Mindless Review: Dragon Quest IX Sentinels of the Starry Skies
DQIX is the latest game in the long running RPG franchise from RPG giant Square Enix. While the last installment of the franchise was last seen on the PS2, DQIX is exclusive to the Nintendo DS, and sporting a brand new multiplayer focus. Does Dragon Quest IX live up to the reputation of it’s predecessors or has it’s ninth live been used up?
I’m going to get this right out of the way, DQIX has a large online/multiplayer focus. You can join up with 3 friends and go adventuring together, or access a special shop that’s updated regularly through the DS’ wi-fi connection. While there is this large focus on multiplayer and online features I have not been able to experience any of them for two reasons.
1) DQIX is local multiplayer only, and since none of my friends have this game I really couldn’t try it out.
2) For some reason whenever I tried to access the online store my DS would tell me that it isn’t compatible with my Internet security. After playing around with some things, I couldn’t get it to work so I gave up.
So this review is based solely on the single player experience.
The story of DQIX is set around a group of heavenly beings called Sentinels. It’s the Sentinel’s job to guard over a town and keep it citizens safe and happy. Keeping the people happy gives ‘benevolence’, which is given to Yggdrasil, the “world tree”. When the Yggdrasil tree is given enough benevolence it will bear fruit which will allow the Sentinels to return home.
You as the hero, are the newly appointed guardian of a small town called Angel Falls, have gathered enough benevolence to give to the Yggdrasil tree so that it will finally bear fruit. But among offering up benevolence something goes terrible wrong, and you end up falling down to the mortal world stricken of all your heavenly powers. So it’s your job to figure out what went wrong, and find a way to get your powers back . Thus the story begins.
One thing I like about the story is that there is no melodrama that is present in the stories of most RPGs. You basically have a go save the world scenario, and you get a nice variety in story scenarios spread among the game as your tracking down the pieces of fruit.
The story is also pretty hefty, you’ll get a good 40+ hours out of the main story alone. Among completion my playtime came to about 51 hours of gameplay.
If you’ve played any Dragon Quest game before than you most likely know what to expect from the gameplay. During the main quest you journey form one town to the next taking on quests that help move the story forward, and fight many monsters along the way.
Outside the main quest there are a few other things you can do keep you busy. You can take on various side quests from NPCs, explore randomly generated dungeons, or find ingredients so you can make weapons and armor through the alchemy system that returns from DQVIII.
The battles are old fashioned turn based fights, you select your commands from a menu and the action plays out. While the basic formula is the same, asteticly a lot has changed about the battles themselves.
Taking ques form DQVIII you now see your party members, and the enemies attack each other opposed the just some slash animation appear over them like the older additions to the series. But unlike DQVIII, your party and the enemies are moving around the battle field to line up with who they’re attacking.
It doesn’t change the gameplay at all but it’s a nice added detail to see that the series is trying evolve, but still keep the core elements in tack.
The biggest improvement to the gameplay is that there are no more random battles. Now as your walking around the world map you can see monsters on the field. You can choose who and when you want to fight. Sometimes the monsters will chase after you, but if your at a high enough level than they’ll flee at the sign of your presence.
Graphicaly the game looks really good for a DS game, the characters take on a bit more of a chibi look to compensate for the DS’ hardware limits, and resemble what the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III, and IV looked like. The style consistent to the franchise returns thanks to Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, who once again does the character designs.
In terms of customization there are tons of options available in DQIX. You create your hero at the start of the game, with a variety of faces, hair styles, hair colours and skin tones to choose from. You also create every one of you party members that will be accompany you through out the game.
A nice added visual touch is that every weapon and piece of armor you equip on you characters changes the way they look.
You can also choose between a variety jobs for each party member, and as you level up you can allocate skill points to different areas to customize how your characters develop.
There is one big problem with DQIX however.
Because you create your hero and party members yourself there is no real personality among them, and that creates a big disconnect between player and character. Your basicly walking around with a bunch of lifeless dolls who’s only purpose is to help you in battle. Other than the hero none of the party members appear or are even mentioned in the story at all.
Because of that it’s up to the NPCs in the game to carry all the weight of the storytelling, and while for the most part they do a really good job of it, it’s just doesn’t give off the same experience when you don’t have party members you can really care about.
In today’s age where every RPG is constantly trying to reinvent the formula it’s very refreshing change of pace when a game comes along that is routed in the traditions of the Golden Age of RPGs Although it might not be the best of the series it’s still a very good addition to the franchise. I can only hope that when Dragon Quest X rolls around it gets a big console release that it deserves.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – 8.5/10