Friday, 13 August 2010

Game Review – Dragon Quest IX

It is true that the never-ending wait for certain titles to be released can cause a stir in the gaming world. When we talk about hype surrounding games, there is little competition to beat the Japanese surge for Dragon Quest IX. As a series, the game holds striking popularity and continues through each instalment to show the world why classic RPG game-play is still more enjoyable than ever before. Indeed Dragon Quest IX knocked Final Fantasy XIII off of Japan’s most anticipated game chart after the latter held firm for 15 months. Then Dragon Quest IX swiftly followed to sell approximately 2.3 million units in the first 2 days of sale, out of the alleged 3 million units shipped across the country. These are all impressive figures but we must not forget one, crucial point; just because it is popular in Japan, does not mean it will be in Europe and North America.

Our taste buds for games and genres differ significantly but this was taken into consideration when the new Dragon Quest project began. This instalment is primary designed to attract interest from an overseas market, so us, by introducing multiplayer and subtle features that help those new to true classic RPG game-play, easily access the game’s terrific content.

The plot in Dragon Quest 8 holds true to the enchanting style of the classic RPG; you play the role of an angel who’s duty is to guard a small village, you are stripped of your angelic powers and are forced to explore the human world and become entangled in a whirlwind of adventure and questing. Diversity intertwines this stereotypical RPG formula straight from the get go when you discover your ability to almost completely customise your character and party. You will be asked to create the protagonist to any way that takes your liking, gender included. The same then goes for your party members. This is a fantastic addition to the series and really allows the characters to gain personality. This is then followed strongly by tremendously versatile and interesting gear gathering system that helps to further make each party member unique in bizarre and intriguing ways.

While aesthetics prove a fun way to pass the time and divulge from the other portions of the game, we cannot forget that the most important part of Dragon Quest IX, is the role-play and battling. The game categorises classes in the form of vocations, which are warrior, mage, priest, martial artist, thief and the default minstrel. Once you dwell deeper into the game you will unlock advanced classes including the ranger, sage and paladin by taking up advanced quest challenges, with more vocations available. The game allows you to change vocations and choose what vocation each created character starts off with, apart from your main character that is a minstrel at default. Each character’s skills and levels change depending on what vocation is active and using a vocation will help level it up. This allows players to mix and match parties of different vocations in order to come up with devastating and effective partnerships. This also offers a tremendous amount of replay value and versatility as it takes time to level vocations and see their advanced techniques and abilities.

Dragon Quest IX’s battle system is formed of a first and third-person style, where the former is used to target enemies and latter to watch the battles unfold. The combat includes traditional combo systems and a variety of spells to use. The combat itself is traditional turn-based and with numbers for the most part, stacked significantly against you. In addition to this, Dragon Quest IX is considered a very difficult game so don’t be shy to take some time to stop and level up in particular sections to avoid getting annihilated by some of the game’s harder foes. A new addition to the series is the ability for players to see silhouettes of enemies in the wild, this removes random encounters almost entirely and allows players to choose who or what they fight or if indeed fighting is the correct option at that particular moment in time.

Technically, Dragon Quest IX demands applause. Once again Akira Toriyama’s famous artistic style shines and oozes personality in almost every monster and character throughout the game. Indeed visually the game is stunning, with great environments and plenty of colour breathing life into your adventure. The audio is also a pleasant rehash of the series, but this works well considering the series hasn’t strayed far from what it’s good at.

One of Dragon Quest IX’s most impressive new features is the cooperative multiplayer available. You can access a game from two to up to four players that pits you and your friends against the Dragon Quest world. You get to keep all your levels and items, while levelling up with your friends. There is no noticeable lag and with free roaming available, this feels like an entirely different and exciting game mode that offers plenty of fun and replay value.

There’s always plenty to do in Dragon Quest IX, whether you are progressing through the very long and compelling campaign mode, to completing the large variety of quests and side missions available, or even finding items to mould together in the alchemy pot. Whatever it is you choose to do, you will find yourself advancing in levels, unlocking brand new weapons and armour, while at the same time, having an absolute blast.

To conclude, Dragon Quest IX does not stray from the path of traditional role-playing games. If you are not a fan of games that force time commitment, then perhaps this is not the game for you. Those looking for a long, thrilling and challenging adventure simply cannot go wrong with a game with this much content. This has to be the best hand held role-playing adventure we have seen to date; do yourself a favour and go get Dragon Quest IX. Those lucky enough to own a DS XL can see this game in even better quality on the large hand held’s screens.

Technical presentation – 9.0

Graphics – 8.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 9.0

Final score – 8.5 / 10

CeX (UK) Contributor

Igor Kharin

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