If you’re new to the Dragon Quest franchise there’s no shame in starting your adventure with Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for Nintendo 3DS. This installment is full of adventure, creatures, funny characters, and possesses a great story to boot. Thankfully, the title bears new and improved features that cannot be found in the original installment which hit the PlayStation 2 some time ago. Though it’s a bit lengthy and requires a lot of your time, RPG fans – and even those new to the genre and franchise – will enjoy this Nintendo 3DS game.

Journey of the Cursed King

If there’s one thing I enjoyed the most about Dragon Quest VIII, it’s the story. Without giving much away, Journey of the Cursed King is essentially a murder mystery and it’s up to you and your group of friends to track down the villain, Dhoulmagus. Along the way, Dragon Quest VIII introduces you to new personalities and funny non-playable characters that move the dial forward and fill in gaps to the story, but also add flavor to the experience as well. Individuals like Kalderash, an almighty fortune teller, shows how much he cares for his adopted child Valentina. Though brusque for the majority of his performance, Kalderash’s good intentions as a father really illuminated his personality, being curt to hide one’s past from his progeny when prodded is everything a father in real life could understand and respect. It’s characters like Kalderash that fully immersed me within the game’s narrative and only intrigued me to continue on with my adventure.

Roam the land

Dragon Quest VIII is vast in nature, full of creatures, trees, and landscapes which bring atmosphere to the adventure which allows the user to roam freely with a variety of things in sight. Though it’s not as atmospheric as Skyrim and it’s random skirmishes amongst humans and animals, there’s still plenty of room to roam throughout the land as one would in Hyrule Field.

I found myself, on multiple occasions, meandering about and perusing the scenery while taking it all in at the same time. It was my own personal virtual nature walk, if you would. Even though I still had much to do, like completing quests and leveling up my characters in preparation for difficult enemy encounters, I couldn’t help but reserve a few minutes so that I may indulge myself within the game’s ambience from time to time.

New and improved

The 2017 version of Dragon Quest VIII bears new features that are nonexistent in the PlayStation 2 installment. For example, players are now able to speed up time during in-game battles, which is definitely a plus when you’re on the grind for more levels. Enabling this feature is simply done from within the battle menu, and can easily be reset should you wish to experience fights in real time.

Random enemy encounters are gone this time around, which is great, so it’s up the player to decide whether he’d like to dive into fights or not. This feature has to be the best part, in terms of gameplay, of Dragon Quest VIII, because users are now in control of the wheel and may opt into fights at their leisure. On many occasions did I bypass enemy encounters, only to pursue my venture towards story progression. Though the title quickly burns through its introduction, unlike its predecessor which takes roughly 7 hours to launch, I would imagine this would have been a lot slower had I been slugged back by random encounters.

Time to get buff

Though Journey of the Cursed King is a lighthearted adventure, it’s certainly a difficult adventure as well. Even the slightest, creatures can pose a threat as everyone in the game has the option to buff themselves up. Doing so will increase attack power and if you’re not careful, you’re surely bound to lose your life.

The level of difficulty throughout the experience is admirable, there’s never a dull moment during battles because you’ll never know what can, or will, kill you. Like creatures, the player is also recommended to join the party and buff themselves up as well. It seems to be the only way to survive, other than strategically planning out your moves, especially during boss encounters. Even though the going gets tough on multiple occasions, I was never disenchanted, nor did it leave an awful taste in my mouth. The challenge in each battle is what keeps the fights so interesting. In fact, anything easier than what’s presented would only prove monotonous.

Final say-so

If you’re new to the Dragon Quest franchise, like me, then jump right into Dragon Quest VIII. It takes off much faster than its predecessor, and the speedy combat feature cranks up the battle motion to a higher rate, which ultimately saves you time and effort. Journey of the Cursed King includes a variety of interesting and funny characters which bring life to the experience, and you’ll likely pick a few favorites out of the bunch as I have.

At times, you’ll likely become immersed in the game’s atmosphere, considering there’s much to see and do within the world. With that said, not partaking in nature walks, from time to time, is almost a disservice. Newly implemented features bring the game to life on the Nintendo 3DS which greatly improves the experience in a multitude of ways when compared to the PlayStation 2 version.

Dragon Quest VIII was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS using a review copy provided by Nintendo