|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Level-5||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Square Enix||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 11, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Comes to the DS
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
January 20, 2009 - Although the Dragon Quest series has definitely seen its fair share of handheld spin-off titles and remakes, it has never been the vehicle for the main series. The main series has always been known for its epic plotlines and settings, and it just wasn't a good fit for handheld devices. However, all that will be changing with the release of Dragon Quest IX: Protector of the Sky, which will be a DS exclusive.
While the decision to make the latest Dragon Quest entry DS-exclusive may seem a little shocking at first, it actually makes sense for the series, as the Dragon Quest IV remake on the DS was fairly successful, and DS remake versions of Dragon Quest V and VI have been confirmed. The overall style of the Dragon Quest series is also very conducive to the handheld platform, and will help preserve the nostalgic feel of the numbered series. But still, the question remains, can a Dragon Quest title developed specifically for a handheld ever measure up to its predecessors? So far, the answer seems to be yes.
The story in Dragon Quest IX begins in a heavenly realm where celestial beings gather warm and fuzzy feelings from the land below. Once enough happiness has been gathered, these celestial beings are able to create a Star Aura, which can be offered to the World Tree. The game begins with the main character bringing an offering to this fabled tree. However, something goes terribly wrong, which is where the adventure begins.
The structure of Dragon Quest IX will definitely be reminiscent of other titles in the series, and it will feature a free-roaming story mode where you can complete story and side quests in order to level up party members. However, there will be one big change in Dragon Quest IX: no more random battles. Instead of just walking around an area and then having a monster engage you with no warning, you will see the monsters around you and will be able to avoid them if you wish. This should please RPG fans that don't enjoy the constant grinding aspects presented in previous titles.
Another feature of Dragon Quest IX that will recall previous titles in the main series will be the graphics. The style of the game looks a lot like Dragon Quest VIII on the PlayStation 2, and it features a 3-D level design with cel-shaded characters. The different stages are very vibrant and feature a mix of textured and dynamic moving elements. Despite its obvious retro influences, Dragon Quest IX definitely seems like it will be one of the best-looking titles for the DS in the coming year.
One of the biggest features of Dragon Quest IX will be the co-op multiplayer functionality. The co-op in this title will be integrated into the story mode, and you will be able to play through the normal story mode with up to three other people. The multiplayer will use the DS's Wi-Fi capabilities and will not be online-enabled. However, the game will support drop-in functionality, and you can play with friends as you please.
A big component of Dragon Quest IX's multiplayer mode will be the way co-op battles are structured. Although each character will be completely autonomous and can explore away from their parties, if one character gets into a battle, all the different characters will warp to the embattled character's fight. This cooperation will allow for characters to move without worrying about losing teammates or staying close together to engage in large battles.
Overall, Dragon Quest IX looks like it will continue in the footsteps of its predecessors by proving good, old-fashioned, turn-based RPG gameplay. Although this is the first Dragon Quest title from the main numbered series to come exclusively to a handheld title, it looks like it does so to preserve its retro-inspired gameplay, which is definitely a good thing. There is no firm release date for Dragon Quest IX as of yet, but the Japanese release is coming this spring, which means that we can probably expect a holiday 2009 release in North America.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor