Review by Mykas0
"If you want a classic RPG, this may be one of your best choices."
If you've ever wondered how many words it takes to sell a game, this game will certainly answer it for you. If you're a fan, merely hearing the words Dragon Quest IX will certainly sell this game for you, but if you're actually willing to heard what other people have to say, you may end up realising that this game just isn't all that great.
Now, if you're expecting to find the very same features that have been popularizing turn-based RPGs for years, you'll find them here, with a few twists. OK, there are still towns where you can buy improving equipment and items, elemental dungeons and battles against several different enemies, but everything else seems to include a twist, sometimes expected and, more often than not, totally surprising.
Random battles are obviously featured in this game, but... what's the twist? Well, you can see your enemies walking around the world map, and even inside dungeons, making it easier for you to decide whether you want to face a battle at that point in time, or not. It's obviously possible to complete the game without ever facing any random battles, but then you'd be too weak to complete the (obviously obligatory) boss battles, making it a not-so-good idea, no matter what party you're currently using.
Speaking of party, that's another unusual thing about this game - you don't really have a real one. Instead, you start the game with the hero - a character you create just before even starting your adventure - and he will be on his own for a few hours. Then, when you eventually reach a certain part of the game, you're allowed the opportunity to create up to three other characters, or as many as you want, provided you only have three accompanying you in your adventures. If this just isn't personalization enough for you, you can even customize everyone's jobs, with some being initially available and others, obviously the most powerful ones, being unlocked as part of sidequests.
These sidequests are also something this game has of unique. Instead of blankly throwing you in the wild, and have you figure out what it was all about, you can speak to some people (they'll display an unusual blue speech bubble over their heads) and they'll give you access to a quest file, which basically tells you what you have to do to complete it, and which is even stored along with your characters' possessions. If you bear in mind that some of these quests are rather complicated, the function here available is very important, allowing you to store up several different sidequests at once.
Rest assured that the number of sidequests here available - at least 130 - is more than enough to keep you playing for quite a while, and even if you eventually run out of quests to complete, you can also go online (via Nintendo's Wifi Connection) and download a few new ones. Legend has it they'll be releasing one quest per week for a few more months, but that's something we'll have to wait and see.
Concerning the contents of these sidequests, they seem to vary, depending on the rewards. Quests that unlock new jobs are often very complicated, while the first ones are as simple as retrieving particular items that monsters drop. There are also ones that require you to wear particular equipment, others that make you follow particular poses, some that make you look around for unusual items, and even some that require you to synthesise new items.
If this just isn't enough for you, and synthesising more than 22 pages of rare items sounds boring, you can also go and try to acquire some of the trophies this game has to offer. Often, these are really simply things, like using 100 healing herbs, completing 1000 battles, or defeating many enemies, and at least it is interesting to see that those accomplishments actually matter, giving you interesting material that you can use for bragging rights.
Then, there are poses. I gotta admit they're rarely used, but as you complete new sidequests, or even as part of the storyline, you're eventually bound to unlock new ones. Then, you can use them to complete all sorts of goals. There's, for example, an entrance to an area that can only be unveiled after performing a certain pose, and some sidequests even prompt you to use a sequence of poses in order to please the person who requires it, but that's basically it. One has to wonder if this is mere fanservice, or if there are real goals behind this function; personally, I felt they were misused, and they could have done much more with these poses than what you'll find in the game.
These unique features aside, this is mostly the usual turn-based RPG, and those who were playing this series years ago - or simply those players who long for more classical RPGs - will certainly enjoy the simple menus and direct storyline this game has to offer. It's not a overly philosophical adventure, nor a got catch'em all product, and not even one of those games where you'll be tearing your hair apart while trying to figure out how to defeat the next boss. Instead, this is a simple game - your main character is a former angel who, after having fallen from heaven, has to retrieve the seven dragon bal... oh, I mean, the seven goddess fruits. Obviously, this isn't the most original plot around, but it has a classical feel to it and, for some awkward reason, I just couldn't stop feeling like I was playing a game created more than 10 years ago, alike of, let's say, Final Fantasy V.
By now, you're probably wondering what the Wifi logo in this game is all about. Well, not only can you download new sidequests, as previously mentioned, but you can also gain access to an online shop, where the accessible items (apparently) change once a week. There's no cooperative mode, if you were expecting to find one, or anything like that.
In terms of graphics and sound, this game is quite good. This product is certainly among the best-looking titles already released for this same console, and has nothing to envy to the likes of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days or Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, and it is interesting to see that all the equipment you get actually reflects on the way your character looks like. This game's sound is also impressive, and won't disappoint those who are expecting to find here the amusing sound compositions of its older brothers. Fine, the sound effects here available are not that impressive, or notable, but that's a minor issue, in a high quality adventure.
Overall, this is the kind of game that mostly appeals to those players who want a new RPG with an old skeleton behind it, one that actually feels like a game created more than 10 years ago, but without depriving it of some modern updates. It is best enjoyed together with access to a wifi connection. Also, you you should be fully aware that this is game that permits a single savegame, making it less advised for those people who want to share their game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/04/09
Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito (JP, 07/11/09)
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