It is no secret that the Pokémon franchise has made quite a name for itself. The premise of a young boy set out on adventure and hell-bent on collecting and enslaving every single organic life-form out there may sound a little stale, though Nintendo has always maintained quality throughout all of its titles. And where there are fans, there are sales, so in comes Square Enix for its take on the monster hunting franchise. And though the company is no newcomer to the series of dungeon crawling micro-beasts, the first three releases of Dragon Quest Monsters appeared around the coming of the new millennia left a something to be desired.
...if level grinding for most of the entirety of the 50 hours you may put into this quest are your thing, than Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is the perfect pocket-sized monster hunting game for you.
So, enter Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, the fourth iteration in Enix's take on the not-so popular series. What's obvious and very nice from the get-go is Joker's ability to maintain several memorable aspects from earlier Dragon Quest games, the first notably being Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for the PlayStation 2. Joker sports a cel-shaded universe with classic characters fleshed out with 3D models. For stylistic approaches, they all carry the same thin black outlined design from the past game, which makes everything in Joker stand out, if your character's hair didn't do enough of that already. The game is beautiful, second to perhaps Dementium: The Ward or Tales of Innocence on the DS in terms of 3D production. The art style is also a staple in the franchise, and Akira Toriyama returns once again, for better or worse.
Much like that "other" series, your family charges you with rushing off to the monster hunters competition a few islands away to travel the world in the hopes of becoming the greatest hunter there is (for you, but its mostly intel for your father). Progressing through the game naturally offers more and more different monsters of higher and higher levels for you to fight, persuade, and eventually train on your own.
Combat is very much like Dragon Quest VIII, though in place of controlling either the Hero, Yangus, Jessica or Angelo in a row of threes, your protagonist takes a back seat while summoning up to three of his most worthy monsters to duke it out with other potentially recruitable beasts. It's nothing new here, though the inclusion of being able to recruit monsters is a nice touch, depends entirely on how well you can impress them. Recruiting monsters is much simpler this time around by using the Scout command, which is more or less a fake attack which depending on how much damage is done can either impress or reject a monster from joining your party. Recruiting equal level monsters is incredibly simple, though getting the ones you want may require some level grinding. This is where the game slows down to a crawl.
Though the pacing is quite nice for a 40 hour quest, you spend way too much time gallivanting about the land to just level up. The scenery may be pretty, but it's a chore to go through. It has Wi-Fi play, but you're more or less forced to play against players with maxed out stats, resulting in boring and repetitive fights. It maintains that classic, epic feel of scaling that most Dragon Quest games simply refuse to forfeit over for better plans, but if level grinding for most of the entirety of the 50 hours you may put into this quest are your thing, than Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is the perfect pocket-sized monster hunting game for you. If not, you might want to forego this quest for something a little more peaceful and forgiving. Like gardening.