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

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.

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review03
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.

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review04.jpg
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!

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review01.jpg
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.

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review02.jpg
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.

DragonQuestVIII_3DS_Review05.jpg
The Dragon Warriors are back and better than ever!

Conclusion

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!

Weekly Panda Roundup – 100 YouTube Subs Celebration!

Weekly Panda Roundup – 100 YouTube Subs Celebration!

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a fantastic weekend! We had quite a fun, busy weekend at a large anime convention! I have some pictures to share, and have already shared some on my Twitter @MrPanda2002. But I’ll go more in-depth into those conventions we love to attend in upcoming roundups. For now, my wife and I have a special milestone to celebrate!

So without further ado, let’s round ‘em up!

Thank You 100 Subs! V3.png
A huge THANK YOU from our plushies and us!

100 Subscriptions Celebration! THANK YOU!

We have exciting news about our YouTube Channel! We recently hit 100 subscribers, which we were certainly not expecting so soon! This is super crazy for us, and we’re so floored to reach this milestone! We’re incredibly thankful for all of you who have watched, subscribed, liked, shared, and commented on our videos! I still can’t believe how wonderful and kind you all have been through our journey. We hope you know how huge every one of your contributions have been. Your love and support go such a long way, and we can’t thank you enough for your kind words and encouragement!

Upon reaching this milestone, we now have our own personal URL – https://www.youtube.com/mrpanda2002 – I nearly had to hold back tears upon seeing the custom link to our channel. This means so much to me, and I’m grateful to have an identifiable URL that is distinctly ours in the vast land of YouTube.

It’s only been a little over a month since we posted our first videos, Part 1 of our co-op Snipperclips playthrough and my video review of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild below. We still can’t believe how the channel has been growing, and we owe it to you lovely subscribers!

Our Thank You Video featuring Video Game Voice Impressions and Plushies!

We made a video to celebrate and further say “thank you” to you wonderful people, whom we couldn’t do this without! Of course, we injected our own panda fun into it, and said “thanks” in a bunch of fun video game voice impressions! We used our collection of video game plushies leading to an adorable array! We even voiced characters that can’t say actual words like Pokemon, so that may say something about how silly we are in the video! We hope you like our celebration video, and we will keep striving to produce videos that you enjoy!

If you haven’t yet seen our videos and want to see what we’re all about, you can check out the links below! We sincerely hope you enjoy!

Again, because we can’t say it enough. THANK YOU!!!

Snipperclips Co-Op Part 8 – Mad Scientist Pandas

Part 8 our co-op playthrough of Snipperclips is up, and we have finally entered the third world: Silly Science! We put on our lab coats and become MAD SCIENTISTS! Join us as we take chances, make mistakes, and get messy! You get points if you know the reference! So please enjoy the experimental error in our video below!

As always, you can start with the above episode or find the full playlist starting at Part 1 – Stabby Sticks here: http://bit.ly/2nFmc5v

ThankYou

Next Time…!

Thank you so much for reading this issue Weekly Panda Roundup! On Thursday, my wife and I will be uploading a unique playthrough video of a retro classic! We would have put it up last week, but we just had to celebrate with a fun 100 subs video!  I’ll also have a review posted here later this week! Next week, I hope to still have a Weekly Panda Roundup, but if I don’t, it’s because I’m celebrating my birthday!

Have a great week everyone! Until then, see you next time!

How was your weekend? What games are you playing? What did you think of the videos? What were your favorites of our fun video game impressions? Let me know what you think in the comments section below! Thanks for reading and watching!

Bye-Bye BoxBoy! (3DS) Review

Bye-Bye BoxBoy! (3DS) Review

So Long, Farewell

The time has come to bid farewell to our beloved BoxBoy. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know there was a BoxBoy to say bye-bye to. After all, his first two games arrived on the Nintendo 3DS eShop with little fanfare. Developed by HAL Laboratories of Kirby fame, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! marks the finale of this 2D puzzle platformer’s trilogy and is just as enjoyable as its predecessors.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review1.jpg
The 3rd game stars our heroes, BoxBoy, BoxGirl, and… TallBoxMan?

The story picks up where the second left off, as we find our hero Qbby and his rectangular comrades traveling to new planets to fend off a mysterious black smoke. Although the story plays second-fiddle to the puzzle platforming, it tells a surprisingly thoughtful tale about what it takes to save the universe.

