Dragon Quest IX stays true to the standard Dragon Quest formula with a few new additions, multiplayer and wireless downloading of dungeons, which can greatly improve your enjoyment.
In Dragon Quest IX, you are a Celestrian, an angel who guards and protects the mortals of the ‘Protectorate,’ complete with wings and a halo. Your charge is to help and protect the inhabitants of a small village called Angel Falls. Unfortunately, shortly after you begin watching over Angel Falls, a catastrophe occurs and you fall from the Observatory into the world below, losing your halo and wings along the way. Now you have to explore the world and figure out what happened, and how to get back your Celestrian powers.
You create a custom hero, from your gender to your build to the color of your hair and eyes. When you reach the point where you can add new members to your party you can go through the same steps with each member, adding a personal flavor to your adventure. In addition to the standard character creation, Dragon Quest IX changes the appearance of each character based on what armor, weapons, and accessories each have equipped. With over 900 different pieces of equipment to find and choose from, there’s a huge amount of customization here.
The combat system is the same as it has always been for the Dragon Quest series, with you choosing the actions for each party member then watching the battle play out in real time. This is a great way of mixing real-time and turn-based elements into battles. Graphically, Dragon Quest IX looks simple, yet beautiful. The signature artwork of Akira Toriyama permeates the entirety of the game, and everything looks distinctively Dragon Quest in nature. The fact that the same artist has been used to create the artwork for each game lends a feeling of nostalgia and charm to each entry in the series. The soundtrack isn’t as distinctive and memorable as one would expect of a Square Enix RPG, but it does a good enough job of staying in the background that it doesn’t really add or detract from the game.
So far, this may seem like just another Dragon Quest game, and for the most part it is. But what about multiplayer? Yes, players can join up with three friends and venture across the game’s world completing quests and defeating bosses. Unfortunately only local wireless is supported, but it’s fun nonetheless. Everyone joins one player’s world, taking the place of that player’s party. They can venture on their own, but if players are in the same area, they battle together. (What’s more, everyone but the host gets boosted experience.)
The only real problem I had with Dragon Quest IX is a complaint many have had with the entire series- inventory management. DQIX continues the tradition of having one of the more obtuse inventory management systems in modern gaming.
Dragon Quest IX does little to change or update the core Dragon Quest experience. If you have a problem with the previous games, there is little here to change your mind about the series. If, however, you want a charming, enjoyable, and long RPG, then this is one you can’t miss.
Managing Editor Graham Russell contributed to this review.
Pros: Long, enjoyable story; customization lends a personal aspect to your party
Cons: Inventory system is clunky and outdated