Dragon Quest IX
Square-Enix has always been a brand you could trust to make a quality RPG. Sure, for a few years all their games were the same, but we still bought them, loved them and sunk hours into them. Lately though, the company has begun to shake things up a little. We saw major changed to our Final Fantasy franchise, and now we’re seeing the rippled effects of change in Dragon Quest. And I’m pleased to say that this time; change has worked for Square Enix in a very addictive way.
What I like
No Random Encounters: Since they disappeared in Final Fantasy 12, I’ve felt that random encounters belonged in the past, and I’m glad to see Dragon Quest thinks so too. No more are we plagued by annoying battle music every three seconds, and no more do we have to worry about running into an enemy when all our character s are half dead. Our enemies are now quite visible to us, and we can choose to leave them be, or run into them and trigger a battle. The actual fighting system encompasses a traditional turn based approach, which I enjoyed. Change is good, but too much change is frightening.
Character and Party Creation: For the first time in a Dragon Quest game, we get to do more than simply name our hero, we get to create them! The options are limited, but I try to be grateful for the little things. Plus the armour and weapons you purchase from stores actually changes the way your character looks, which means you now have the tough choice between being tough, or looking cool.
Unlike in other Dragon Quest games, your party members aren’t given to you from the storyline, instead you create them like you did your main character. Pick their job, design their face and away you go on your adventure. I loved this system, because it meant I could design the team that I wanted, rather than having to design one based on the characters that were available to me at the time. However I found myself suffering from ‘everything is new and shiny and I wanna see it all’ syndrome, which meant it took a lot of experimenting and fiddling around before I could decide on a team I was happy on. Four is such a little number for a party!
Multiplayer: If you have never found a reason to annoy your friends constantly about purchasing a game, you’ll surely find one now. This game allows your friends to enter your world and play alongside you, which doubles the fun for all involved. The annoying thing is however, that playing with a friend means sacrificing a party member, and forfeiting all their experience. You also have to wait until both players reach a certain part in the story before you can play together. Still, if your friends get into this game just as much as you do, then that shouldn’t be a problem.
What I don’t like:
Silent Characters: I’m a chatterbox, that’s no secret. And even though I could create my character and make her look as awesome as I wanted, I still couldn’t get her to say anything. And that annoyed me. I know it’s been in all the games, but it’s always annoyed me. I never liked that the storyline seemed as though it would go on without me, even if I got eaten by a dragon or starved to death in a cave. One thing I’m hoping to see in future games is at least a ‘choose your answer’ type feature. Out of the box stock standard personalities are still better than none at all. And it’s really hard to believe I’m playing out my character’s story, when my character DOESN’T HAVE A SAY IN IT.
Freedom wall: Ah the freedom wall. The part of the game where developers believe they are giving players the option to play the game the way they want. But really, all they’re doing is dropping me into a world I know nothing about, and giving me a mission I have no idea how to complete. If my character could talk I’m sure she would have just burst into tears upon reaching this part of the game. This is the part where I find I’m given too much freedom, and start to lose track of what I’m doing. It’s difficult going from a beautiful linear storyline to a blank canvas of nothing. However, it’s worth it to push thorough, because it’s at this point on that the game begins to get quite good.
Seek the Church, my child: How about NO? How about, you seek me you doofus with the funny hat? And how about you stop charging me money every time I wanna do something? What sort of a church IS this? (Answer: a very real one.) Whenever you want to save you game, resurrect someone, rid a party member of curses etc, you must first find a church. And then you must pay the church ridiculous amounts of money before they’ll do what you ask (except to save it. Thank the Almighty that’s still free). This has always annoyed me, not because of anything to do with religion, but simply because I resent paying anyone upwards of 1000 gold coins for them to bring a party member back to life. Hmph.
As far as storyline goes, Dragon Quest IX is pretty juvenile. It’s nothing like some of the older, darker versions we’ve seen in the past. However I found that the gameplay was so addictive, and I was so looking forward to exploring new areas and towns, that I just skimmed over the whole plot anyway. I loved the character and party creation and I really enjoyed the multiplayer aspect. Dragon Quest took a risk trying so many new things at once, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they worked. Now I’m looking forward to what comes next!