Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dragon Quest IX First Impressions

Last May, I pre-bought a copy of Dragon Quest IX and it has arrived at my address as of last Wednesday. I have put 10 hours into the game so far and I'm enjoying it. In this Dragon Quest, you play as an angel ,or a celestial rather, who becomes a human after a celestial train crashes into the stronghold where you and other celestials reside. You don't have any dialogue (as per usual of the main characters in this franchise) and neither do the companions that you recruit to follow you. I'll say more about your companions later.

Being someone whose last Dragon Quest he played through was Dragon Quest V, that means no witty party chat...with the exception of this fairy name Stella. When you meet her, she follows you, gives you advice, and provides her point of view of what's going on in the story. And no, she won't be saying "hey, listen" over and over unlike a certain fairy in another franchise. Her commentary is similar to someone who doesn't normally play video games who watches you over your shoulder making comments while you play. For example, if you take too long to get to the next area, you can put up a certain menu where she talks to you and says she's bored of waiting for you to move on when you want to explore or level grind.

Other than Stella giving her commentary on the current situation in the game, the game relies on giving the NPC's you encounter on your journey more character development to liven up the game. For example, there's a character in the first town who takes you in when you become human who is pushed to follow in her father's footsteps and you help push her in that direction.

Like with the other Dragon Quest games, the battles are all turn based. The encounters this time aren't random (except for one part of the game). Like with Dragon Quest Monsters Joker (a monster collecting game I couldn't get into), you see the monsters on the field and a battle will begin when you touch one of them. If you are stronger than them, some of them will run away from you. However, if you are weaker than them, some of them make a beeline right for you. You can avoid monsters chasing you by using a holy water and make yourself invisible on the field.

The main character starts out as a minstrel, which is a combination of the typical hero classes in the other Dragon Quest games and the Jester from Dragon Quest III who likes to resorts to tricks to distract the enemy...except you can't make yourself fall asleep or paralyze yourself and you have complete freedom over the character. If you don't care for the minstrel class (and I don't at the moment), you will eventually reach the Dharma Temple (or All Trades Abbey as it is called this time) and be able to change your class at will.

With regards to your companions, you will reach an inn much like the tavern in Alihan (the first town in Dragon Quest III) where you can create three other companions to join you. You have classes like Warrior, Monk, Mage, Cleric, Thief, and Minstrel to pick from. They too can have their classes changed when you reach the All Trades Abbey. In addition, if you don't want to recruit anyone and solo the game (that's how I'm going through the game right now), you can certainly do that. There are also six other classes available but you have to unlock them doing special quests.

If you seen those Seth Green Dragon Quest IX commercials, you will know that this game is being marketed for it's customization. And you can customize yourself in the following way: other than mix and matching your party (or choosing to go it alone), each class has five skill sets. These include three for the weapons that the class can equip, a skill set for either a shield or fighting bare handed, and a special skill set for their class.

You sometimes receive skill points when you level up that can invest into one of the five skill sets available to each class. When you add skill points, you can unlock a special ability or status upgrade. For example, you can have the ability to do damage metal slimes with the sword (who have a reputation in the Dragon Quest franchise for fleeing from battle quickly, having high defense and spell immunity, and giving tons more experience for defeating them than most monsters) or receive a bonus in power when you have that weapon equipped.

When you max out a weapon, shield, or bare handed skills, then you can have the other classes that can use that couldn't otherwise use them. For example, you can max out the skill set in whips for the Minstrel and be able to use them as a Warrior who couldn't use them before. This customization does not apply to magic spells each class can learn. When you change a class that learned a magic spell (for example, Heal for the Minstrel) and change to a Monk, that spell doesn't pass over to that class.

One other thing I should mention is you do receive an alchemy pot at some point in the game. You can mix and match other weapons, armor, and items to create better versions of them. You can either find recipes that show you how to make things or blindly experiment on your own. You know that Fur Poncho that Seth Green boasts about fighting battles with in one of the Dragon Quest IX commercials? You can make one with the Alchemy Pot and it's one of the first recipes you find too.

I have covered everything I wanted to say about this game. If you're someone who enjoys the traditional JRPGs like I do, then Dragon Quest IX is definitely for you. Otherwise, if you're someone who hates the traditional JRPG, then I recommend buying another game for the DS (if you been hanging around in the chat, I'm sure you know the game Warrior5061 will want you to buy for the DS). One complaint I do have about this game is the multiplayer feature is local and not on wifi. It would've been great to party together with other Blue Rogues in this game. Ah, well. This concludes my first impressions of Dragon Quest IX.