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Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 - DS Review

Game Info
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2

DS | Nintendo / SQUARE ENIX | 1-8 Players (local multiplayer) / 2-8 Players (online versus) | Out Now (North America)
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16th September 2011; By Patrick

If I told a gamer to envision a game published by Nintendo where you had to collect monsters and fight other monsters, one would usually think of a Pokémon game. If I told you to envision a Dragon Quest RPG, you would probably think of something
traditional and linear in the vein of 1-9, featuring exploration, side-quests, and creative monsters. Now take those two games, shake them together, bake for a few hours, and let cool for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2.

    As you start off the game, you are a stowaway on a plane headed in the direction of a Monster Scouter tournament. Monster Scouters are humans that scout (attempt to befriend) Monsters to fight on their side. You are quickly discovered, and forced to clean up on the ship. Before you can do that, however, the ship crashes and you are forced to start scouting for monsters to defend yourself. Once you find your lost shipmates, it then becomes a mission to escape the deadly island you landed on, and make it to the competition in time.

    Most of the gameplay comes into play in the robust battle system. You can select Fight (in which your current team will just do what the game thinks is reasonable), give specific Orders, use Items, or open up the Tactics menu to determine what will happen next time you select Fight (e.g., "Show No Mercy", "Mix It Up", "Focus On Healing", and "Don't Use Magic"). You can also use the Scout option on one enemy at a time, using every monster on your team. As your monsters attack the enemy, a percentage increases, with the final number displayed representing your change of scouting it. Behind the scenes, a random number generator will run, and if the chosen number ends up in your range, the monster becomes successfully scouted.

    Scouting is not the only way to get new monsters, however. Once you meet a certain character named Dr. Lump, you will be able to synthesize old monsters into new ones, with the results being often entertaining. Some of the strongest and most creative of the over 300 monsters are synthesis-exclusive as well, so it is definitely recommended to poke around with the feature and see what you can create.

As I mentioned, you fight with three Monsters at a time in a sort of team setup -- an Active Team and a Fallback Team. Once every monster in the Active Team is KO'd, then your Fallback Team will swoop in to save the day. This system certainly allows for an extra layer of strategy, while keeping the game accessible.

    Speaking of accessibility, the game's main feature of scouting is actually very difficult at the beginning, meaning that the game is effectively gets easier as you go (especially since skill doesn't do much in the beginning to increase your odds as it is merely luck). This may alienate some, and any complaint based on this is completely justified. However, those who plan to (and do) stick around for the full game will have little to nothing to complain about come the endgame.

    This entry also features a large focus on its multiplayer aspect. There is an online mode where you can either have a Practice Battle against a random opponent or a Friend Battle using in-game friend codes, with the game tracking your results through a leaderboard that updates regularly. Local multiplayer has three features as well -- Battle Mode, a Tournament for up to 8 players, and a Monster Swap option for trading. Finally, the game also takes advantage of Tag Mode (which is predominantly useless for me in this area of the USA), where you can not only tag other copies of DQM:J2, but copies of Dragon Quest IX and VI as well. Aside from swapping monsters, Tag Mode also allows for battles, but that is only with other copies of Joker 2.

The game uses well-crafted 3D polygonal models for every character, enemy, and environment -- almost all of which are pleasant to look at (even with the stretched out resolution on a 3DS). The music is standard bouncy Dragon Quest fair, and is certainly worth having the volume on for.

    Overall, the game is fairly robust, and your enjoyment will mostly depend on how much you like Pokémon, Dragon Quest, and JRPG's in general. If you are a completionist, there is tons of content to keep you busy and happy for quite a while. The game ran me about 65 or so hours, and for $30, you really are getting a lot of great value -- something synonymous with the Dragon Quest name, lately. For those that are able to play the multiplayer especially, you will be extraordinarily pleased with this game. However, this game is not one to just try and give up on, as it takes some serious getting into to truly experience. One thing that hardcore Dragon Quest fans will need to take into account is that this is not the superior "Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 Professional" with extra content, but the game has enough content as it is to more than justify a purchase.

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Great mix of JRPG and monster collecting elements, long story, synthesizing useful for stronger monsters, very difficult at start
Presentation 9/10 - Pleasant to look at 3D Models and environments, music new yet familiar
Enjoyment 3/5 - Dependant entirely on interests in JRPG's or monster capturing games, must be given chance
Extra Content 5/5 - Tons of multiplayer options, long campaign, over 300 monsters to collect to round out playing experience for completionists

Equivalent to a score of 80% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by Patrick

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 
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