Game Review

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

It's slime time!

You'd be hard-pressed to find a video game series more influential to the Japanese RPG genre than Dragon Quest. Although the constantly-evolving Final Fantasy titles have generally remained more popular over the years, the former has stayed a favourite among long-time fans for its uncanny ability to retain the old-school console RPG feel of its humble beginnings. Sentinels of the Starry Skies marks the main series' first exclusive release on a portable system, and despite some of its more modern gameplay conveniences, it still manages to feel like a good old-fashioned Dragon Quest experience.

Since prior sequels have remained very similar in design and execution over the years, it comes as no surprise to see the standard formula still intact in this newest instalment. You'll spend the majority of your time travelling around world maps, venturing from town to town and delving into dungeons. Not even the combat system has changed much over the years, sticking to a traditional turn-based style similar to that of past releases.

There are no active-time battle gauges to deal with; rather, the game allows you to carefully pick and choose your commands with as much time as you deem necessary. It's during these many skirmishes that you'll earn experience points to level up your player's attributes and gold to outfit and customise them with improved equipment, something that plays a rather focused role throughout. You'll also gain skill points that can be applied to a variety of your individual character's features, giving you an almost unlimited amount of freedom in how they develop.

But even as traditional as the game tends to remain, the developers have tossed in a few more modern RPG conveniences, and thus given it a fresh feel. Unlike the random enemy encounters of old, Dragon Quest IX makes the bad guys visible and allows you to get in a surprise attack or attempt to avoid them altogether. Some will plant their feet, others will run away from you, and some will aggressively give chase. Those who you've defeated in battle will shortly thereafter re-spawn in front of your very eyes, so you won't be able to stop in one spot for long unless you want to get attacked again. While this can make level grinding much easier, it can get somewhat annoying when you're trying to take a long look at your map screen or plan out your next move while battling a particularly difficult group of monsters.

In addition to the main adventure, the game offers up a variety of side-quests in which you can take part. You'll pick these up in various towns by speaking to people or download them; new mini-adventures are to become available on a continual basis via Wi-Fi. You can even set up "Canvassing Mode", which will allow you to locate other Dragon Quest IX players, not to mention pick up new treasure maps.

Multiplayer action is another aspect that the developers obviously spent a lot of time planning and implementing, and it can be very enjoyable for those who take the time to explore it. Once you reach a particular town not too far into the game, you'll be allowed to ask others within Wi-Fi range to join you in your quest. Of course, there's almost complete freedom when it comes to how each player takes part. Invitees can choose to wander off and do their own thing or to assist the host in battle when called. You can even walk up on a fight already in progress and join. While your play inside another host's game won't advance your own storyline, you're able to keep all of the experience points that you earn as well as any items that you find hidden in blue treasure chests. Not only is it a lot of fun to adventure with other players, it can be very beneficial as well.

You can't help but appreciate the extremely well-crafted play control that Dragon Quest offers. Whether you choose to use the touch screen or the button controls, manoeuvring through the game is simple and intuitive. Even the menu systems in both of the main areas and in battle are laid out perfectly and allow you to focus on the tasks at hand without worrying about clunky controls. There's just one save slot, something that will likely annoy players who like to save and return to previous sections, but this is a minor complaint. Otherwise, the gameplay mechanics stay quite solid throughout.

The DS might not have the graphical horsepower of a home console, but you'd hardly know it from the impressive cel-shaded visuals that the developers have concocted. The scenery comes alive with vibrant colour schemes and the level of detail in your surroundings never ceases to amaze. The sheer variety in the adventure's various areas are equally remarkable, and you'd be hard-pressed to find two locales that look even remotely similar. The characters and enemies are another notable facet of the visuals and are every bit as detailed and colourful as the surrounding backdrops. Each enemy features its own unique animations, really bringing them all to life onscreen and rounding out what is easily one of the more impressive visual presentations available on the system.

The musical stylings of the Dragon Quest releases are almost as representative of the series as the gameplay itself, so it comes as no surprise that the score never strays too far from this norm. The orchestrated tracks carry the mood perfectly, and even with the lack of any type of voiced dialog, the audio package never has any trouble setting the varying tones that the game's storyline brings to life. As well as the myriad new musical pieces to behold, there are still enough classic tunes here to conjure up feelings of nostalgia and familiarity that long-time fans of the series will surely appreciate.

