Dragon Quest VIII has been on my mind a lot lately, and for good reason: I’ve played it in some capacity almost every day since it launched at the end of January. It’s somewhat unusual for me to play a game near-daily for over a month, but the 3DS version of DQ VIII lends itself to this for two reasons: 1) it’s a fantastic RPG and 2) it’s an incredible portable port, full of player-time-respecting tweaks.
Probably the highest compliment I could give the 3DS version of DQ VIII is that the 63 hours I put into it felt like half that. This perception is huge, because I’ve played through 12-hour adventure games that felt like an eternity. In Dragon Quest VIII you truly feel like you’re on an epic adventure, traveling great distances to exotic locales, while increasing the abilities of your characters in a slow, but satisfying, way. What’s amazing is that this never feels like a slog. The ability to see enemies on the map and speed up battles makes combat far less tedious than in the original PS2 release. The sleep mode and quick save option of the 3DS version make exploration and dungeon-crawling something that can be tackled in short bursts as well.
There are plenty of other new features in the 3DS version (the photo challenge mode is a particularly impressive addition). The game sports an incredibly coherent and well-paced story (sometimes a rarity in a JRPG) and some charming and memorable characters to boot. But again, what really kept me (somewhat uncharacteristically) persevering through DQ VIII’s 60+ hour adventure was the sheer convenience of it. Being able to just flip open my 3DS and grind a bit before bed, shut it, and instantly continue my work the next day made the game far more palatable than the PS2 version ever was.
This brings me to a little console / portable hybrid that’s launching in less than a week from when I’m writing this, the Nintendo Switch. It’s already been confirmed that the Switch will have (seemingly pretty great) suspend/resume functionality. Dragon Quest VIII is an epic, fully realized RPG journey on the 3DS, made more manageable by the inherent features of the hardware. The Switch, with its multiple play modes and powerful architecture will continue this spirit, making the gorgeous, sprawling adventures I adore fit better into my lifestyle.
Once I started getting into Dragon Quest VIII 3DS, I knew I wanted to finish it before the Switch launch. I’m glad I did, because the game has become one of my favorite RPGs of all time. Outside of its pre-existing merits, DQ VIII has coincidentally served in my mind as a transition into an era where the prospect of vast, expansive, and beautiful adventures are now something I can experience to their conclusions.
Bring on the epic 50+ hour open world RPGs.
Bring on the Switch.