|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Square Enix||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 6, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
It's unlikely that hardcore Dragon Quest fans will be satiated by Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, since it has as much in common with Pokemon as it does with Dragon Quest. And it's also unlikely that Pokemon fans will fall head over heels with this game either. It lies somewhere in between Dragon Quest and Pokemon.
It's got some depth, but it also touts the collect-'em-all theme that turns games such as Pokemon into a mindless grind. If you're looking to spend tons of hours collecting, training, leveling up, combining, and combating monsters, then Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker may be just what the doctor ordered.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is like the equivalent of Lil'Archie. It's not as sophisticated as the original. It's simpler, cuter, smaller, and just a little dumber. Consider it Dragon Quest Lite. Although it shares a lot of Dragon Quest's elements, it does so more in theory. The RPG elements, such as leveling up, for instance, seem to equate depth with repetition. It takes an awful lot of time to level-up your characters, and we all know that translates to an awful lot of combat. There are some other ways to earn points, such as performing side-quests and training missions, but nothing gets you the juice like good old-fashioned, turn-based battles. But there are some really good features that make this worthwhile. For one thing, you have more control over your progress. You can pick and choose your battles. There's more emphasis on adventure as you interact more with NPCs and your environment. There may be repetition but there's rarely a dull moment.
Stories aren't terribly important to game such as these, and Square Enix knows that. They don't bog you down with all kinds of superfluous details. It's kept simple. The scene is set, and that's all that's needed. In this instance, a young boy is admonished by his father for his monster-battling propensity. But after his father sees that his boy has talent for his hobby, he decides to recruit him to perform some missions for his secret organization. Now the kid is free to join the professional monster-battling leagues, but he's also got to perform some top secret side-quests for good old dad.
You don't actually get to play as the boy, since his character is in direct control of his party of monsters. These monsters are collectible and trainable. As you pit them against competitive combatants, you will earn points which will level them up, ultimately making them stronger and more valuable. As an example of the added depth, in addition to their skills, you will be able to outfit and upgrade the monsters with weapons and armor. Many of the same items are available in Dragon Quest. You can have more than a hundred of these monsters in your collection, but you can only imagine how long that would take to level them up to make them valuable.
Fortunately the gameplay doesn't force you to collect-'em-all. A fusion function allows you to combine two different monsters and create a special hybrid that incorporates the best powers of both beasts. It sounds great in theory, but in practice you can end up wasting a lot of time as some of your creations just don't work out the way you want them to. There is a lot of trial and error if you want to experiment. The objective is to try to combine the best abilities of each monster, but to do so requires that each monster be sufficiently leveled-up. You can't even fuse them until they reach a level of 10. And if things don't work out, that's a lot of time wasted. You can't undo it, and you can only do it once. There are guides that will help you make more informed decisions as to what you can expect using specific monsters. You can also get some suggestions from friends online.