previews\ Oct 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm


The Dragon Quest series hasn’t been hugely successful in the US, often overshadowed by the Final Fantasy series in the console RPG realm. However, in their homeland of Japan, the series is one of the biggest there is, with each entry selling tons of copies within days of their release. The series has also produced some off-shoots, including the Dragon Quest Monsters series. Since debuting on the Game Boy Color several years ago, the Monsters series has been offering up an intriguing twist between the original series and Pokemon, with monster collecting and combat elements coupled with Dragon Quest’s unique art style courtesy of acclaimed artist Akira Toriyama.

Now the series is getting ready to debut on the Nintendo DS with Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker. This entry to the series ramps up the presentation substantially, offering a more story driven experience than previous entries, improving the gameplay, and adding gorgeous graphics in line with the latest PS2 game in the Dragon Quest franchise, Dragon Quest VIII. For fans of the series anxiously awaiting the ninth entry, DQ Monsters: Joker should be a worthy way to pass the time.

The gameplay is a bit similar to Pokemon, but not so similar that it’s a straight clone. Fundamentally, you’ll do the same things, as in capture enemies and have them fight for you, taking advantage of their unique strengths on the battlefield.

However, there are some key differences that make it different. Prior to getting into a scuffle with an enemy, you’ll be able to see them on the battlefield, and be able to decide whether or not you’ll want to engage them or leave them be. Once in battle, you can set your team’s attack tactics, having them attack a certain enemy or perform a given command once the turn begins.

Drafting enemies into your group also differs a bit from the Pokemon games. Instead of chucking a poke-ball or something at your intended target, you’ll have to have your current crop of monsters try to intimidate them into joining. You’ll build up a meter, and the higher the percentage, the greater your chance for success in recruiting.

You’ll be able to outfit your monsters with weapons and armor. Depending on their race, you’ll be able to give them different weapons, like staves and swords.

Graphically, the game has the same kind of cel-shaded aesthetic as Dragon Quest VIII, and looks excellent on the DS. The character models are very well designed, and the enemies look great and are teeming with personality. Fans of the series will recognize familiar characters from the Dragon Quest universe.

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is shaping up to be a fine entry in the series, and looks leaps and bounds beyond the previous entries in the series. Look for a full review in the coming weeks.

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