I’ve committed the journalistic sin of not finishing the game I was assigned. I hope I can be forgiven, but I’ll settle for some understanding. We’ve all been there: playing a perfectly decent game and being bored. It would be different if the game was bad: I love playing bad games, savouring every glitch, every poorly written line of dialogue, every weapon imbalance, ready to skewer it. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is just uninteresting, and it’s hard to be interesting about an uninteresting game.
Again, I want to stress that Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 isn’t a bad game. Its formula is well-worn and that’s one problem with it: explore various regions in slightly ugly 3D and use your monsters to battle against other monsters. You can also capture them, and breed them with other monsters to get even stronger monsters. The series hasn’t changed significantly in its twelve year run. The Joker series* added 3D and multiplayer and nixed the random encounters, but overall these are old ideas.
The landscapes are unimaginative, but not bad. The camera doesn’t respond most of the time. The game lets you issue commands to your team of three monsters, but they’re fine fighting under the AI you assign them. It’s refreshing that the game can handle itself most of the time. There’s also the added benefit that while you only have a three monster team, and three substitutes, all of your monsters, even ones back at base, get experience with every battle.
The structure of the game itself is uninspired, but, again, competent. Every new area opens up a quest, usually involving one of your crew mates – oh wait, did I forget to mention the plot? Well, you’re going to a monster fighting tournament and the zeppelin you’re stowing away on crashes (Oh the humanity!) and you have to find a way off the island with the crew. The amount of time it took you to read that paragraph is probably the amount of time it took them to write the plot. Where was I? Oh, yes, unlocking new areas happens by fighting in tournaments. The monsters are letter-graded, so each new area ups the ante and offers new monsters. The monsters themselves are cringe-worthy: Akira Toriyama’s 2D artwork is lush and full of character. In 3D, it comes across as grotesque and seems lifeless when the 3D is meant to convey just the opposite.
There’s also the elephant in the room: While the monster hoarding idea originated in Dragon Quest 5, Pokemon has since been the de facto monster collection game. The comparison is doubly hurtful because Pokemon manages to be so charming and full of life, qualities noticeably absent in DQM:J 2. Without Pokemon it might have come across as somewhat novel, but instead it makes a thoroughly boring game seem all the more lacklustre.