***** ENDGAME AND ENDING SPOILERS AHEAD *****
In the original PS2 version there were few alternate outfits for the PCs. Jessica had some fanservicey outfits and the Guv had one (see below). For the 3DS they added some new outfits for all the characters. I didn’t see most of them. One I did see is if you put all the Metal King armor pieces (really powerful endgame armor in any DQ game of which some pieces can be equipped by everyone) on the Guv. It’s not bad though the Guv’s other outfit is much better in my opinion.
Dungeons and Bosses
New 3DS Dungeon: Altar of Wroth – This dungeon and the endgame and postgame dungeons are filled with enemies that take a bunch of punishment and can dish out powerful attacks. Some of these enemies are also found in the Black Citadel, the final story dungeon. Of particular note are the treasures in here. In the PS2 version some things like the Liquid Metal Sword and the Conqueror’s Axe (strongest axe) you could only get one of. However, these things could either be equipped by multiple people or used in the Alchemy Pot. The Altar of Wroth gives copies of these things.
You will pay a price for them though. Many of these treasures are in a large poisonous swamp with plenty of distance between each treasure and monsters spawning all over. Poisonous swamps at this point would normally be little problem but this one is red and deals 5 HP every couple steps. That adds up very fast and leads to this swamp being incredibly rude.
New 3DS Boss: Juggerwroth – Boss of the Altar of Wroth. The first phase is pretty trivial. When I beat it I said out loud, “Okay, that can’t be it.” Second phase is much more interesting. Strong physical attack including a punch that does damage and can paralyze with 100% success. A critical hit that can take out anyone not at full health. He also has some party hitting attacks. Marcello joins for this fight and will help out with offense and some healing. The biggest problem is the critical hit which can easily take someone out. Two critical hits can really leave the team in bad shape. The paralyze punch is also bad. Thankfully, the team had two casters of Kazing for bringing people back and Tingle for curing paralysis.
Final Dungeon: Black Citadel – As mentioned above this dungeon has plenty tough enemies. Special mention to the recolors of the rooster swordsmen. I love those enemies. I purposely engaged one and got quite a fight. Three showed up. Each gets two turns, intimidating scream (party-wide lose a turn with high chances), high attack power, Thin Air (high party-wide damage). They almost wiped my party. I had to resort to calling my monster teams to fight for me. On the next try I tried less straightforward tactics. DQ is known for having status ailments be actually useful though I always under-utilize them. Thus, I tried something out and found the rooster swordfights are very vulnerable to instant death. I love tactical details like that.
The Black Citadel also provides a great atmosphere for a final dungeon. At first it just looks like a grim castle. Go inside and you see vines like what Dhoulmagus conjured. The best part is when you get deep enough you come to what looks like a peaceful town. The town is a loop and there’s no alternate exit, or so it seems. Keep running around and the town becomes progressively more ruined and damaged. There are statues of the heroes that appear and as you run around the statues’ heads go missing. Then eventually you find the passage to Rhapthorne. Rhapthorne’s room looks appropriately demonic.
Final Boss: Rhapthorne
First, the “arena” for this fight is awesome. The party stands on the back and wings of Godbird Empyrea as she flies around Rhapthorne, who is hovering high in the sky. During the round she hovers in front of Rhapthorne. If you choose melee actions your characters jump off Empyrea onto Rhapthorne’s chest to strike him. As you pick actions she flies around the Lord of Darkness. Some of Rhapthorne’s attacks, such as the Kaboom spell or striking the party (and Empyrea) with his giant arm, affect Empyrea’s flight and cause her to drop a bit. The appropriately named Great Battle in the Vast Sky that plays is also great.
The fight has two phases. First phase he’s invincible due to a shield and to break it you have to have your whole team pray to the Godbird Scepter at the same time for a round. This needs to be done seven times. Interesting switch up in objective since now the focus is mostly on defense and judging when you can survive a round of assault without healing or defending in the round. Seven times is pretty tedious though. Rhapthorne doesn’t go all out in this phase but can still cause some damage. Throwing the ball from his staff tends to be the worst since it’s basically two very strong physical attacks. If they hit the same person they’ll be left with little HP or down.
