Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies Review
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies box art
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
A Divine Adventure
by Tony Capri

Mention the role-playing franchise Dragon Quest, and the conversation quickly becomes one of comparisons between the series’ success in Japan versus its success in the western hemisphere. I won’t bore you with numbers, but for my money, Dragon Quest is still one of the best adventure series around. If you’ve missed out on it in the past, now’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies screenshot

Dragon Quest IX (DQIX) is the next installment in Square Enix’s flagship franchise, and in the move to Nintendo DS, the game has lost none of its epic appeal. The presentation and production values are ridiculously polished, and if you were worried the tiny handheld couldn’t carry the load, let me put your fears to rest.

When you first turn on the game, you’ll be treated to an animated opening sequence that’s perfectly optimized for the dual screen. You’ll then be asked to create a character based on various templates designed by renowned artist Akira Toriyama. You can choose between different sets of eyes, skin color, and hair, as well as a male or female character. From the very start, you can easily sense the intense level of dedication invested into the making of the game.

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Like every other Dragon Quest before it, DQIX is steeped in mythology, though this latest adventure takes a classic approach. Your character is of an angelic race known as Celestrians, and it’s your job to aid mankind. As the gratitude of humans fills, you earn “benevolessence,” which feeds the world tree, Yggdrassil. Once the great tree bears fruit, the Celestrians will be able to again join The Almighty in Heaven.

If only life were that easy…

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies screenshot

On the very day Yggdrassil finally reveals its fruits, the heavens are ripped asunder, and your character is cast down to earth. He/she loses their wings and angelic abilities, and thus, your true adventure begins. The tree’s fruits, known as fyggs, have spread across the Earth, and you’ll need to gather them once again in order to uncover the mystery surrounding this catastrophic event.

Like previous games in the series, your character is a silent protagonist, and the story revolves and unfolds around you. The fact that you create your character from scratch changes the story approach little from past games, and it’s surprising just how well the writers manage to convey such powerful themes in spite of your character’s passive role. Gathering the fyggs isn’t merely a generic device for moving the story forward, either. Each situation related to a specific fygg is unique and usually consists of a deeply moving side story designed to suck you into the experience more.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies screenshot

In terms of actual gameplay, DQIX does stick to a fairly basic formula; however, there are oodles of things to distract you. In keeping with the story, players will generally explore a town, hit up NPCs for info, traverse areas of the overworld on their way to a dungeon, cleave their way through the dungeon to an end boss, and then observe as the rest of a given side story unfolds.

Screenshots / Images
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