High above the sky lies the floating kingdom known as the Observatory. Angelic beings known as Celestrians reside there, and it is their duty to watch over the mankind who dwell in the Protectorate. Celestrians help and aid humans in daily life, and in return, Celestrians are offered benevolessence, the tangible form of gratitude, from the humans. With enough benevolessence, the Celestrians can empower the great tree Yggdrasil so they may at long last go to the Realm of the Almighty.
Release Date: 07/11/09 (JP); 07/11/10 (NA); 08/19/10 (AUS); 07/23/10 (EU)
Publisher: Square Enix (JP); Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E10+
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies is the latest game in the Dragon Quest franchise. Like all past main Dragon Quest titles, the battles are turn-based. However, the battles are not randomly encountered, and all the monsters can be seen roaming the fields and dungeons.
The main protagonist is you as a young Celestrian who has just taken over the position of guardian of Angel Falls from your teacher and mentor Aquila. While protecting Angel Falls, you obtain enough benevolessence while performing simple tasks such as finding a ring and cleaning up a stable. You go back to the Observatory to offer your cache of benevolessence to the great tree. However, something goes terribly wrong as a beam of light blasts through the Observatory, and you are sent hurtling straight down to the world below.
You wake to find yourself in Angel Falls without your wings and halo. You befriend the local innkeeper Erinn who found you after your fall. Eventually, you will find the broken down celestial train known as the Starflight Express and Stella, its faerie driver, while on an adventure trying to reconnect Angel Falls to the nearby kingdom of Stornway. Surprised that you can see her, Stella offers to help you get back to the Observatory provided that you prove to her you are a Celestrian.
A series of events that include defending Stornway from the Wight Knight and curing the sickness at the town of Coffinwell provide you with enough benevolessence to power up the Starflight Express and go back to the Observatory. Once there, you learn that the fyggs from the great tree have fallen below, and several Celestrians, including Aquila, have been tasked to find them. Unfortunately, none have returned. A vision from Yggdrasil prompts you to travel the world and collect the fyggs. Doing so will bring stability back to the Observatory as well as restore your Celestrian powers.
In this Dragon Quest game players can customize their own characters. They can determine the gender, choose the hair style and its color, eye shape and eye color, body type, and skin tone of their characters. Additionally, equipping various weapons and armor is visible on the characters during gameplay. Creative players could even make their own Goku character from the Dragon Ball series.
There is a job class system where players can freely change the job class of their characters. Staples include warrior, mage, thief, and priest while new classes such as armamentalist, gladiator, and luminary are added to the mix. In all, there are twelve vocations total, and each one have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Returning from the previous installment is the points system. At certain level-up intervals, characters will earn points that can be used to gain new skills and traits. These are carried over when switching to a new vocation giving players an edge in creating a powerful character.
Aside from advancing in the main storyline, there are several other activities that players can do such as completing side quests to gain new jobs or items. Players can also search for ingredients needed for alchemy recipes. Opening a treasure map allows players to search the world map for a dungeon with randomly created floors to find valuable treasures there.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies offers local multiplayer play. One player simply hosts a game, and other players are free to join. However, the host has to offload a party member in order to gain a guest. Only the host can advance in the story, accept quests, set a treasure map, open red chests, trade in mini medals, and control the ship. Guest players are free to raid the contents of blue chests as well as keep any items and levels gained.
The game also makes use of a tag mode that is prevalent in other DS titles and the Nintendo WiFi Connection. In tag mode, a player searches for other players also in this mode, and any player(s) found is added as a guest at Quester's Rest Inn. If a treasure map was taken along, then that guest will hand out a copy of that treasure map. At Quester's Rest Inn players can connect online and access the DQVC shop. New items are added daily to the shop, and occasionally a new quest or a special guest might appear.
The graphics in the game are nicely done and so is the sound. They retain the retro feel of the Dragon Quest series while maintaining a modern look. The monsters' animations are beautifully well done, despite the fact that they are attacking you, the player. Not all of the spells and abilities are that impressive to view, but there are quite a handful that are.
The game keeps several classic traits of the series such as slimes that stare menacingly during battle, not being able to teleport while inside a building, and the investment of time needed to gain levels to be able to survive a new area. It is not a game for all people such as those who dislike RPGs, or those who like to keep the action coming. There are some shortcomings, but, overall, this is a fun game and is worth a try.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies receives an 8 out of 10.