Dragon Quest VIII : The Journey of the Curse King

by Amanda and Colin
author awarded score: 90/100

Dragon Quest VIII : The Journey of the Curse King Review
Publisher: Square Enix
Format Reviewed:
Reviewed by: Colin and Amanda

This game was the highest grossing game on the PS2 in Japan and now it has been translated and released here for our playing pleasure and, let me tell you something, it is indeed an absolute pleasure.

Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Curse King was a massive success in Japan so that should give you an idea as to what the graphics are like. It is very anime, yet also refined; the graphics aren’t exactly childlike but they are extremely colourful. With this game it is impossible not to expect to have fun. The characters are part cell shaded and the shadows are outstanding in detail, as time moves forward the shadows at characters’ feet do also—which is a great touch. It is the tiny details in this game that make it so enjoyable to play, it proves that a lot of thought went into the creation process and that it’s not ‘just another anime RPG’.

We’ve established that The Journey of the Curse King is a beautiful game to look at—you might even say that it is very similar to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the N64—but what we haven’t established is what the story is actually about. The complicated but heartfelt story is about King Trode and his daughter Medea, who have been cursed by an evil jester. King Trode is now a hideous Yoda-like monster, whereas his once beautiful daughter is now a horse. Strange? Yes. You play the hero of the game, a former knight in service of the king, and it is your duty to track down and confront Dhoulmagus, the man responsible for the curse.

When playing Dragon Quest it is extremely easy to become completely hooked and forget about the time ticking by; indeed, I played it for 10 hours straight, only stopping for toilet breaks and to get munchies. It certainly has a distinct hold over you while playing, and it makes the game brilliant. I like the idea of having the main character never speak, that way he never knows more than you do and you feel like you are the main character. Although, in this case, the main character is a man, but you are stuck with that so there is no point in complaining.

You gain party members as you play through The Journey of the Curse King, the first of whom is Yangus, an old scallywag who owes his life to the game’s central protagonist. He is the brute of the game, focussing on beating and mashing enemies with his axe or club. As you progress throughout the game you meet two new characters that also join your party; they have also had run-ins with Dhoulmagus and have equal reasons to exact revenge upon him.

The coolest of these two new characters is Jessica, she is a fiery vixen and is the game’s only playable female character. She has a certain sex appeal, highlighted by her massive breasts, which appear to have little support and could give the DOA chicks a run for their money when to it comes to bounce factor. Jessica’s sex appeal can be increased as she levels up; this is to give her an advantage when in battle. Ridiculous? Yes. Handy? Very!

As this is an RPG you really need to focus on levelling up your characters, it can become very frustrating if your characters are not strong enough to progress through the game. When running around like a loon, you should really engage in as many battles as possible, this will only help you in the long run and make the game less irritating. You are given an alchemy pot, which is a nice touch because it means you can now create your own weapons and items using two other ordinary items.

From the game’s outset the voice talent is brilliant and the performances make the game entertaining to listen to as well as to watch. All speech is accompanied by subtitles and at times there is no voice acting at all, just subtitles to read in order to understand the story. On this note, there is a lot of reading to be done in The Journey of the Curse King. Being translated from Japanese to English the game shows no signs of flaws when it comes to the written narrative. I feel this further proves that Square Enix want this title to be as successful as their hugely popular Final Fantasy franchise.

The game is packed with all the usual RPG elements that we have come to expect. For example, merchants, treasure chests, and rare items are in attendance, as well as being able to stay overnight at local inns to heal your party. A brilliant addition to this game is Munchie, who is our hero’s pet and companion. Munchie is a hamster that lives in the pocket of the main character. If you feed cheese to Munchie during fights then you are in for a real treat, as it has a similar effect as when Popeye gulps down spinach.

Even though magic plays a part in the game, there is a spiritual element that is also quite strong throughout. Whether it is to resurrect a dead (knocked out) character or even to save your game, you must ask a priest to consult the almighty Goddess. Yep, I did say Goddess. To save your game you must confess your sins and declare any achievements. If you are unfortunate enough to become poisoned during battle, the power of the almighty Goddess will purify you and you will become cured.

I have thoroughly enjoyed playing Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Curse King because it is driven by its story. The developers seem to have thrown everything a great RPG needs into the mix and the end product certainly has come out on top. I have no doubt that this game will be a huge success in the west. RPG fans will love the witty dialog and quirky voices that go along with it. You can actually lose yourself in this title, making it a compelling game to watch as well as play.