For every Batman, there’s a Robin. Next to every Mickey, you’ll find a Minnie. Where there’s a Salt, there’s a Peppa. Every Ike Turner…well you can’t win them all, but you get the picture. Game characters are no different, and many of our esteemed protagonists would never have realised such glorious heights had it not been for the efforts and achievements of their right-hand men and women helping them out, pulling them through their trials and tribulations. But not many can boast the ability to do all of the above, whilst also able to fit snugly inside their buddy’s top pocket now, can they? Forget outspoken cockney Yangus, lustrous sorceress Jessica, and womanising noble Angelo, Dragon Quest VIII’s silent hero need only look to one companion – his mohican sporting, pet mouse Munchie!
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King – the first instalment of the series in the PAL region – was a major success back in 2005/2006 for PS2, and still boasts RPG heavyweight status today. Winning multiple awards, the game witnessed the collaboration of developer Level-5 – who recently introduced Ni No Kuni to consoles with similar distinction – and Dragon Ball art deisgner Akira Toriyama, delivering an aesthetically beautiful, vibrant, cel-shaded, fully three-dimensional masterpiece.
The story weaves a tale worthy of inclusion in a Grimm Brothers compendium, told in typical fantasy-realm fashion. In search of the evil jester Dholmagus, the aforementioned crew cover the kingdom of Trodain in an attempt to destroy a stolen scepter which has cast an ugly spell across the palace, transforming King Trode into a troll, and Princess Medea into a horse. Pitted against a series of enemies, quests and dungeon explorations, our team must triumph in order to save the cursed land. The climax sees our hero’s ensemble banish Rhapthorne – the Lord of Darkness, thus restoring the status quo and general wellbeing to the kingdom of Trodain.
Munchie though, our hero’s pet sidekick, is the true gem of Dragon Quest VIII. Although not called upon often, he is the only member of the group small enough to venture through the crack in the wall at the Albert Mansion to retrieve Jessica’s letter. Fearless, Munchie puts himself at risk all for the good of the group, tumbling down flights of stairs and clambering perilously upon broomsticks to reach his goal, happily cartwheeling and roly-polying his way there. He has the ability to unleash devastating attacks, depending on the type of cheese he gets fed. Plus he’s got a bad-ass look – Munchie combines the cuteness, playfulness and all-round fuzziness of Jerry (from Tom and Jerry), with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. If you can name me a cooler sidekick, you do that. But I won’t agree with you.
Even now, nearly eight years since it touched down on PlayStation 2, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is still one of the best RPGs around and certainly well worth a revisit. For those who haven’t played, please look away now.
**SPOILER**: What’s more, Munchie reveals his true value on completion of the game, whereupon we discover that our pet mouse is in fact our hero’s dragovian Grandfather, Chen Muey, who was turned into a mouse to protect our hero and his entourage.
So, in the [slightly distorted] words of another famous duo:
He ain’t vermin. He’s my grandfather.