akonnick's Dragon Quest IX: Hoshizora no Mamoribito (Nintendo DS) review

Too Much Grind, Not Enough Payoff

While the Dragon Quest formula has barely changed throughout the years, the series has always been defined by accessible gameplay concepts and a measured pace, repetition, and overall flow.  In my opinion, Dragon Quest VIII got this formula right more than any of it's predecessors while managing to add modern features such as stunning graphics, a fun skill leveling system that allowed character customization, and an excellent balance between challenge and simiplicity.  While DQ IX has many of these same qualities on paper, the overall experience just seemed to drag.  The story is awful and adds hours to an already dragged out game.  The game makes a tragic mistake of tying up some of the best features behind arbitrary quests.  I was really looking forward to trying out some of the different classes, but half of them require mundane, grind-heavy side quests to even unlock the class.  Assuming you unlock them, you then are forced to change classes (which resets you character's level) and start the slow leveling process all over again.  There just isn't any excuse to drag out the length of a game to the point where a player never gets to experience the sweet spot of fun that a game has to offer.  I made it probably 15 hours into this game, and then hit a wall where I just wasn't having any fun and didn't want to grind any more to see if there was any fun to look forward to.  This game could have easily been great if they just would have sped things along.  As it is, I can't recommend it to anyone and would instead encourage RPG fans to try DQ VIII (or start another playthrough).

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