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Dragon Quest VIII was not what I had always expected, like at all.

Content of the article: "Dragon Quest VIII was not what I had always expected, like at all."

So a little preface, I played Dragon Quest 1 and 2 to death as a kid (Dragon Warrior, as it was called here in those days). Aside from the occasional replay of Dragon Quest 1, I never played another Dragon Quest game since I was in probably 2nd grade, despite being someone who likes old school style JRPGs. I assumed that they were kind of generic, not really sure why, maybe because my frame of reference for what the series is was based on one of the earliest console RPGs ever made and those were all written in a semi-Olde English style. I even rented Dragon Quest VIII when it was released but I only did so to play the Final Fantasy XII demo that was included, I didn't really touch DQ8, I just played the FF12 demo a few times and then swapped the game for something else (Soul Caliber 3, I think).

Out of the blue, I saw one of the JRPG modders I like had created a difficulty mod for DQ8 so I figured, eh, why not?

What I did not expect was to be playing one of the funniest video games I have ever played. The humor hit my funny bone repeatedly. The bad puns, the goofy innuendos and many of the story beats were so funny to me. The whole quest with Prince Charmles (pronounced Sharrrm-ley, so he says) was one of my favorite video game subplots ever.

I loved the way the story was told. There was not copious amounts of dialogue but the dialogue that was packed a punch really helped you get a sense of what each character is like without having it shoved down your throat.

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I loved the world too. All of the characters down to the most basic NPC have a lot of character. The facial expressions are very well done, especially for a game that is now 16 years old . Everything looks like a beautiful cross between Nausicaa and Tintin. The world is large and fun to explore. It has that sense of mystery that I wish more games had today.

It's also offers a lot of free form exploration for a JRPG, which I enjoyed a lot. There is always a clear path forward to the next main quest but there is always plenty of exploring, treasure hunting and monster hunting to do if you go off the beaten path.

The soundtrack, which you can tell is a full orchestra soundtrack is kind of the icing on the cake to the presentation.

The combat system does not re-invent the wheel by any means but it does give you a lot of options with how to build characters. Despite the simplicity, most of battles do require you to plan more than your average JRPG (I am not sure how much of this had to do with the difficulty mod but most of what I saw online did say it was one of the more challenging JRPGs)

I have since decided I ought to go back and play some older DQ games as well as DQ 11. I am about halfway through DQ4 (DS version) and it's still got the same spirit that DQ8 has. I just don't know why I put off playing these games for so long.

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