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Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (ドラゴンクエストモンスターズ ジョーカー) is a Nintendo DS role playing game published by Square Enix, and is the latest installment of the Dragon Quest Monsters series. Square Enix released the game on December 28, 2006 in Japan, selling 593,994 units in the first four days after release, and in the first 4 weeks it reached 1 million copies. It was released in North America on November 6, 2007.
This is the first game in the series to have online play, via Nintendo Wi-Fi. Like the other games in the series, the character and monster designs are credited to long-time Dragon Quest series artist, Akira Toriyama.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is the first game in the Dragon Quest Monsters series to be in 3D, and the first game developed by TOSE. It uses the Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King game engine out of battle, uses cel-shaded animation, and the battles are of the same type: commands are issued in a turn based style, then are executed in full 3D.
The battle system itself is very similar to previous Dragon Quest Monsters games. The player controls up to three monsters that make up the party, and can issue them direct orders or set them to one of 5 AI settings. The main character does not directly participate in battles except for when the player uses items.
Joker does not have random battles. The only way to encounter enemies is to run into one on the overworld. The monsters can be seen, avoided, and attacked from their back to get a free attack round. Later on, the player gets the Whistle ability. This can be used at any time, other than in the city and where monsters don't appear, and in a way does count as a random battle as the enemies are randomly chosen.
The game takes place in the region known as Green Bays, consisting of seven islands. A jet-ski is used to travel from one island to another, with specific paths defined for every couple of piers. However, the main character may notice uncharted islands beyond some of the main islands. The chances for this are completely random and are not located on the main map.
The game also has a Nintendo Wi-Fi element. The player connects to the server, and their monster team is ranked. The DS then downloads a set of opponents to battle. The battles are against the monster teams of higher and higher ranked other players. For each battle you win, you get a reward, either an item or a monster. These rewards change daily and can range from unexciting items to rare monsters such as liquid metal slimes. This feature is designed to be used once per day. The player can only fight one set of opponents, and get a reward once each day.
The player gets more monsters by scouting them. Unlike previous games in the series, this is a battle command, and not the result of using items in battle. You can make as many scouting attempts as you want during a battle, until the monster decides to join, or takes offense. Success depends on the relative strengths of the monsters making the attempt versus the relative defense of the monster that is being scouted.
The monster families have been rearranged into a different categorization, so some monsters are in different families than they were on previous Dragon Quest Monsters games.
- Slime (スライム, suraimu).
- Dragon (ドラゴン, doragon).
- Nature (しぜん, shizen).
- Beast (まじゅう, majuu).
- Material (ぶっしつ, busshitsu).
- Demon (あくま, akuma).
- Undead (ゾンビ, zonbi).
- Incarni (しんじゅう, Shinjuu).
Unlike previous games in the series, there is not a Boss family. The Boss monsters (end game, or powerful bosses from Dragon Quest games) have been merged with the other families. For example, Zoma is now in the Demon family.
Monsters now all have a rank associated with them: F, E, D, C, B, A, S, and X. The ranks give an idea of how quickly the monster's stats will grow, and how hard they are to get/synthesize. There are 210 different monsters, though some are just color swaps of others, with different stats.
There are three monsters, Trode (トロデ, Torode), Leopold (レオパルド, Reoparudo), and Empyrea (レティス, Retisu) that can not be scouted or bred in the normal game. The only way to get these monsters is to visit a DS Station in Japan. There, one can use the games' Wireless mode to fight against these monsters and attempt to scout them. Leopard was available from February 1 to February 14 2007. Leopard and Letice are required in order to synthesize the main monster into its final forms.
Skill system Edit
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker features a skill system based on the one from Dragon Quest VIII. Skill points are gained on certain character levels, and these can be assigned to one of the monster's (up to) three skill sets, learning techniques or gaining stats boosts.
Some skill sets can be upgraded by maxing them. Others can be unlocked when parents have specific skill sets mastered. When synthesizing, the resulting monster can choose its skill sets from those its parents had, the ones that monster naturally knows, and any new ones unlocked.
There are also skill seeds, which can be found during the night, and give 3 skill points to the selected monster.
Developed by behind the scenes game developer TOSE, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker is the first Dragon Quest game to feature Wi-Fi capabilities. Yuji Hori, famous for leading the development for all of the Dragon Quest games, added new gameplay elements to this installment, such as "scouting" for monsters. Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball, also returned for Joker, creating the visuals for the game in his unique style. Completing the Dragon Quest team, Koichi Sugiyama composed the tracks for Joker.
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker received fairly decent scores overall, gaining an average of 76% on Metacritic.com. Gamespot's Austin Shau gave the game a 7.5/10, or "Good", with mostly positive comments, but advised users to approach the intense level-grinding with caution. IGN gave a similar score, 7.9, to Joker, citing the game's excellent graphics and over all quality. IGN stated that the game "should definitely surprise some newcomers to the franchise in the sheer amount of depth and versatility it presents."
Nintendo Power gave the game a positive 8/10, and defended Joker, saying it was not just a Pokémon pretender. Similarly, GameSpy gave Joker an 8/10, and enforced the idea that the game is more than just a copy of Pokémon. Gamezone also gave the game a positive review with a score of 8/10.
However, GamePro.com, who gave Joker a 3.25/5, felt the game was just "another monster catch-and-battle game" along the lines of Pokémon. The review also cited the Scouting to be tricky and that the battle camera can be annoying.
Game Informer gave the game a positive score of 8/10, with the game receiving the "Handheld Game of the Month" for the December Issue.
Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the game a positive review with a total score of 36 out of 40. Joker was wildly popular in Japan, spawning merchandise based on the game, such as carrying cases for the Nintendo DS.