Review by Bkstunt_31
"A solid RPG that does just what you would expect from a Dragon Quest game."
Dragon Quest IX is the latest entry in the famous series, but the first numbered entry to come out on a handheld! Now anyone that knows the DS knows that you can make great games on the system, and while I knew that IX isn't going to be as graphically beautiful as VIII was (and yes, VIII was gorgeous), I knew that it could be a great RPG. So how is it? Well let's see...
The story is pretty unique for a Dragon Quest game. You don't start off as a village youth going on a "coming of age" trial, you don't start of with your home being destroye... err... well, ok, the story isn't really unique, you do lose your home. But it is a bit different, because you see, you start off as a celestrian, which is the fancy Dragon Quest word for angel. Basically your job is to be a guardian to a village and protect humans from monsters. The celestrians live up in the sky (on some floating land), spreading out across the world and collecting the prayers of the righteous and than feed that "good will" to a giant tree (Yggdrasil), which apparently will bloom and than they will get to meet their God. This has been going on for awhile, so to avoid the previously boring decades that the celestrians have been doing this, the tree is about to bloom as you begin to become a guardian to a small human town below.
So the tree blooms, producing several fyggs, and a magical train (the Starlight express) shows up out of nowhere. But than a huge beam of light shoots upwards through the sky from down below, knocking the train, fyggs, and you down to the human's world. You wake up in a house near your assigned village, somehow missing your wings and halo, left to figure out what happened. And so you set off to make your way back into the heavens.
Well, after finishing the game I felt... ok about the story. It wasn't groundbreaking, and I felt it could have used more interaction between the protagonists and the antagonists (of which there was little). A big part of the game was just roaming from town to town completing quests and solving the town's personal problems. They also have the fyggs in the game as a mandatory "gather this item" quest. Overall, it isn't bad though. Not exceptionally good, but not bad. For some reason they also continue to think annoying characters and annoying character accents (like Yangus from VIII) are still in style, and so they give you a side-kick farie that's annoying. The clever writing and town-naming is probably better than the actual story, which was pretty cliched and it's only plot twist was one of the weakest I've ever seen.
Game play: 8/10
If you've ever played a Dragon Quest game, you pretty much know what to expect, game play wise, as the series has several time honored roots and traditions. You'll start off by creating a custom hero, using several pre-designed options. The game itself uses a job system much like Dragon Quest III, and combines that with the skill point system from Dragon Quest VIII. So once you get into the game a bit, you'll come to a town where you can recruit several generic human adventurer's into your party, and you'll get to pick their job as well as customize their look too. You'll than begin the process of traveling to different towns, solving their personal problems, and looking for a way to ascend back into the heavens.
When you level up, you'll always gain different stats, which will change depending on what job you are at the time. Of course "warrior" is going to get more strength than a "priest"! But every so often upon leveling up you'll also gain skill points, which you an use to upgrade one of you're job's five skills, and at certain skill levels you'll gain new abilities. Further into the game, you will be able to change jobs, meaning you can gain skills and stat increases from several different jobs, leading to a certain amount of customization. Oh, and you will start each job at level one, as they combine your level and what job you are together. Game play is pretty standard RPG fare, the only thing you can do besides the basics is that sometimes you'll get the option to do a "coup-de'grace" attack, which is a special attack based on what job you are. They are kind-of like random limit breaks.
Each job has limitations on what they can equip, so you'll have to keep that in mind when you change jobs and pick which weapons you want your characters to become proficient with. In total, there's six different jobs you can start as, and an additional six that you need to complete quests to access. I will say, though, that one of the "advanced" jobs you can only get in a dungeon right before you complete the game, while another is only available after you beat the game, so let's just say that you'll get to customize through ten different jobs. Oh, and also there are no random battles in Dragon Quest IX. Instead, you'll see the enemies drop out of the sky as you walk around, and can basically choose if you want to fight them or not. And that does include metal slimes! Of course, sometimes you're forced to fight, since an enemy might see you and catch you (if they are faster than you), or you might need to get through some narrow corridor that some random fat enemy is blocking. One notable exception is that when your travelling in the ship, you will get into random encounters.
Overall, the game keeps many outdated but time honored traditions, although you can tell the developers tried to make these things easier to swallow for new comers. You can only save in a church (although they do have a more modernized "quick save" feature). You can't tell how much more experience you need to level up (although your priest can do it with a little training). And of course, sound effects and certain tunes will always be present in the series. The amount of customization in the game, especially with equipment, is staggering. Every piece of equipment you can equip is on your character with the exception of accessories, which is impressive. Leveling skills is pretty slow, since you don't get skill points every level. I beat the game with one skill maxed on each character and one skill about half-way on each character, along with several skills that only had a handful of skill points in them. And I did skill grind on some metal slimes for more than a few hours. The alchemy pot also makes a return from Dragon Quest VIII, and you'll need to use old equipment and items found on the world map to make new items. There are also dozens and dozens of quests to find and complete throughout the world, which is also impressive and adds a lot to the game's playability. The game isn't about instant gratification, and definitely rewards the patient gamer.
The graphics in the game are beautiful, showing off the very best that sprites and 3D modeling on the DS can do. The amount of customizations and control you have with your characters is impressive (like I raved about before). The world is pretty hard to explore at first due to your limited mobility options, but you'll eventually discover that the world is quite varied and detailed. There are plenty of different things to find throughout the world as well. As many Dragon Quest fans know, the enemy designs include many of the same character designs from previous games, which is another thing you can expect in every Dragon Quest games, but like the character models, the monster designs look good. Aside from the magic spells, and the Dragonball-inspired tension graphics, there's nothing too flashy in the game. The game looks darn good though, and the many different equipment options is awesome. The rare instances where you will get a cut-scene are awesome, and I wish there were more of them.
Again, Dragon Quest is going to have many tunes that veterans of the series will recognize, but aside from the main theme and the series-standard music, not too much of the soundtrack will stick with you after you put the game down. Most pieces are light and airy string music, but not too memorable. Maybe I've heard too many similar pieces by playing too many RPG's, I don't know. Sound effects are pretty standard, but Dragon Quest monsters are some of the only ones that will try to entice your party to dance my dancing at them (which is weird....).
Well, what with the hundreds of quests, the hundreds of items you can make through alchemy, and the many many different jobs you can master, Dragon Quest IX will have you playing for a LONG time. Oh but wait, there's more, because the game also has multi-player, but it's only through local connections. You can also obtain grotto maps through the game's quests or from friends, which essentially give you an undefined amount of extra dungeons to play through. Some of those grotto maps can be gold for leveling though (so I hear). And although I've never done it, I've read you can level up to 99 and basically reincarnate yourself back to level 1 so you can gain more skill points and truly max EVERY skill (I imagine that would take some time though...). You can also look forward to extra dungeons after the game is beat. There is truly a ton of stuff to do in Dragon Quest IX, but sadly a lot of it is more of the same and repetitive.
Overall, Dragon Quest IX is a very solid game and a worthy entry to the series. Personally, I prefer VIII better, even though I do like "multiple jobs/classes" games, as each character in VIII has a back story and the story itself was a bit better, while the game play, minus the jobs, is comparative. Graphics are good, the music does its job but is forgettable, and you can spend a LONG time playing this game. I tried to wait for a used copy, but ghosting the boards here eventually made me go pick it up. Try and pick up a used copy though, you really can't mess up a DS game and good used copies are undoubtedly available by now. One other thing I'd like to note is that the game was given a perfect score by Famitus. Really, Famitsu? Did you take the game's story into account at all? Anyway, I'm done, have fun and keep playing.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/13/10
Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (US, 07/11/10)
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