess Medea into a horse, by an evil magician named Dhoulmagus. They set off from their kingdom joined by a warrior named Yangus, and you, a nameless character in order to lift the curse and seek revenge on Dhoulmagus.
The story starts out a bit slow, but as you progress through the game, it actually gets rather interesting with many twists and turns. The backstory on how the characters got together is given, and new characters are also thrown into the mix as the game’s story progresses. It flows together really well and tells an interesting story — well, a safe JRPG story.
The gameplay in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a mostly standard JRPG affair, but there’s enough variants in it to keep the game fresh. The game uses a turn-based style which is common for JRPGs, but allows for good character customization in terms of Skill Points. As you level your characters up, you attain Skill Points that can be used to upgrade character play styles. For example, your main character is a Swordsman by default, and you can equip your points to beef up his sword ability which unlocks new moves. However, if you want to become a master in lances instead, you can save those points or put them towards that category instead, thus changing your character from a swordsman to a lancer.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King plays out pretty standard, with your main mission always rather well known. The game features side-quests to extend the game, and actually includes a unique 3DS-only feature. In a certain part of the game you encounter a man who wishes to have photographs of the world, creatures, and more. The game has a camera system that allows you to take pictures, and this turns it into something useful, by creating an almost Pokemon Snap-like experience with you traveling to locations hunting down creatures to get a picture of them. The rewards he gives are very useful as well, so it turns this into a major side-quest that you can dump a lot of time into without even realizing it.
Other 3DS-specific features are mostly minor, but include things like a quick save option in case you need to save on the fly. One thing that Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King noticeably lacks is any sort of 3D effect during gameplay, with the only 3D being regulated to looking at character models when equipping new gear in a menu. However, after a few minutes, I didn’t even think about it. Although, those who enjoy using the 3D feature on 3DS games will find this disheartening.
That’s not to say that the presentation is lacking in Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, because it is far from that. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is one of the most visually pleasing RPGs – and, indeed, one of the most visually pleasing games, period – for the 3DS. Character models are highly detailed, the world is vast and sprawling, enemies are varied and creative, and the game just looks amazing on the handheld. One of the major issues with Dragon Quest VII on the 3DS was some terrible draw distance and pop-up at times, and it is much reduced in this game. Character models mouth’s even move when they are talking, and it is synced up pretty well
Yes that’s right, the game also features voice acting as well. The voice acting is surprisingly well done, with Yangus’s voice being by far my favorite, and it really adds a “console-feel” to this handheld gem. The game also features a fantastic musical score as well, making this game, in my opinion, one of the finest on the 3DS in terms of presentation.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a fantastic addition to the 3DS, and easily one of the best games on the system. Everything is well crafted and highly polished, and there is enough new content and variations that even if you played the PS2 version to death, you will still find lots of surprises and nuances. With high presentation value, a charming story, tons of depth, and a traditional-yet-fun JRPG battle system, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a must-own for 3DS RPG lovers, and easily an early contender for 2017 game of the year.
- Gorgeous presentation
- Tons of gameplay
- New additions for veterans
- No 3D gameplay
- Game is a bit too traditional at times