The second phase is the real fight. While not a pushover I never remembered this being that tough. Well Rhapthorne didn’t like my lack of respect. The ball throwing is still a strong attack. He has a bunch of party-wide attacks including smashing the party with his arm. He can use some statuses like putting someone to sleep. And of course, guaranteed two actions a turn. By far his worst attack was “raises his staff and calls the anger of the gods.” On the PS2 version this attack spread 5 hits randomly among the party. If all or four hit one person it could take them out. Maybe I got unlucky or maybe my memory failed me but this attack never failed to lead to a KO. It’d either KO someone outright or set them up to be KO’d by Rhapthorne’s next action.
MP management ended up being key. Angelo and the Guv were both very low on MP by the end of the fight. I had to judiciously balance group healing between Angelo’s Multiheal and the Guv’s Omniheal. For Kazing I’d have Jessica handle it if possible since her MP was not a problem. Even if she was still up this wasn’t always possible. Angelo, with the Meteorite Armband (boosts agility) was the only one fast enough to reliably go before Rhapthorne without being buffed by Accelerate. So if Jessica had just been brought back her agility wasn’t high enough to guarantee going before Rhapthorne.
It was a long and interesting fight, fitting for a final battle.
Postgame Dungeons: Dragovian Path and Heavenly Dais
I remember the enemies being difficult in these two postgame dungeons and this time my memory was spot on. Pretty much everything in these two areas has tons of HP and can mess you up in some way. The trolls seem like breather enemies with only physical attacks until they start raining criticals which will take out anyone not at full health. The shadow enemies have the trait where any attack not boosted by tension does a lot less damage. So psyche up, right? Then you’ll have to survive at least one round of their assault which can include ice breath and a party-wide instant death move. One time that move took out three of my four characters.
The worst are the Belials. These guys are basically mini-bosses. Tons of HP, always take two actions each, can show up in large groups with other monsters, high physical attack, Kaboom to hit the whole party, and will psyche up to further boost their attacks. I thought they’d be vulnerable to statuses since fighting them normally is so tough but every status I tried on them failed to land. I ended up just resorting to calling my monster team half the time I fought these guys.
Postgame Boss: Dragovian Lord
An actual dragon! Like Rhapthorne, I didn’t remember this guy being too bad but then he beat me on the first try. He tends to critical on his physicals and his criticals would OHKO anyone other than Yangus, and sometimes it would OHKO Yangus too. First try he took out Angelo and Jessica in the same round leaving me without a reliable way to bring people back. That’s really the main problem with him. He has some other stuff such as a breath weapon but anytime he does something other than get a critical is a relief.
Postgame Bosses: Dragovian Trials – I didn’t do these this time around but I did on a past save. This was the majority of the PS2’s postgame. You refight the Dragovian Lord who takes on a different color with different attacks each time. I think one focused on status ailments, one on breath attacks, etc. Each form has those criticals strong enough to OHKO which tended to be the main threat. One form got to act three times and would pretty much only attack, largely regarded as the toughest form. The final trial has you go through all previous dragon phases (with less HP each) before fighting the final, ultimate form. It was one heck of an endurance test. Since physical attacks are the main threat and defense can’t really save you suddenly the best armor becomes that which boosts your evasion rate.
Conclusions and Difficulty Rating
The 3DS is Dragon Quest 8 Mobile in every sense I can think of. I would say the better experience is still the PS2 as I wasn’t wowed by the added dungeon or endings and am still a bit bummed about the music downgrade. I did like Red and Morrie and with them the step down from the PS2 is minimal. The next time I play DQ8 it may be on the 3DS anyway since it’s tough to find long blocks of time to play these days and the 3DS is much more friendly to just picking it up, playing for a bit, then putting it down without needing to track down a save point.
For difficulty, the PS2 DQ8 got 34.25, 48th out of 146, next to games like Metroid Prime 1, Mega Man X4, the original Super Mario Bros., and Mega Man X. The 3DS version got 10.98, 94th out of 146, next to games like DQ7 (3DS), DQ4 (DS), Final Fantasy X, and Zelda: Skyward Sword. That’s quite the difference. I expected it to be lower but not that much lower. In hindsight, I suppose they made a lot of changes to cut down the difference. Fights can now be dodged, level ups fully heal the character (forgot the PS2 didn’t have that), easier saving options, etc. all contributed to the lower difficulty. That said, there was still some tough spots as is typical of a DQ.
