"JRPG Nirvana Served Up DS Style"
JRPG’s (Japanese Role Playing Games) have been a bit of mixed bag for me, especially as of late. Back in the day, I loved them because, realistically, that’s pretty much all there was on the home consoles. I played domestically developed RPG’s such as Ultima and The Bard’s Tale on various computers (C64 and IBM) and they were cool, but they kind of lacked the pizzazz. JRPG’s brought that to the video game table in spades; Phantasy Star II was a revelation to me and I was hooked. I proceeded to devour as many JRPG’s as I could get my greedy, little hands on. Hell, I even went as far as to import a few! But somewhere around two-thirds of the way through Final Fantasy X, I had enough. I had enough of the wild, spiky hair, the insanely convoluted plotlines and the over-the-top attacks. I just stopped playing JRPG’s altogether and haven’t really played one with any conviction since.
- The interesting, often strange characters bring the game to life -
That brings me to the latest iteration of the most successful series in Japanese video gaming, Dragon Quest. In Square Enix/Level 5’s Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies you assume the role of a silent hero that you can tweak to a certain extent. S/He is a member of the Celestrians, a race of winged guardian angels who assist the lowly mortals down on Earth with their daily grind. The Celestrians do this to attain the blue crystal “Benevolessence”, which they need to satisfy their higher power, the World Tree, Yggdrasil. However, upon sacrificing the last bit of Benevolessence, something goes horribly wrong. In the chaos, our hero crashes to Earth. When s/he awakens, s/he finds that s/he has lost his/her wings and halo; made a mortal, essentially. The lengthy quest that follows is to simply find out just what in the hell went wrong.
The story is nowhere as complex as the ones you will find in some more recent RPG’s, but what DQ IX lacks in depth it sure makes up for it with heart and humor. The tale is carried by the original, touching and sometimes downright weird individuals that you’ll encounter along the way. The main thrust of DQ IX has you and your party (who you can make from scratch, as well, which is a nice and welcome touch) visiting villages and towns, each with their own tale of woe (e.g. a kingdom beset by an undead knight, or a village ravaged by a plague). Find the root of the problem by talking with the townsfolk, comb the never-too-far-off dungeon, defeat the boss monster you inevitably find there and watch those frowns turn upside down. Rinse and repeat.
It is a simple, tried-and-true design to be sure, but it keeps you enthralled throughout. Because of the cheerful atmosphere and interesting characters, you genuinely want to find out what is going on in the next town/village and then conquer it. I won’t give it away but the overall story arc does dovetail nicely into a satisfying climax.
- The turn-based battle mechanics are old hat, but they are appealing nonetheless -
The battles found in DQ IX are pretty simple and straightforward. It is a standard turn-based system that has remained virtually unchanged in the many years of the Dragon Quest series: physical attacks, magic spells, items use, flee, etc. Fans of the series like this system and expect it. The main advantage of this old-school, turn-based system is that there is very little learning curve; the game is very friendly and easy to understand for newcomers. I, myself, prefer something meatier and action-oriented but, as a wise man once said, “To each, their own.” Two welcome new wrinkles to the formula are the addition of interchangeable class skills/jobs and alchemy, which add a good deal of depth and variety to your characters and to the Dragon Quest series, as a whole.
All in all, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies does not reinvent the wheel; it doesn’t have to, really. But it does have the necessary innovations to keep things interesting and fresh for veterans of the series and newcomers alike. It even made an old-school gamer like me, who had fallen out of love with the tropes and conventions of JRPG’s as a whole, smile many times and truly appreciate it for what it is…a damn fine game.
GameDynamo's Score for Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS/DSi)
A professional writer, journalist, critic, publisher, and more who enjoys video games and has a good sense of humor.
Images / Screenshots / Artwork
Our Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies photo gallery currently contains 10 images. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see some of them, or the button to view more.
More Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies Images »
[View Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies images / screenshots +]
[Watch Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies videos / trailers +]
[View more Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies cheats / guides +]
MORE FROM GAMEDYNAMO