Graphically, the game looks worse than the original, mostly due to the lower resolution screen of the 3DS. However, there are no random encounters. Instead, monsters appear in the overworld and are encountered directly. The sound quality has also improved in that the game's soundtrack is orchestrated and all dialogue is voiced. The game also allows the player to save skill points after level-up.
There are two new party members in Red and Morrie, who were NPCs in the previous version. They have new quests and scenarios to add to them. The game also has a new picture taking mechanic where players take pictures of the overworld. This mechanic also has quests where the player is tasked to take pictures of rare monsters and hidden items. There are also more scenarios, further detailing the backstories of the main characters. A new ending has been added with new dungeons and post-game content.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King got "generally favorable" reviews on Metacritic getting a metascore of 85/100 based on 56 critic reviews. On whatoplay.com, this game holds an aggregate score (playscore) of 8.89 based on 35 critics and 1,700+ gamer ratings.