The square BoxBoy Qbby has the ability to sprout blocks from his body. Though you can only produce a limited number at a time, you can arrange them to produce connected shapes, like straight lines or Tetris-esque L-figures. Knowing how to utilize these blocks to reach the exit door is the crux of the gameplay; drop them to make stepstools, throw them across gaps to create makeshift bridges, or form hooks to latch onto high ledges. You can only make one set of blocks at a time, forcing you to design shapes carefully. There is some light platforming involved, thanks to Qbby’s jump ability, but the majority is mastering the art of block-making.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review5
Think outside the box. There, I said it.

As inventive as Qbby’s powers are, it’s the ingenious level design that drives the gameplay. Each world introduces a new gimmick that you must learn to work around to complete each level. Gravity-defying inverted spaces, forceful wind currents, and destructive black smoke are but a few of the new elements that spice puzzles up. Though a few classic obstacles return from previous titles like spikes, lasers, and falling platforms, I’m floored by how many novel ideas HAL Labs has included in this package, providing a constant variety that keeps block creation fresh throughout the game.

HAL also added new types of levels, including box baby (Qbaby) escort missions and special block powers. The former has you guiding a miniature Qbaby to the exit, which sounds worse than it actually is. Borrowing elements from Lemmings and Mario vs. Donkey Kong, you create platforms, which the Qbaby automatically travels through. In turn, they also activate switches that help you cross, adding a surprising layer of cooperative action.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review6.jpg
Bye-Bye BoxBoy! introduces Box Babies!

Helping these box babies pays off in each planet’s final world, where they bestow you with new types of blocks, such as rocket-powered and explosive boxes. These powers are both fun to use and incredibly clever, tasking you to think several steps ahead before even setting the blocks. My only disappointment is that there aren’t more of these special powers, making me yearn for an unlikely sequel.

Although there are numerous new stage hazards and powers to learn, the majority of levels are fairly simple once you get used to them. Series veterans, especially, will find the puzzle design awfully familiar, since HAL borrows concepts and solutions from older entries. In addition, you generally only deal with one gimmick per world, preventing most levels from becoming too complex. It’s only in the final worlds where the game begins combining stage elements in devious placements to trip you up, offering a huge difficulty spike. You may even need to use the game’s helpful hints, which you can purchase with 3DS Play Coins, to guide the way. Luckily, checkpoints are generous, and retrying is as simple as pressing the shoulder buttons.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review7.jpg
The new block powers are fun!

The best challenge is collecting crowns scattered throughout the level. These collectibles are usually tough to reach. And if you use up too many boxes within the level, the crowns disappear, adding a resource management element for diehard collectors. Additional replay value comes in besting your own times and attempting to beat levels using as few boxes as possible. Your stats are all recorded, satisfying that arcade mindset of trying to outdo yourself. Finally, the game awards medals after each level based on performance, which you can use to purchase costumes, mini-comics, and music. You can also obtain challenge levels, special worlds that take away one of your abilities, such as jumping.

The game has a very clean, minimalist presentation, with a mostly monochromatic color palette and clean right angles everywhere. If you have save data from the older games, you’ll unlock options that let you filter the color scheme to resemble the Game Boy’s neon screen or the Game Boy Pocket’s grayscale. Additionally, scanning in amiibo from the Kirby series grants you box-versions of the pink puffball and his friends. The synth piano music is soft, giving a cosmic-sounding vibe. It’s pensive and never distracting, providing the perfect backdrop as you work your brain.

ByeByeBoxBoy_3DS_Review4.jpg
So is Kirby part of the BoxBoy universe then? Or vice versa?

Conclusion

Bye-Bye BoxBoy! is an excellent sendoff to Nintendo’s underrated square mascot. With nearly two dozen worlds of 6-8 levels each, there are at least seven hours of gameplay, not including extras. If you’ve played the first two games, you know what you’re in for. Though the core concepts are identical, Qbabies and special powers keep the geometric puzzler fresh. If you haven’t experienced the BoxBoy! series and can only pick one, Bye-Bye BoxBoy! has the most variety, providing the most value. Otherwise, picking up the whole trilogy is a great solution for anyone seeking ingenious portable puzzles in bulk. Bye-Bye, BoxBoy! We’ll miss you!

Score: 8/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on Darkstation.

What are your thoughts on Bye-Bye BoxBoy! Did you know BoxBoy existed? What are your favorite puzzle platformers for 3DS? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments section below! Thanks for reading!