In a time when many companies are trying to put out "innovative" and "unorthodox" RPGs, Dragon Quest VIII is a solid, traditional RPG down to swiping potions out of somebody's closet and smashing pots in dead-end alleys for hidden items. The biggest thing Dragon Quest VIII has going for it is its sheer scope. The town displayed in the demo wasn't mind-bogglingly large, but it was certainly big enough, with lots of houses and nooks to explore. Accordingly, there were several manipulable camera angles, including a first-person view. It's the fields where you really get an idea of size. They are huge. And I do mean HUGE. There is no zoning at all, so you can wander wherever you wish. The only limiting factor is how well you can handle random encounters with enemies.
Speaking of random encounters, they were plentiful enough, yet not too numerous to be annoying. There are many different aspects of battle that can be controlled. Characters besides your Hero can be set to various automatic modes, such as auto-attack, auto-heal, special attack only and so forth. Of course, there is a "follow orders" mode that allows you to dictate their actions in battle like you would in any turn-based rpg. Besides EXP and Gold, the end of battle rewards you with Skill points, which you can place how you wish in various weapon categories to increase the character's skill with that weapon.
From what little I could hear over the thumping techno echoing from the Konami booth, there are a lot of voice-overs in the game. Even some random villagers had spoken lines. Most of it did not sound too bad, and the translation read very smoothly.
The only downside to the game that I could find was the confusing button configuration. It is completely unlike any other rpg I've played, and there apparently is not an option to reconfigure them.
Battles are also on the difficult side. The wide fields make it very tempting to go exploring straight off, and newbies can find themselves in over their head with little warning. Healing items are scarce as well. It really looks like most players will need to spent the first couple hours of the game wandering around the edge of the first town, scrounging up enough gold to buy weapons and armor so that they can survive the first 10 steps into the first dungeon.
But, overall, Dragon Quest VIII looks like a game any classic rpg player will want to have in their collection. You can start staking out your local game shop this November.