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Dragon Quest 9: SO ALONE.

*Insert Dragon Quest theme song here*

It’s been a while since I last graced you all with my presence on Faceplant! and there’s so much I want to review!  Comics I’ve picked up!  Games I’ve obsessively played for the fortieth time!  Commentary about how the next generation of consoles should just have two controllers duct taped together!  The possibilities are endless!  But unfortunately for you, I made a promise to myself hours, nay, days ago that I’d finally type up that review for Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Sky for Nintendo DS.  I figure, you know, since I’ve mentioned the game about fifty times in other articles, it’d probably be nice to actually have a review about it.

I was a little hesitant when I heard Dragon Quest 9 was coming out for the Nintendo DS, mainly because DQ8, which came out for Playstation 2 a console generation ago, was a fantastic game and I was unsure if something like that could translate well to handheld for a sequel.  I was very pleasantly surprised, even if the much touted online multiplayer gameplay makes me feel like the last living soul in an empty and barren universe.

Someone is about to get wrecked

The plot is pretty simple and straightforward.  You are a celestial, an angel like creature (complete with wings and a halo) who has been assigned to watch over a small village out in the middle of the boonies and to ensure that the residents living there don’t accidentally kill themselves.  You do this because when mortals are extremely happy and grateful toward their town guardians, they excrete some kind of gem called benevolessence.  You then feed this to your magical tree growing out of the middle of the invisible floating celestrian city in the sky.

There’s a legend about the tree, you see (isn’t there always?).  Once the tree bears fruit, oh man.  THINGS will happen.  You want these things.  You covet them.

And then, as is RPG style, everything goes horribly wrong and you’re thrown off the celestrian home world, losing your halo and wings in the process.

That’s the basic, overarching plot in DQ9.  The rest of the game has you wandering from town to town and solving their problems.  It’s a tried and true RPG advancement system.  New town = New problems you’re obligated to care about.  But for the most part, you’ll be too wrapped up in the character development system, customizing your party, and completing mini quests for more sweet loot to notice it.

A warrior using a magic wand? Whatever floats your boat, sparky.

Here is where Dragon Quest 9 truly shines.  Customization.  From the very first, you design your character’s gender and looks before sending him off into the world.  The game auto defaults your aspiring celestrian to be a minstrel class, which is actually pretty lame, but eventually the game opens up and gives you access to over 8 classes to sink levels into, full of stats to gain, abilities to learn and weapons to master.  Abilities and stat bonuses you unlock in each class carry over to your other classes, even though you have to level up each class independently.  It’s still extremely convenient to have that plus 60 strength when you switch to something you have not been using in order to snag a few points in swordplay.

The weapon abilities stick with you through each class as well, though you have to actually be equipped with that kind of weapon to use them.  You’re not roped into just one weapon type, since all of them have an “omnivocational” passive ability at the end of their skill set that lets you equip that type regardless of your job.   I made myself a gladiator who exclusively uses spears, because obviously spears are awesome.

That guy who did the art in that old Dragon Ball Z anime did the art for this game. Don't worry, though. No one spends 20 minutes "powering up" here.

Equipment too adds a unique flair to your characters.  Early in the game you unlock the famed alchemy pot which gives you the opportunity to upgrade your loot, if you’ve been grinding the right kind of enemies.  The equipment looks a little on the ridiculous side, though.  I created a hood that resembles a slime head, and for a while my mage was wearing a shirtless vest and invisible pants along with a pimp hat.

I try to kill enemies fast so the shame doesn’t kill me.

On to other things.  The dialogue, where it exists, is passable.  You’re character’s the mute type, but if you’re into old school RPG style games, you’ve gotten a lot of that in the past.  It’s a nice throwback to those old dungeon crawlers. and has just enough of the nostalgic flare to keep you coming back.

But, every silver lining, as they say, is secretly hiding lightning.  Lightning that may not kill you but puts a bit of a bad mark on an otherwise nifty experience.  Oh who am I kidding this metaphor is awful and makes no sense.

Me and my posse are going to RUIN YOU, TROLL.

Anyway, the first strike against this game is that your party members are completely non entities.  At a certain point in the game, someone essentially says “oh have some friends” and then you get to pick and choose who is in your party from here on out.  They will never speak to you.  They will never offer words of encouragement.  For the most part the game ignores they exist at all.  I’m usually okay with this kind of party, especially since I’m very much aware that DQ9 is meant to be played online.  But there are times when the game itself does acknowledge them, and I get royally confused.

At one point in the game, a character snapped “I told you to come alone!” at me a couple of times.  It took me a bit to realize that he was talking about my faceless combat slaves that no one seemed to notice up until that point.

The second negative part of this game, well I might just be an exception here.  There are three kinds of online play for DQ9.  There is a shop, which downloads new and rare items every day which is pretty sweet, there is the ability to hop into someone else’s game and take down some major baddies, which I can’t do since I’m the only person I know with this game, and there’s the strange “canvass for guests” option, which brings people into your in-game inn, which functions as your base of operations.

The third option is what is killing me.  I’ve spent hours, hours I say! canvassing for guests.  What do I get if I find someone?  I have no idea.  Absolutely none.  Because I have never found a single other person playing DQ9 to come visit my inn.

Wh... where is everyone?

It has created a bleak world in my head, maybe one where everyone else with DQ9 has tragically had their fingers broken, unable to turn on their DS consoles.  Or maybe I’m simply the only person in North America playing it.  Maybe…  I’m the only person left…  AT ALL.

This point in my rationing is usually where Elrood and Enosh tell me to stop quivering on the floor and being dumb.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter.  Dragon Quest 9 is definitely one of the better games I’ve played for the Nintendo DS, so if you’ve got one of those and are jonesing for an RPG, pick it up.  The amount of customization you can do to your character seems endless, new quests are downloaded into your game when you hook up to their in-game store, and you’ll sink countless hours into creating some kind of magical boomerang warrior by slaughtering slimes.  It seems like a win-win.

Seriously.  Please.  I’m…  I’m so lonely here.

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2 Responses

  1. I actually know how the canvasing for guests thing works and why even if you walked around the heart of NYC odds are you wouldn’t get anybody.

    It will only work if you have your ds on and doing the canvas for guests option and it picks up somebody else doing the same. This is not a passive thing! Outside of Japan, I can’t imagine anybody is doing this unless they’ve set it up before hand. Lucky for us, Nintendo is on record as saying the upcoming 3DS will employ the same kind of functionality in its games of having rewards for encountering others who are playing, but they’ve fixed the technology to be much more accessible.

    The new way it works will only require your DS to be in sleep mode and have a save of the required game on it. So this puts you in potential contact with anybody just carrying their DS with them, which while probably not super common in the barren wasteland known as Ohio you live in, at least has a chance of happening.

  2. I don’t have a DS, or I would visit your inn. Good article!

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