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Erdrick The Hero

About the changes between various versions of Dragon Quest VIII

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This was initially meant to be a reply to the following YouTube video by Censored Gaming, but I ended up writing a lot more than should be posted in a comment.

 

I'd like to point out that the symphonic music that is being modded back into the game is NOT from the PS2 version.
Here's the deal: When Dragon Quest VIII: The Sky, The Earth, The Ocean, and The Cursed Princess was originally released in Japan on the PS2, it did not have symphonic music. It did not have voice acting. It did not have a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen option, and it had a text based menu system like every other Dragon Quest game up until that point. However, when Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King was localized for Western audiences, Level 5 thought it would be a good idea to make a few changes to the game engine. They changed the menu system to look and feel more like that of a Western RPG (honestly, I liked the new menu system, but it made the game a chore to play because it was not well optimized and added a lot of load time to an otherwise nearly seamless game), and added the 16:9 widescreen option as widescreen TVs were gaining in popularity around this time. They also added voice acting to many scenes in the game (which, if I remember correctly, included proper mouth animations to match). Finally, they decided to take the recordings from Symphonic Suite Dragon Quest VIII (in Japan, every numbered DQ game has had a symphonic soundtrack released for its music), and replace the synth music with them. Not every single piece of music was included on the symphonic suite, though, so certain tracks (for example, the night variations of all the town themes) are still played back like MIDI.
Fast Forward to the Japanese release of Dragon Quest VIII on 3DS: This time around, Square Enix wanted to include the improvements from the Western PS2 version of the game in the Japanese release, among other changes. They went with a modified variation of the original menu system, adding some character portraits and item pictures, but otherwise using a traditional Dragon Quest menu. Widescreen was a no-brainer here, as the 3DS screen is wider than the original 4:3 aspect ratio (although this time it's 15:9 widescreen rather than 16:9, but this is due to the 3DS having a 15:9 screen). For the first time, the game contained Japanese voice acting (so far it's mostly the same scenes that were voiced in the Western PS2 version, but there are a few differences). And finally, of course, we come to the symphonic music. Like with the Western PS2 release, only music that is on the Symphonic Suite is symphonic in-game (though this is a new set of recordings that sound much better than the older Symphonic Suite). Tracks that were not included in the Symphonic Suite are once again synthesized, but this time, they are pre-recorded synth tracks, rather than playing like a MIDI in real time with the game.
Now, we come to the Western 3DS release. The differences here are more subtle than the differences between the Japanese and Western PS2 versions - but they exist. Presumably due to the longer length of some English (and/or other European language) strings than their Japanese counterparts, the menu system was once again rearranged. But this time Square Enix and/or Simplygon(Level 5, from what I can tell, had nothing to do with the 3DS port) opted for a non-graphical menu system. Rather, they moved and resized the menu windows that were already present in the Japanese version. Some windows were changed to the extent that a previously vertical-only list of options (for example, when selling items) is now listed with multiple collumns and/or pages of options. Since both the vertical and horizontal directions on the D-Pad are now used to select a menu item, the X and Y buttons have been relegated to setting a number (for example - and possibly the only example - choosing how many of a particular item you would like to buy or sell), where Left and Right on the D-Pad would have served this function in the Japanese version. This is a little awkward and unintuitive, but it works, and handy control instructions are shown while in one of the affected menus, so I think it's alright.
When it comes to the voice acting, most of the English voice files are taken directly from the PS2 version of the game, except for scenes that are new to the 3DS version, which have been re-voiced by the original voice actors, except in the case of Jessica. All of her lines were re-recorded, as her original voice actress either couldn't or wouldn't reprise her role. All of her dialogue has been recorded by the same actress who voiced the character in Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below. For some reason, the mouth animations don't match up with the characters' voices this time, and I think they did in the Japanese version, which leads me to believe that the developers were either too cheap or too lazy to bother reanimating the characters' mouth movements. This is especially odd, as most of the animation work was already done for the PS2 version. Oh well, let's move on to the most obvious of the changes: The music. For some reason, Koichi Sugiyama has been pushing for Dragon Quest games to only use synthesized music. I'm not sure why, and honestly I don't care why, but it sucks. Either Sugiyama refused to license the symphonic music for Western countries entirely, or SE was cheap and refused to pay Sugiyama whatever price he set for the license for the international release. Whatever the case, all the symphonic music was replaced with synthesized music, which I believe are the same recordings as were used in the iOS/Android port of the game. The volume balance was also changed significantly, for no apparent reason (even the tracks that were synth in the Japanese version are quieter here). Thankfully, the music is all in the same pre-recorded format that the Japanese version used, so it's a rather trivial process to restore the Japanese 3DS version's symphonic music to the Western 3DS version (assuming you have a modified 3DS).
 
I may come back and point out some differences in the iOS/Android version later, but I wanted to focus on the changes between the PS2 version and the 3DS version, and how they came about.

