Wonderful RPG whimsy with well balanced design.

User Rating: 9.6 | Dragon Quest VIII: Sora to Umi to Daichi to Norowareshi Himegimi PS2
I would have to nominate this game for RPG of the year, probably because I have trouble thinking of any decent true RPG released this year, but also due to the fantastic enjoyment I get out of playing DQ VIII. Every game nowadays has "RPG elements," but few really capture what it was like to be a huge nerd with your friends in middle school and high school. Yeah, I spent over 100 hours on FFVII. Eat me. Anyway, the initial character ramp on this game is a bit unfair, but once you level up enough things go more smoothly. The combat of the game focuses on actual strategy, instead of eye-candy animations of just selecting an attack. However, the character and world design is nothing short of beautiful. Dragon Ball Z is the same episode over and over, but I think the animation style from that game translates well to this DQ installment. The music in the game is gorgeous, and manages to convey the atmosphere of your location without lots of sound effects. I also enjoy the characters you control in the game, despite some of the random weirdness (e.g. Yangus randomly freezing and saying 'cor blimey!'). Also, Jessica is proof that the GAME DESIGNERS NEED TO GET GIRLFRIENDS!!! Forget your magical bag, you could fit your entire inventory into her cleavage. The enemies are a wonderful balance of challenge and large amounts of very powerful drugs. It is fitting that there is a spell called crack. DQ VIII doesn't try to take itself too seriously, and therefore succeeds in upping the fun factor of the game. If you enjoy old-school RPGs, I would highly recommend this game. If you are a Xenosage fan and need a 30 minute cutscene after everything you do, launch yourself into deepspace.