Comparing two Dragon Quest titles against each other is a tough proposition. In many ways, we adore both of the titles we’re considering today, but for very different reasons. Dragon Quest 8 is a huge, sprawling adventure filled with massive landscapes, even bigger personalities and a cast of relatable hilarious party members. By contrast, Dragon Quest 9 is a relatively well contained affair, with an entirely player defined party and a relatively restrained size, outside of the grottos that is. Whilst they both manage to service that DQ itch in their own ways, they’re very different titles, which makes separating them and apportioning a winner all the more difficult. For what it’s worth, the following is our attempt to do so.
Dragon Quest 9
Whilst some titles in the series have toyed with the idea, the main difference between DQ9 and the rest of the series is in defining your own party members, main character included. Oh sure, they’re still a chosen one of sorts and they’ll have access to certain things that others do not, but their look and feel is entirely player defined. This extends to the entire party, and whilst the towns and NPC feature the usual bucket load of charm, it does feel very different as a result. The rest of the game will feel familiar for long time players, but it’s worth noting that it was initially designed as an MMO of sorts, and a result of this is that the post game is absolutely massive, and it brings with it a monstrously huge alchemy portfolio and a very diverse class system.
- The Aforementioned class system, which is somewhat similar to titles earlier in the series, is simple and elegant, whilst still allowing for tremendous depth, mainly thanks to the ability to re-start classes without forgetting skills and spells learnt elsewhere.
- Being able to fully modify your party will allow you to get creative in building teams. You can let your imagination run wild and attempt to clear the game with all manner of combinations.
- The Alchemy system included in DQ9 is wonderful. The world is full to the brim with raw materials, the drop rates from enemies is good and the amount of recipes is absolutely huge, including a very large stock of end game items.
- The post game of Dragon Quest 9 is unlike any other in the series. It features randomly generated dungeons called Grottos, which house powerful enemies, bosses and loot, which can be visited repeatedly to challenge your team.
- Despite the lack of defined party members, some of the locations and NPCs housed in them are fantastic. This isn’t unusual for the series, however DQ9 is a particular highlight, thanks in no small part to its focus on death.
- Due to the MMO-esque design and player made party, there exists very little storyline outside of the protagonist for the team. NPCs do have some great story beats, and the townsfolk you meet will occasionally tug at your heart strings, but it’s nothing compared to having a team of personalities.
- Another consequence of the MMO nature is that the game can feel very grindy. In order to access the absolute pinnacle of equipment, you will need to repeat quite a few dungeons, which can end up getting very repetitive.
- It’s platform defined of course, but DQ9 does fall down graphically compared to others, often feeling like a poor middle ground between sprites and 3D.
Dragon Quest 8
In contrast to Dragon Quest 9, DQ8 features a wonderful cast of characters that are largely brought together by their pursuit of evil. We could technically make this article unbearably long in talking about the cast, so we’ll settle for saying that it’s one of the best parties assembled in an RPG, and it’s filled to the brim with personality, comedy and strife all in equal measure. In many ways the team truly makes the game, thanks to an overarching story that is built around them, but the world itself also features some fantastic locations, enemies and events that make it stand out. It’s down to these that many consider it to be the best in the series, and indeed the 3DS version to be the ultimate in DQ experiences.
- The cast of characters in DQ8 is probably the best we’ve ever encountered in a Dragon Quest game. It’s filled with unusual and interesting people, including NPCs, and you’ll constantly find yourself aching to learn more about your team and their personal histories.
- Locations are another highlight. The world is designed to be huge, which isn’t always a great thing, but it’s marked with some excellent towns and locations to visit. From the ragged streets of Pickham to the illuminated walls of Baccarat, they all feel like they have a personality of their own.
- As a side quest of sorts, the requests to photograph various enemies and locations in the world is commendable, and thoroughly enjoyable as a backdrop to the main game. This is a game, we should note, that also includes the usual accompaniment of mini medals and such.
- Whilst this is always the case in a DQ, particularly modern versions, the cast of enemies is fantastic, with little to no ‘filler’ enemies that do not make you chuckle at their name, or at least curse their existence as they defeat you.
- You could argue that the main story is somewhat predictable, however DQ8 has a knack of continuing on when you think it should end, and the post game of the 3DS version is a fantastic proposition.
- The Alchemy system is big, however the tracking system is not well defined. Whilst experimenting with loot is fun, completing the whole suite and tracking your success is painfully obscure and requires outside detail and assistance.
- The game does not feature a class system at all. Characters are fully defined, and whilst the weapon and skill choices are fun, it does not allow for the level of creativity that other titles do.
- Whilst the world is huge and exploration fun, it can be grating to spend a good deal of time exploring various continents, only to find very little out there.
- The drop rate from enemies is absolutely terrible in DQ8. This was a deliberate design decision, because the developers wanted to encourage exploration, but it’s very painful when you’re attempting to farm late game alchemy items drops. Red and her thievery skills do make this easier in the 3DS version.
Verdict – DQ8 or DQ9?
When you consider absolutely everything about both of these games, our eventual winner has to be Dragon Quest 8. However, we really must make quite a few additions to that statement for it to be fully understood. Those of you that have played the series, or indeed any other that you might truly enjoy, will understand why we must do this.
You see, for a game that you just play for the experience of playing, Dragon Quest 9 is absolutely superior. The seemingly endless class system, paired with the equally endless dungeon end game, makes the whole thing tremendously compelling to play. You’ll find that you’re urged by an unseen wave of prospective dopamine to delve once again into the unknown, grinding your way up to the absolute pinnacle of party performance. And once you get there, you’ll want to add the stats and skills from another class, so you’ll willingly sign yourself up to do it all again. Nothing we have ever played has been quite so compulsive and addictive as the systems contained within DQ9.
As an overall experience however, Dragon Quest 8 truly takes the cake. The personality that has been baked into every single character, location, story line and side quest is truly incredible. Most games struggle to make you sign up for additional exposure and text, yet here you’ll want to know more and more. You’ll be intrigued to learn why the Casino is closed, why Yangus has issues with Red and why one particular tower in the late game is exactly the way it is. Just like DQ9 urges you forward with the prospect of battles, loot and levelling, DQ8 will drive you through sheer interest and personality. Dragon Quest titles are games quite like no other, and yet it’s eidth instalment manages to stand alone, atop the shoulders of it’s lovable, infuriating and above all charming cast of characters.
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