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Oh well, let's move on to the most obvious of the changes: The music. For some reason, Koichi Sugiyama has been pushing for Dragon Quest games to only use synthesized music. I'm not sure why, and honestly I don't care why, but it sucks. Either Sugiyama refused to license the symphonic music for Western countries entirely, or SE was cheap and refused to pay Sugiyama whatever price he set for the license for the international release. Whatever the case, all the symphonic music was replaced with synthesized music, which I believe are the same recordings as were used in the iOS/Android port of the game. The volume balance was also changed significantly, for no apparent reason (even the tracks that were synth in the Japanese version are quieter here). Thankfully, the music is all in the same pre-recorded format that the Japanese version used, so it's a rather trivial process to restore the Japanese 3DS version's symphonic music to the Western 3DS version (assuming you have a modified 3DS).

 
I may come back and point out some differences in the iOS/Android version later, but I wanted to focus on the changes between the PS2 version and the 3DS version, and how they came about.

 

The synthesised MIDI soundtrack in the Nintendo 3DS version is not the same as the synthesised MIDI soundtrack in the (Japanese) PlayStation 2/iOS/Android version.

 

To me, the synthesised MIDI soundtrack in the Nintendo 3DS version sounds a lot better than the synthesised MIDI soundtrack in the (Japanese) PlayStation 2/iOS/Android version (though I would obviously prefer the orchestrated soundtrack present in the Japanese Nintendo 3DS version).

 

I imagine Koichi Sugiyama refused to license the orchestrated soundtrack to Western countries, considering his very controversial views.

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I knew the synth in the 3DS version wasn't the same as the Japanese PS2 release (I actually think the PS2 pulled off the synth better in some cases, for example "A Peaceful Community - Night". Other tracks are better in the 3DS version, I think it really comes down to what instrument samples are best for each specific track) but I'm pretty sure the iOS/Android uses a different synth than the PS2 - if this is also different than the 3DS version, well, that's pretty interesting. I'd have expected them to use synths from the iOS/Android version, since they're already available.

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The volume balance was also changed significantly, for no apparent reason (even the tracks that were synth in the Japanese version are quieter here).

 

 

I've noticed this. The music is super loud compared to the voices. I've had to turn down the music in settings so I can hear the characters speak properly.

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Even in the U.S. version, the music is very loud. Thankfully with the Japanese music the balance is just right if I set music to 1 and SFX/Voice to 5, but with the U.S. music I would have rathered it were somewhere between 1 and 2 - 1 was too quiet and 2 was too loud.

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I thought they just liked the synthesized music because it sounded more videogame-ish.

I mean think about it. Dragon Quest has simplistic styled graphics, same for its menus and mechanics.

...........
But I guess that doesnt matter at all. A game could have like a 2 color palette entirely and still fit well with orchestrated music.

Luckily I'm fine with the synthesized music :D because I feel like I'm playing more of an SNES game, but I can totally see the missed opportunity to have a game that sounds "grand". As a side effect, it does give the OST CDs a special quality, because then they sound different than the game music.

If I had an OST CD of a game, and it sounds just like the in-game music, I'd feel "meh" about it.

 

Ideally, and this is asking for too much, but I'd like it if games always came with 2 versions of themselves :D kinda like DQ11 is gonna do, and that the OST sounds orchestrated for the realistic graphics, and synth for the 16 bit graphics.

 

The iOS versions of DQ1 to 6 all have orchestrated music though. Hmmmmm.

Edited by kleev_55

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The iOS versions of DQ1 to 6 all have orchestrated music though. Hmmmmm.

Wrong. Listen closely. Though many of the tracks in the iOS/Android games have been arranged similarly to their symphonic counterparts, they are in fact synthesized.

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Dang, that's some really good work they did there, it sounds more convincing than the 3DS synthesized ones.
Am I at least right about this then? XD

I can sort of tell that it is synth, yes, but I'd have to pay too much attention to notice it, it does NOT sound like the USA PS2 DQ8 but yeah.

Like the DQ1 Castle music, I can tell that's synth. But the battle theme, nope.

Edited by kleev_55

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I really wanna get the game. But the syntethesized music and the over saturated colors made me unsure if I should.

 

Games are definitely not cheap here in Brazil, so I gotta be careful. I'm considering maybe take the PS2 out of my closet and give it another go.

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Figured this would be a good place to voice this particular thought I've had for awhile but never had a place to throw it out: Censored Gaming is a brilliant idea for a channel. Whenever there are changes in localizations to a game in a popular franchise, the channel gets noticed by that series' fans. I'm sure they got a lot of subs around the time of the Fire Emblem debacle. And while I'm sure whatever bump in subs they got for DQ VIII coverage was minimal, it was those videos that we talked about and built conversations around here, spreading the word about it. It's a smart idea. 

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