Dragon Quest 8 is the best in the series thus far.
Dragon Quest 8 is the best Dragon Quest I've played to date. The story, while not on par with a few RPGs out there today, is still solid and better than any Dragon Quest prior. The character designs are magnificent. The quest is just overall HUGE, with a ton of sidequests, secrets, skills to learn, items to make, things to collect. This game will keep you busy for a very long time to come if you want.
The game wasn't to difficult, the boss fights might offer somewhat of a challenge, but finding out what to do next and figuring out the small dungeons was a breeze. The battle system is a bit dated, but thank got they atleast show the characters on screen. The battles are usually quick, but the high random encounter rate got to me towards the end when all I wanted to do was finish the game. Overall, I loved the game and had a blast playing it.
Dragon Quest 8 is a classic styled turn based RPG. You will have 4 characters fight at a time, while the monsters will have a max of 8 at a time. There's some exceptions to this rule, as in one instance you'll have a 5th NPC on your team, a NPC can follow you to certain points, and you can send in a band of 3 monsters as a replacement team for you. The fights move in rounds, you set all your characters orders in a line, then watch the fight until the next round.
The battles are random besides bosses and a few field monsters. The encounter rate is pretty high and can get frustrating at times, but nothing to serious. Each character can equip 3 different weapons, for example the Hero can equip swords, spears and boomerangs. After each level gain you'll be offered skill points, you can distribute these points between 5 different elements, your characters 3 weapon skills, fisticuffs and their special ability. Each ability will gain levels over time and you'll either gain new spells, traits or ability attacks. Each skill has 10 levels and can go up to a maximum of 100 points each, so it can take a while to max out everything.
In battle you can attack, use ability attacks (some cost MP), spells (all of them cost MP), defend, run, psych up or intimidate. Psyching Up is basically making your character super strong by sacrificing a turn. The power goes up from 5 to 20 to 50. If you reach 50 then your character will be super strong for one attack. Intimidation is a quick way to end a battle with weak monsters, all your character does is scare the monsters so they run away. You won't get experience or money, but they can drop treasure chests.
The Guv has a pet mouse or hamster (Wild Arms anyone?), you can use this mouse during battles by using by throwing various cheeses. Each cheese has a different effect. You can also send him onto the field by going through holes or cracks in the wall to find things or help out in other various ways.
When a character dies the only way to revive them is by going to a church and paying for a Resurrection or using a revive spell. You won't get a life spell until middle of the game, so someone dying on your team before that can get very frustrating. You can only save at churches by talking to a priest, while saving is a chore and a half, they atleast got rid of the menu based gameplay from the other Dragon Warrior games. If you want to talk to someone, you just go up to them and hit a button, if you want to open a door or treasure, you just go do it. This makes for a more updated and easier game to play.
There's a thing called an Alchemy Pot. This is put to use by mixing items and turning them into weapons, armor or items. You'll find recipes by talking to people in towns or reading books you find all over the place. If you mix something that shouldn't be then it will reject the items, but you won't lose them and there's no penalty, so you can go all wild and experiment with little caution at the wind. The bad thing about this is I never wanted to sell my weapons and save them for the Alchemy Pot, so I was always shot on cash when I got to a new town and need to buy new equipment. On the other hand, I made pretty good equipment with my Alchemy Pot.
----------Characters / Story----------
You play as the Hero, at the start of the game you have to name your character, but they call him "The Guv" in the game. Not only do you have to name your character, he also doesn't speak at all. This is similar to Link, expect Link usually has emotions and nods his head, or waves his arms, or even has a few voice clips of grunting. The Guv's only has one emotion, and that’s moving his hand slightly while being talked to. He is a totally wooden character, almost zombie like, so there's nothing to like about him. While these mute heroes might worked well on the SNES, this doesn't work anymore on any current or last gen games unless they show a ton of emotion like Link does.
At the start of the game the Guv, Yangus and King Trode are attacked by monsters on your way to a town. You find out early that King Trode was transformed into a monster and he must stop Dhoulmagus, the man that transformed him to reverse the curse. There really isn't much storyline progression from this initial set up. You'll find a help along the way and get deep plot, but I would say there is only one or two big twists that might catch you off guard.
One thing annoyed me a bit about this game because for most of the quests its like putting one fire out while causing 2 more. You go to a town to do one simple thing, but then someone sends you on a quest, but to finish their quest you must help someone else, then you finally finish that up and go back to your main objective and you might end up doing another thing. This makes the game fast paced, but slightly annoying. It's not a huge complaint though, the pattern just got a little old.
The characters and monsters are cel-shaded while just about everything else is in CGI. The world is massive, there’s a ton of towns and they'll all huge aswell. The dungeons could of been bigger, but they always get you to enter the same room a few times over to prolong the time in the dungeon.
While the characters and monsters look amazing, but you'll end of seeing the same NPC's in each town, while fighting the same monsters over and over again but of different rank. The special attacks are very minimal to say atleast. When there's alot of monsters on screen the game will slow down.
Compared to Dragon Warrior 7, the graphics are a huge improvement relative to the year / system they're respectively released.
The voice overs really struck me with a surprise. I did not expect European voice overs, but I guess it fits since the early Dragon Warrior games seem to be set in a fictional Europe. The accents cover the English, Spanish, Russian, French and possibly even more. Even though the voices didn't click with me at first, I ended up liking them. My biggest complaint with the voices is sometimes they're slow talkers and I end up being forced to read the text faster than they speak, so I ended up skipping alot of voice work, especially towards the end when I started to lose patience with it.
The music is superb, especially the stuff during the world map, towns, flying or sailing.
The world map reminds me alot of the 3D Zelda's out there. The castles and towns are always proportionate in size. The world is huge so you'll be walking for a long to reach your next destination. I won't be until about half of the game until you get your ship, and then a sabrecat that lets your ride his back and doubles your walking speed. You will end up flying like in every other RPG ever made, but not until the very tail end of the game. The best thing about this traveling is a warp function by either using an item or magic you get early in the game. This speeds the game up alot, you can almost warp to any major location in the game. While walking the map is excruciating at times, the warp definitely makes backtracking alot easier.
On the map you'll find treasures, secrets and even on-screen monsters. The monsters are usually a variation (aka a different color) monster you've previously fought before but always more powerful. They drop special coins that can be sold later in the game for easy money. Later in the game you will be able to capture the monsters and use them in different ways.
----------Time to Complete Game (first run through, last save after credits)----------
Wow that’s a long game. Even after you beat the final boss the final sequence was about 45 minutes long if not longer. It felt like a quest on to its own. After you beat the game you are sent back to your last save point, unlock a new dungeon and if you beat it and the final boss again you'll unlock a new ending.