Ah, Dragon Quest VIII. Fine, fine old-school RPG goodness. Love the setting, love the graphics, love the battles. Would have been nicer to have more optional quests in the beginning, but I always feel that way.
But it does have a few flaws:
When you first get the ship, odds are even the “easy” sea monsters will be a challenge at that level. In addition, the directions you get to the next place you’re supposed to go (which also happens to be the best place to rest and save) aren’t clear enough. It should have been marked on the map or something. I might have gotten discouraged after the first time the party was wiped out if I hadn’t had the guide and figured out exactly where to go next.
Much later in the game, when you finally fight Dhoulmagus, it’s too friggin’ tough. See: you already have plenty of motivation to hate the guy. He’s a Sephiroth-style (no, I don’t mean he’s a manipulative, mentally unstable freak who has the same hair style as his adopted sister, I mean he’s a powerful murderous looney who gives the player good reason to hate him) villain, big on melodrama and murder and taunting the player through the heroes. But in addition to that, if Angelo specifically isn’t level 30 or higher, he’s literally impossible to beat.
I tried every combination of alchemy, going back and finding all the attribute seeds I could, doing all the sidequests I could, finding all the legendary monsters for my monster party… but in the end, according to the GameFAQ I read (http://www.gamefaqs.com) you really need to have Angelo at level 30 and that’s the only way to beat Dhoulmagus simply because of the skills Dhoulmagus has and the skills the party has. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gotten all the best armor, found and used every attribute seed you can, and done everything else. You must have Angelo at level 30 so you can have the Multiheal spell because otherwise Dhoulmagus just does too much damage per round to too many of your heroes and it’s inevitable that you’ll fall behind with the healing spells and/or simply run out of MP.
This wouldn’t annoy me half as much if the game told you that there was one solution to this particular fight when the entire rest of the game you have several different options on how to proceed(alchemy, buying armor, fighting monsters, searching for treasure, completing side-quests et cetera). You can’t enter Arcadia or open up some of the coolest areas in the rest of the world until Dhoulmagus is dead. The only way to defeat Dhoulmagus is to have Angelo at level 30. You can try to beat him and try to beat him and get a tiny bit further each time because you’ve done everything else short of levelling up Angelo that little bit more. But without Multiheal, there’s just no way to do enough damage per round before everyone’s HP or MP run out.
So that’s quite annoying. For the most part, other than the fact that you can’t reassign skill points if you make a mistake (grumble, grumble, grumble) the character advancement system is nice, simple and particularly neat because each character’s potential skill set fits their personalities. In general, the only complaints I have are that Yangus learns absolutely no skills apart from assigning skill points (whereas the other heroes all learn certain skills/spells just for being a certain level) and that Angelo’s sword and charisma skills are not even close to as useful as they should be.
I think that covers all of my complaints. In general, DQ8 is a fine game, but a few flaws that really necessitate looking at a guide or FAQ keep it from being perfect. On the other hand, it’s (generally) a fair challenge without being too easy like a lot of the Final Fantasy games. Only the Dhoulmagus battle is a serious pain, and the other bosses can all be beaten with perseverance or going back and getting better prepared.