Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS) Review

The Dragon Warriors Return

The Dragon Quest franchise has always been a hot commodity in Japan, with each entry selling millions of copies. The series hadn’t been as popular in the West until Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King shipped for the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2005. DQVIII captivated audiences with its beautifully animated 3D world, compelling storyline, and stellar fully-voiced cutscenes. Square Enix went on to re-release most of the mainline entries on modern systems, garnering fans on both sides of the globe. Hot on the heels of the Nintendo 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII, the company has finally released the 3DS port of DQVIII, bringing the series’ Western renown full circle.

Say hello to your silent protagonist. He won’t say hello back though.

DQVIII’s story follows your silent Hero and his thief-turned-ally Yangus as they seek the evil jester Dhoulmagus, who has transformed Trodain Castle’s Princess Medea and King Trode into a horse and a hideous troll toad. The story starts out fairly simple and grows increasingly complex as you meet others who seek Dhoulmagus’ head, including the sassy mage Jessica and the charming knight Angelo. The characters are likable and ooze charm, whether Angelo hits on Jessica to her dismay, or Yangus freaks out and utters his trademark “Cor blimey!” Voiced cutscenes help sell the characters’ unique personalities.

In typical Dragon Quest fashion, each step in the journey involves a typical loop: the party enters a town, goes through a dungeon, and solves the town’s problems. Unlike other DQ games, most of the vignettes here are important to the overall plot, either giving a character significant development or providing a quest item, like the boat. The world map is vast, and traversal eventually becomes open-ended, creating a truly engaging journey.

DQVIII uses a very traditional menu interface.

Throughout your voyage, you engage with hundreds of enemies in traditional turn-based battle. DQVIII retains almost the exact same battle system as every game before it. You set your party’s commands, such as attacking or casting spells, and watch the fight pan out. An additional “tension” mechanic allows your characters to charge up to deal heavy damage the following turn, in a Dragon Ball Z-esque fashion, which is appropriate considering the artstyle. When used effectively, psyching up for high tension works wonders. However, most bosses can easily take away tension bonuses with a single move, so the mechanic falls flat.

The otherwise familiar battle system lends itself to fun strategic face-offs against tough bosses. During these encounters where bosses can deplete your entire party’s HP in one fell swoop, every move counts. The game is quite difficult, and unless you get lucky, you might have to grind to defeat some foes. This is an unfortunate reality of the series, and it’s tedious to retread familiar ground just to level up. In my case, I only had to grind significantly during several endgame bosses, so at least DQVIII is fair in character progression. In addition, the majority of bouts against weak monsters are quick, and are even faster with the new option that speeds up battle animations. The game’s skill point system helps you appreciate your growth throughout, and each party member has several skill trees that you can deposit points into. Each upgrade goes towards buffed weapon proficiency or unique character abilities. For instance, the Hero can wield swords, spears, or multi-hit boomerangs. Meanwhile, Yangus has an exclusive ability where he can dance with his underpants… Cor blimey!

Oh look, a slime!

While battles are unchanged, how you encounter enemies is largely different in the 3DS port. You can now see enemies roaming around on the world map, which is a huge contrast to the original PS2 version’s random battles. This upgrade brings the series into modern times, allowing you to choose your battles and even retreat when times are tough. This makes dungeon traversal a little easier, but if you avoid most battles, you’ll be underleveled and will need to grind anyway. The numerous enemies inhabiting the varied continents brings the world to life, and strong foes will even chase you, forcing you into battle. Likewise, weaker enemies will run away upon seeing you, making the world feel immersive.

Square Enix has added nice bells and whistles to the 3DS version. There are two novel playable party members who were but minor characters in the original game. Although they arrive late, they add variety to the fabulous foursome. You can also now take pictures of your party anywhere in the world. You can give them funny poses and even embellish the photo with stickers and frames. Any of these fun photos can be sent and received online or via StreetPass. However, the highlight is arguably the new picture sidequest, in which you photograph specific areas or enemies to earn prizes. This adds an entertaining scavenger hunt element to exploration and helps you appreciate the intricate world.

Dragon Quest: Photobooth Edition

There are multiple gameplay enhancements that improve the experience. Aside from the faster fight speeds and removal of random battles, the alchemy system has been upgraded. Alchemy allows you to create items by mixing them together in a pot. In the original version, you had to walk around for a predetermined amount of time just to produce an item. In the 3DS version, alchemy produces instant results. Also, you can no longer fail an experiment by mixing (and wasting) two incompatible items. The game guides you to ensure success in this confusing but high-yield system. Other quality-of-life improvements include health restoration upon level-up, a menu display of how many experience points you need to level up, the ability to withhold skill allocation, and a quick-save that functions like a save-state.