***** PLOT SECTION *****
3DS Added Scenes
The 3DS version added some scenes that the PS2 version didn’t have. One involves Dhoulmagus. If you go talk to Kalderasha he’ll pull up a vision of Dhoulmagus in his crystal ball from just before Dhoulmagus took the scepter. Dhoulmagus had faithfully served Master Rylus as Rylus’s apprentice for years. However, Rylus had refused to teach Dhoulmagus any magic and treated him like a butler. After all this time Dhoulmagus grew frustrated. One day he snuck a look at one of Rylus’s tomes which is how he learned about the scepter of Trodain. After being scolded by Rylus he ran to Trodain. He went as a jester and used what little magic he knew to put on a show. Then that night he put the guards to sleep and that’s when he took the scepter.
Dhoulmagus, before grabbing the scepter, downtrodden due to his job
Tragically, Rylus had been working on a potion to untap Dhoulmagus’s locked magical potential. By the time he finishes Dhoulmagus had the scepter and was under Rhapthorne’s murderous influence. Dhoulmagus returned to Rylus, killed him, and burned his house down. After seeing the vision Trode reflects that although Dhoulmagus was still wrong to do what he did Rylus is also to blame for having treated his apprentice so carelessly.
The other added scene I saw was when the team was put into Purgatory Island. The Guv has a dream of when he first met Princess Medea. They were kids and Medea had just lost her mother. She was very depressed and even refused to eat. King Trode and the others were very worried about her but couldn’t cheer her up. She wandered into the forest and saw a curious mouse: Munchie. Munchie led her to the Guv who was unconscious nearby. Medea went back to the castle and asked her father for help. She stayed by the Guv’s side until he woke up.
The Altar of Wroth
As mentioned above the Altar of Wroth was added to the 3DS. With it are some new scenes. The group learns of a powerful servant of Rhapthorne’s called the Juggerwroth. The sages fought Juggerwroth right after sealing Rhapthorne. They were unable to beat it so they had to seal Juggerwroth too. Now Juggerwroth is also breaking free.
The heroes confront the Juggerwroth. After a brief fight Juggerwroth uses power to paralyze the whole team, leaving them at his mercy. Before he can destroy them someone comes in to undo the spell. It’s Marcello! He appears to pay off the debt he owes Angelo for saving his life. Together, the group is able to defeat Juggerwroth. Marcello then leaves again. Though he acts cold towards Angelo there’s a hint that perhaps Marcello is finally learning to accept Angelo.
Ultimately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this addition. It’s not too intrusive so I’m not that ticked about it but I thought it was better to leave things as they were: Marcello unable to let go of his hate even after Angelo saves him. In a way, Angelo’s revenge on Marcello was to save his life, continuing to make an effort to be a brother when Marcello had always hated him. This addition seems like clear fanservice: many fans didn’t like how Marcello disappears and there’s a lot of fanfiction out there to add an epilogue to the Angelo-Marcello storyline.
The Final Battles
When we left off Rhapthorne was now fully unsealed and he’s now in his Black Citadel floating in the sky. The heroes go there for the final confrontation. Inside they find documents written by Rhapthorne’s servants about his first try at world domination. Rhapthorne planned to become rule of the Worlds of Light and Darkness by merging the two worlds so he could bring all his forces from the Dark World to conquer the Light World. He built the Black Citadel to amplify his power for this purpose. The records also mention some group called the Dragovians. They feared the Dragovians more than Empyrea and the humans yet the Dragovians had been near wiped out in the past and were nowhere to be found.
The heroes find and confront Rhapthorne, who doesn’t look as imposing as one would expect. They defeat him. The Black Citadel starts to fall apart. They escape by turning into Empyrea’s son through the Godbird Soulstone. However, a portal opens to the dark world and monsters flood out. Empyrea’s son is overwhelmed by them but is saved (and thus also the heroes) by Empyrea. With the portal open Empyrea could finally leave the Dark World. Meanwhile, Rhapthorne has consumed the Black Citadel to assume a massive final form. He also conjures up a dark shield to make him invincible.
Empyrea speaks with the heroes and tells them they need the power of the seven sages to break the seal. The sages’ souls have returned to the world in places important to them in the form of orbs. Empyrea tells the heroes to search for the orbs and gives them the Echo Flute, which will echo when an orb is nearby. The orbs are all found where the sage’s heir died. Thus, you get a quick tour around the world to remember all those killed by Rhapthorne. It’s a cool idea in theory and the orbs and Echo Flute are a great callback to Dragon Quest 3 which had a very similar quest. However, the execution feels a bit tacked on and it’s tedious just warping around the world and running to where each heir was killed.
