First Shot: Dragon Quest IX
Somewhere in the world Celstrians have fallen from their invisible castle in the sky. Now mortal, it is up to you to and your recruits to protect the humans in place of your now missing guardian angel race and discover why their sky city was destroyed.
Being new to the 24-year-old Dragon Quest series, I had no trouble jumping into Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. The newest portable iteration seems built for all ages and any type of RPG gamer, from the gamer who enjoys speaking to every villager in existence to those who simply want to grind and battle over and over again until they overpower each area. Dragon Quest IX does a great job of appealing to both the casual and hardcore, as the story takes the player through an hour of exploration and exposition with only one battle in between before throwing your custom-made character into the world. From there, you can choose to help the townsfolk or battle it out and raise your level. It isn’t until the three-and-a-half-hour mark that you are able to create the rest of your party and their battle classes.
The game has many old-school RPG sensibilities that have carried over throughout the series, from the almost 8-bit victory music and the text descriptions of your battle actions, to the fact that all of your characters are created by the player and don’t speak. This can feel nostalgic, dated, or cute depending on who’s playing and their gaming history. The game structure and battle system are mostly very conventional as far as RPGs go, though this is not a bad thing, as this convention allows it to honor its history while throwing an infamous slime at you for your party’s AI to auto-kill. Square-Enix has included their control-only-one-character system from the recent Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XII before it, though this time it can be turned off. The player controls the main hero while the other three party members use “tactics” predetermined by the player, like “show no mercy”, “mix it up”, “focus on healing”, and “use no MP”. Overall this works fine, and at no point in my three and a half hours with the game have I been upset by this. After leveling up beyond level five, each character can put points into weapon skills to gain new abilities, though they will gain new spells automatically when reaching set levels within their class.
Being a conventional RPG, the game also does away with certain kinds of logic, like the fact that for the past two hours, my bald-headed hero, Aang, has been carrying five pieces of manure in his bag – the only reasoning being “Alcemise it!”
I look forward to continuing, and knowing these kinds of games, turning the manure into what I’m guessing will somehow become epic armor.