Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King Game Poster Image
Epic RPG adventure with some violence, mild innuendo.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Key themes include friendship, loyalty, responsibility. Characters frequently rewarded for placing trust in those close to them, but most quests seem to suggest problems most easily solved through violence rather than discussion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Heroes, their companions care about, try to help each other as well as those in need, but they often seem eager, happy to get into fights.

Ease of Play

Not many in-game tutorials, but simple controls and easy to learn; talking to party members can give players clues to keep them on track if lost.

Violence

Human characters fight monsters, humans, fantasy creatures -- such as dragons, anthropomorphic trees, slimes -- using swords, axes, whips, magic. Successful strikes are accompanied by flashes of light. Defeated enemies collapse, disappear.

Sex

Light innuendo in dialogue, mostly from a flirtatious knight. A female protagonist wears low-cut tops revealing cleavage; some of her attacks have sexual-sounding names, such as "Sexy Beam," "Hustle Dance."

Language

Mild profanity occurs infrequently in spoken dialogue, including "ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Scenes set in a pub show drunken characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a rerelease of a classic PlayStation 2 role-playing game. It contains cartoonish, turn-based combat where a group of human heroes fight a mix of humans, monsters, and whimsical fantasy creatures using bladed weapons and magic. Enemies collapse and disappear amid flashes of light. The story, about a regent and his guard questing to lift a transformation curse from the kingdom, focuses on responsibility and friendship, and characters are rewarded for being loyal and true. But the protagonists are quick to fight and resolve most problems through combat. Parents should also note that the main female protagonist is sexualized, wearing tops that reveal cleavage and using attacks that have names like "Sexy Beam."

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What's it about?

DRAGON QUEST VIII: JOURNEY OF THE CURSED KING for Nintendo 3DS is an upgraded rerelease of a classic PlayStation 2 role-playing game. It tells the story of a group of heroes on a quest to undo a curse laid upon the land -- apparently by a former court jester known as Dhoulmagus -- that has transformed the king into a monster and his daughter into a horse. Players take on the role of a hero (with a customizable name) who has pledged to hunt down the source of the curse and lift it from the realm. Along the way they cross paths with a bandit, a knight, and a mage, all of whom take up the quest with them for their own reasons. It's set in a sprawling and colorful open world filled with trees, streams, mountains, and settlements. Players can freely explore this world, accepting a range of side quests from nonplayer characters. Monsters also roam the land, and running into one will initiate a turn-based battle -- enemies on one side, heroes on the other -- where players select attacks, abilities, items, and support moves.

Is it any good?

This is one of the rare instances where even those who played the original role-playing game might be tempted to have another go at it. Most rereleases of classic games on newer systems are meant to give people who missed them the first time around another chance to play. Not only do the mechanics and graphics of Dragon Quest VIII hold up remarkably well, but also the open world is still beautiful to take in, with hills that beg to be climbed simply so we can see what's on the other side -- but the Nintendo 3DS edition is loaded with never-before-seen features and upgrades.

Some of these we might have anticipated on the 3DS, such as a persistent map on the bottom screen (which makes navigation a lot easier) and the ability to save your progress only just at specific save points but anywhere you happen to be -- essential when you're gaming on the go. But other upgrades lengthen and add value to the core game. For example, you'll have the opportunity to play as a couple of characters who were previously nonplayable. You can pause exploration to frame and snap photographs that can be edited, enhanced, exported, and shared with other players. The designers actually added several quests meant to encourage players to take more pictures. There are also new dungeons to explore, new narrative sequences that provide a little more backstory for key characters, and even a slightly modified ending that can result in a subtle but meaningful change in our heroes' ultimate fate. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was an instant classic when it first launched in 2005, but this Nintendo 3DS version might be even better than the original.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of female characters in games. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a rerelease of a 15-year-old game, but do you think game creators today would be as likely to include a character like Jessica, whose personality is largely defined by her gender and sexuality? Why, or why not?

  • Talk about screen time. RPGs can take dozens -- sometimes even hundreds -- of hours to complete, but what's a good way to ensure you don't lose entire days to these games? Put a time limit on sessions? Play until you've completed a quest or two?

Game details

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