Despite every upgrade, the graphics and music are a distinct downgrade. The 3DS version’s visuals don’t quite live up to the PS2 version’s. There is some pop-in, and the textures aren’t as pretty. To the game’s credit, the graphics still look great, considering it’s a handheld port of a PS2 game with real-time rendered enemies on the world map. Akira Toriyama, of Dragon Ball Z fame, breathes his signature charming artstyle and character design into the game. Likewise, the music is no longer orchestrated in the Western release. Nevertheless, the 3DS’s synthesized soundtrack still sounds amazing, thanks to Koichi Sugiyama’s utterly beautiful score. The overworld theme alone is breathtaking and sells the adventure. The voice acting sounds great as well, with some new rerecorded parts and additional lines to reflect the game’s new cutscenes.

The Dragon Warriors are back and better than ever!


Dragon Quest VIII is a fun RPG that will attract fans looking for that traditional experience. The game is on the lengthy side, and the main story took me roughly 60 hours, not including sidequest completion or the new postgame content. Either way, the game’s rich narrative and polished traditional battle system will keep RPG fans engaged throughout. This is one of the most accessible Dragon Quest titles, offering an epic story with fully-voiced cutscenes and likable characters. While the graphics and music may not be the most ideal, Square Enix makes up for it by removing random battles and improving quality-of-life. New characters, cutscenes, and sidequests may even entice veterans to journey on a second time. With all of its upgrades and additions, the 3DS port of Dragon Quest VIII is the definitive version of the classic RPG.

Score: 9/10

Note: This review was originally posted on Darkstation in March 2017.

What are your thoughts on Dragon Quest VIII? What do you think of the Dragon Quest series, and which games are your favorite? What are your favorite RPGs on the Nintendo 3DS? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!

32 thoughts on “Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (3DS) Review

  1. Great review! I haven’t played any of the Dragon Quest series, but I’m a fan of JRPGs–especially those from Square Enix. I really enjoy the Final Fantasy franchise, and I’m curious to check out other games from the company. I also like Dragon Ball Z, so it’s cool to see Akira Toriyama’s art style featured in an RPG. I’ll have to add Dragon Quest to my list of games to play! And DQVIII seems like a great one to start with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always! 😀 I’m not as big into the Dragon Quest series as I am the Final Fantasy series, but I’ve played at least half of the mainline entries and have generally enjoyed them. I recommend DQVIII as a great first one especially for Final Fantasy fans. It feels similar due to its cutscenes, interesting characters, and epic tone. I also enjoyed DQIX a lot for the DS though that’s probably harder to find now. Maybe they’ll remake that one next… for the Switch? Also, gotta love Akira Toriyama’s work, on the Dragon Quest series, Dragon Ball Z, and of course, Chrono Trigger! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely love the review and agree with that score!! I originally played this on the PS2 and played it for review as well earlier this year and I have to say I was filled with nostalgia. This game is definitely one of my top ten JRPGs and I highly recommend it to everyone looking to immerse themselves in an amazing story and epic adventure!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments! This is a great choice for one of your top ten JRPGs! I actually don’t have too much nostalgia for this game. When I first played the PS2 version, the game kept crashing during a certain cutscene so I was never able to experience the end until I played through the 3DS game. So that should say something about how timeless this classic is! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No thanks needed, your passion is inspiring and your outlook and knowledge on video games is incredible. Please keep up the amazing posts as well as YouTube vids!!

        Also I’m really sad to hear that the game kept crashing but happy to see you enjoyed it this time around on the 3DS.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww how sweet of you! Of course I thank you as a way of showing my appreciation, especially when you say such wonderful things! 🙂 I’m seriously so flattered! Know that it’s people like you who keep me going, so I’m more than grateful!

        I was very excited to play this the second time around because of my inability to finish it the first time. I was over 25 hours in that time too, so a new 3DS port was a nice jolt to restart it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, now here’s a series that has kept me away for years due to its boasted completion time! I had a Dragon Quest Heroes game on the DS a few years back that I adored.. Rocket Slime I believe it was? Anyway that was a terrific game but was a spin-off if I remember correctly.

    Either way, games like these I need to pick up and save for my retirement one day, hah!

    Funny thing is, my favorite RPG on the 3DS is without a doubt Xenoblade Chronicles. Game stole my heart. Can’t wait for Xenoblade 2 on the Switch, tell you that much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dragon Quest has a lot of spinoffs! I haven’t played the Rocket Slime game, but I would have loved to. I saw screenshots of it back when it was new, and those Slime robot battles looked so fun. My favorite spinoff is Dragon Warrior/Quest Monsters, which was similar to Pokemon in DQ style. I also have the Heroes and Builders games, though I haven’t played much of them.

      Back to mainline Dragon Quest, they’re fun games. They’re all pretty similar, but they do a few things different, especially with the characters and story, to make it worthwhile. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D was also how I first played it, and that reminds me that I need to finish it before I get to Xenoblade 2!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh yeah, they had those awesome battles where you had to launch slimes at other ships, or something like that?