Conclusion

You can't help but marvel at how the developers were somehow able to squeeze a console-sized RPG epic onto the diminutive DS, especially given how mammoth the quest itself is. On top of this impressive feat, they found a way to toss in a wealth of new gameplay features and multiplayer action as well. It's perfectly clear from the moment that you begin - absolutely no corners were cut. If ever there were a title to truly show off just how far portable gaming has come over the years, it's this one. It might have been a long wait, but Dragon Quest IX proves to be everything that followers of the series could have hoped for, not to mention a game that no RPG fan should miss.

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Game Trailer

Seth Green continues his crusade to get people playing Dragon Quest IX and also helps them romance. What a guy

User Comments (104)

irken004

#1

irken004 said:

Not for me (turn based... bleh...), but sounds good for those who enjoy the genre.

CanisWolfred

#2

CanisWolfred said:

No surprises here. Still seems as boring as ever. Pass. I'll just wait for FF: 4HoL and Etrian Odyssey 3 if I want some real good RPG action.:)

Morphbug

#3

Morphbug said:

Wow, now i am really interested in this one, the graphics, the style, the everything, maybe i should buy it as my first dragon quest ever?

Turn based rpg are the only rpg games i like, actually.

CorbsAdmin

#4

Corbs said:

I'm just not sold on Etrian Odyssey 3 yet. I'll wait and see... :)

Zach

#5

Zach said:

@abgar I like turn based RPGs very much as well. If only I knew more people with DS systems - the multiplayer function sounds incredible.

TheBaconator

#6

TheBaconator said:

It looks awesome in multiplayer mode..,too bad no one I know buys DS games any more aside from me.

Oregano

#7

Oregano said:

Nice, can't wait for this game and Corbie is usually right on the mark with these things.:D

Can't wait to see DQX and the 3DS Dragon Quest!

King_Boo

#9

King_Boo said:

to bad that when I get this, I'll probably never find anyone else that has it too.

HipsterDashie

#10

HipsterDashie said:

I won't be buying since, sadly, it's not my cup of tea.

But I'm glad such quality releases are continuing even now at this late stage in the DS's lifecycle. Great review btw.

zionich

#12

zionich said:

I will be getting this tomorrow!!!

Ok, there somthing that has completely baffled me here at NintendoLife. When people comment, "great review", it tends to be when a game gets a high score. So are they really saying thanks for giving a game I was looking forward to high marks, or thanks for taking the time to play the game and do an excellent write up on how you feel about the game? I just ask this because I dont recall ever seeing "great review" on a game that got low marks.

zionich

#16

zionich said:

@Mickeymac

I dont see how english scholar relates to my comment, but I figured that. Genrally if im going to say great review it would mean thatks for playing the game, pointing out what you saw as good, what you saw as flaws, and giving an honest rating.

HipsterDashie

#18

HipsterDashie said:

@zionich

Normally it's just a common courtesy thing for me, but I will say it if I find a low-scoring review to be funny enough, over-the-top, etc. etc. Basically, if it entertains me, it's a good review to me.

HanuKwanzMasBif

#20

HanuKwanzMasBif said:

Pre-ordered it, should get it in a couple weeks.
And yay, a friend of mine reserved a copy, so multiplayer is a yes for me!

Zach

#24

Zach said:

@zionich When I tell someone great review, it's because I find it particularly well-written, no matter how the game scores.

Supermegaman

#26

Supermegaman said:

If I lived in Japan, I would buy this in a heartbeat. But here in the US, I feel like Im missing out on a big part of the game, and would rather buy FHoL (which is also much prettier :3)

Ive also never fell in love with dragon quest, FF is the way to go for generic DS rpgs IMO.

WaveBoy

#27

WaveBoy said:

Turn Based for me = YAWN*
Just not a fan of RPG's.Yet the world of Final Fantasy X for the PS2 looks wonderful, but because it's an RPG I'm passing on it.
What can I say, RPG's just aren't my cup of tea.

CanisWolfred

#28

CanisWolfred said:

@Corbie

Its an niche game, so I wouldn't be surprised if you don't like it, a lot of people probably wouldn't go for that type of game. I just know that its the kind of game for me and I can't wait for it.:) Of course, its that same intuition that tells me that DQ9 isn't my kind of game.

