Review by Nuudoru_
"It's like an overdose of Dragon Quest!"
Dragon Quest is once again back with it's ninth installment called Sentinels of the Starry Skies. This time Yuji Hori, the game series designer, decided to make a game for the hardcore Dragon Quest fan but still with the intention to bring new fans into the series. It was also the first Dragon Quest game to barely random monster encounters at all! In this game you will instead see them at the overworld map, giving you a chance to run away from them if you don't want to fight. Dragon Quest IX was also the first game in the main series to also use a multiplayer feature.
Gameplay - 9/10
As a long time jRPG fan I was surprised by how fresh the gameplay felt, especially in a franchise such as Dragon Quest. This game makes a wonderful mix of DQIII class and party system together with DQVIII skill point system. In DQIX you first start off alone, but you will later on be given the chance to form your own party of four members and choose which class they will have. As the game goes on you will achieve other classes that you can change whenever you want. As you level up you will get skill points which you can put in either a weapon skill tree or a class skill tree. If you decide to change class later on in the game you can pass on your skills you've learned through the skill tree to use for another class. This can be end up as a really nice boost for your new class. All this makes it feel really rewarding to grind up some extra levels when you get the chance. Few RPG's gives you that same rewarding feeling. The only real problem I have with the gameplay is that when you change class you will go back to level one. Which will either make you spend a lot of extra hours to grind just one character or you will probably not care enough to change the class half-through the game. This flaw is nothing that makes the gameplay boring or bad in any way. Keeping the same class through the game is just as fun as changing it!
There's also the multiplayer which I haven't tried so much. I played it with a friend of mine for awhile, but his level was so low that we didn't get much enjoyment out of it. What you do when you play multiplayer is that you invite the player to your savefile, which gives him a chance to maybe help you out with a boss or maybe grind for loot together. If you have a friend to play multiplayer with I would recommend it very strongly if you're around the same level. Because if you're not the same level someone of you will end up very bored.
Story - 6/10
In this game you play as an guardian angel called "sentinels". A sentinel's job is to help people to gather benevolessence for "Yggdrasil". Given enough benevolessence it will bear fruit called "Fygg". When the hero shows up with the last benevolessence to vitness the wonder of the Yggdrasill tree something goes horribly wrong and the fruit gets spread out all over the mortal world. It's your job to travel around the world to collect the fygg's!
DQIX isn't really the kind of game you want to play for the story. It's interesting enough to keep you entertained through the journey, but do not expect an epic story, you won't be amazed.
Graphics - 8/10
The graphics in DQIX mixes very well with Akira Toriyamas whacky artstyle. It's definetly one of the better looking games for the DS right now. It mixes 2D and 3D very well. When running around in towns you will see that all the normal towns people are in 2D, while the more important characters has been modelled in 3D. Even though this might sound it's not as bad as it sounds. You will get used to it really fast and probably won't even realize that some characters are in 2D, because they're really well done. When you equip a character with a new weapon or armor it will become visible at your character. This makes it even more fun to buy equipment for your characters and you might sometime end up having to decide if you want to be stronger or look cooler since it works so well.
Sound - 7/10
The music is, as always, composed by Koichi Sugiyama. While the music is nothing memorable it's very fitting to the game. It's just as light hearted as the game is which makes it fun to listen to.
Play Time/Replayability - 9/10
This is probably one of DQIX's stronger points. The main story in the game might take you around +50 hours to complete, while you will have +100 hours of gameplay when you've finished the post-game missions. There's new bosses to fight, treasure hunting and now it's also a really good time to play around with classes. There's so much to do after the main-story that you will feel more than finished and pleased when you're done. If you're no fan of post-game you will probably replay the story mode to try out other classes or plan the old ones differently. There's so much to do after the main-story that you will feel more than finished and pleased when you're done.
DQIX is a great game with a lot to do. It doesn't matter if you're a Dragon Quest veteran or a total newbie to the jRPG genre, you will enjoy this game and spend hours playing it. The only real flaw I had with this game is probably the story. Dragon Quest never really had a very great or original story, but it feels like they even didn't try in this game. With a silent protagonist and silent team members it's really hard to get any emotional attachment to any of them. Even when something tragic happens you will never care, because the characters has zero personality. It's obvious that DQIX is a game that's focuses on gameplay, but they could've made it better. But if you're in the mood for some ligh hearted old-school jRPG with tons of customization, nice graphics and sweet music this is exactly what you're looking for. Even though there's some flaws it's still a solid game.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/22/10
Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (EU, 07/23/10)
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