Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King PS2 Review

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under PS2, Retro Content, Retro Reviews

In this day and age of stupidly easy RPGS, epic yarns, creative battle methods and deep character growth systems along with other complexities, Dragon Quest is a dramatic throwback to a much simpler time.

The only thing that really makes it recognisable as a modern game is the stunning cel-shaded visuals that developer: Level 5 favour and really excel at. Usual series and Dragon Ball Z artist: Akira Toriyama’s distinctive character designs are for the first time shown in their full glory and whilst textures are a bit blurry and the framerate not always consistent, the game easily rivals the Windwaker in terms of offering you cartoon quality visuals.

King Trode’s kingdom has been cursed by Doulmagus, an evil Jester of all things, with the king himself being transformed into a troll like creature, whilst his daughter: Princess Medea has become a horse. This is a simple set-up and with few twists in the plot, it largely remains that way throughout.

Characters are likeable, with the exception of the mute hero who is essentially empty headed, with the developer obviously intending for you to instil your own personality into him. There are only four main characters and this perhaps makes for a more focused experience than many other RPGS. Yangus the cockney reformed ex bandit, Jessica, who is adept at spell-casting and the sole female of the group and Angelo the seemingly womanizing knight all make up the rest of the primary cast.

The story appears to be clichéd and predictable and it certainly is, but the localization team deserve commended for their efforts with the English translation, which goes some way to masking the fact that this is a well worn storyline that should have been left behind in the 80’s where it belongs.

Text is well written and unlike the Japanese version, this Western release has tremendous spoken dialogue and in a nice change to the norm it‘s done brilliantly by British voice actors as well, also whilst the eastern version had electronically created music, westerners get a full-blown orchestral band performing the score and although there isn’t quite enough tunes on offer, the pleasing classical themed compositions still very much complement your vast journey.

Immediately entering the first dungeon will reveal the seemingly unfair difficultly and will probably see you butchered by the very first boss. It’s not as unfair as it initially seems, as death is not as bad of a penalty as most and the game will mercifully -rather than the dreaded game over screen- send you to your last visited church, in which you’ll lose half your cash, but all gained experience remains intact (a fair enough trade-off if you ask us) which means your rematch with the big bad boss will perhaps have a very different outcome. Helpfully there are also magic and items that allow you to evacuate dungeons immediately, which is always handy if you are lacking in provisions or are in need of healing. Despite this, people who are expecting an effortless challenge are in for a rude awakening as even some of the lowly bad guys are surprisingly tough to see off.

Whilst we’re on the subject of baddies, it would be criminal not to mention the character of these lot, for instance we defy anyone in the heat of battle to not have a big grin plastered on their face when they witness the candy cat joyfully playing around or seeing the dancing devil, well, err…dancing.

Dragon Quest doesn’t possess a fancy battle system- just straightforward turn-based skirmishes- it remains largely the same now as when it was first conceived way back in the 80’s. The tension gauge is one of the few new additions to the combat system, using this results in you sitting out a turn to raise the strength of any one of your characters, this can be used up to three times and is a real godsend against some of the tougher bosses.

Levelling up will award you skill points, with which you can spend on improving your proficiency with weapons amongst other things, thus eventually unlocking new abilities. It’s a satisfying character growth system and is about as complicated as this RPG gets.

As is usual with the genre, Dragon Quest has plenty of side-quests, which act as fun diversions from the main one. For instance, the alchemy pot allows you to concoct items to craft new ones (just don’t expect an Atelier Iris like level of depth) whilst the monster arena allows you to assemble your own posse of monsters to take on another team.

With its old fashioned narrative, moderately demanding difficultly and reliance on ascending levels, the game may be too archaic for some. All elements are intact that the RPG hardcore enjoy though and this should be a delightful game for such people, especially those who yearn for a more challenging game. Dragon Quest is old fashioned without a doubt, but the underlying mechanics are so wonderfully sound that they’ve aged gracefully, with not a wrinkle or grey hair in sight.

9/10

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