CorbsAdmin

#29

Corbs said:

It looks sweet, and I'm sure I'll like it, but I thought the 2nd one was a bit slow pacing-wise. I think the art style of the game appeals to me more than anything. I would like to go back and review all the Etrian Odyssey games for DS at some point. Just finding the time... :)

SwerdMurd

#31

SwerdMurd said:

@Corb - out of curiousity, what would you say kept it from being a 10?

Given the review it's not like I read it and said "WHAT!? That deserves a 10!!" ...I'm just curious and I didn't read any specific negatives. What kept it from perfection (as I recall DQ5 got a 10)

CorbsAdmin

#32

Corbs said:

The enemies being able to attack all over you while you're in the submenu was a bit annoying to me. I also thought the cursor movements through the menus themselves was a bit sluggish. It was so close to getting a 10 it's not even funny, but ultimately I went with my gut and it said 9.

CanisWolfred

#33

CanisWolfred said:

@Corbs

No doubt the art style's probably the most appealing aspect, but personally, I just want a good Wizardry style game for the DS, and since I missed out on the first two, the 3rd will have to do.

And you sure there isn't an option to make enemies wait while you're in the Submenu, like there is in Final Fantasy?

CorbsAdmin

#34

Corbs said:

If there is, I can't find it. And believe me, I looked. Once I hit some of the more difficult dungeons, every time I stopped to heal up, I had three enemies on me just waiting for me to exit the sub-menu. LOL.

maka

#36

maka said:

1 save slot?? c'mon... I hate how they're basically telling you: If you want two people to play the game, you have to buy 2 copies of it... :(

postmanX3

#37

postmanX3 said:

Looks like a decent game to hold me off until Etrian Odyssey 3. By the way, anyone going into any Etrian Odyssey game for the first time... a word of warning: you will die. Many times. It is an inevitability.

I'm still a bit bothered this game doesn't have a Wi-Fi multiplayer, but honestly, the fact that this game has any multiplayer in the first place is rather astounding. I'm hoping this can fulfill my need for multiplayer RPGs on the go, since I don't have a PSP and thus, can't play Monster Hunter away from home.

Heh, reading this comments thread, I find it hilarious that the arty style of Etrian Odyssey entices some people, because I'm the exact opposite. The art is lush, definitely, but I really don't "do" Japanese art styles. Personally, my favorite DS game is still the Dark Spire. Gameplay-wise, it's equivalent to Etrian Odyssey, but the visual style and overall tone just reek of DnD and the like. In fact, I love it so much, I own multiple copies...

Dodger

#38

Dodger said:

I wanted this before. 9 out of 10 and now I don't know if I want this or SSBB more... Stop making me want to spend my money, Nintendo Life!

zezhyrule

#39

zezhyrule said:

After reading this review and looking through the latest Nintendo Power, I think I decided to wait for FF:4HoL, which has a weird acronym...

komicturtle

#41

komicturtle said:

I've always found Dragon Quest much more appealing than the Final Fantasy games. If I were to get one RPG this year (excluding Pokemon), it would be this game.

Plus, the DQ series is the closest I'll ever get to Earthbound-like gameplay. But there's more as to why I like DQ games besides that.

DQ>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>FF :)

motang

#42

motang said:

Ah can't wait, I loved DQ VIII, tomorrow morning! :D

@Jumbif
From what I hear you set up your own shop, which is cool!

DF2506

#44

DF2506 said:

Great review!

I have my copy pre-ordered and somebody else I know has one pre-ordered. Its going to be great playing the multiplayer & trying out the tag mode! Also, just got the guide the other day and it looks so great. Looking forward to DQ9 a lot!

GumbyX84

#45

GumbyX84 said:

@Mickeymac
You think DQ9 is boring and not Etrian Odyssey? Complete opposite for me.

Anyway I suggest holding judgment until you are able to try it. Its a really good game. Enjoying it.

WolfRamHeart

#46

WolfRamHeart said:

Thank you for the brilliant review Corbie. I can tell that you really enjoyed playing this game. I am certain that I am going to love it too. I expected this game to be great and I'm very happy to see that I will not be disappointed by it. I remember when this game was first announced for the DS. I wasn't sure that Square-Enix could possibly top the excellent Dragon Quest VIII but it sounds like they did a pretty incredible job on this game. I've waited a long time for Dragon Quest IX and I'm really looking forward to hearing that awesome level-up anthem again. Then it will truly be slime time.:)

CanisWolfred

#48

CanisWolfred said:

@GumbyX84

There's just something about the DQ series that rubs me the wrong way, and DQ9 takes it in a direction that I simply can't appreciate. Meanwhile, I love first-person RPGs like Wizardry and Shin Megami Tensei, so a Wizardry-style game from the makers of Shin Megami Tensei is just perfect for me.:) Plus it has an overall style and flow of gameplay that I can appreciate.

