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Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 DS Review

30/10/2011 Artistic Novel Gamer Review
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Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 DS

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2




Further reading:
Dragon Quest VI (DS)
Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)
Monster Hunter 3G (3DS)

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Other GamePeople columnists have reviewed this from their perspective - huh?:
Odyssey Gamer (DS)

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 expands the Dragon Quest universe into well-trod territory and provides a fun but non-essential diversion.

So, to clear things up: Team monster number 1 is using a mix of magic and basic attacks aimed at the nearest enemy. Team monster number 2 is using a specific ability on the same enemy as Team monster number 1. Team monster number 3 is using healing on Team monster number 1 unless he knocked out in which case 3 will heal 2. Or himself. Possibly.

Okay guys, now go! Ooh good hit! Hang on, wait! Don't hit that one I need to capture it! No, wait! Oh ... dammit.

Can anyone remind me why I'm doing this?

There's no denying that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is essentially Pokemon based on Dragon Quest's own range of creatures and world culture. Rather than fighting himself, DQM's hero acquires a range of captured creatures to fight on his behalf, learn skills and level up in a journey to complete the adventure and collect one of every species in the game.

It's not a comparison that DQM: Joker 2 comes out of very well. Somehow the compulsive thrill of collection has not been carried over with the rest of the influences. It feels much more like an arms race to catch the biggest and most powerful creatures in order to equip the hero; a little like visiting each weapon and armour shop in an RPG to keep up with the next most powerful equipment in the game. While Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 does provide multiplayer battling online there is a noticeable lack of trading options, so once again the monsters take second place.

It is very engaging to explore the Dragon Quest world from a more immersive view

I also found it odd that the creatures themselves needed to be equipped with weapons and equipment in order to fight well. It seemed to me that the creatures actually took on more of the traditional role of a role-playing party. This view is backed up that the battles use three of the monsters at once, like a party battle, rather than the 1v1 challenge of Pokemon. I'm not saying that every monster collection game has to function like Pokemon, but to me this shifted focus away from the skills, stats and appeal of an individual creature is what strips Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 of Pokemon's effortless charms.

Even taken at its own merits, I found that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 has a fiddly and unfriendly combat system. It is at its most frustrating when trying to capture a new creature from within a mixed group of monsters. Here the challenge to apply sufficient damage to make the creature susceptible to capture is unevenly balanced with the likelihood of causing an unintentional kill. As the story above indicates it is all too easy for battles to have unexpected consequences.

Visually, it's a very different game to the recent Dragon Quest VI (DS). With a third-person view to control the character and creatures displayed in the environment (rather than appearing randomly from thin air) DQM: Joker 2 looks and feels more like a scaled-down version of Monster Hunter Tri (Wii).

It is very engaging to explore the Dragon Quest world from a more immersive view than the top-down perspective of the main series. However the quality of the graphics takes a huge hit in the translation and - compared to Dragon Quest's traditionally rich and characterful locations - I thought the levels were a bland set of halls and corridors. The rich and stylised visual look of the series has been heavily compromised.

I found that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 has a fiddly and unfriendly combat system

Where Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 does redeem itself is in the quality of the adventure itself. From the opening drama to gradually unfolding mysteries and a real sense of exploring an epic world it's an interesting story in itself. I became far more interested in the events which befall the hero and his companions than many adventures. The suspense which the story generated kept me hooked for a time.

For me it's still not enough to maintain my interest in the long term. It occupies an odd space between Pokemon and Monster Hunter and I can't really recommend this title over either of those other games, especially with Monster Hunter 3G (3DS) around the corner. Having said that, if you are an ardent role-playing collect-a-thon fan who has caught every last Poke and filled all the Monster Hunter Notes then Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 may provide an entertaining distraction.

Written by Chris Jarvis

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Chris Jarvis writes the Novel Gamer column.

"I write stories to say what I think about games, for me it's the only way I can really communicate what I feel about them. Do you ever have a response to something that's hard to put into words? I find that sometimes I have something to express that can't be communicated by trying to explain how I feel, directly."

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