        Anyway, the games sound awesome and given they’re for the 3DS I should at least check them out. I’m saving up my “long-term game energy” for Xenoblade 2 but it’s worth grabbing before they become impossible to find like every other game for a Nintendo console…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not sure, but it looked fun! The Dragon Quest mainline RPGs are really fun, and with the exception of DQVII, which was also remade on 3DS, they’re a decent length. In other words, they’re not as long as the epics that are Xenoblade games, haha! The DQ games are already hard to find now, so if you want a physical copy, you might want to search soon. Obviously, there’s always the digital copy though, which I had to get since I couldn’t find a physical copy near me…


  4. Playing the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest VII inspired me to marathon the series. This will be the next one I play when I eventually get around to it. I did actually play a bit of it several years ago, but I ended up getting stuck and gave up shortly afterwards. I’m looking forward to playing the 3DS version – especially because it eschews random encounters, which is a reason I liked the previous remake as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t miss random encounters at all, and the game feels so natural without it. I actually need to get back to the DQVII remake, which was more of a substantial change, although DQVIII had less to revamp. I also played the original VIII, but the game kept crashing during a certain cutscene, so I never got to finish it. I’m so glad I finished it on the 3DS though. So worth it! Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another superb review! I really like the level of detail you went into. 🙂 I have yet to play any DQ games yet, but they look amazing. Oh and some protagonists can be a bit mouthy these days so it’s nice to have silent ones too, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thank you so much for your great comments! If you had to pick one Dragon Quest game, I think this is the easiest one to get into, and the closest to what Final Fantasy is like. The 3DS version was my first time finishing the game, and I’d consider it my favorite now. Also, good pout about silent protagonists – better than annoying ones, no doubt!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Dragon Quest VIII was the first DQ game I played, and I mostly only bought it for the demo of FFXII. Thankfully, the game turned out to be awesome. I kind of wish this year wasn’t so packed with great games. I have no time to revisit this game, as much as I’d like. Sounds like a great port though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t even realize the original had a demo for FFXII! I had it, but didn’t play it much due to a bug that caused the game to crash during a certain cutscene. If I had beaten it then, I’m not certain that I’d replay it on the 3DS. That said, I’m glad the first time I fully played through VIII was this port. It really is a great one! Thanks for your comments!


  7. I played Dragon Quest IX on DS and it left something to be desired – if you ask me what the plot was, I honestly couldn’t tell you. The worlds are rich, but for me they lack some of the fundamental storytelling and character building that make the Final Fantasy games so special. Glad you enjoyed this one though! The idea of playing a 60 hour+ game right now is daunting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved Dragon Quest IX for its rich job system, and I had fun customizing my team for the journey. It does lack storytelling beyond collecting the seven Dragon Balls (it’s my interpretation, at least :P), but I still enjoyed it. I think that Final Fantasy has overall better games, but VIII gives the FF series a run for its money for its quality story, characters, and solid gameplay. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I really think this is how good ports should be done. Didn’t really care for the first game because of how difficult it was, but the 3DS seems like it tackles many of those issues. The graphics are a disappointment of course, but at least it’s portable. I plan on picking this up at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! Modernizing the battle encounters so monsters appear on the screen is the best addition. I didn’t finish the first game because my version had an odd glitch that caused it to crash often, but I remember being annoyed by the difficult random battles. This one is easier, just because you can choose to avoid troublesome encounters. Hope you enjoy it if you end up picking it up! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. i have been interested in getting in some Dragon Quest stuff on the 3DS. For the series as a whole, would this be a good place to start for someone who has NEVER played any dragon quest games?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice review! Also random, but I like Koichi Sugiyama as a composer (he scored one of my favorite Godzilla movies), and I’ve recently been listening to his Dragon Warrior soundtracks! They’re terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you! And thanks for the tidbit of knowledge! It’s neat that Sugiyama composed for movies, and specifically a Godzilla movie. I might have to give that a listen! Thanks for teaching me something new! And I hope you enjoy those soundtracks. They’re all pretty good!


  11. Nice review! One of my favorite games ever, played PS2 version when it was released, the first Dragon Quest in Europe. The world, the characters, the sense of discovery, the humor… Dragon Quest VIII represents some my best gaming memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much! That’s awesome that it’s one of your favorite games ever. DQVIII is worthy of that recognition, even more as the first DQ to reach Europe. I’m glad you have many fond memories of it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think I watched a playthrough of the first game once, but other than that I have no reference to this series at all. So I guess I’m wondering… is it a good idea to start here for the series? Or is there a better one to start with? Or should you play in order? This is the problem with numbered games like this and Final Fantasy and whatnot. At least for RPGs I always wonder if I can jump in or if I’ll be lost, like when I tried the second book or whatever it was called of Golden Sun and was lost beyond belief. As for my favorite RPG on the 3DS, so far I’d have to go with Pokemon X. It did some great stuff for the series and felt like a pretty big jump forward finally. I have not tried Sun or Moon yet though, and the only other RPGs I played on it so far are Fantasy Life and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. Unless you count Zelda as an RPG but… I don’t. So my opinions on that probably aren’t the greatest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is no order you’d have to play in. They’re all different timelines save the first three. They all play pretty similarly, but I’d choose this one as the place to start. It’s the only one with full voice acting, and the characters and plot are top-notch as far as the series goes.


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