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Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Square Enix has seen massive success with the Dragon Quest Monsters series in Japan over the years, with the three DS iterations showing spectacular performances in terms of sales. Now, though, Nintendo is supporting the developer by publishing Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 in both the US and Europe to help expand the series in Western territories. Is this latest DS release exactly what fans of Pokémon Black and Pokémon White should be looking at following the conclusion of that pocket monster adventure?

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 starts off with a young boy who is eagerly trying to make his way to the annual Monster Scout Challenge in order to show off his skill at training wild beasts, assembling them into ferocious, undefeatable teams and aiming to become the world champion. In order to reach the Monster Arena, however, he is forced to stow away on the Albatross, a rickety old airship heading in that direction. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse when the ship is waylaid by a brutal storm that tears them from the proposed course, leaving the craft to crash-land on a strange island, scattering the passengers far and wide, in danger of being hurt by the weird and wonderful creatures all over. Suddenly the wannabe World Champion must turn hero and save the day.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The protagonist of Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 starts with just the one monster that can be used to battle against others, with the ultimate aim of capturing more, and the similarities between this game and Pokémon definitely stand out, especially given the fact that most copycat products have faded away considerably over the years, whilst Nintendo’s series has continued with great strength. The story is thankfully more in-depth than that found in the recent Pokémon Black / White DS games, although even then it hardly pushes the boat out. Captain Rex Mayday, the head of the Albatross, takes pity on the young stowaway, tasking him with helping other passengers after discovering the lad’s hiding place (prior to crashing on the island), which is why the hero has no qualms working together with Rory Bellows, the ship’s chief engineer, to help retrieve the likes of Archie Logg, who wants to learn more about the origins of monsters, the stuck up Lily Gilder, old timer Eugene Poole who has entered every tournament since it first began, and young Melonie who wishes to become a Monster Scout assistant.

One of the key differences is that battles are not random, meaning that just as in TOSE’s previous Dragon Quest Monsters release on DS, the player can pick and choose what fights they wish to take part in. There are times where an enemy will spot you and give chase, but in most cases escaping from the ‘savage’ beasts is easy. Obviously, though, people abusing this approach will find progress extremely slow as the story develops, since their team will barely be able to scrape through any of the mandatory battles found along the way. In addition to this fundamental difference to Pocket Monsters, rather than throwing Pokéballs at creatures, instead there is a monster scouting ability, which is basically an intimidation rate inflicted by your team upon whatever opponent is being faced. The more powerful the squad (a team of three, with three others in reserve that can be changed out of battle), the higher the chance of other monsters becoming scared into submission and joining forces with you. It may seem random, but actually having a success rate meter on-screen helps the player get a greater understanding of why they succeed or fail in a capture attempt.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Other than the basics of monster scouting to raise the strongest team possible via plenty of turn-based battling, and the intriguing story revolving around rescuing the crew of the Albatross, on the path to the annual tournament you will be tasked with numerous quests around the different regions, some of which are compulsory to advance the adventure, whilst others are voluntary for those wanting to get the most out of Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2. Some only appear when revisiting areas and others at specific times of day or night, and even in particular weather conditions! There is plenty of variety to keep players on their toes, encouraging full exploration of the map shown on the touch-screen. If that was not enough, there is a synthesis mode that opens up quite early on where two monsters can be spliced together with all sorts of end results. The fun factor of synthesising monsters is finding whether the beast created is a real beauty or not, in terms of how powerful they are.

The world of Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is chock full of all sorts of wonderful treats, with stone monuments that bestow new skills and abilities, special plants that can be collected, teleportation areas, and, of course, plenty of monsters to meet and capture, spanning seven family groupings (Material, Demon, Undead, and Dragon, for instance).

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The solo mode is not the only way to enjoy the game, however, with the opportunity to share data in Tag mode, take part in both wireless and online Wi-Fi battles, plus enter into worldwide tournaments. In Tag it is possible to connect with owners of both Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Reverie and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies as well, scouting for monsters in those mainline RPGs and battling whilst on even having to have your DS open (or affecting the main game). In the general wireless option, using multi-card play it is possible to have simple one-on-on fights, or set up personal tournaments with seven other friends.

When playing amongst friends grow tiresome, though, the Wi-Fi World Tournament beckons, where Friend Codes do not necessarily have to be used in order to jump into matches. Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection it is possible to join in with the World Monster Championship, competing against people from all over the globe, matched with those of similar strength so as to avoid a huge disparity in levels: Rookie, Scout, Super Scout, Mega Scout and Ultra Scout are available. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is far and away the best entry in the long-running series so far, clearly trying to beat Nintendo and Pokémon at their own game. This should definitely be kept in mind for those finishing up with Pokémon Black and Pokémon White and looking for more of a challenge.

Screenshot for Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Smart turn-based battling, a decent monster scouting function, wide range of critters to collect, and heaps of objectives throughout all help to make this the best entry in the series so far.

Graphics

Interesting characters, highly detailed locations and some of the strongest 3D polygonal visuals found on Nintendo DS.

Sound

The usual Dragon Quest fare, as expected, with some highly impressive orchestral-sounding music, albeit not quite as high in terms of quality as most of the mainline RPG adventures.

Value

Over 300 monsters to catch, an intriguing storyline, plenty of quests to undertake, and heaps of multiplayer content to keep even the most die-hard monster collector happy.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Square Enix and development team TOSE have delivered yet another superb entry into the series that may not challenge Pokémon in terms of worldwide sales, but certainly does match it in many ways in the quality stakes. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is a worthy sequel and a perfect next step for anyone eager for more creature capturing and battling following the adventure in Pokémon Black and Pokémon White.

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03.12.2011

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Developer

TOSE

Publisher

Square Enix

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Aug 2011   North America release date Sep 2011   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Jay (guest) 06.12.2011 15:17#1

Hows the story compared to the first game, as that one bored me to tears, did they put more effort in this time?

AdamC3 (guest) 06.12.2011 16:57#2

It's still pretty thin on the ground, but certainly has more meat to it than Pokemon Black/White!

DQM: J isn't a patch on this sequel!

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