Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Level 5
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Released: US 2005
Japan 11/27/04
Official Site: Japanese Site

Graphics: 95%
Sound: 95%
Gameplay: 90%
Control: 95%
Story: 75%
Overall: 90%
Reviews Grading Scale
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Hey! I thought this game was 3D!
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It's a large world out there...
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Ahh, your trusty party. Ignore that imp and horse in the back. They're unimportant.
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"Bwahahahah! I'm going to go SSJ on your sorry @#*&@#! Uh...I mean, Super Tension."
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Leo Sin
Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi
Leo Sin

The Dragon Quest (DQ) series is known as a Japanese-National grade game, though its English version as the Dragon Warrior (DW) series is highly underrated in U.S.A. and Europe. Each game in the series (except DQ6) is a masterpiece of its time. The DQ series distinguishes itself from other console RPG by embracing the happily-exploring-the-world feeling, while others seek to embrace darker themes. Playing a DQ game will make you feel as if you are an explorer in a vast fantasy world.

Four years after DQ7, Enix and Level 5 (who are also known for True Fantasy Live Online)have crafted DQ8 for us. The story is plain and simple; you, your four teammates, and a ton of tamable monster companions go off to rescue a cursed princess and defeat evil. DQ8 eschews the more verbose linear storytelling in favor of gameplay, and it is definitely a wise move. I must admit, the gameplay systems are not innovative, but they are great. Here are some examples:

1. There are 117 small medals all over the world to find and exchange for powerful equipment.

2. You can tame monsters as companions to help you. There is also a stadium for your monster team(s) to fight other teams to get bonuses and more powerful equipment. Moreover, each monster team has their own skill and bonuses. For example, a three dragon team has a +20 attack point bonus, a three slime team has a double HP and special magic skill bonuses, a three giant team can combine themselves as powerful giant, etc.

3. There are two casinos to visit where you can win fabulous prizes.

4. There is an item combination system where you can combine a weapon and an item into a more expensive or powerful weapon or item. Some of the most powerful weapons in the game, such as the Dragon Sword, can only be had through item combination.

5. A revamped character and team development system replaces the traditional class system. In the skill system, every character has 4 skills categories and each of these represent a class. Much like the system in Diablo 2, you can tailor-make your own character by developing specific skills. Every time you level up, you will acquire skill points, which you can distribute to your skills. When you reach some specific points, you can use a special skill or get a status power up.

6. To increase the strategy of the turn based battle system, we have the tension system. By skipping a turn, you can concentrate your power for a more powerful strike with 10 times the attack power of a normal strike. However, it cannot be combined with all skills.

As mentioned above, there are tons of things for you to do. If you like collecting equipment, you can collect small medals. If you like to gamble, you can go to the casinos. If item combination is your thing, DQ8 delivers. If you like exploring, enjoy the vast DQ8 world. In the first few hours, you start to learn about the DQ8 world. Afterwards, you meet traveling companions and have fun with item combination. During the middle of the game, you start to travel the whole world, look for treasure, collect small medals, visit casinos, recruit monsters, etc. Once your team is developed with your favorite skills and magic, you can torture the final boss at your will and have a happy ending. Sounds good, doesn't it? There is also a bonus dungeon available after you finish the game where you can get most powerful equipment and items as well as find out more about the story. The only complaint I have is with the Events Stagger system. You have to finish some specific missions to stagger an event, which gave me an uneasy and not-completely-free feeling. However, this is preferable to those you-just-sit-there-and-watch-movies RPGs.

DQ8's graphics are rendered in full 3D. The 3D engine and texturing go very well with the designs of characters and monsters (Designed by Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Z's author) to create a very colorful game environment. The battle animations are very smooth, almost like watching an anime. Also, battles load quickly and are paced well. The cutscenes aren't too heavy, but are good enough to tell the story with the right level of atmosphere.

The music in DQ8 is great with its familiar DQ feel. I have no complaints about it and neither will you.

The plot is a simple save the cursed princess and defeat evil. Each character has his or her own back story, but a game like this relies more on its gameplay than its story. You will feel a bit sad about Hero's parent's story, and you will feel the sweetness between Hero and the princess. Yangus has some very funny dialogue. However, the story will not touch your heart like DQ5 did, nor is it as sophisticated as that of Final Fantasy X.

The convenient control scheme pretty much only uses the Triangle button, circle button, and the analog stick. Other buttons provide function such as changing the view, but you can finish the game without using them. The AI system in battles is great. You just set a strategy and all your teammates will make the right moves. You can control your party manually, but sometimes I think the AI is smarter than me. I don't always remember which magic is useless against which monster, but the AI does. I only controlled the team manually during boss fights, such as the final battle or the battle against the Metal Slime King.

If you want to have a smooth and happy RPG experience, DQ8's wonderful gameplay balance will not disappoint you. If you are a DQ fan, do not hesitate to bring this title home. It is almost the 2nd best of the series (my all time favorite is DQ3.) If you like console RPGs, I think almost every element you want in a console RPG is there with great balance.


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