Developer: Level 5 | Publisher: Square Enix ||
It’s been a while since a Dragon Quest game has come out. The last Dragon Quest (also known as Dragon Warrior) game to come out was Dragon Warrior VII in 2000 for the original PlayStation. Needless to say, the old Enix canon franchise now sees its latest incarnation under the guise of Square Enix and developer Level 5. Level 5 has already built up a reputation with Sony’s Dark Cloud series, one that I am very fond of, and the same cel-shading style used in Dark Cloud 2 shows through in Dragon Quest VIII.
I had the opportunity to actually play the demo for Dragon Quest VIII because GameCrazy gave me a copy of the demo disc when I finally got one of their cards to get discounts on used games. So, naturally, I decided to play it. I hadn’t had the pleasure of playing any of the previous games in the series, so I started Dragon Quest VIII with a clean slate. I was an avid fan of the Dragon Ball Z series back when it was in its popularity spike in America, so I noticed the art style of Akira Toriyama right off. Coupled with the cel-shaded look of the whole game, it gave a very anime-esque feel to the game that is very similar to Toriyama’s previous works in animation. The environments don’t fare as well from what is shown. Even though it is a demo, the areas available weren’t very impressive or breathtaking to say the least; rather, the environments in the demo were more or less just trying to accomplish what they were trying to do and little more. The areas available were an open field, a cave, and a town.
Like what was mentioned earlier, the field and the cave aren’t all that spectacular. The field had some nice colors with trees and hills, so the features of the field weren’t all that boring. The cave also had some nice colors in certain parts, but most of it was just brown. The town was also colorful, but it just felt like it didn’t have anything special to it. Of course, being a demo, it doesn’t usually reflect on how well the game will look in all instances, and I expect that Level 5 has made some nice-looking areas, and of course, to some extent, utilized the help of Akira Toriyama in that regard. The sound is nothing less than what you should expect from a Square Enix game; simply, it’s a nice fantasy-oriented orchestrated soundtrack. The limited amount of voice acting present was only available during the very important parts of the story mode. The voice acting isn’t half bad either. It should also be said that the automatic stand-out for best voice in the game is the character of Yangus, who sounds like some guy that would be in The Getaway. The main character doesn’t talk, though.
As far as gameplay goes, Dragon Quest VIII is pretty much a run-of-the-mill RPG. There’s not a lot shown in the demo to distinguish it too much from regular RPG gameplay, but there are a couple of unique things to it that go toward making it more than just normal. There are random battles — this is nothing really surprising. But what is different is that there are also extra enemies on the map that you have a choice of fighting on the map as well. Sometimes you can be forced to fight the enemies that appear on the field. So, they could be guarding a treasure or present an extra battle challenge. Battles are also fast-paced and you can get through them relatively fast if need be. What helps this is the use of tactics that you can assign to your other teammates, whether you want them to automate in a certain way or if you want them to follow your orders. So if you had your allies automated (and you can change their tactics mid-battle) you’d only really control the main character and be supported by your allies’ decisions according to the tactics you selected for them.
As for the actual story, it’s a charming adventure they have going. Even though they drop you into the middle of the story (which is probably not even in the real game as it is presented in the demo), it did interest me, and I wanted to find out more about the problem at hand (which was something about a king being transformed into a monster) and who the non-speaking main character really was. The town structure also reminded me of the 16-bit era RPGs; it wasn’t really anything in particular, but there was just something about the way the buildings were laid out, as if we were still in 2D. I also had the same feeling when running around on the field outside of the town. Whether or not the developer tries to keep that feeling through the whole game could be questionable.
The Dragon Quest VIII demo has cemented my decision in definitely getting the full retail version. If you’re able to get your hands on it, take the demo for a spin, as it’ll definitely show off some of the style of Dragon Quest VIII and what’s to be expected from the game. Judging from the demo alone, Dragon Quest VIII is sure to not disappoint.