When games go from a console to a handheld years after their release, it might leave you wondering how it went. It’s quite a transition to make. Not to mention, you’re dealing with an older property. With Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, we’re getting a game that’s over ten years old again. While there are a few issues some people may encounter, it’s a game that still looks as good and is as relevant now as it was then.
When it comes to stories, the Dragon Quest series has always done a good job of avoiding tried and true tales. They defy expectation, and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King doesn’t disappoint. It offers a situation that seems rather obvious. An evil mage, known as Dhoulmagus, has cursed a kingdom. The only untouched member of court is our hero, now traveling with the transformed king and his princess to defeat the villain and undo the spell. While this could seem typical, it’s only part of the story. Learning the actual truth reveals further depths. Because it plays with something traditional, then twists it, it remains as engaging now as it was on the PlayStation 2.
The voice acting may divide people. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is filled with some hammy performances and fake British accents. The audio quality the 3DS is able, or should we say unable, to provide doesn’t do it any favors. Despite that, I think it suits the game quite well. This is an often humorous and over-the-top game. Characters that go a little overboard are fitting in this setting where pun names abound, a princess can be a horse, and our hero can take time off of saving the world to take some snapshots.
And of course, Akira Toriyama’s character designs are timeless. The 3D characters and environments are fitting on the Nintendo 3DS. Getting to actually see enemies on the field and in dungeons adds the experience and ambiance, making the world feel more alive. It lends credence to this being an active and involved world when you can see other creatures populating it. And, as a convenience, their overworld avatars have notations that let you see if you can recruit them. While Dragon Quest VIII is a game that might have needed a more major remaster on another system, it looks very good here.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King ’s battle system works well too, especially with this port’s tweaks. The turn-based battles remain largely the same. You’re picking actions, then allies and enemies take their turn. However, it adds new adjustments to make sure something that’s already classic and functional is a little more convenient. You can alter the speed of battle, to make it go a little faster. It’s also possible to switch party members in and out of your group immediately between turns, without costing yourself a turn in the process. With Red and Morrie bringing the party count up to six, it really adds an opportunity for more strategy. Not that the game wasn’t strategic before, but having the option to pull in a fan user who can revive fallen members or a claw user who can adjust tension adds more options for more difficult battles. It basically refines something that already worked very well.
The only downside is Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King ’s camera. Like many 3D entries in the series, it can fight you every step of the way. You can be wandering and suddenly, upon making a turn or move in a dungeon, you’ll find yourself staring at a wall. It’s necessary to constantly adjust the camera over and over, especially in towns where buildings can be rather squished together. I recommend using the left and right triggers. While the New 3DS’ nub can also be used to control the camera, it can skew directions and leave you with a more awkward view.
In short, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a game that is holding its own. Even though it is over ten years old, it still looks wonderful. Especially on this particular platform, with minor tweaks that improve our quality of virtual life. The voice acting is still sound, even charming. The character designs are vibrant and filled with personality. The story is captivating. While there are areas that aren’t exactly perfect, such as the camera, this is a JRPG everyone should be playing again.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is now available for the Nintendo 3DS.