Oregano

#50

Oregano said:

@labrat7: Dragon Quest was on the list of franchises slated for the 3DS and after the massive success on the DS they're definitely going to make 3DS DQs.

This year the Dragon Quest brand has sold over 2.5 million copies on the DS in Japan.

CorbsAdmin

#52

Corbs said:

Good catch lz. The game page was created back before we knew Nintendo were going to publish here in North America. It's been fixed. :)

suburban_sensei

#53

suburban_sensei said:

It's times like these I really wish I was into traditional JRPG's. The game seems like a blast, but just not for me. I have 40 bucks credit to Gamestop I wouldn't mind using on this...but maybe it's better to hold off for Metroid: Other M.

Spoony_Tech

#55

Spoony_Tech said:

I got it i got it! I love etrain odyssey to. As well as most good rpg games. The style of game is not important to me. Just as long as its a good game.

RowdyRodimus

#57

RowdyRodimus said:

I went against my Seth Green hatred and picked it up just now. It helped that TRU has a special this week that gives you a $15 gift card if you buy it from them, so even if I don't like it I can sell it for 20 bucks and get my money back.

Hyper_Metal_Sonic

#59

Hyper_Metal_Sonic said:

@RowdyRodimus

Just wanted to point out, that as far as I know that Toys R Us deal is for TODAY only. But please, someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyhow, picked the game up today and am about to start it!

CorbsAdmin

#60

Corbs said:

Anyone pick up the strategy guide? I was curious as to how thorough it was as I'd like to go back and do some of the side-quests I missed later on in the game.

Brainhost

#62

Brainhost said:

This will be a day-one buy for me, meaning a 23rd of July day one. All the reviews weren't necessary to convince me of that. I like the writing here, by the way.

Strategy guide of this one is something I want to look into as well; I'm curious if it has any depth. This game deserves to be delved into deeply.

RowdyRodimus

#63

RowdyRodimus said:

@HMS Just went and checked the ad, and it is all week long. So really, that is the best place to pick it up if you plan to get it this week. The only downside is that it takes six hours for the Gift Card to be activated. Luckily I know a guy that works at ours and he put back the Transformers set that's on clearance in the office for me until tomorrow.

pikku

#64

pikku said:

hmmm. i might get my first ever DQ game this year (once the price drops, of course ;))

zionich

#65

zionich said:

What im liking about the game so far is they kept enough of it the same to be reconized as Dragon Quest, but at the same time updated enough to make it feel new. Wish pokomon would learn that lesson and get some better animation into its combat.

hulklol123456789

#66

hulklol123456789 said:

yeah I want to try these one because it look really good but actually im waiting for the games to come out and the reviews of the new FF and GS

komicturtle

#67

komicturtle said:

What's interesting is that the game is $35, not $40 like other SE games. Now I have a feeling that Square Enix has been overpricing their games just because it's a quality title (which a whole bunch are, some more than others). Now that Nintendo publishes the game, I'm glad it isn't $40, or else I probably would not be able to get with the money I had.

Anyways, I'm so satisfied with this game. Ironically, none of my Party Members died, not even once and I'm actually doing much better here than I did in other DQ games- yet, SE said this game was made to be much more harder than the other games. 8 hours into the game and Lv.16; it's not hard... But it is still challenging. Guess I'm skillful and cautious now?

Now I can't decide which is my favorite DS game this year- DQIX or Pokemon HG(SS)....

ps2fan

#69

ps2fan said:

I was sure to pick up this game and stragedy guide too As a long time fan of the Dragon warrior games, I'm really looking forward to trying this one out. Not fond of the multiplayer aspect though

CorbsAdmin

#70

Corbs said:

Don't worry, the game plays amazingly even as a single-player experience. So you're all good. :)

ps2fan

#71

ps2fan said:

corbie_dillard

"60. Corbie United States 12 Jul 2010, 00:18 BST

Anyone pick up the strategy guide? I was curious as to how thorough it was as I'd like to go back and do some of the side-quests I missed later on in the game."

