Gotta scout them all
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, from Square Enix, is a spin off from the popular Dragon Quest games in which the player is challenged to collect monsters and use them to fight other monsters as they head for the Monster Scout Challenge and attempt to become the very best Monster Scout they can be.
The player begins as a Monster Scout wannabe, with dreams of becoming the best, but without a monster to their name. Stowing away on an airship headed towards the famed Monster scout Challenge, the player is discovered just before the airship crashes on a mysterious island. The rest of the passengers are lost and it comes down to the player, complete with the only monster left on the airship, to explore the island, find the other passengers and perhaps collect a few extra monsters for their team.
Realistically, that is pretty much all that the story has to offer. Side quests will be offered during the journey, that give a bit of variety and direction. But the largest part of the game will be spent fighting and trying to convince monsters to join your team and fight on your behalf.
Some of you may have noticed at this point that there are some similarities to a popular pocket monster collecting game. It is true to say that the games are very similar, but Joker 2 has a few fundamental differences that improve on the formula set by Pokemon.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference is that Joker 2 is actually 3D. This makes quite the difference in terms of gameplay, as the player can easily avoid conflicts with wandering monsters just by walking around them. But it also makes quite a difference in the way that the game looks. Everything looks really nice on the small screen and it makes the game feel more “up to date”. The controls take into account the added necessity of controlling the camera by applying the shoulder buttons to move the camera around the player and tilting the view up or down can be achieved by pressing B and either up or down on the d-pad. At times the camera does get a little fiddly, especially in tight spaces, but overall it works very well.
The player will be able to see various wild monsters roaming in the distance and walking up to them will instigate a battle. Battles work by facing off the players monsters, up to a team of three, against the wild monsters. They then take it in turns to fight, use items, flee or scout. Scouting is how the player convinces wild monsters to join their team, and involves the monsters basically showing off how impressive they are. This displays a percentage chance of the monster joining the team, with the percentage increasing if the monster has already been weakened in combat. Annoyingly, quite often the monster you are attempting to capture will become “offended” and bring an end to the players chance of scouting it.
Doing battle will award all of the monsters in the active team, whether they actually fought or not, with experience which allows the monsters to level up and become more powerful. Every so often the monsters will be awarded with points that they can spend on new attacks or skills, giving the player more control over how their monsters evolve. There are over 300 monsters to collect in the game, most of which will be familiar to players of the other Dragon Quest games, with the iconic Slimes being encountered very early in the game.
Things get even more interesting later in the game once the player begins synthesising their monsters, combining two monsters to make one unique and much more powerful creature. synthesis cannot begin until the parent monsters have reached level 10 and the resulting monsters will inherit some of the skills from the parents, but be dropped down to level one for the grinding process to begin again.
Which is perhaps the biggest flaw of Joker 2, the constant grinding. Such a huge amount of time will be spent fighting monsters to gain experience and level up, that things can get a little stale. Whilst the grinding could be forgiven if there were plenty of other distractions in the game, sadly the most interesting parts of the game are reliant on teh grinding, so players that want to advance and get the most out of Joker 2 had better develop a fondness for constantly battling monsters for experience.
There are some decent multiplayer features to be found in the game. Tag Mode allows player to try and capture monsters from other peoples games. This is not just limited to Joker 2, but also Dragon Quest VI and IX can offer up some new monsters. There are also multiplayer battles to be had over wifi, giving the player the chance to really be the best.
Much like the popular Pokemon games, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 will still get under your skin and drive you on to be the best. In many ways, the game feels like a more mature version of Pokemon. Sure, the monsters are kind of silly (Beware the Muddy Hands), but the features and even the way that the game looks seem to be more grown up. Being more mature does come with a negative side though, in that the game feels like more hard work and just not as much fun.
If you are a Pokemon fan, have played the previous Joker game or just fancy collecting monsters, Joker 2 can and will give you hours of entertainment. It doesn’t quite have the appeal, or the polish, of the Pokemon games. But it comes pretty damn close and as such is certainly worth picking up.