“A sceptre spoken of in lore…
And sealed away since days of yore,
Unleashes it’s forbidden power,
And heralds Trodain’s darkest hour.”
Though Dragon Quest: Journey of The Cursed King’s opening text doesn’t tell you much you’ll find out soon enough that it was stolen by the malicious jester, Dhoulmagus, who you, along with the cursed king and his also cursed daughter are now hunting in hopes of reverting the damage he’s done.
What is it about jesters that make them such noteworthy and lovable villains? You‘ve got Joker, Cicero (who I was never too fond of but know plenty who were) and, as we will be talking about today, Dhoulmagus. Maybe it’s their campiness? Let me tell you that Dhoulmagus is wonderfully campy whilst also being an adequately malicious figure to warrant you chasing him halfway around the world.
I played Dragon Quest VIII shortly after it came out way back in 2006, and it remains one of my favourite games to this day (it’s just annoying that I can’t play it now). This was in no small part due to the characters, most of which I have a strong memory of, Dhoulmagus definitely being one of them, despite having less to say than many other characters on account of the fact that you are chasing him, he generally doesn’t stop for a chat. The first time you actually catch up to him in game is at a place called Maella Abbey, home of the religious head of the game world. Hmm, home of the religious leader of the world and you encounter the big bad there. What could possibly happen I wonder? Alright I’ll tell you, no need to twist my arm, Yangus says, “COR BLIMEY!” – there I told you. Oh, and the Abbot is killed too.
The DQ series is one that mainly takes the standard JRPG approach to combat with just a few exceptions (Swords, Heroes). And as a high level JRPG boss grinding is definitely a part of it, which, if you’ve done before, can get very tedious, very fast if you don’t like it. It’s not too bad if you opt for the ‘do all fights’ method which I used, wherein whenever combat started, I wouldn’t flee, I may have tried to intimidate the enemies into fleeing which earned no exp. but I didn’t want fleeing on my battle record. As such I don’t recall the fight with him requiring me to reload to an earlier save for several hours of monster mashing fighting monsters.
That’s not to say he was an easy fight, in fact his powerful magic and penchant to rid your party of tension (a resource for stronger attacks or abilities) was only relieved by his own view of humour in the situation, when he would spend his turn ‘laughing loudly’. But you’ve spent the game chasing him down and it’s a JRPG so after you defeat him, second form. Where he turns into a bipedal bird-man thing, he keeps his main palette of purple and red. Which is always good. There’s only one thing we could have said if this wasn’t the case: “Such a pity…”
That being the Jester’s catchphrase uttered in almost every one of his scenes, that, along with his laughter and his insistence on referring to King Trode (the titular cursed king) as King Trode are the things that really cemented in my mind. I mentioned that the characters are a huge part of the game and this was heavily compounded by the voice acting. DQ VIII was the first game (and still the only one in the main numeric series) to feature voice acting, which, though sometimes a bit artifact-y, I found to be terrific on all fronts.
The game was originally released in Europe for the PS2 in 2006. It has since been released on Android and iOS only last year. It’s also been ported to 3DS but yet to have localization confirmed outside of Japan (I’m still waiting for the localization of Dragon Quest X thank you very much!) But alas, I can’t indulge in the tablet version due to lack of hardware, and though I could get a tablet I’m now torn between such and getting a PS4 for Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below (Quite the mouthful isn’t it?). Or the title I like to give it Dragon Quest: Save the Cheerleader, Dragon Quest: Save the World.