The heroes return with the orbs to Empyrea. Empyrea had herself just searched for and found something: the scepter. The group responds with alarm but Empyrea tells them that now without Rhapthrone’s soul the scepter is an instrument of good. It was made by Empyrea and the seven sages and the sages named it the Godbird Scepter. It’ll be needed to break Rhapthorne’s shield. She then asks if the heroes are ready. As she explains how to break the shield she says a line that makes me chuckle every time I hear it: “The lord of darkness will engage you in mortal combat.”
The heroes ride Empyrea who takes them to Rhapthorne. As she instructed, the heroes are able to break the shield by calling on the power of the sages through the Godbird Scepter. They engage Rhapthorne in one final battle and defeat him.
Empyrea takes the heroes back to Trodain where Trode and Medea, still cursed, wait. Empyrea assures them that the curse is weakening and will soon wear off. Empyrea then makes to leave as this world is no longer in danger and she is going to help other worlds. As she leaves she reveals her true name is Ramia; she’s the same bird that helped the heroes of DQ3 after they revived her using the orbs of that game. I really loved that little shout-out. Shortly after she leaves the curse on Trode, Medea, and Trodain is finally lifted. The castle is restored and its people able to move in their normal bodies again. Trode calls for a grand feast.
Uncursed King Trode argues with Yangus, who maintains that Trode looks the same as he did cursed
Some months pass. The Guv is now captain of the palace guard. Yangus and Red are traveling the world finding and selling treasures. Jessica has moved back with her mom, who she has reconciled with. Angelo now takes in orphans to repay the kindness that Abbot Francisco showed him. Morrie continues to be owner of the Monster Arena. All are called together for a big job: escort Princess Medea to Savella Cathedral where she will be married to Prince Charmles. Yangus and Angelo both give their opinion that they can’t believe the wedding is still going to happen and encourage the Guv not to just blindly carry forward.
The group runs into Charmles after arriving. Charmles is still as horrible as ever and repeatedly insults the heroes as being unworthy to attend his wedding as Medea watches the scene in horror. That night, an enraged Angelo encourages the Guv to do something about this bad situation, saying he needs to protect Medea’s happiness as her bodyguard.
The next day Yangus helps the Guv break into the cathedral. Charmles immediately calls the guards. Then one appears with a message saying that Medea has disappeared. Charmles concludes that the only possibility is that the Guv kidnapped her and calls for the guards again. In the PS2 version the Guv retreats before being cornered. In the 3DS Morrie is in the temple as he’s the prestigious owner of the Monster Arena. He leaps to the Guv’s defense and covers his escape.
The Guv regroups with the other heroes. Angelo points out that Trode and Medea are surrounded by soldiers below. The Guv goes to help the royals while the rest cut off the templars that are in pursuit. After getting pushed around by templars all game it’s great to see the heroes beat them down easily.
The Guv finds Trode going all Yoda on some soldiers. Trode says he decided his daughter is more important than his country’s reputation and tells the Guv to take her away. Medea says she had resigned herself to the marriage but now knowing what Charmles is like she’d rather be a horse. She asks the Guv to take her away.
The Guv and Medea flee the wedding
A new scene is added for the 3DS which can lead to an alternate ending. Medea thanks the Guv for saving her again but notes that she can’t expect him to always be there to save her. Thus, she releases the Guv from her service and urges him to do as he wishes. The player gets to determine what happens next. The Guv can choose to stay with Medea in which case the ending proceeds as it did on the PS2: the Guv and Medea return to Trodain and go on to live happily ever after. The other choice has the Guv leave. He meets up with Jessica and the two travel the world together. Apparently there were a lot of people calling for a Guv/Jessica ending after the original game.
Postgame: The Dragovians
I generally don’t care much for RPG postgames. There’s usually no story so motivation to do them is low. I really like how DQ8 did its postgame. The main story has been concluded well enough. But there are some loose ends and questions left. What is the Guv’s backstory? Why is he immune to curses? Why did King Clavius of Argonia react so weirdly upon first seeing the Guv? Who are these Dragovians mentioned in the books in the Black Citadel?
After going through the first postgame dungeon you’ll come upon a new settlement: the Dragovian Sanctuary. Munchie runs away upon arrival. Soon after the group meets a Dragovian named Chen Mui who shows them around. The Dragovians are people who can take on dragon form. Like any self-respecting fantasy race they have a troubled history with humans and many do not take kindly to the group. Some seem to recognize the Guv or have heard of him, somehow.
