Review by Leafy11

"A RPG fit for the heavens"

The latest RPG from the acclaimed and historic Dragon Quest franchise does the series perfectly good justice, with a few unique twists that keep this game fresh even in today's innovation hungry gaming markets. The gameplay remains top notch, the story keeps you entertained and the new twists on an old-fashioned genre. Sentinel of the Starry Skies is a great RPG with huge gameplay longevity and overall great production in all facets that make a game great.

Gameplay: 9/10

The gameplay of an RPG is designed to be intertwined with the story and provide a dynamic experience by doing so. Battling, exploring and upgrading contribute to the main part of the gameplay in this genre. Dragon Quest IX relies on all the old standbys of the RPG genre, such as turn-based battles, an experience point level up system, and the classic dungeon-boss-exploration cycle. All this may seem old, but it is executed quite brilliantly and the new innovative twists add a lot of replayability and multiplayer aspects to this game. First, the basic stuff that is usually in most RPG games. The battle system seems quite standard at first, but as the game progresses the battle system gets deeper and more advanced. This is a slow progression so it never seems very fresh, but when you look back upon it, it does indeed have a steady development. The switch from random pop-up battles to those where you can see and choose which enemy to engage with is a great, more modern addition. The ongoing addition of new skills, and the class/vocation/job system adds some surprising strategy to party building and level grinding. This is basically where you choose a new vocation (warrior, mage etc.) with stats in accordance with their primary job (mages with high offensive magic power). Every character can switch between all vocations and any skills they learned in their old one carry over, but they reset at level 1. Some skills are stat-boosting effects, which transcend all vocations, so a warrior's strength and attack boosting skill would transfer over and make a priest stronger. This adds an unexpected layer of depth to the Dragon Quest formula and is quite impressive. The other important part of the main gameplay is the exploration. This mechanic works quite smoothly, and the varied environments make it fun to see what is coming up next. Exploration is strengthened by a constant need to look for new equipment in the form of treasure chests, find new recipes for item creation and the ever-going search for new side quests.

Side quests are a huge part of the replayability factor within this game. There are rumours of upwards of two hundred additional, non-story side quests and Nintendo is releasing more continuously over Wi-Fi connection. This can add sizable play length to

Story: 8/10

In an RPG, the story is expected to be strong, as to hold together the plot, gameplay and gaming experience. In Dragon Quest IX the story and characters are lacking their usual standard but are still great, nonetheless. The story revolves around an angel-type character coming to Earth in a huge calamity that affected everyone above and on the planet. The start is quite compelling and for the first major story segment you are consistently wondering about the story, a good sign for a strong RPG game. The initial story sequence is quite impressive, but after that is a different story, pun intended. The story after the first major plot twists start to fall into a general formula that repeats itself over and over again. Explore, discover, dungeon, save town, get reward is the repetitive main section of the game's story. Now don't get me wrong, this part is still full of drama, and excitement but the repetitive nature makes this core story segment not as impactful as the first part. The ending to this story, however, is quite poignant, as it connects the entire storyline together and really leaves you thinking about this game for weeks ahead. Additionally, the ridiculous (in a good way) amount of side quests keeps players on their toes and adds a bit more emotion to the overarching game. The game's focus on multiplayer does take its toll on the story. The character creation system, while unique, leaves the characters completely devoid of much personality and emotion. Some of the NPC's do make up for this lack but as a main character this is a bit of downer. Overall, this story is quite dramatic, as long as you stick with it too the end.

Aesthetics: 8.5/10

In regards to the Nintendo DS handheld system, the graphics and sound for this game is impressive, in its own regard.

Clear, fully rendered 3D graphics on the Nintendo DS system is not an easy thing to achieve successfully, but Square Enix pulls it off with style. The graphics are clear and can be impressive during the beautiful cut scenes. The various environments add some variety to the palette, including rolling oceans, vast plains and towering mountains. The battle's special effects are varied and can be entertaining, leading you to use special abilities just to see what it does. The colours are sharp, the environments crisp and the frame rate is consistent. All these things add up to an impressive eye-pleasing experience.

The sound and music for this game are nothing extremely special but go above the direct call of duty. The score sets the tone throughout the course of the game and sets up the story during its poignant moments, exactly what you want for good quality RPG music. The sound effects are there but nothing special or outstanding. The score does lack some variety but what is there is good so you won't be wanting to shut off the sound anytime soon.

Overall: 8.5/10

This is a top-notch RPG from some of the most experienced and accomplished developers in the RPG category. Square Enix and Nintendo have done a fabulous job with one of the best RPG games available on the Nintendo DS system. The impressive graphics and sound the exceptional graphics, emotional story and intriguing multiplayer and single player gameplay options make this game unique, creative, and most of all, fun. There are drawbacks but the benefits clearly outweigh the negatives and if you are an RPG fan of any sorts there is really no excuse why you are not playing, and loving, this game.

-Leafy 77

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/14/11

Game Release: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (US, 07/11/10)

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