Dragon Quest IX – import review

Motivating yourself through what is, at least in Japanese, a story-free game, gives DQIX a whiff of Etrian Odyssey. In that title there was no story, anecdotes were entirely in your own reading of the brutal stat-flow. Oddly, even with the story intact we imagine this vibe to remain. In order to accommodate multiplayer, your support characters are designed to be swapped in and out for friends. They’re non-characters designed by you – a decision that has irked fans of the usually story-rich series, but gives us a satisfying investment in our precious babies.

Okay, so they’re babies with names like “!!!!!” (character input is English-free), but this is one of many quirks awaiting the importer. Another involves the menu memory game in which you try to recall what each clump of hiragana does. It’s like playing 20 games of matching pairs at once and probably explains the accidental fleeing. Then you have the fun game of ‘what does this thing do?’. Fireballs and tornadoes are self explanatory, but the attack that costs four MP to do six HP still escapes us. It makes us flash red, if that helps.

That a much bigger, better game is happening around you is hard to miss. We’d really like to know what all the business with the celestial pears involves, not to mention the hundred side quests, the skill system (you shape your heroes by investing in certain disciplines as you upgrade) and text box after text box of bafflement. Playing as we did is akin to messing around with a sparkler as a huge firework display explodes behind you. It’s one of those cool color-changing sparklers, but still, don’t you want to know what that Catherine wheel just said?

As solid as they are, mechanics can only get you so far, and playing armed with a translation guide is a sad affair, all the surprises spoilt by the polyglot ahead of you. Take our word for it: Dragon Quest IX is going to be worth the wait, so buckle down and pre… *flees accidentally*.

Import score: 8

Aug 11, 2009