However, the sanctuary is in trouble. Their leader, the Lord of the Dragovians, decided they should further distance themselves from humans by permanently taking on dragon form. Normally, assuming dragon form requires too much energy which is why the Dragovians are often in human form. The Dragovian Lord undertook a ritual to get around this. It worked, somewhat. He’s now in dragon form permanently but his energy needs are sustained by him absorbing energy from his fellow Dragovians, who are now slowly dying. They tried to get him to transform back to human but the ritual also affected his mind, making him little more than an aggressive monster. The Dragovians are now in danger of dying out. The Dragovian Elders have no other option but to ask the human heroes to help them by subduing the Dragovian Lord.
The heroes find and defeat the Dragovian Lord. Defeating him transforms him back to human and restores his mind. The Dragovians are saved. Afterwards, Chen Mui reveals much of the Guv’s backstory.
Chen Mui had a daughter named Xia. She ventured into human lands and came across Prince Eltrio of Argonia, King Clavius’s now long lost brother. It was love at first sight. When Chen Mui learned of this he split them apart, thinking a human-Dragovian romance would lead only to sorrow. Eltrio left his kingdom behind to search for Xia. He found the path that led to the Dragovian Sanctuary but, on his own, succumbed to the monsters there just before making it. Xia was crushed. It also turned out she was already pregnant with Eltrio’s child. She gave birth to a healthy son but the strain of childbirth combined with her broken heart caused her to pull a Padme and die. That child was the Guv.
Chen Mui was devastated at how things played out and vowed to raise the Guv. However, the other Dragovians, while sympathetic to the tragedy, did not trust the half-human child. They wanted to exile the boy. Chen Mui argued furiously. The Dragovians have decision making skills like Ents and so the Guv was already several years old when they reached their decision: exile.
The Dragovians could not let this child give away their existence. They put a curse on him to wipe his memory of his early years. A side effect of this curse was that it would make him immune to all other curses. This is likely unintentional but this is also a good case of Storyline and Gameplay Integration. When any other character is cursed they can’t be inflicted with curse again. Thus, it’s not as though the Guv is immune to curses; he’s permanently cursed, just in a way that doesn’t affect him in battle.
Chen Mui could not let his grandson be sent alone into a strange world with no memory. Thus, he transformed himself into Munchie to watch over the Guv. He retransforms into Munchie to join the Guv further in his travels. He also gives the Guv an Argon Ring, the one Eltrio made with the argon heart he had obtained in his own Argonian initiation and given to Xia.
The Guv wearing the Dragovian Armor
After finding out about the Guv’s lineage you can take the Dragovian Trials to gain the Dragovian gear. It’s very good stuff and getting all of it changes the Guv’s look, his only alternate outfit on the PS2 version. If you level grind to 65 (for reference, endgame levels are low 40’s and even the postgame can probably be finished around the high 50’s) the Guv learns Dragon Soul. It’s an attack that pierces defense and does a ton of damage though it also costs a lot of MP. The Guv turns into a dragon made of energy and bites and opponent.
After getting the Argon Ring there is an altered ending. Beat Rhapthorne and the ending goes on as before up until after Charmles acts like a spoiled jerk. That night Angelo remembers the Argon Ring and urges the Guv to show it to King Clavius, wondering if the knowledge that he has a nephew will change Clavius’s mind about the marriage.
The Guv shows the ring to Clavius that night and tells him the story. Clavius is shocked but ultimately believes the tale in light of the evidence and information given to him by the Guv. Nevertheless, he cannot recognize the Guv’s claim as doing so would throw Argonia into turmoil. He regretfully asks the Guv to leave.
The next day Yangus helps the Guv break into the wedding like in the first ending. This time, Clavius steps up after Charmles calls the guards. Clavius has a change of heart and declares that the Guv should marry Princess Medea. Charmles throws a tantrum and Clavius humorously restrains him. After that, Trode and Medea enter. Medea is shocked to see the Guv waiting for her at the altar.
Outside, the other PCs look pissed that the wedding went forward. Then they see the Guv and Medea step out. The entire crowd is shocked. The other heroes start a cheer for the new couple. Upon returning to Trodain Trode remarks how strange it is that the Guv would have been prince of Argonia if things had been a bit different. And the Guv and Medea live happily ever after.
The 3DS has a Jessica version of the altered ending. The Guv still urges Clavius to reconsider the wedding and Clavius gets pissed at the Guv when he hears that the Guv doesn’t want to marry Medea himself. Nevertheless, he still ends up calling off the wedding the next day. Instead, Jessica enters in a wedding gown and Jessica and the Guv get married.