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Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies super review

AT A GLANCE
  • Provides traditional RPG feel like no other
  • One of the best looking DS games ever
  • Promises hundreds of hours of play
  • Multiplayer options occasionally hurt story
  • Too old school for some
  • Heavy accents steal focus from plot

... for a Dragon Quest game


That phrase is hard to escape when talking about the “new” aspects of Dragon Quest IX. So many features are fresh… for a Dragon Quest game. Seeing enemies on the map is so advanced… for a Dragon Quest game. The character creation is really deep… for a Dragon Quest game. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t great features regardless of what series they appear in, but DQ is getting to them a bit later than everyone else. And even with all the new elements, this is still a core Dragon Quest game through and through, which is its blessing and curse.

Despite originally planning the game to feature real-time battles, after public outcry from many Japanese fans, developer Square-Enix went back on that strategy and DQIX remains as committed to turn-based battles as it ever was. Aside from smaller things, like attack multipliers and earned battle skills, the combat system is nearly unchanged from when the four-person party system introduced in Dragon Quest III.

That isn’t really a knock against DQIX for one reasons. The battle formula has been so finely-tuned and perfected over the years that nobody does classic, simple-to-learn-but-surprisingly-deep turn-based battles better than this series does. These days nobody else does classic, turn-based battles period. Well that’s not completely true, but the niche titles that still hold on to what nearly all RPG giants have left behind don’t have a sliver of the budget or production values that DQIX has.

Another welcome classic returns in with the job system, called vocations this time around. Despite the name change, it’s similar to when it was introduced in DQIII, but includes some of the small but worthwhile changes that have come over time. You gain skill points almost every level, which can be applied to one of five skill types every time you level up in a certain job. It works great in specializing a character, which makes up for the fact that the characters level resets every time you switch vocations, which can be a real pain, but you get used to it, as the more advanced jobs are only available much later on.

That we’re reminded often of the third Dragon Quest, a game more than 20 years old, isn’t really a bad thing either, as that was a real high point for the series and a fan favorite. However, it gives you an idea of what you’re in for gameplay-wise, which is a mildly updated take on a formula that came together before many of our readers were born.


When an angel collects fruit


While we appreciate the refined retro quality of the gameplay, that same vibe isn’t as welcome in the story. You play as a formerly invisible angel (sorry, Celestrian) who once helped the unsuspecting people of Earth, but now has taken mortal form after some shenanigans up in heaven. To right this wrong, you’re tasked with collecting the seven lost Fyggs, which are pieces of divine fruit from that blossomed from the World Tree. Once you find them all, you might just to get to the bottom of why the Almighty seems to be pissed at you and your haloed ilk.

Yes, collecting seven of something by traveling the world and tracking down whatever new bad guy got their hands a mythic artifact isn’t particularly new, that’s for sure, but if it was too new then it wouldn’t be Dragon Quest, would it? And we do give props to the divine origins of the main character. Since the hero is driven to help people so he can collect their thanks as heavenly energy, at least the side quests and character motivations for constantly assisting people make more sense.

But the plot has two major enemies. Firstly, it’s that other than your hero, whose silence and overall blandness don’t make him/her all that interesting to begin with, no member of your party matters to the story. You basically purchase your other team members at an inn and have them join your team, which is exactly how it worked in DQIII. It allows for those characters to be designed by the player as much as the main character is, but that advantage is outweighed by the fact they have zero impact on the story.

The other thing holding the story back is the localization. When Nintendo announced they were publishing Dragon Quest IX in the US and UK, many wondered if they’d also handle the translation. Sadly that isn’t the case, as Square-Enix gave DQIX the same treatment the last few games in the series got: heavy accents. All regular folks in the game talk in faux-British slang, while others get even more extreme in their accents, such as the town of Scottish fishermen. Since there’s no spoken dialogue, you just read the increasingly ridiculous looking dialogue to yourself and hear the accents in your head. It can really take you out of the story.

More Info

Release date: Jul 11 2010 - DS (US)
Jul 23 2010 - DS (UK)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Level-5
Franchise: Dragon Quest
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes, Mild Language
PEGI Rating:
7+

13 comments

  • slashluke - August 7, 2010 9:44 p.m.

    That fishermen town is actually made up of welsh people.I always thought it was the strange that they spoke in British accents, but hey, it's definitely not a bad thing- American accents can get grating after a while.
  • Hydrohs - July 11, 2010 8:02 p.m.

    Nintendo's marketing must have worked. I've never touched any of the Dragon Quest games but now I intend to play them all from the beginning.
  • GameManiac - July 11, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    The only Dragon Quest game that I've played was a spin-off for the Nintendo DS: Dragon Quest: Rocket Slime. Despite the oddity of the game, I played it and liked it nevertheless, however I'm itching to see how a real DQ game is like, so I'll give this game a shot. Also, it's kind of difficult to compare DQ with Pokemon because they are a bit distant, despite the traditional-like roots and JRPG-ness. Perhaps that's just my opinion.
  • GR_HenryGilbert - July 10, 2010 3:53 p.m.

    Yeah, if you've never play Chrono, that should be your first choice. As good as DQIX is, it can't compare to CT.
  • shyfonzie - July 10, 2010 12:38 p.m.

    I might have to choose between this and chrono trigger. So Chrono would be the clear choice, right?
  • GR_HenryGilbert - July 9, 2010 11:49 p.m.

    Yeah it's better and much deeper than FFIII. Better than DQVIII? Well no, but it's much more likely you'll finish IX than VIII.
  • CatrParrot - July 9, 2010 11:36 p.m.

    I've been waiting years for a brand new Dragon Quest game, so of course this game is a must-buy for me. But, is it better than Dragon Quest 8? Because I loved 8...
  • EnragedTortoise1 - July 9, 2010 10:23 p.m.

    Gonna be my first DQ game, preordered it a few days ago. Can't wait for sunday! One more question.. is it better than Final Fantasy 3 for DS? 'Cause I loved that game. Lots.
  • garnsr - July 9, 2010 8:15 p.m.

    I got to the end of VII and never finished it, and never really played VIII. I played through I and III on NES in their day, then replayed the first three on Game Boy, and IV and V on DS, and have generally enjoyed them all, though I can never really say why. There's just something to Dragon Warrior (or Quest if you really have to say that now,) that has hold on American gamers from a certain time period, I guess. I'm not sure if I'll pick this up, though.
  • Cyberninja - July 9, 2010 8:12 p.m.

    i was going to get it anyway but i am glad to hear its good.
  • Schnipke - July 9, 2010 5:59 p.m.

    I can't wait to get this game, It'll be my third DQ game, and I like reading the accents
  • 8bitBaby - July 9, 2010 5:40 p.m.

    Awesome! You’re right, I’m an older DQ gamer and no, I don’t have that kinda time any more. so while I’m on the train I can play this. I don’t mind that all these elements are new to DQ while other games have been doing it for a while, it’s just good to see DQ make that step forward. I personally would have LOVED realtime battles (the pressure makes the game more interesting) It’s really too bad about the characters and story not really shining through. But maybe in the next game it will, now that they have these advances locked in place. I’m gonna play it, it looks and sounds like fun. Also looking forward to a US release of Ni no Kuni… later next year from the looks of it.
  • db1331 - July 9, 2010 5:15 p.m.

    I was just about to hijack another post and ask when this review was going up. An 8 is exactly what I thought it would get. I might wind up getting this as my first ever DQ game.

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