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Dragon Quest IX Review

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Dragon Quest IX

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies for the Nintendo DS is the latest entry in a respected role-playing bloodline. The Dragon Quest series has enjoyed phenomenal popularity in Japan since its conception for the Famicom (NES) in 1986. Not so much, however, in North America.

Nintendo and Square-Enix have been working hard to make the Dragon Quest series relevant on this side of the sea. And if Dragon Quest IX doesn't captivate an audience outside Japan, self-proclaimed RPG fans ought to turn in their swords and shields.

Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: E10+

The Basics: Questing for Dragons

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies tells the story of an angelic "Celestrian" who falls to Earth after a magical attack rocks his heavenly home. The Celestrian (for whom you choose a name, gender, skin color, and hairstyle) must recruit friends and journey around the world to find "fyggs," scared bits of fruit that fell from the World Tree after the mysterious attack occurred. Fyggs, when eaten by mortals, causes monstrous transformations and courts evil influence.

Much like the design process behind your main character, the party members you recruit must be named and shaped. Each party member (up to three, including your hero) can also choose a job, which determines how they attack and grow. Minstrels, for instance, are well-rounded and posses decent attack stats in addition to healing magic. Thieves move quickly and can rob enemies blind. Priests back up party members with support spells. And so on. Later into the game, characters can switch jobs and collect new skills that will help them take down enemies.

Gameplay is pretty standard as far as role-playing games go. Your party takes turns attacking monsters, who then step up and wail on you. Monsters are slain through physical weapon-based attacks, as well as learned skills and magic spells.

Dragon Quest IX includes some nifty features that involves taking the game online to buy exclusive items. Moreover, up to three players can control party members and quest alongside you, though this can only be done locally and not through a Wi-Fi connection.

PROS

It's Deep--Very Deep - Dragon Quest games are never let-downs in the content department. If you plough ahead on your quest, you're looking at a 40-hour walk, give or take. But if you stop to really sniff at your surroundings, complete the dozens of Quests laid out by townspeople, and explore every optional dungeon accessible through collectable treasure maps...well, Dragon Quest IX won't leave your Nintendo DS for a long, long time.

The Graphics are Great - The Nintendo DS isn't a graphical powerhouse, and Dragon Quest IX admittedly doesn't look as good as Dragon Quest VIII for the Playstation 2. But Square-Enix still pulled off some amazing work when it converted the classic enemy roster into polygons. They animate well, and are as expressive as ever. Not only that, every piece of armor you don and every weapon you wield shows up on your character model. Very impressive.

The Story is Engaging - Your party is a blank slate that projects you, so your characters don't interact with one another. But the world they explore has more than enough emotion and intrigue to keep you going. There's a great deal of comedy as well as some drama, which is helped along by a fantastic translation and localization.

No More Random Battles - It's a Dragon Quest first: Dragon Quest IX got rid of those pesky random battles. Now you can see enemies clearly on the world map and in dungeons, and dodge them quite easily.

CONS

The Multiplayer Feature is Local Only - It's great fun to team up and play through the world of Dragon Quest IX with good friends. Alas, you can't do so over Nintendo's Wi-Fi: Only buddies who are sharing your personal space can journey with you, and they all require their own copies of the game.

The Music is a Bit Dull - Dragon Quest has always boasted a riveting score, but the music in Dragon Quest IX is subdued. It is, however, far from being bad. The theme for the Quester's Rest Inn is particularly fun.

Some of the Quests are Baffling - There are a great deal of Quests to be completed in Dragon Quest IX, and some of them yield fruitful results, like the ability to switch to a coveted job. But some of these Quests are difficult, boring, repetitive, or just not explained very well and therefore frustrating. Definitely some brutal torture for completionists.

CONCLUSION: Two Swords Up

Dragon Quest IX isn't just one of the best RPGs available on the Nintendo DS--it's one of the best RPGs available on any current console. It's not without its flaws: Portions of the game can be difficult, tedious, and sometimes require level grinding in order to take down particularly tough bosses. But that's all balanced out by the depth of the job system, the never-ending exploration and questing, and the game's healthy sense of fun.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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