by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on NDS
One of the oldest Role-Playing franchises in existence, Dragon Quest returns stronger than ever in what must be one of the series most polished and enjoyable games in years. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies puts the player in the shoes - or wings if you will - of a celestial angel trying to save the world from destruction by its very creator. Fortunately you do not need to undertake this formidable task on your own. True to its predecessors, Dragon Quest IX is a Turn-Based Role-Playing game in which you can choose and build up your own party in any way you see fit.
I am sure many of you would be thrilled to play the game as an angel, but I have to disappoint you. The lead character may be a celestial at first but events cause him to lose that status shortly after entering the game. You will be playing as a minstrel, a class adept at close combat and healing magic and spiced up with a number of powerful magical spells that are nothing to sneeze at. You will have to get by on your own for the first couple of hours until you have solved the first major quest. After that, up to three party members can be created to join you and for these you - do - get to choose classes. The game sports no less than twelve classes (or vocations) but six of those need to be unlocked before they can be used.
I opted for a fairly traditional mix consisting of a warrior, a priest and a wizard. It is possible to switch class at a later time but it comes at a significant cost: the loss of skillpoints earned in combat. Spent skillpoints offer hefty bonuses ranging from spells and special abilities to attack bonuses for specific weapons. Losing these skillpoints is quite painful making me wonder if players will be switching classes at all.
Sticking it to them
Combat is both smooth and fast. The game map is filled with a wide variety of enemies that often pop up out of nowhere but rarely so late that you donít have time to decide whether to avoid or engage them. Once engaged, the game zooms in on the combat ground and your foes for the round. Itís impossible to see the number of enemies prior to this, so it is always a bit of a surprise to see who is waiting for you. Even more surprising is when the enemy calls for backup and new enemies join in to see the end of you.
Naturally you will be giving your characters orders to attack, heal and cast spells to prevent their untimely demise. Every action is carried out with beautiful animations and accompanied by colorful looking special effects and the camera has a flair for highlighting the most dramatic moments. Giving orders is quick and effortless and spells cast in a prior round are pre-selected in the menu so you will never have to slow down.
To its credit, the game hardly ever is too hard or too easy and everything about it says that it is exactly how it was meant to be. Your party explores and adventures away for as long as their mana, health and collection of potions hold out and then return to a village or other place of healing to replenish before setting out again. If you donít purposely avoid too many battles, leveling up occurs fast enough that you do not need to go out and grind at all.
No Pros and Cons at this time