Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
DS | SQUARE ENIX / Nintendo | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (co-operative play) | Nintendo Wi-fi Connection DLC available | Out Now
When you first boot up Dragon Quest IX, you are treated to the opening sequence, which looks amazing for the DS. No third-party developer can push the hardware limitations of the Nintendo DS better than SQUARE ENIX, and Dragon Quest IX is no exception. I’d sing it praises if this animation appeared on the Wii. Of course, you can skip it by touching a button on the touch screen, or by pressing the start button on the system.
Then, when you start a new game, you get to create your own character. The character creator is extremely deep and you’ll probably have no problems getting it to look exactly how you want. If for some reason you aren’t content with the options they give you, then you can always go back and change your character’s appearance with new options that get added on later.
The setting of the game is pretty simple. There are two worlds: the world of the Celestrians, full of peace and prosperity, and then there’s "Earth". Not only is this world made up of human beings and well-populated towns, but it’s also inhabited by monsters. It’s here that you’ll do the majority of your questing. Both environments are rich in detail, and the musical score is brilliant as well, with the music changing seamlessly.
You start as a Celestrian, who is one of the guardians of a village called Angel Falls. You get your introduction given to you by another angel, who helps you save some people from a band of monsters. The people are joyful at this, so they praise their guardian angel with Benevolessence. Benevolessence is the key to this game, and you must gather it whenever you make people happy. After you gain this first piece of Benevolessence, you go up to the world of the Celestrians to offer it to the great tree, the source of all life. However, upon doing so, an earthquake occurs that shakes the two worlds.
You wake up in the world of the humans, confused, and without your wings or halo. Also, you’re strangely visible to humans and it doesn’t take you long to realize you’ve been turned human. But, you’re not totally vulnerable. Your character is equipped with special abilities, including being able to see other Celestrians and faeries. However, the earthquake has affected the human world as well; rocks have cut off once conjoined towns, and monsters are everywhere (don’t ask how that last one works. It just does). You have to first help your only human friend discover her true calling in life (to run an inn for you and your fellow questers), and help her get to Stornway. Once again, doing so will get you Benevolessence. However, this time you’re collecting them for a different reason -- so that you can get the Celestrians' attention and have them pick you up. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s cookie cutter expected.
The main story by itself is very lengthy. It took me me about 50 hours to beat the game, and that was without completing all the side-quests. Those alone could take up 100 hours or more! And if you’re connected to the internet, you can connect to an online shop, and increase the longevity by downloading new quests every week for a year after launch.
Another feature of Dragon Quest IX is the game’s “Tag Mode”, which essentially uses the same technology as Bark Mode from nintendogs. With Tag Mode on, even when your DS is in your pocket, it will try to find other people playing the game in your area, and if you “tag” anyone, they’ll join your game. This feature, while clearly not designed with North American regions in mind, works fine, and was incorporated into the Nintendo 3DS Hardware as StreetPass.
In conclusion, the DS is full of RPG’s. 2 in every 5 games seems to be one. However, if you’re looking for an inexpensive title that is also one of the system’s best offerings to spend an ample amount of time with, then Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is it.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 9/10 - Battling and moving works almost seamlessly, successfully uses the touch screen without changing the series too much
Presentation 10/10 - Looks and sounds absolutely stunning even by Square-Enix’s standards
Enjoyment 4/5 - Hard to get into for inexperienced RPG players, level grinding necessary at some points
Extra Content 5/5 - Filled with hundreds of side quests, features you won’t find your first time, tag mode, online store, multiplayer, downloadable quests
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)