Review
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 11th, 2011

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In my opinion, any RPG-type video game that wishes to present a robust gaming experience had better have a healthy amount of variety to make up for the eventual monotony of the fights. This is usually done with a good story, equipment sets, and “internal” character customization. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, from Square Enix, seems to have all three of those going for it – but is that enough to make it a worthwhile endeavor? The answer may surprise you, as there is a fourth element that was a surprise to me!

In the introduction, you find out that the character you are portraying is a Monster Scout (one who tames and trains monsters) who has stowed away aboard an airship so that he might participate in a Monster Scout tournament. Of course, not everything goes according to plan and the airship crashes, leaving you and the other passengers stranded on an island filled with wild monsters. In your quest to survive and rescue your fellow passengers (who have become lost), you will end up taming many monsters and discovering that the island has a very interesting secret!

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“Excuse me. Can you tell me how to get to the South Pole?”

As fantastic as the introduction is, I have a beef with it: you can’t skip or save during this lengthy presentation. This is quite annoying; I started this game while traveling on the subway, but ended up running into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Opting to be courteous, I tried to save – but I could not; I simply closed my 3DS, opting to suspend the game. Unfortunately, I ran out of power and had to restart the game – leading to me watching the intro all over again. But I digress…

To find your fellow passengers, you will have to explore the island (which is surprisingly large). The airship Albatross acts as your base of operations and as you unlock areas, they will become available for teleport travel. During these travels, you will encounter monsters (of all sizes) as well as items that can be collected. This portion is fairly straightforward and you will be able to keep track of where you are and where you have been thanks to a handy map that is continuously updated as you discover new areas.

Combat is very straightforward – every round you select your commands and your party will carry out your bidding. Your party can hold up to six monsters (only three can be in the fight at a time – but you can swap them out). You can give direct tasks to the monsters (attack, heal, etc.) as well as to the handler (who can only use items). Your monsters’ behaviour can be modified to change their fighting tactics – allowing them to be as aggressive or defensive as you want.

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This is what happens when you add a SlapChop™ to the synthesis…

You also have the option to try and capture your opponents: basically, your monsters will try and impress their enemies with a show of force, which may or may not lead the opposing creature to switch sides. You can track your chance of success with a percentage gauge that pops up when you attempt to “scout” a monster. The higher the percentage, the higher the chance that the monster will swing over to your side. The problem is that even with a high chance of success, you can still be shot down, leaving you to dispose of the monster (the Scout option becomes unavailable after a “dis”). This can be pretty frustrating; putting work into wooing a decent monster only to be given the finger is pretty disheartening. Of course, conversely, you can try and pull a long shot deal by going for a very powerful monster and still wooing it with a threadbare sweater’s chance in a fire.

The coolest feature of DQMJ2 is the synthesis feature: combining multiple monsters to make a new one. It is a pretty awesome twist to a traditional formula that will make you very happy to level-grind the hell out of this game. Once creatures reach level 10, they can be combined with other creatures. The resulting creature will have some of the special powers of the originals, but it will also be sent back to level one. There are a lot of places to grind in the game without losing your posse, so if you have got the time, you can create some kick-ass monsters.

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This is what happens when you incorporate the Three Stooges into your synthesis…

Graphics for the cut-scenes are quite awesome, to be honest. It is a shame that the detail from the cut-scenes did not make it into the game proper. That being said, the visuals for the main adventure (including the fights) get the job done in an adequate fashion. Music is also not terribly engaging, but in all honesty, that’s not really why I was playing this game. I was so busy watching the goofy fight animations and helping my creatures get stronger that I didn’t really bother listening to the music that much.

Multi-player features include Tagging (which allows you to grab monsters from previous versions of Dragon Quest) and wireless battles. Whether you choose to play multi-player or not, you will most likely have to spend a lot of time playing the single-player mode to beef up your synthesized characters.

Having never really tried a previous game in this franchise, I was quite surprised how much fun I had playing this game. The typical elements are well-crafted, and the synthesizing mode is an amazing feature that will keep you playing long after you should have gone to bed. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is available for the Nintendo DS.

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