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Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King PlayStation 2

Published by Square Enix
Developed by Level 5
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King, an introduction.

These days most gamers expect titles in their favourite genres to offer something different. They look for new ways of doing things, features that haven't been used before and ideas they would never have thought of. In all honesty whilst new ideas and features are great they don't come along very often and most games tend to be only slight variations on what we've seen many times before. Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King doesn't attempt to go down this route however. It's very much a classic RPG that takes the well honed elements that console RPG's have used for years and polishes them to almost perfection.

What's the game about?

The story goes that a forbidden sceptre lay hidden in Trodain Castle for many centuries. That was all to change though when a jester by the name of Dhoulmagus found the sceptre and stole it. Dhoulmagus then proceeded to place a curse on the Kingdom of Trodain turning almost all of its citizens into thorns. The King of Trodain was turned into a troll and his daughter, the Princess, was turned into a horse. The only person unaffected by the curse was one of the King's guards (who you'll name and play as). Accompanied by King Trode and Princess Medea our hero will have to track down Dhoulmagus and find a way to lift Trodain, the King and his daughter from the awful curse. Initially our hero is only accompanied in battle by Yangus, a rather crude looking but loyal companion but as the story progresses he'll be joined by Angelo, a trained Templar Knight and Jessica, who proves rather useful with her powerful magic abilities.

What's good about the game?

Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King is very much an RPG for RPG enthusiasts. The game is a traditional console RPG with turn-based random battles. During a battle you'll be able to perform standard attacks, Psyche Up (which allows you to reserve a characters strength for a more powerful attack next turn), use any special abilities a character might have, cast spells, use items or simply defend. As well as giving orders to each of your companions you can choose to give them instructions so that they carry our their moves by themselves (in accordance with your orders). When your characters level up you'll get to distribute skill points which allow you to develop them in your way and it's something that potentially adds replay value to the game, as you may want to play through a second time developing the characters in a different way. What I really like about Dragon Quest is that it has a sense of humour and the story, which is great by the way, never takes itself seriously. Even the enemies look humorous to an extent. You'll even see enemy characters try to do attacks for which they don't have enough MP (you're notified in text of this). The game has a day/night cycle and travelling at night definitely seems to be more perilous as you'll encounter stronger enemies. The battles have a good pace to them and there are no bloated sequences for special attacks, which often drag the pace of battles down to tedious levels in some turn-based RPG's. In fact the game as a whole is just an excellent example of what a console RPG should be and fans of the genre will be really impressed by the general excellence of the game.

What's not so good about the game?

Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say there are problems with the game, there are definitely elements that may deter the less dedicated RPG fans out there. Typically in an RPG you'll find a save point conveniently placed just before the location of a boss fight. This isn't the case in Dragon Quest though. Dragon Quest will also allow you to wander into places where much stronger enemies reside, so it's possible to be battling enemies who will make very light work of you. Thankfully though should you happen to unwittingly meet strong enemies who do finish you off it won't bring up a game over screen. You'll simply be placed at your last save point and have half of your gold taken from you. The battles are random too, which is often a source of irritation amongst RPG gamers.

How does it look?

Visually Dragon Quest is impressive. The character design was done by Akira Toriyama the creator of Dragon Ball Z and this is particularly noticeable with the human characters in the game. The game has been developed by Level 5 who is well known for Dark Cloud and its sequel Dark Cloud 2 (known as Dark Chronicle here in Europe). There are many similarities between the visual styles of Dark Chronicle and Dragon Quest. The game has the same kind of 3D cel-shaded look about it and the colour palette is vivid and pleasant on the eyes.  You do have control of the camera (when not in a battle) and you move it around in the usual way by using the right analogue stick (although you can use the L1 and R1 buttons). The camera is generally well behaved and didn't cause us any problems. You can switch to a first person view although, as you might expect, you can't move around in this view. The presentation of the game as a whole is impressive. The only real disappointments are the way certain NPC's seem to appear from nowhere at times and there are a few long load times when moving from one location to another which breaks up the flow of the game a little, although it's nothing major.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. All of the dialogue is subtitled so you'll be able to follow the game's story which is great. The text is displayed in dialogue boxes which makes the text easy to read and the name of the character speaking is displayed too, so you'll always be aware of who is saying what. The dialogue requires you to press the X button to move the dialogue forward so you can read the text at your own pace, which is important. The game also has a built-in help system and all of the information here is also in text.

Final thoughts.

As you probably all know this is the first title in the Dragon Quest series to arrive here in Europe. Given the quality of the game though, you have to wonder why it's taken the series so long to arrive here. Sure in many ways it's a very traditional console RPG and there's nothing revolutionary about the game but the story, the presentation and the general high production values, combined with tried and test game mechanics make for one of the best RPG's we've seen on any format. Most RPG fans here in Europe have probably had their eye on the release date of Final Fantasy XII but in all honesty it's going to have to be excellent, if it's to surpass what we have here in Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King.  The game is quite simply a must for PlayStation 2 owning RPG enthusiasts.

Overall Game Rating: 9.4/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Whilst not packing anything original Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King is almost a perfect example of what a console RPG should be. The story and production values are first class. Admittedly it may not be the ideal RPG if you're a newcomer to the genre, as it can be frustrating to suddenly come across enemies who are much stronger, but for everyone else the game comes highly recommended.