As well produced as Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is, it's still your run-of-the-mill RPG when you check under the hood. It will definitely appease some RPG fans but the predictable storyline, endless random battles and the annoyance of continually getting lost in the huge world will not appeal to the casual RPG player.

Dragon Quest is a long-running Japanese series and this eighth installment is not afraid to exploit its heritage. This may be good news to loyal fans that want more of the same but it's not really going to do much for those that are looking for new and unique challenges. I admit this is probably the most refined version, it's been tweaked exclusively for the North American market with simplified menus and great English voiceovers. This simplified, old-school, format may illicit interest among some newbies, so that's not such a bad thing.

A dark jester has disturbed the mysteriously powerful scepter that lay hidden inside Trodain castle. With its powers he suspends all life in the kingdom and turns the king and queen into monstrous beasts. Only one person, a young guardsman, is unaffected by the spell. His quest is to save the kingdom that he's sworn to protect. The adventure takes him through an amazingly huge world that's full of enemies - and very easy to get lost in.

Even though the maps are huge they are full of interesting features. There are mini-games, puzzles, tons of items to collect and very well developed characters to interact with. There is plenty of depth to all of the characters. It's not just cliché good and evil with the occasional comic relief thrown in. They all have personalities with corresponding graphics that make them memorable.

Battles are straightforward and rely on a series of stats presented on the interface. It does tend to get boring after a while but I have to admit that I can't wait to get back into a fight when my character has leveled-up or acquired some new magic powers. You can make more powerful moves if you skip a turn. This can be used to your advantage when you have sufficient armor and can withstand a few hits in exchange for focusing on a specific target that you might be able to take down with one powerful hit. Another stat system keeps track of all your previous activities such as the number of enemies defeated, the number of fights avoided, the distances you've covered and the items collected.

The 3D graphics are excellent. The backgrounds are lavishly rendered and there are very few repeated textures which is impressive considering how huge the maps are. The graphics do an excellent job of immersing us into this fantasy world. Characters are charming, funny, evil and mysterious. There are a few plot twists here that there but for the most part you can see things coming a mile away.

Dragon Quest VIII may not be for everyone but I think the developers really tried to make it accessible too all players which might result in the hardest of the hardcore shunning this 8th entry of the their beloved series. Most of us will love it unconditionally because its so easy to...well, love, darn it!

System: PS2
Dev: Level 5
Pub: Square / Enix
Release: Nov 2005
Players: 1
Review by Daemia