Easy to Moderate COMPLETION TIME

20-40 Hours OVERALL

+ Solid battle system

+ Nice starting class lineup

+ Interesting characters

– Story never really takes off

– Graphically dated

– More DS RPGs out there

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Plenty of Dragon Quest games have made their way stateside, and many of them have been of the simulation type. Asuka sung into utter oblivion by the Hero of Dragon Quest V in order to break a curse comes to mind. Square-Enix decided to take that route once more with Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, an entirely separate series from the main games. As one could expect, the gameplay centers around creating monsters and using them to battle others in order to build up vacancies in the Monster Scout Rank. Those that the hero captures will level up and, depending on the SPECIES of monsters, grow powerful enough to evolve into something entirely different. Unfortunately, the game’s enjoyment will be largely dependent on the time spent in the dungeons while the story and presentation are notable, but noticeably lacking. Joker uses Square’s patented “one-shot, enemies turn” system for battle. Those who have played other Square games, such as the Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest spinoff series Itadaki Street, should have little difficulty adjusting. The protagonist commands a party of three monsters in any given battle, and everything is done in real-time. Those monsters that have been captured or created will level up as they fight, unlocking new skills that can get enemies in critical condition or even keep a fight from even starting in the first place. In addition, each species of monster have certain abilities they can use when they join the cast, such as taking specific items to level up (in the case of the tweak) or taking away attributes from enemies (slimer). Of course, those monsters have their element type as well, like any other RPG, which can be used to create rock-paper-scissor oriented chains of attacks pokemon-style in order to gain an advantage. Unfortunately, the formula is nothing revolutionary, with no real twist or differences to be found in comparison with any other “let’s capture stuff and use them in battle” RPG out there. The game also borrows a bit from the pokemon series in another way with the use of provisions. In each dungeon, the hero will find chests with random items he can use in battle. Some will attack, others will create status effects, while others still can heal those monsters currently in rotation. For those who don’t really want to grind through dungeons, there’s always the Wi-Fi abilities that allow players to create, upload, download, scout or even battle other trainers. Those who make use of these abilities will unlock an even more powerful monster that fits the current circumstances of the game. One pitfall the most people will take notice of with Joker is the story. It’s merely there to move the game along; most of the time the protagonist will be sent to a given area in order to capture or scout specific monsters according to the mission. The plot tries to tie itself to Joker’s pathetic past of feeling useless and inferior to those around him by trying him out as a dinosaur tamer which happens to be part of the plot, but it quickly becomes generic and predictable enough to lack feeling. Supporting characters are more interesting than Joker, since they are specific and lend a helping hand when it’s needed. At least the game provides a light non-serious tone most of the time, which helps players not to take the game too seriously. Unfortunately, the 2D-sprite-oriented aesthetic makes Joker look like a game out-of-date. While some may enjoy the art style, others may consider it too old for their tastes. Sound is as one may expect: no real recognizable tracks, other than the classic battle/victory jingles, and sound effects are almost nonexistent. The downside of all this is that Joker will usually only appeal to those who enjoy the Dragon Quest universe and will likely pass by for those with no fondness to Square’s classic RPG series. While it certainly is not a bad title, Joker is clearly not the best effort of Square-Enix either, with an experience that easily surpassable by other Nintendo DS RPGs of a similar nature, such as Final Fantasy: Revenant Wings, or even the (now classic) Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is an OK title, which may be a letdown for diehard fans expecting something as good as the actual games in the main series. At least its accessible nature allows for those who want to experience the joys of commanding a dragonslaying party without having to play the RPGs themselves. Review Archives

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