A murderous jester has cast a spell turning the king into a frowsy troll and his daughter, the princess, into a pretty horse (those come-to-stable eyes!). As the king's retainer, you are charged with accompanying these misfit royals as they trundle around Trodea's bucolic hills and valleys in search of revenge or, at very least, a face-fixing antidote. En route you pick-up a talentless criminal after he fumbles a hold-up on a bridge; the spirited and estranged daughter of a noblewoman, who longs to avenge the death of her murdered brother; and, finally, a flop-fringed knight who is just as likely to try to flirt his way out of an altercation as to draw his rapier. Often Japanese RPGs are burdened with impenetrable, byzantine plots that leave all but the most determined player bewildered. It's a charge that bounces off Dragon Quest 8, whose Grimm-like story is told with clarity, sincerity and exquisite wit.
Dragon Quest 8
Fairy tales, like so much fiction, are all about leaving the village. Figuratively, of course, as the young man or woman departs the familiar confines of childhood and strikes out into the wilds of puberty, with its rioting hormones and hair-sproutings. But literally too, with many an acne'd protagonist peeling back the village gate in order to make their way in the terrible world, so full of life, love and painful lessons. The Japanese RPG is no different in this regard. Wake up from a start screen in a wispy hamlet or pastoral town and you can be sure you'll be kicked into the wildernesses before the hour's gone. This is how the digital hero's journey goes.
"Look out for more PS2 Cult Classics in future, following a break for GDC." Well, we didn't say how long the break would be. Finally, then, we return to complete our mission: to dig out the quirkiest and least-publicised gems in the PlayStation 2's monstrous back catalogue. Today and tomorrow we'll complete our mammoth rundown following parts one, two and three, published in February, as we turn the EG Retro light back on at the spearhead of a minor revival. Backward and onward!
Eagerly awaited (and really rather good, as you'll know if you've read our review) PS2 RPG Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King is out next Thursday - and HMV Oxford Street is planning to celebrate in style.
Square-Enix has announced the UK release date for highly anticipated PS2 title Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King - and the good news is there's not long to wait.
The game has already been a huge hit in Japan, where it's become the country's best selling PS2 game of all time. And deservedly so, as you'll know if you read our review.
The UK version will feature some nice extras such as English voiceovers recorded by a British cast, a full orchestral soundtrack, a revamped menu system, new battle abilities and better animations.
The Japanese video gaming myth has largely been dispelled over the past five years. "Facts" and figures about the way games are consumed in the largest Far Eastern console-hungry market have been laid bare. Pokemon really did appear on the side of a Boeing 747. Hundreds of kids in Tokyo did play link-up Neo Geo Pocket outside PlayStation Festival 2000 in an orderly queue. Shops in Akihabra do still sell Dreamcast games. There is a gaming "basement" in Tecmo's headquarters where Tomonobu Itagaki goes to smoke fags, and there really is a guy on the Dead or Alive team that models breasts. And Enix RPG Dragon Quest is the biggest selling game in Japan, PlayStation 2 or otherwise. No, it really is. In the past 20 years it's sold more than 40 million units in Japan alone, dwarfing the likes of Pokemon and Gran Turismo. Sometimes fact is more awe inspiring that fiction.
Speaking at a European launch event for Dragon Quest VIII in London yesterday, project lead and series producer Yuji Horii revealed his excitement about Revolution's controller and hinted at his global ambitions for the top-selling Japanese RPG.
Over the hill, across the bridge, through the valley and under the shade of an old oak tree, a brilliant white flower sways gently on the virtual breeze.
Once upon a laptop a group of bleary-eyed programmers and artists huddled round, like seers gazing into a liquid-crystal ball, and imagined this future. They deliberated how best to cut the curve of this flower’s stem, heatedly debated what quantities of which colourful hues to inject into its delicate petals. They considered what its blossom would contribute to their world.
A gust of wind cuts the silence with the rasping trebles of leaf-rustle and the near inaudible bass of a cloud’s-breath. The flower’s face dips in reverence, or... was that humble thanks? Either way, as you free your gaze from such microcosmic detail and pan eyes around the surrounding scenery, the flower becomes just one exclamation mark in a spiky sea of blooming punctuation. Ten thousand blades of cel-shaded grass entwine roots with those of virtual trees and polygonal plants; all brethren born from the same pea-green firmament that stretches and rolls for bright, glorious miles off into the watery arms of a blue, blue tide.
Square-Enix has confirmed to Eurogamer that forthcoming PS2 sequel Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King will come bundled with a Final Fantasy XII demo over in the States - and hinted that we might get it, too.