Glanced though the guide from Bradygames. Its a massive 432 page book. Seems to cover the game quite well as well as the extra content.
The extras for after the games beaten are just briefly touched on.

CorbsAdmin

#72

Corbs said:

Well I think I might go ahead and grab it. Especially since it will likely be harder to find by the time I get to go back and finish this during the Christmas holidays most likely. :)

Hokori

#73

Hokori said:

Another Great Review and another game ive got to get that and the other 3 for DS well when VI comes out here of corse

Crunc

#74

Crunc said:

The ESRB mentions that this game has animated blood. My 9 year old doesn't like to see blood in games. Is, by chance, there a way to turn the blood off in this game? He's otherwise interested in it.

gaminguy

#75

gaminguy said:

@Crunc-haven't tried yet (I will soon) but in an e 10+ game i there's blood it is VERY minimal, also somegames i've played (like TP, say htey have blood but I din't see it. If your still worried, just play into an hour or two and you should get a good idea of if your son wouldn't like it. (It's animated too, so it won't look super realistic). :)

BlueKirby

#78

BlueKirby said:

Twilight Princess apparently had blood during the final battle, but it was really hard to see. I think that I will get this game, right after I pass my exams.

gabikun

#80

gabikun said:

@Corbie:

Great Review, Corbie. It really doesn't matter a 9 or a 10 in a game, both are great marks. I need to say that there is a reason for enemies moving when you are in the menu, and that's the multiplayer. If all actions were stopped when you enter the menu in multiplayer, all people will be screwed because of that.
Yes, they could quit that feature in the offline version, but that would make developers to program the game in a different way, maybe taking more capacity... and they already took out some things because of its lack (the casino, for example, was about to be included in this game at first).

dsmaster

#84

dsmaster said:

@Ibrat7
Yeah this is a must buy I think this dragon quest is one of the best rpgs for the ds. It's very accessible for veterans of dragon quest and newcomers alike. And it has a great story and great graphics too.

Cats

#86

Cats said:

I have been playing DQ9 a lot. The DQ series has evolved the way games of all genres should imo. The core gameplay is exactly the same, but everything has been refined and added to.

I absolutely love downloadable quests and items. There are almost infinite possibilities with DL's which gives it that much needed replay value.

If you don't like turn based RPG's, you won't like this, but if you do, this is a MUST-BUY. I bought it twice, and might buy 2 more copies and DS's just because of this game. That's how much I enjoy this game.

triforceofcourage

#90

triforceofcourage said:

monster hunter tri style multiplayer quests on wi-fi would have been nice but i still give this game a 9. the amount of content is just amazing and its really fun too.

X-145

#92

X-145 said:

I've beaten the final boss, and I STIIL love play it. I love playing in undescovered grottos and finding and alchemising new and rare items. Not to mention playing this with one of my best friends! And all the side quests to play.
Also, if you play the right side quests, you get a "second after-game story", as I like to call it. This is one of my all time favorites!

Tri4ceHolder

#93

Tri4ceHolder said:

This game is AMAZING!!! Just got it today!! Everyone has been saying that it sucks playing it by yourself, but it rocks!! I love it!!! I mean I would love to play it with someone but it is really fun. It's like zelda meets pokemon.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#95

Philip_J_Reed said:

I nearly passed on this, as I'm not a huge RPG fan, but I ended up getting it anyway.

And holy crap am I glad I did. It's awesome. Very much enjoying this.

Samholy

#96

Samholy said:

wow ! a game that tie with my favorite RPG,dragonquest 7!
and its another dragonquest !!!
and yet, i didnt even touched half of the post-game part. This game is huge. even when you finish it, it seems to never want to end. new quests keeps poping in, more alchemy, more dungeons...more...MORE! kill those metal slimes !!!!

resort55

#97

resort55 said:

Think i gotta buy it. turn-based is not my first choice, but the endless wifi-quests and the long story sound good. maybe i‛ll get final fantasy too.

ZeldaDSFanatic

#98

ZeldaDSFanatic said:

I think I'll buy it, but do I have to play the first Dragon Quest games to understand the plot? It's my first RPG game! :D

Bucho

#99

Bucho said:

i've played this for over 600 hours and i'm nowhere nearly done with it :) love DQ

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