Ah Dragon Quest VIII, what a fantastic game on the PS2. Many have dreamed of playing this on the go and now their dreams have fulfilled, or would be if it wasn’t on mobile. Does this game hold up against its console brother or is it an abomination, let’s explore this title.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the lack of voice acting. This is one of the biggest complaints in the comments section for the reviews on the iOS market, but it is a bit pathetic to give a game a three star rating with your only complaint being “there’s no voice acting!”. Maybe I should just stop reading reviews on the iOS app store, they’re as bad as Youtube comments… While it is a bit odd not having voices after playing the game for years with voices, it doesn’t take away from the gameplay at all. Hell the Japanese version of the game didn’t have voice acting. Maybe Square thought that Americans couldn’t play a game without voices? So for a bit of purism, this is a closer experience to what the original Japanese audience experienced.
Speaking of closer to what the Japanese experienced, the music is also different, well… sort of. The second biggest complaint you’ll see over this version of the game is that all the music is midi, not performed by an orchestra. Similar to the voice acting, it’s also weird when you’re used to an orchestra. Though unlike the voice acting, if you’re not really paying attention, you’ll probably end up forgetting about it anyway, or you even just get over it. This happens a lot when you get a port or remaster of a game and the ost is arranged a bit different.
Well instead of lollygagging around, let’s talk about the actual gameplay. Unlike the NES trilogy that they ported to mobile, this one can be a bit easier to fuck up when it comes to gameplay. In a top-down 2D game, you have to try to fuck up navigation, when you’re playing a full 3D game, you have to be creative to come up with how to navigate around the world. For the most part, they got it right. It was initially awkward, but after a few minutes of playing around, I got a hang of it.
The game is only played in portrait mode, so you can play the game with one hand. With this, you can’t control both your character and the camera, but for the most part, the camera kind of follows you around, so you really only need it when you’re inside buildings and such. They also found a way to compensate it, you can use the auto-walk button and then use your finger to simultaneously move the camera and steer the character. This is more useful in wide open places, like the overworld, or just large spaces in towns. When you’re walking around inside houses and such, this is where it tends to be awkward.
Regarding menus and UI, so far I haven’t found anything worth complaining about. It looks more compact due to screen real estate. It’s easy to navigate and move things around. Further among the topic of visuals, the game has an HD texture on it. It looks really good for the most part, but sometimes characters and objects sticking out, like buildings or posts/trees etc, look superimposed and stick out too much, it’s like they used a PS2 emulator and weren’t able to get the backgrounds and whatnot to look amazing. Also the cutscenes tend to be a bit grainy. They recycled the video footage from the PS2 game, but probably weren’t able to get it in a higher resolution, so they just blew it up and made it a bit grainy. It’s similar to how you’ll notice picture quality difference on PS1 games when cutscenes happen. The final visual complaint is during battle, the numbers indicating damage look squished. I thought they would just cut off the sides to fit the portrait screen, but I didn’t expect them to squish it together.
All in all, Dragon Quest VIII is pretty good on mobile devices. It feels more comfortable on a phone rather than on a tablet. It seems tablets are better for landscape style rather than portraits. It makes more sense that way, seeing as portrait games seem to be designed to play with one hand. If one has never played DQ8 before, this is not a bad port. Though if you were a fan of the PS2, it might be a tad bit awkward and take a bit of getting used to, but still a great experience.
It’s strange how this is much better than the mobile port of Final Fantasy VI. You’d be worried for the full 3D game rather than a 2D game, but FF6 has more fuckups. Shows that Enix knows what they’re doing in the mobile department more than Square does.