Review by Flameclaw1234
"An Amazing RPG for Those Willing to Try it"
Ah, Dragon Quest. A series with, obviously, 9 different games. Now, I'd like to tell you how this game stands up to the others of the series... if I've played them, which I haven't. I'm not someone who's played RPG games for years- Heck, I've yet to play a Final Fantasy game (I know, I'm working on it...). But if there's one thing I know from just playing Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, it's that this is definitely one of the best and most fun RPGs for a handheld out there.
Okay, so let's start off with the music, just for the heck of it. You'll start up the game, and here some nice, friendly tunes, and you'll probably think, "Oh, this is nice. But it's nothing special, really. I've heard better." But then again, a good way through the game, and you'll find yourself humming along with the songs. From killing monsters, to sailing the sapphire seas, to just ambling around town, these songs are some of the catchiest songs I've heard in a game in a long time. I've got to give them credit for that much. While some songs, aren't perfect, some will just utterly capture you in their addictive grips. I have to admit, some of them really sounded like songs from other games, but maybe that's just me. I do know, however, that one of the songs is extremely close, if not identical to a song in a previous DQ title, which I suppose is great if you've played that game, if only for nostalgia value. Base line, you'll be humming the catchy tunes everywhere, whether the game is on or off.
Alright, it's plot time. You start out the game as a Celestrian apprenticed under bald-headed Aquila that watches over the town aptly named Angel Falls. Your main job is to watch over and protect the people in the town, underneath your mentor's watch, and through doing so gain benevolessence. This benevolessence is then offered up to the great tree Yggdrasil, and legend has it that when enough of them are offered, the tree will bloom and a chariot will bring the Celestrians up to the Almighty. But instead, the blooming of Yggdrasil goes terribly wrong, and you're stripped of your wings and halo, tumbling down to live amongst the mortals. From there, you go on a quest to find out why this happened, and how you can turn it around. It's a decent plot, but there's not much extremely special about it. Still, there's nothing wrong with it. The only real problem I found was that later in the game, I did things completely out of order because it didn't tell you where to go, making the enemies too tough at times. However, the sub plots are great for reinforcing the main plot, and are generally pretty original, unless they're intentionally referencing something. It's not too bad, rather enjoyable, but it's nothing completely outstanding.
Let's get down to the characters, shall we? You'll meet an assortment of people, important and not-so-much, all with something to say that's usually worthwhile. Let's face it, finding everyone in the village and talking to them is a bit boring in most games. But they manage to make it a bit more fun in DQ 9. I actually felt the need to talk to many of the townspeople, because they'd often tell you something important that you may not know, or forgotten. The main protagonist is silent, like many games. You'll be joined by up to three other people one you get to the second town, whether they be hired characters or friends with the game. They are not part of the story, and simply disappear during cut scenes. Along the way, you'll meet Stella, a fun-loving fairy who is able to help you in your search. She's got quite the attitude, but I found myself laughing at a few of her comments, and it's good to have someone with you. The side characters are fun to have around, each with their own personality, and sometimes accents, and there was a much needed improvement on the generic characters that actually made me want to talk to them. Over all, they're by no stretch of the imagination bad, but they're still about above average. You care about what happens to them, but it's not such a deep, emotional bond.
Now for the fighting, something you'll be doing for the majority of this game. You can see all of the enemies on the map, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can always avoid them, as some will chase after you. You'll start off facing easy foes in a turn based system, and the difficulty ramps up as you continue your journey. This meant that there was a deal of level grinding going on, but nothing so painstaking that it made you want to just stop. The enemies ranged from cute to absolutely beastly, and were found anywhere and everywhere. Except for the towns, of course. Weapon, shield, and armor upgrades are necessary as you continue to battle through foes, which could end up costing a lot of money later in the game. But the monsters you kill give you great rewards, and it's always fun to slaughter another of the never ending monsters. It's the base of the game, and it won't get old until you're too far into the game to even notice anymore.
If there's one thing this game has, it's quests. Quests can be found by speaking to the characters who are not directly involved in the story, and occasionally they'll send you off to do something. Whether it's killing a certain type of monster this way or gathering an item, the quests are plenty and various. They do limit you as to the number of quests you can accept at one time, and you'll have to complete them if you want to take on more. They're fun for the most part, giving you rewards ranging from items, to money, to recipes that you can later use to create tons of items, to even a new job unlocked. However, as these are enjoyable, they also pose one of the game's biggest downfalls. The metal slime quests are some of the most frustrating, irritating, and outright near impossible quests out there. But if you complete them, there are great rewards. That is, it you want to spend an hour and a half completing a half or less of a single quest. Along with these quests comes the bestiary, a handy guide of all of the monsters you've defeated so far, which you may be compelled to complete. Both the quests and bestiary were a handy addition, and added more time and difficulty onto the game.
One thing the game lets you you is change your characters' vocations. They let your character use new weapons, get new skills and abilities, and help your team as a whole tactically. It's great, unfortunately, you must start from level one once you change your vocation. This causes a deal of frustration when you're forced to go back and grind levels, but the earlier you attempt the job change, the better. Still, you can change back and forth between vocations, and each vocation keeps the stats, level, and abilities so that you can always go back to it.
By sitting near someone who is also playing the game, once you get to the second town, questers can visit one another. One player becomes the host, and the other visits them. You can choose to split up or stay together, and if they need you, the other person can always call for your help and bring you to the battle. Only the host character's story can move forward during this time, but that is to be expected. There's also a Wi-Fi shop, but unfortunately I was not able to try it out, as I had no connectible router.
That just about does it for this review, and I hope you will have as much fun playing Dragon Quest IX as I did. It shows great potential, but some overly repetitiveness and some other minor flaws bring it down a bit. There's a lot of humor in this game, something I appreciated, especially the frequent references. I give Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies an 8/10. It's a great beginning RPG game, and if you're looking into the category for the first time, this is a good candidate for being high on your list.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/26/10
Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (US, 07/11/10)
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