This is likely going to be my final post on Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. At the time of this writing, I beat it about two days ago. That means I only have to beat DQ IX in order to beat every mainline Dragon Quest game within a single year.
Today, I just wanted to spend a little while covering some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) parts of the game.
Last week, I talked about the monster arena, mini-medals, and Cameron's Codex mini-games. I won't repeat all of that here, but those were certainly some highlights of the game for me. I'm a sucker for Level-5 games and all their crafting/collecting stuff, and DQ VIII feels more like Rogue Galaxy than Dragon Quest to me. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering Level-5 made Rogue Galaxy after finishing development on VIII. There were bound to be similarities, after all.
Some of my favorite locations include Rydon's Tower (I don't know why, but I enjoyed climbing that tower), Slime Hill (perfect for grinding up levels quickly by farming metal slime monsters), and Tryan Gully (gotta love a town where monsters and elves hang out together).
Story-wise, I'm a big fan of the comedic repartee between Yangus and King Trode. The subplot between Angelo and Marcello might be my favorite part of the story overall. And I also thoroughly enjoyed the more romantic aspects of the game, especially the stuff between our Hero and Princess Medea. I mean, if you're going to make a love story between a soldier and a horse, you gotta make it good, right?
I wasn't a huge fan of the alchemy pot, especially later in the game. The crafting system is definitely from the PS2 era. It reminded me of similar systems in Dark Cloud (another Level-5 game) and even that weird monster vivisection mini-game in Final Fantasy X. You know, you hunt for stuff and then blindly combine them and hope for the best.
In DQ VIII, there are recipe books to be found, but it the whole system still seemed unrefined. I think the crafting in DQ XI is loads better. Lots of improvements there.
I was also disappointed in the story. I had heard such great things about the story in VIII. Maybe the hype was too great. Maybe my expectations were too high. Whatever the reason, I found the story to be pretty basic, run-of-the-mill JRPG stuff. The ending is still fantastic; however, it's still pretty cliche and something you've seen in romantic comedies at least a dozen times.
I keep going back and forth on whether or not I liked the Skill System. I definitely prefer the Vocations system myself, but I didn't mind the Skill System in XI the way I minded it in VIII. Because of that, I'm not sure where to stick this part. Sometimes, it felt like a great part of the game. Other times, I found myself wishing for Vocations. For now, my feelings on it are just gonna have to stay here, in the middle.
And it's not just the Skill System. I think I have mixed feelings for most of DQ VIII.
Part of that, I'm sure, is because I played it extremely late in my play-throughs of all the mainline games. If I had played this one on the PS2 when it first came out, like a lot of Westerners did, then I may have better memories of it. But I didn't, and so my personal feelings toward the game are fairly indifferent. Objectively, it's a fantastic game, and I know that. But personally, it's always going to be a mid-tier JRPG for me. I've beaten it once, and I don't intend to ever replay it.
That being said, I'm thankful for my time with the game. I think it's worth playing at least once. I know it's a favorite game for a lot of other DQ fans out there, so if you haven't played it yet, go for it. You will probably love it more than I did.
I guess all this boils down to one simple phrase: “It's not you, it's me.” It's very true. It's not you, DQ VIII, it's me. But I'm ready to move on to other things, and I wish you the best.