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Dragon Quest VIII: Why it's the best game on the PS2

A look back at Level 5's excellent JRPG...

Dragon Quest VIII: Return of the Cursed King is arguably the best game on PS2. Fact. How's that statement sitting with you? It's got you all boiled up, right?

Well, unless you've played through the entire game, like us, then you can pipe down about your Metal Gears, GTAs and your God of Wars. For sheer value for money, you won't find many single-player games that can match Dragon Quest, or even come close.

You're probably shouting 'fan-boy' at the page right now (stop it, you sound mental) but we're far from it. We'd go as far as to say RPGs are our least favourite type of game, so we were surprised to find ourselves falling in love with Dragon Quest.

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Admittedly, the first few hours are a slog (fetch this, carry that, destroy him and such) but once the wonderful cel-shaded world is opened up for you to explore, there are loads of things thrown at you to keep interest levels high.

There's a huge casino in Baccarat where you can play bingo, slotmachines or have a spin on a roulette table to win prizes such as the almighty Gringham Whip. You can capture certain monsters and make them fight down at Morrie's Monster Pit (think Fight Club meets Pokémon).

Or you can simply stalk the land like a drifter with OCD as you collect Mini-Medals for Princess Minnie in exchange for goodies. The pace of all this is utterly dependant on you - you can thrash through or take it slow. Seriously, after 300+ hours of play we still find areas and secrets that we never knew existed.

JACKANORY
But what really sets Dragon Quest VIII aside from its RPG rivals is the story-telling and voice acting. You actually look forward to the cut-scenes here. Take Yangus - our favourite, who's voiced by Ricky Grover - for example.

The friendly-thug has a broad cockney accent that sounds like a gangster from Eastenders, probably called something like Terry Fists who owns a lock-up. It's completely out of place but the novelty of such an accent is instantly engaging.

Other warm British tones are provided by Morwenna Banks (Skins, Saxondale), Simon Greenall (Michael from Alan Partridge) and Victoria Shalet who a few of us had a crush on back when she was Harmony in CBBC's The Queen's Nose.

For some reason, you root for them more than if voiced by an effeminate/gruff/twattish American voice you've heard a million times. Heck, The Hero (read: you) doesn't even talk but still manages to have more personality than 90% of today's current leads.

The story, while not being original (orphaned kid grows up to be a mega-hero) delivers twists and reveals akin to fi nding out who Keyser Soze is in The Usual Suspects. And even after you've completed the game, the ten hour plus epilogue, fills in plot holes you never knew existed. Brilliant. It's like Metal Gear Solid 4 suddenly plonking you back in the game after the Snake/Big Boss conversation.

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OBSESSIVE BEHAVIOUR
It might be personal taste - or maybe a neurotic trait on our part - but Dragon Quest VIII is the only game that makes us crack out a pen and paper to take notes. We've a card that has all the Skill Point tallies of each character and three pages of A5 paper (front and back) that included potential alchemy pot recipes for better items/weapons, and a list of ingredients and where to find them.

Sure, we could have used the internet to find them, but cheating in a game as wholesome as this would be worse than drop-kicking kittens. Maybe. But this is simply an example of the depths that Dragon Quest VIII will lead you happily in to.

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