Why I Love Dragon Quest VIII

An picture of the cover of Dragon Quest VIII I’ve been playing Dragon Quest VIII for a month or so now. I am totally impressed by the game. It has got to be by far the best RPG I’ve played in a long time. The irony of this is that this game is so ridiculously simple. There’s nothing to it.

If you’re not familiar with the game, it is apparently a very popular RPG series in Japan. Of course, we here in the United States, have not seen any of the titles since Dragon Warrior (the fist one) on none other than the NES.

Now, I have a bit of a soft spot for the original Dragon Warrior because of how I came across it. When I was little (somewhere between 6-8), my friend Sean had this game. We played it all the time. So, when my birthday came around, this game was all that I wanted. I vividly remember combing through the game section with my Mom in the local Toysrus looking for the game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a big seller like Super Mario 2 or whatever and the store didn’t have it. I proceeded to throw a complete fit (appropriate for my age) about how I couldn’t get the game that I wanted. My Mom, frantically trying to placate me somehow (so that she didn’t have to grab my arm and drag me out of the store because I was being so obnoxious) found some other RPG game and pointed it out to me.

“Hey, what about this one? This one looks really cool.”

“No, I don’t want that one! I want Dragon Warrior.”

“Come on, try this one. Maybe it’s better.”

So, after much convincing on my mother’s part, I was persuaded into getting the ‘other’ RPG game. As it turns out, that game was Final Fantasy I. And it was better. So that’s the story of my sweet spot for Dragon Warrior.

In a recent phase of attempting to reclaim my lost childhood I bought an NES and Dragon Warrior. So, it’s probably been less than a year since I played the first of this dragon series through. Okay, back to Dragon Quest VIII.

One of the things that I like so much about this game, is that almost nothing has changed since the first one! Normally that’s a bad thing. But here, in the mind-numbing complex world of RPGs where every game tries to reinvent the wheel, it’s absolutely refreshing. The battle system is exactly the same. Just plain old vanilla turn-based fighting. No special attack rings, no super duper 5 person joint combo and no complex skill web. You fight, you get experience, levels are gained and higher attributes are awarded. Alright, so I am glossing over a few things, like the fact that each character can use three different weapons, skill points and abilities, but the point is, these things are simple.

This is a huge breath of fresh air for me. The last RPG I played before this one was Magna Carta. I lasted about 10 minutes. I have better things to do than play a game with an absurdly long learning curve that is going to clutter my brain with useless crap.

A lot of the enemies are just updated versions of the ones from the original Dragon Warrior. Now, there are certainly plenty of new baddies to be excited about, but the old ones are still there for comfort. For instance, who doesn’t get a warm fuzzy from seeing a little blue Slime or a Drackie. You can’t tell me you’re not excited when you run into a Metal Slime (insane experience if you can kill it) or a Gold Golem (gold, need I say more?).

The story is short and sweet. There’s enough substance to it to make it float, but at the same time, I’m not forced to live through a saga of epic proportions while I wait to get to the fighting part. This reminds me of Final Fantasy X. I had to sit through the equivalent of a feature length film before I got to play this fucking game. Now I know, the story in FFX was good (it was probably the only game that ever brought out any genuine emotion feeling for the characters I’ve ever played), but seriously, every time a cinematic sequence came on, I wanted to scream. At least they keep it short and simple in DQVIII.

And oh, by the way, the voice overs are hysterical. One of the few RPGs that actually sucedes in putting the characters to life without being so annoying that you wish they would just shut up (anyone remember Yuna?)

Last, but not least, non-linear game play. It occurred to me the other day that this was really one of the reasons I fell in love with RPG games (the OCD aspect is for another post). I can play the game and do the story, but I also can go out of sequence and explore areas that the story hasn’t taken me yet. I can enjoy the naughty feeling of venturing to a far away castle that I’m not supposed to be at. I can level up on tough baddies and buy weapons that are way stronger than they should be. It’s just more fun this way. Way to many RPGs today force you through the game in a completely linear track.

So there you have it, this game is great. Well, only if you’re the type of person that can appreciate the reasons that I’ve laid out. Interestingly enough, this leads right into my next post about why I haven’t play Kingdom Hearts 2 yet…

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1. Nicole

Don’t post this one:

Peaches, you are such a dork 🙂