3 Reasons Why Newcomers Shouldn’t Fear ‘Dragon Quest VIII’

Bob Mackey

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King launches soon for the 3DS, adding yet another great, big RPG to the portable’s library. This eighth entry of the Dragon Quest series originally released for the PlayStation 2 in 2005, and has essentially been MIA since then—outside of an okay mobile port.

And while it may sound strange to skip seven whole games in a decades-old series that’s about to receive its eleventh, Dragon Quest VIII actually makes for one of the easiest ways to jump into this great line of RPGs. If you’re intimidated by the sheer amount of Dragon Quest sequels out there, here’s how part VIII can help ease you into this series’ wonderful world.

An Approachable Presentation

Dragon Quest is a pretty conservative series, to the point where its underlying structure hasn’t changed much since its 1986 debut. Sure, all manner of systems and features have been grafted onto it over time, but regardless these additions, each game still feels distinctly old school.

Out of all the Dragon Quests, though, part VIII feels the most modern. It casts aside the squat characters and abstracted world of past games for a more to-scale representation of an epic quest. Though Dragon Quest VIII passed its tenth birthday a few years back, this take on the series still feels modern and welcomes new players with open arms, rather than alienating them with a visual style that may be off-putting to anyone not familiar with RPGs.

Streamlined Systems

If you’re new to RPGs, not every Dragon Quest makes for an ideal starting place. VI and VII are great games, but their respective job systems may be a little hard to manage for those fresh to the series. On the other hand, parts I, II, and III play by some pretty simple rules, but may feel a little too primitive for players looking for a more substantial experience.

VIII, on the other hand, really hits that sweet spot in terms of complexity. It ditches any sort of job or class system entirely in exchange for a much simpler take on things. When you level up, you acquire a few points you can then dump into a handful of categories associated with different weapons. So if you’d like the main character to, say, specialize in spears, you’d prioritize putting points into this category—which in turn informs what abilities he learns. All in all, this approach allows players to customize their character without overwhelming them with too many choices.

Worthwhile 3DS Additions

To be fair, the PlayStation 2 version of Dragon Quest VIII can stand on its own, but the 3DS port remains the ideal way to play this game. For one, it allows you to play it on the go—and take a break whenever you snap your 3DS shut—which stands as a much better option than sitting in front of your television for 80 to 100 hours (hopefully not consecutively). But this 3DS version also adds several helpful features that weren’t present in the original VIII, like replacing random encounters on the world map with enemy icons so your exploration isn’t constantly interrupted with battle after battle.

Above all, this enhanced version of Dragon Quest VIII sets out to remove all traces of tedium found in the original. Enemy encounters can now be sped up considerably, and the alchemy pot no longer requires a waiting period when you use it for crafting items and gear. Most notably, the biggest additions to Dragon Quest VIII DS come in the form of two new playable characters who join the original four, along with two new post-game dungeons to explore.

Bob Mackey
Bob Mackey is Games Editor at Fandom. Since joining the games press in 2007, he's written for sites like 1UP, Joystiq, The A.V. Club, Gamasutra, USgamer, and many others. He also hosts the weekly podcasts Retronauts and Talking Simpsons. Follow him on Twitter @bobservo.