Dragon Quest IX Review: Save The World…Again!

System: Nintendo DS         Publisher: Nintendo         Developer: Square Enix, Level-5

It may seem like the Dragon Quest series has a few too many iterations now that we’re at the ninth edition, but the series started way back in 1986, which is around 24 years ago. Let’s find out if the first real Dragon Quest for the DS is worth playing.

Is it time to quest again?  You bet it is!

In this game you are an angel sent down to earth to recover some golden fruit that is needed in order for the angels, or celestrians (as they’re called), to be able to reunite with the Almighty.  These magical fruits are powerful indeed and cause the mortals who eat them to become monsters; some of the main bosses of the game.  You will travel from town to town discovering that there are problems that need to be solved in your newest location and eventually you will get one of the golden fruits needed for your quest.  Even after it is evident that the game has a very obvious pattern it still remains fun: new town, learn about problem, fix problem.

Your heroes’ appearances will change according to what they equip

Part of this fun you’ll be having is exploring the world.  This game, unlike most RPGs, shows enemies on the over-world, which means that there aren’t any random battles.  You are able to dodge enemies and run away (most of the time) if you don’t feel like battling.  In fact I have been able to get to bosses without having to battle any of the dungeon’s monsters.  Of course, you don’t want to do this too much or you won’t be able to defeat bosses.  Not having random battles also means you can, for the most part, freely run around and collect items that can be found on the over-world that are needed to craft new items.  You also have the ability to choose and attack certain enemy types if you need them for a quest, or if they have specific items that you want.  The fact that you can choose your classes for your four heroes, take abilities to other classes, find new classes on your travels (via quests etc.), and craft class-specific items means that this game has a lot of addictive qualities to it.

The story in the game is done well and probably better than most RPGs’ stories.  While you will get a new story for most towns you visit, some not very interesting, you may feel as I did that you simply want to get the objective over with and move to the next town.  Most of the stories simply weren’t told well enough for me.  It’s probably that if you’re an older gamer you’ve experienced better story-telling, and DQIX won’t be completely sufficient in this area.  The material for great stories is here, but the execution in story-telling, and emotional impact is lacking.  Another area it may be lacking in is its multi-player.

No online multi-player is such a disappointment

The multi-player allows up to four players to traverse the world and explore new hidden dungeons together.  Defeating a boss of one of these random dungeons will get you a random new map by which you can find yet another random dungeon.  Players can also share maps with other players, which is a pretty cool feature.  However, while you’d think that random dungeons would keep things exciting and new, you’ll find that you’re running as quickly as possible to find the stairs to the next floor in order to reach the boss to hopefully get a new item, and maybe a better dungeon map.  The random dungeons really lack the originality and mystery that a hand-crafted dungeon has.  You can play the main quest with other players but doing that will only progress the main quest of the host, which is fine if you’re going through the entire game with that same person.  On the other hand, if you’re just randomly joining the host to do parts of the main quest you are not able to get any of the special items in red treasure boxes.  The absolute worst thing about multi-player is that you cannot play online, but only locally; way to destroy that game option, Square-Enix.

While I may seem to have had a lot of negativity in this review, I only do this to warn people of certain things they may not like about the game.  I did have a lot of fun with the game, and I played Dragon Quest 9 exclusively until I beat it.  Leveling up characters, changing classes, putting points into certain aspects of characters, exploring the over-world, finding items to craft new items, and even seeing what’s going to happen next in the sub-plots and main plot were all enough to keep me enjoying the game.  While the stories could have been executed a bit better, and multi-player would have been more enjoyable if there were hand-crafted dungeons exclusive to it, I still had a blast, and I recommend this as one of the better RPGs on the DS.

Grade:  B+

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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="http://nerdreactor.com/about/">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>