Review: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS)August 4th, 2010 | Written by Danreb Victorio | Topic: Nintendo DS, Reviews
The Dragon Quest series has been a raging hit on the Japanese shores for quite sometime. The series is considered to be the format that most stereotypical RPG’s, Final Fantasy included, have been following to a tee. When the much-anticipated 9th entry to the series was announced for release on the Nintendo DS, fans had mixed reactions. Would a handheld Dragon Quest be a step down from the critically acclaimed 8th game on the PS2?
Luckily for Square Enix, the Dragon Quest series hasn’t undergone drastic change. Dating back to the original, a lot of the core elements in previous games from the music to even the battle system remain unchanged. And in essence, that’s okay—Dragon Quest is known to be a fundamentally sound game because it doesn’t fix what isn’t broken, which is a huge reason for loyalty that many fans have for the series.
What sets Dragon Quest IX apart from the rest is its attempt at really giving the player a true and very traditional role-playing game. Instead of putting the player in the shoes of a fully-fledged character, you play the role of a Celestrian—Angelic people (with rings and a halo, no less) with specific strengths that make them superior to any human. As a Guardian Celestrian, it is your character’s job to protect and maintain care of Angel Falls, a small village reliant on its innkeeper for stability. Upon competently doing your job, you receive “Benevolescence” from villagers thankful that their home is protected by a Guardian whom they can’t see but have a lot of faith in.
Your role as a Celestrian Guardian is to gather as much Benevolescence as you can, so you can offer the gift of gratitude to Yggdrasil, a large tree at the center of the Celestrian headquarters in the sky. Legend has it that once the Great Tree, Yggdrasil, has enough Benevolescence, it will bear fruit, which will take the Celestrians to the Promised Land. Of course, things don’t fall the way they should, and it results in disaster and the loss of your Celestrian capabilities as you tumble back down to Angel Falls, wondering how it is you’ll get back to the way things were.
Throughout the course of the Celestrian introduction, you learn the ropes of Dragon Quest IX. It’s as standard as role-playing quest gets. You go from town-to-town, talk to people to get information, and use that information to set an agenda. As with all other games before it, each town you visit has a certain problem. From the tough and confused treachery of the Wight Knight causing destruction in a town because of its princess, to a wealthy little girl who gives her life to a doll—there’s something for everyone to like (and find bizarre) about the game’s zigzagging plot.
Upon touching down upon the world as a human, your character will be under the role of a minstrel, which have skills in pretty much all phases of battle, including magic. When you reach a certain point in the game, you’ll be able to change your class, and with this, you’ll be able to have different kinds of abilities and additions to your wardrobe. The one drawback with class changing is that you go back to level 1, but since most of your stats will still be intact, battles shouldn’t be that much harder, and the game maintains its fast pacing.
While the plot itself is strong, it doesn’t do much in terms of character development. This isn’t just because your character is speechless. Once you reach the second town in the game, you’ll be able to recruit or create characters for your party under the basic classes such as Mage, Priest, Martial Artist, and others. These characters you recruit do nothing but give you a party to play with in battle. They serve no other purpose, and the story has nothing to do with any of the other three people in your party.
This is done because the one unique thing about Dragon Quest IX is that the emphasis was put on multiplayer gameplay. Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, players from around the world can be a part of your world and explore its depths however they please, and do whatever it is they want to do—it’s pretty much the way Animal Crossing’s town-visiting system worked. Other players can also serve as members of your party to make battles a lot more interactive and less difficult at the same time.
On top of that, extensive use of the game’s multiplayer will unlock sidequests that also unlock access to hidden dungeons and bosses, allowing for more grinding and more items. Speaking of rare items, every week, you’ll have access to add unique items exclusively for Wi-Fi users to your game, which again also makes everything a whole lot easier—assuming you have the coins to afford them. As the game’s publisher, Nintendo will be updating its service every week for a while, so that perfectionists still working on the game will be able to nab everything they want.
Considering the Dragon Quest VIII was a game on the PS2, it’s obviously not worth comparing to this game. However, the developers at Level 5 did what they could to make the presentation as well done as possible. For starters, the game has a similar camera to that of Dragon Quest IV and V, where you can see that the 2D plain you’re on is actually 3D. In battle, your characters will also freely move around the battlefield in order to more properly attack the enemy. This isn’t your usual 2D RPG where they don’t show the characters truly putting the hurt on enemies. It’s details like these that really show how much the developers put into the game visually, and that’s definitely nothing to complain about. Throw in the fully animated cutscenes put together by the artistry of Akira Toriyama (of Dragon Ball fame), and you have a winner.
As far as the sound goes, Dragon Quest IX is very old-school. As stated, the series hasn’t gone through incredible change, and nothing reflects that more than the game’s sound. The music is very much identical to what’s been heard in the previous eight games, and all the in-battle sound effects have made a return as well, such as the victory chime that has become such a joy to hear for anybody who’s played Dragon Quest.
As far as length goes, the game’s main story should take a little bit over 30 hours to complete, and that’s just bare-boned. With all the secrets there are for you and your friends to uncover, the game boasts at least 60 hours of gameplay.
Despite its unfortunate lack of character development thanks to its new emphasis multiplayer and continued emphasis on grinding, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies has one of the most complete and polished original RPG’s currently available on the Nintendo DS, and it is well worthy of the franchise name. Whether you’re at home or on the train to work, Dragon Quest IX is a game that should keep players interested from start to finish.
Score: 9 | Recommendation: Buy It
Verdict: One of the best original RPG’s available on the Nintendo DS.