Sunday, March 26, 2006

Video game review: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

I'll say one thing for Square Enix, this is a company that knows how to make a great, compelling video game with excellent production values.

From the first game of theirs that I played, Final Fantasy VII on the playstation, I have been hooked. Their games are always gorgeous visually, always bring compelling characters to the mix and almost always topped off with a great story to boot.

When you add in the great gameplay mechanics and loads of side-quests, you have games that beg to be played again.

And when you do, you almost always find something you missed.

Now from what I've read, in Japan the Dragon Quest series is more popular than Final Fantasy (the ones we get here). The DQ series are the beer and pretzel games, light, a lot of humor, a lot of action. Big on old-fashioned RPG kick in the door and take their stuff goodness.

The Final Fantasy series are the "artistic" games with dark storylines, angsty characters and some seriously challenging elements aimed at the hardcore gamer.

For some reason this series, which was called Dragon Warrior on the original Playstation slipped under my radar, so this is the first of these games I've played.

But boy did it deliver. An intriguing alchemy system lets you make a wide variety of items, many of which you can't buy. Anywhere.

This alone will keep you hunting for components for quite awhile (a similar system is seen in Final Fantasy X as well).

The story is engaging and light. Its railroady in a heavy handed way the Final Fantasy series never seemed to be to me. Obviously all video games have limited options but the FF series always manage to suck me in to the story to the point that I don't mind moving dutifully from a to b.

But between the action and the alchemy system, along with a host of other interesting side quests (such as capturing monsters to compete in an arena for fun and prizes) the game is heavily addictive.

And remember when I mentioned production values? Well this isn't a game that you will beat in 10 hours like Dark Alliance. Its not even a game you'll beat in 30 like Civ IV. Try 100 hours (that was my time on my completed game).

Like I said, Square Enix not only delivers a great game but delivers a ton of gaming for your 50 bucks.

Rent or buy this game now if you like consol RPGs. It goes in the pantheon of the great consol games (of any genre) of all time.

Chuck

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