Game Name: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Release Date: July 11, 2010 (U.S.) July 13, 2010 (EU) August 19th, 2010 (AU)
Price: $34.99 (USD)
After being a huge phenomenon in Japan, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies has finally crossed seas. Dragon Quest IX is also apart of one of the most successful and most loved RPG franchises from Nintendo and Square-Enix which some may also know as the “Dragon Warrior” series.
Dragon Quest games are known for their compelling story and classic RPG feel. This title sticks with that formula and delivers all the way through. The story is like most classic RPGs out there, except you must create your own hero from the start. After you finish with customizing of your new hero, you then take control of the silent protagonist and dive straight into the heavens. The story starts you out as an apprentice to Aquila, and your job is to watch over the town of Angel Falls and gaining Benevolessence. What is Benevolessence you may ask? Gratitude from the humans for offering protection and help creates Benevolessence which is needed to make the Yggdrasil tree blossom for Yggdrasil’s blossoms are essential to take the Celestrians to the realm of the Almighty. Soon trouble erupts and your character is thrown from the heavens to Earth and stripped of his or her halo and wings and now must set out on a journey to find the reasoning behind this and how to stop the being that was behind it.
The story is told through cut-scenes and text-dialogue throughout the game, which really played out well and gave it an old school feel during my playthrough which should be nice to any fan of the older games of the series. You of course have your main quest, but you also have many sub-quests that you can do to earn nice rewards to better yourself and your journey. The heart of this game lies in customization though. After you reach the second town, you can create your own party. By create I mean literally mold the gender, height, looks and the vocation of each team member. 1-3 members at a time can go with you at once. The only downside is your party really doesn’t play a big role besides following you and battling alongside you as you journey throughout the game but the story is so strong it really didn’t effect anything in the game and anyone with an imagination should be able to kind of create their own personality for each created character like I did.
Dragon Quest IX like I mentioned is standard fare for most turn based RPGs out there. You must battle to gain experience and level yourself and your party up to earn new abilities. The thing is while it plays like most like the other games of the genre, it doesn’t quite stay true to the formula which does not hurt it, but puts it above others for the many added features.
First thing I should mention, NO RANDOM BATTLES! Every enemy on the screen can be easily seen right off the bat and you can easily avoid danger by just quickly moving out of the way. This doesn’t mean that the enemies are stupid as some will chase you down until a battle is engaged. Moving from town to town following the story, you must keep battling to grow stronger or else battles will quickly end badly. When a party member dies, the game has a funny way of letting you know. Instead of the character still following you around instead you will get a nice casket to take their place. Irony at it’s best to motivate you to get to a church and resurrect any downed team members for sure.
Leveling is simple and quite easy but you really must grind a lot at times to get strong enough to face bosses and harder enemies as the story moves on. Each party member can get new clothes and weaponry at just about any town. The additions show on their sprites as well so you can always change the appearance and your character while making them stronger, which brings me to the next topic of gameplay, Vocations.
With every character you create, you can also assign a vocation to. A vocation is like a job class, from a Mage,Thief, Warrior, ect.. This adds a HUGE element of strategy for the way you play as you get to customize yourself how your team will play. The more balanced a team is, the better off the player is in the long-run. Every vocation has 5 different skills that can be leveled up as your character gets stronger. For instance my main character is a Minstrel, Which allows for 3 weapons, a shield and litheness to level up. Each time you put ability points on these skills you level them up and gain new abilities related to that particular skill. I don’t understand why some are saying that grinding is a bore because to me with each level I reach something new always came out of it. This system is extremely rewarding and really is one of the most in depth and easy to use formula I have played in a long time.
I am making a separate section for Multi-Player alone due to all of the features included. Co-op is included in DQ9 and allows for up to 4 DS systems to be linked together. I really didn’t use this feature yet as I have been busy in single player, but I really like the idea and feedback this feature has received so far. Tag-Mode or “canvassing” is also very useful and may be why the game was such a hit in Japan. It allows the player to put their DS in sleep mode and will look for other Dragon Quest IX games and exchanges data with them. A clone of the character will be put into each game and have an item which can be treasure maps, rare items and even new equipment. I have been using the Wi-Fi shop the most, which has unique items and maps. Square has updated this every week since release and I hope it continues for quite some time. This is sure to keep players who have already finished the game coming back to see what’s new online. I do wish co-op over wi-fi was included but hopefully we can see that feature in future titles.
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in Dragon Quest IX are great for the Nintendo DS. Each area usually takes full advantage of the capabilities of the system. The colors pop out and you can easily get lost in the huge world this title has to offer. The key to Dragon Quest games are of course the monsters. There are a huge number of enemies in the game, and it feels so good not having to fight the same design over and over. Nearly every new monster I seen, I fought just because I wanted a closer look. Each have their own unique name and style, many with a bit of humor tied in. Dragon Quest fans will be pleased as many of the monsters will look familiar, but some have gotten complete redesigns and all of the monsters maintain the feel for the game and environments you are located in.
The sound effects were pretty standard but all seemed to work. Entering doors, the sound of the enemies chasing after you, and casting attacks in battle all just kind of fell into the background in the longrun but worked and were not annoying at all which is a good thing. The music however was wonderful. I found myself humming some of the games themes many hours after play later on. When a game can take music from being just cheap tunes for background noises to something you actually remember and relate to that title or series, it is something special and one reason I look for RPG titles to start with.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is an addicting and fun addition to the series. It took a simple formula of a classic RPG and added so many new elements to keep relevant with the times that the finished product was nearly a masterpiece. Deep customization, fantastic music, and a lot of charm and humor all on top of a solid gameplay engine. Each character and enemy also had personality and a different feel that felt true to the series and added something new to mix things up. If you don’t like old school RPGs, this may not be for you but I still recommend for any gamer out there to at least give it a try. If you are an RPG fan, you know about the staples of the genre: Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, ect.. Games that all live on for many years as the favorites of generations. In my opinion I will be adding Dragon Quest IX to that list for myself as I went in expecting a standard generic role-playing game and I got a game that is literally customized to the player and one of the best titles on the Nintendo DS.
I give Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies: