Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
I kept hearing about this.. Dragon Quest game. As odd as the title sounds, I decided "Right, online reviewers claim it's good, magazine reviewers claim it's good, I *will* get a copy!", so after work one day, I dropped by EB Games, and nabbed myself a copy.
And I'll never regret it.
Basically, the game starts off with the main character (he has no default name, although in official screenshots we see him named as 'Eight' - most likely because this is the 8th DragonQuest made, suprisingly) travelling with a short green Yoda-lookalike, and a white horse dragging a small caravan. Basically, the small green guy is, or was the king of a kingdom, while the horse is his daughter; the princess of the kingdom. As screwed up as it sounds, originally the two were normal (human) however their castle/kingdom was invaded by a jester-appearing figure who stole an ancient yet powerful scepter housed within the castle.
Using the scepter, he killed almost everyone in the castle, except for the king, his daughter (the princess) and one castle guard - you (the main character). The jester-man then used the scepter and transformed the king and his daughter into something different. So, it's up to you to travel across the globe to track down this menace, stop him in his tracks and pay him back for what he's done, and change the king and his daughter back to normal.
First thing's first, the graphics of the game are great. The game uses a charming cel-shaded engine that uses the character/cartoon design of Akira Toriyama (the original Japanese designer of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT), animation is very fluid and smooth, and the scenary is bright and detailed. It's as if you're actually playing an anime, if that makes sense. Movement is easy, the camera sits behind the main character (which I will refer to as 'Eight' from now on) and can be adjusted using the right analog stick. The world map is huge, but - just like alot of RPG's (I'm looking at you Final Fantasy), it's all about the random battles.
When battles occur, your characters will be set ready to face your enemies. The game's combat system works very much like classic Final Fantasy's, it's turn based. Your characters have the options to attack, cast magic, use abilities (funky skills/attacks which cost no mana) or use other odd things such as 'intimidation', or you could simply flee. A factor I like about combat is the "Psyche up" command. Basically, when you use 'Psyche up", your character's 'tension' will rise - the higher their tension, the more damage/effect they will do in any of their attacks - this includes magic. There are four stages of tension, stage one raises tension by 5, stage two raises by 20, stage three raises by 50, and finally.. stage 4, raises by a massive 100, where you enter 'Super high tension mode', your character will explode with a purple aura around them, a cool effect indeed, especially for the main character - who ends up looking like a Super Saiyan from DragonBall Z - http://img.gamespot.com/gamespot/images/2005/317/reviews/583527_20051114_screen009.jpg
Unfortunately, once you do something while in this mode (whether you attack or use magic) you will instantly leave the mode, and you'll have to recharge yourself up by Psyching yourself up once again. So it's worth getting to the super high tension mode, then pulling off one massively powerful attack.
During the course of your adventure, you'll encounter new characters who will join your party. Sadly though, you will only recieve a total of four characters to join your party (combat-wise). There's your main character, then a former-bandit who is now his close friend - Yangus, a girl named Jessica, and a 'Templar' warrior named Angelo. Funky crew.
What I don't like about the game so far is the voice acting, it's good.. but alot of characters/NPC's sound British.. which after a while, the British accent can be very annoying, especially how it's so common in the game. Another annoying factor is that (this is similar to Tales of Symphonia for the Nintendo Game Cube) - when characters are talking, you'll have to continously press X or circle to make them continue to speak, so their dialog eventually pauses, forcing you to make the speech move on by pressing one of those buttons. Sure it doesn't sound bad - but when a character is making a big dramatic speech.. it kinda ruins the moment.
Speaking of dialog.. there's one odd thing about this, the main character -never- speaks, well, he does speak, but you are never given his dialog, whether it's in the form of words or actual voice. I'm not sure why they've done this, but this is quite similar to Link in the Legend of Zelda series, or Crono in the classic SNES RPG Chrono Trigger. In my opinion though, for a game like this - they shoulda given the main character a voice actor and dialog, considering the story supposably revolves around him in the end. Speaking of Chrono Trigger, Square-Enix managed to get ahold of Japanese game developer Yuji Horii, a man who is quite responsible for the Chrono Trigger game, so players who have played both Chrono Trigger and this game (Dragon Quest) may see some similiarities.
The music in this game is quite good, and is quite similar to the DragonBall Z Budokai games in a way (think DragonBall Z Budokai, mixed with 'epic' Final Fantasy-style music), however over time (especially battle music) the music can get very repetitive and at times, annoying. I guess it's just personal preference.
This game is huge, by the way. I seriously mean huge, apparently there's over one hundred hours of total game play, and it doesn't suprise me, the game's actual world is massive and there are loads of side quests during the course of the player's adventure. Players' will also recieve new means of transportation when it comes to the world map, such as riding these tiger-like creatures on land to move across the lands faster, or a ship which will allow you to travel from country to country.. oh please, let there be something to do with flying..
Going back to combat.. new area's can be tough, which is why players should stay near civilisation just incase they need to heal up at an inn or something. Bosses can especially be very difficult at first, especially if you're not at a certain level - you'll just get whomped. What does annoy me though is when your characters die - they actually die, and if you have no way to revive them yourself (later in the game however, you will recieve revival abilities), you'll have to head back to town, go into a church and get the priest to revive you. It's a bit silly, the inn will fully heal alive players, while the church acts as a revival point and a save point - and reviving also costs money, while staying at an inn costs money. Couldn't they just have done what most old RPG's do, and make it so the inn does everything? It'd be cheaper, and just plain easier.
But yeah, in conclusion - Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King is an absolute must-play for RPG fans, especially fans of the Final Fantasy series. It's a fun game to play and it's got loads of lastability, I s'pose it would be a good addition to any gamer's collection really, casual gamer or not. So go for it, let the quest begin!