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Storyline - Dragon Quest IX
In Dragon Quest IX, the player takes the role of a Celestrian, angel like protectors of the world below them. In order for them to move to God's realm, the Celestrians must travel down to the world as mortals to protect humans from their enemies. By doing this, the world tree is able to blossom, and thus the Celestrians are able to move to the next plane of being.
It's the standard overly complicated, yet somehow deja vu story of most JRPGs. For a game aimed mainly toward multiplayer, however, Level-5 has done an alright job of creating an enjoyable storyline for players.
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Gameplay - Dragon Quest IX
As with most JRPGs there is a good deal of grinding to be done if the player wishes to achieve anything in the way of leveling up and increasing their exp. However, there is plenty of things to do in the game world to counteract this, and for the player it is simple a matter of falling into the pattern of encounters before it becomes much more comfortable and enjoyable. Gaining experience points is something that can be done in a few spare moments, such as on the bus or train to work or in a lunch break.
The job system in the game is acceptable but unremarkable. A small array of professions are present, but it seems like almost a downgrade of similar systems used in modern RPGs. The job switching system in particular is a let down, as if the player does decide to switch jobs, all their abilities and weapons will be lost, leaving them to essentially start over again.
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Multiplayer - Dragon Quest IX
Practically built for multiplayer, Dragon Quest IX offers a range of options for players to use to interact and help one another out. The game is capable of 4 player multi-card play, allowing one player to host, while the others can join and help along with quests, battles, or even just do their own thing. The trouble with the multiplayer is of course finding friends to play the game with. As Nintendo WFC is not supported, players will have to be in the physical vicinity of friends to play the game. This can be an issue where one does not have friends with the game, and it is unfortunate to miss out on such a fun game play experience.
Another great multiplayer feature of the game is Canvas Mode. Players can put their DS on standby mode but leave the game running. When this is done, the game will receive information from any other Dragon Quest IX games it passes, allowing the player to interact with other player character at the tavern.
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Controls - Dragon Quest 9
The game is controlled via by the old fashioned turn-based way of doing things - the player selects the attack, the selects the target, repeats this for all members of their party, and lets the action play out before them before repeating it again. While this may seem the boring thing to do at first, it is of course the proven method of playing out encounters, regardless of the real time action we've been seeing in games over the last few years. And by understanding its limitations, Dragon Quest IX is a step up from games that struggle to implement real time action.
The player's options when it comes to their allies are fairly limited. Some basic attack stances are available, such as healing, conserving magic and the like, but the player has no real way of telling them how exactly to do things. Given that the AI is rather blunt at many times, this can greatly detract from the game play experience.
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Graphics - Dragon Quest 9
Working neat, tasteful graphics into a DS game can be a challenge for DS developers. Level-5 has produced a more or less on par performance with Dragon Quest IX. Some of the monsters do look quite amazing, even by the standards of other games consoles. They are well designed and coloured and vary in size and shape greatly.
The human character models is where Level-5 drops the ball. While there is a huge amount of customisation players can do on their characters, with different hair, skin and body types on offer, at times it can prove very hard to piece these together without the product seeming like some sort of grotesque chibi creation. The game picks up points for offering the customisability, but loses them again for failing to blend the different components together.
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Sound - Dragon Quest 9
The soundtrack of the game is fairly dull. The music tracks themselves are mostly slow, boring midi pieces that generally fail to significantly improve the mood of the game. The effects themselves a reminiscent of a 80s or 90s game in the way they offer little more of an approximation of the action the player is undertaking. This is not without its merits, as players will no doubt enjoy the hint of nostalgia they will feel when playing through the game.
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Verdict - Dragon Quest 9
Dragon Quest IX is a game of extremes. There is no middle ground in the quality of features - nothing that simply carries the game's quality at an acceptable level. There are only the features that will have the gamers oohing and ahing at how clever Level-5 have been, and the features that will leave the gamers wondering where it all went wrong.
The game is well worth the purchase, but players must keep in mind the imperfection of this game and playing through it.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is out on Nintendo DS now.